Dear Eritrean Woman holding some make-believe power

14/06/2018 20:35 PM

Dear Eritrean Woman holding some make-believe power
That can make adversity meet solidarity

by Kiki Tzeggai

Eritrean Woman Terrifying Ordeal

Dear Eritrean Woman holding some make-believe power
That can make adversity meet solidarity

While addressing my letter to some, I should start by saying “Your Excellency; to others I would say “Madame the Minister”, or Dear Professor or dear Ms. So-and-so”, but I would rather star my letter saying “Dear Eritrean woman in power. So here we go:

My name is Kiki Tzeggai and I am an Eritrean woman like you all. I first heard your names through many field-comrades of yours in the war of liberation from the Ethiopian occupation and oppression. Some of these common friends of ours are now prisoners in unmarked jails or dead. Some others are/were Ambassadors representing our country – Eritrea – abroad.

I was an eyewitness when Senator Hillary Clinton was running for the US presidency against Mr. Trump. I -like millions of women- was sure she would win in a landslide. She had all the needed badges, but the result is striking to this day. Not because she lost – that too – but because many women did not vote for her. The polls say that women were not united. The separating line was race and financial upbringing, so they said.

While it is interesting to watch women in the west world so divided and not ready to see a woman in the White House, I smile looking back at our history and see Eritrean women leading battalions. Surviving the hard work of guerrilla war and becoming mothers. Caring for the orphans of war and eager to learn once all of you walked into a free Asmara. To see few of you now becoming political pawns and not looking at deserts filled with abused Eritrean women, with tortured Eritrean young people be it male or female, is so hard for me to stomach, let alone understand the path you chose.

There is an inescapable truth right here: either there are many women who are not ready for a paradigm of power shifting, or there is betrayal for all the reasons Eritrean women fought for and received nothing as a result in improving women’s lives.

I look at the few of you in power. To the many that believe to have reached professionals and financial means. Between the overwhelming number of former female fighters and women rights, I see an infringement of our lawfully access to power. It is something that walks me from one question to another. Like if we look back at our mothers, they raised families, but they looked away when fathers cheated and simply brought home kids fathered outside the marriage. They plagued our minds with questions that have no answers to this day. How could they accept all this? The answer is denial of belief in equal rights by men!! But today – after decades of Eritrean women fighting side –by – side with men, the silence surrounding those that have achieved a temporary position is deafening. In addition, the silence of our female Veterans is mind-blowing.

True, we teach our daughters that they have equal rights as their brothers, but the woman next door is simply overlooked.

To those Eritrean women in power, why do you accept to stagnate in the same “political position” for decades and never fly higher to even dare to ask this simple question: “Will our daughters have the right to run for the President’s office in Eritrea?” This is a spraining question in each of our throat.

All our Veterans worked and fought hard to be on equal stand be it at war or at survival. How did it happen the males in power outnumber the females? Those hard earned freedoms being suppressed are enraging to any woman I talked to. It is a strain at the corrosion of women’s rights in Eritrea.

The few in power have to start talking and walk along the oppressed woman in the desert of Sinai; in the containers of where-ever-it-is in and around Eritrea. When I left Eritrea and learned to pick up each fight life threw at me, my dream was to – one day- sit down with the grandmother that raised me, with Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa at the same time. To Ms. Indira, I would have asked to tell me about her strength and cruelty required to lead a country of billions of people where women were – and still are – sitting at the lowest echelon of human rights. To Mother Teresa I would have liked to ask if some hurting created all this kindness, or was it even possible to be born within her? To my grandmother I would ask her to look back and see some Eritreans becoming traffickers or some others hold labels and dismiss us all as “economical refugees” and want to know if she would still tell me that the answer to all this is waiting for me at her Enda Mariam Church in Asmara. Today all are gone and my life never allowed me to meet Indira Ghandi and Mother Teresa, My grandma died while I was exactly that: a refugee in a foreign country and the per/hour salary could not feed my kids and my age-old mother.

So today, I would like to sit down and talk to the Eritrean female Ambassadors be it in Paris or elsewhere and to the Eritrean female Ministers holding a semblance of power.

Since I fear to miss the opportunity to have the chance to talk to them in person, I am putting my request and my feeling in writing in this article. The few women in power back home are Veterans of our war of Liberation from the Ethiopian occupation. I hope each will un-load her title, put aside the protocol’s rules and the half talks required by diplomacy and talk to me. She will help me. Because help I need for my own sanity.

A common friend, a late Veteran and former Ambassador, introduced me to some of you from afar. He said these words about you all, almost verbatim, “each is a great fighter, all strong Eritrean women and few speak French. You have a lot in common.” I always knew Eritrean women are strong. One raised me. I always knew that our female fighters did wonders; so much so that our history books can be filled with their lives’ stories. What made me smile at the end was that some of you are francophone. Somehow, that link I felt strongest without negating all of the above. Then I hear interviews and I read articles about statements and dismissal of Eritrean refugees labelled as “economical refugees”.

