Monday, 26 July 2010

The Flag of Pride and Terror.


The rush hour had passed and the roads were now being cleansed with torrential rain. The journalists with luck on their side were safely inside, whilst the less fortunate arrived completely soaked. None of this lessened the desire to hear the stories of two Ethiopians seeking asylum in the UK after publishing objective accounts of cultural life back in their home countries. Unlike the leadership of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, we hear little of Ethiopia, which the British and American governments tend to portray as a place for rights and democracy. However this portrait is much idealised. Back in 2005 the Ethiopian electorate voted overwhelmingly for a new government, but since the military are closely associated with political parties this vote for change was simply ignored. It’s hard for Ethiopians to protest peacefully about this situation since it’s practically impossible to establish an impartial and independent press. Newspaper funding is needed from somewhere and this often comes through advertising. If the paper publishes an article that is critical of the government, then those advertising would be accused of dissent by association. Opposition against the government’s sovereign ideologies is now an imprisonable offence since the introduction of various civil society and anti-terrorism laws. Prominent international journalists might be spared intimidation for fear of international criticism, but lesser personalities will have their voices beaten into submission, and their businesses and homes vandalised. The government makes astonishing claims that most private media companies are funded by foreign bodies with terrorist associations, and without the support of the judicial system to provide security and support journalists speaking out publicly are right to worry.

The speakers voiced their desire for there to be less political struggle for power within government and more focus on improving issues that would truly benefit society. They asked that young people follow their own consciences, to be the change that they wanted to see.

There are many reasons for which Ethiopians are proud of their country. Ethiopia was never colonised and is known as a very significant place of early civilisation. It has amazing spiritual heritage where Haile Selassie was revered among the Rastasfari movement as well as abroad for his diplomacy. All over the world we also enjoy the taste of Ethiopian coffee.

Change is possible, but more than likely it will be a generational one. Young adults now have limited access to global discussion through internet forums. Gradually Revolutionary Democracy and the memories of the Ethiopian Red Terror will fade.
In the mean time asylum seekers battle with a new front of social change, adapting to ways of life in the UK. The weather is unstable. No kidding, the unexpected summer rain outside is still so loud we can hardly hear ourselves talk. Gender roles are very different in Britain, as is the English language that the problem of regional accents only exacerbates. Many professional qualifications are not recognised between countries, and so many cleaners or security guards might have been your doctor, nurse or courtroom judge in different circumstances.

Support and celebration of Ethiopian life continues here through Leeds Refugee Forum, LASSN and Lucy Amharic Radio. Tune in and find out!

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