I come WITH PEACE to you and I will not discuss politics with any of you, but would like to list my feelings about how you and I have different views while pretending to be chatting sitting next to one another. Where you and I differ is that I am a refugee and you are not. I know how it feels if your life is owned by others. You never did. I know what hunger is, a delicious meal sitting in front of you, your stomach gnawing, and your kids’ eyes longing for it, and you cannot eat unless their conditions are met. You never did go through this. I know what it means to be trafficked. Many Eritrean women did/do. You never did.

Therefore, our lives split in two parallel lines. We walk along each other because of where we come from. But we cannot blend. For, you are free and I had to gain my freedom back. My kids’ freedom was a high price to pay for. I had to give freedom to my girls, so they would not become women owned by others because of their refugees’ status. I told them they can be all they want to be, because I would die to give them freedom and options. I am sure you do the same for your kids back home. You chauffeur them to school and to soccer games. Many of our young refugee girls have no one to tell them and no one to protect them in those dark back alleys of the Sahara desert. . They need you to change their future. Being a refugee is becoming a reason to commit suicide. They need all of us and I need all of you to use your power back home and change things from the roots of the problem.

I also know about the pain and humiliation of lining up at foreign immigration offices and have to prove that the kids I was holding are mine. I could not provide a death certificate for the father/my husband. Because the enemy never provided such proof after killing Eritreans. I had to go through DNA tests to prove it. You never did I assume. I heard you had beautiful babies in foreign clinics. Nurses catering to each of your medical needs. Please ask how many Eritrean women that were fighters along your side for our freedom are today refugees giving life to kids they cannot tell who the father is because of a group of Bedouins abusing them? You and I – please- put politics aside, cry for them, then hold hands, and help them. Come down from your ivory tower, for ivory towers collapse with time. In addition, the collapse might make you discover the hate produced by wrong politics and burying a conscience is one of them. You and I become Eritrean women saying “ajokhee, alekhulkee” {be strong, I stand by you in this pain} The view is not good and we need each other to absorb the shock of screams of our refugees in Libya, in Sinai, in Sahara desert. The roaming engines of traffickers speaking our own language and gunfire making kids shake for a lifetime.

Dear Eritrean woman in power, if you happen to walk holding your Hermes bag with your name’s gold initial engraved in leather, or your dollar store plastic bag – please- leave it all behind and hug the Eritrean baby eaten up by mosquitoes in the jungle of Calais or other refugees’ centers. Give a hug and use the cut off piece from your silk shirt to provide as sanitary napkins to the refugee woman that cannot control nature. But you and I know that silk does not absorb any liquid and that silk clothing is just useless and cannot walk along our misery. In those centers, Eritrean men are cutting their clothing and give it away to women so nature will stop humiliating them. Think about it. I would like you to sit next to each of us and tell us that it will be OK and you will never label us as “economical refugees” for, it is much more painful than that and much more truthful you need to be. We are away from our land and it is painful. Period! We feel miserable. Double period!!

I feel exhausted to reiterate that it is not politics, it is not economics, it is not religion, and it is simply humanity we have lost all along. It bears repeating, it is a lost sense of humanity.

You and I – proud Eritrean women - should change the definition of all Eritrean refugees are about. They are the definition and the theory of wrong political, economic and social issues, wrong decision and stubbornness from some. Be it our government or our so-called opposition groups.

In our society, women like your Mom and my grandmother made the wrong right because they faced the problem, owned the mistakes and found solutions. It is not a solution to label refugees as “economical problem”

Because I want peace with you, allow me to say, “OK, it is economical and what is your solution dear Eritrean woman holding government’s power? Walk away after sticking a label on our foreheads?”

Do not leave me there please. Sit down with me and explain because I have no explanation. None what so ever! You and I – Eritrean women- should talk, hold hands and find a way to tell Eritrean women like all of us that they have rights. Rights to work, to study, to have a clean house, to walk to a store and buy sanitary napkins. To take anyone to court if their salary are not matching their male counterparts. But how to do that if you and I – Eritrean women – are not even looking at the problems the same way? The correct way? That is to admit the obvious and then uplift each other. Not stick a label and walk away. That refugee woman will still be sitting under the scorching sun of Sinai and bleed because either she cannot stop nature or one of her kidney was the price to save her family. In this entire struggle, we have to be alert and inclusive of others’ struggle. Men included. The collocation of one-size fit-all solution is not for Eritrea.

Because you and I share a birth country, a common struggle for independence background, but the path I was forced to take once in exile, you never have. And I applaud your chance to freedom. I am happy fellow Eritreans never chased you, made you leave your country and ended somewhere in Africa and took the beatings, with no brother to jump and defend you. I am happy for you and I will never stick a label on your forehead that reads “This Eritrean woman is the lucky one”. No, I will not do that. But I will wait for you to share my tears of yesterday and clean the tears of today. There are plenty of suffering Eritrean women around you.

I need you to simply show humanity towards the refugees. I will call them “economic refugees ” for the sake of this open letter to you Government’s employee woman , but I wish I saw you rushing and hug a child in that group. I wish you told your driver to approach the limousine to the gate of refugees’ camps you were staring at and took time to go buy some change of clothing with all the needs of a refugee woman.

I wish you told the media that you joined the struggle – be it in the field or in the cities - and never cared about cameras, but cared of your people. If you are asked, now why are they in this miserable state of living and not equal to you? Please explain that it is because they were never dealt the same opportunities like you and cannot be equal to you, so they left to find jobs. To escape prison, to search for their sons and daughter in the hands of traffickers. They are not equal to you. That is the reality and the first job of an ambassador or a Minister is to present your rich credentials to the host country and then make your legacy a richer one by becoming a mediator within pain.

I am not easy at giving up hope because of the strong family background I come from. But with this silent statement of yours, you made me realize that the road is still long and women have a long way to go. I always considered adversity would meet solidarity if handled by Eritrean Women. You planted a seed of panic in my heart with your looking away. If we just judge and pretend not to see, dismiss and stick a label, not only we are not ensuring a better life for our daughters and their daughters, but also we are making refugees be so for eternity. None of us is perfect, not you, not me, not many like us.

But I wish you will stop your government’s car next time and take as many refugee women that fit in the front seat, back seats and many – believe you me – will accept to fit in the trunk and take them to your residential government’s provided home and offer them to shower. Just a shower. You will make them feel that they reached heaven. Then on your way back of dropping them to their refugees’ camps as “economical refugees” make sure you stop by the dollar store and pay for all the things women need. Some make up will not hurt. It might give them a sense of “make believe life” while sitting in the stench of that jungle.

When I open my window, I let air and some sun come in. It is a foreign sun and foreign air. When you open your window, because you have the right to live in Asmara, you close your eyes and inhale the air and sun of our Eritrea. You inhale the smell of eucalyptus and the neighbor’s “bun jebena” all made in Eritrea. You and I are Eritrean women and yet I envy your right to go back and forth and feel our land beneath your feet. As for me, I will have to leave you at the airport dear Eritrean female Ambassador or Minister and I go back to the “I –do-not-even-care” feeling the land I walk in. It is a foreign land anyway.

Now you and I imagine the refugees. They do not even care if they are sitting on human remains or they are swimming to shore. You and I stare at them. I will cry and scream. You have your stickers ready in your purse. Alternatively, in your leather folder your secretary holds for you.

I say please, to all the Fozia, Hanna, Askalu, Selma, Abrehet, Worku and many more, to never minimize our pain. Never label us. Look at us as Eritreans. Tell your children that you forgot holding a title and rushed to hug the refugee woman and you never will stick a label in her forehead that reads “Economical refugee” and walked away.

Our refugees could not care less of your titles and speeches, because they are hungry and they are trafficked. And they have a hard time being accepted by humanitarian countries because of the labels you stick in their foreheads. The glue you used is hard to detach. Please take it away-Before I leave you all, would you help now with creating an Eritrean Veterans ‘Day? You won upbeat battles on your own and made Asmara a UNESCO heritage, this should be as easy as drinking a glass of water for Eritrean women/Veterans like you. I look forward for you to guide me. It is a day that will unite ALL Veterans and – we, your families – will show gratitude. Will you please?

I conclude my letter with assuming – rightfully so – that from now on you will NEVER DARE label me and my kids as “economic refugees” My husband, their father, gave his life to protect you and make ALL of you walk into a free Asmara.

In closing, I send a smile towards you and say: “Come sit next to me where the panorama is devastating but you and I – Eritrean women – can fix it. Because you and I learned from our mothers never to label people”.

I thank you and look forward to your visit in my area. Or me in the city of light some call home now. I would love to take a walk with you, just the two of us having a conversation in French and no bodyguards and – let us promise each other - no politics. Just some Eritrean women that love Eritrea equally; but are - for the moment -sitting at different windows. I see our handicapped Veterans, now called refugees. Some of you look at the Tour Eiffel. I will join you next time. I hope you join me soon.

With only love and solidarity, from the Eritrean woman I am to all Eritrean women you are. The Veterans back home, The Ministers, the Ambassadors, the Professors, the Doctors, the Military, the housewives and more women abroad.

Kiki Tzeggai
June 7, 2018

"Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is so powerful as hope. With hope, one can think, one can work, one can dream. If you have hope, you have everything."

" Peace is a wall we will all create by building it brick-by-brick together". (Trade mark)

Share with friends:

Asmarino | Eritrea : Abeba Tesfaghiorgis ምኺድሲ ኪዲ ትኽድዮ በያናይ ዓዲ

See also Related:

See also recent Articles by Kiki Tzeggai:

Share with friends: