If I was Gual Ankere and living in Eritrea

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02/03/2019 15:47 PM

If I was Gual Ankere and living in Eritrea
The most important part I force myself to remember

by Kiki Tzeggai

If I was Gual Ankere and living in Eritrea

If I was Gual Ankere and living in Eritrea
The most important part I force myself to remember

Like her, I am Eritrean woman. Like her, I saw my husband taken away from home to the unknown jail. That is all we have in common. The differences are enormous:

- I was born to a foreign mother who provided me with a foreign passport to escape the Ethiopian occupation and the assassination of my husband by the latter. She does not have this option.

- I could stand on my own, no matter how small my income that gave me rent, food and utilities fees covered. She does not have an income that could provide her so.

- I speak different foreign languages and I could step up at any foreign organization’s door and apply for a job. I am not sure about her qualifications, but if she does, she cannot apply for any such job because she is living in an open door prison and cannot work for foreign organizations.

- I made it out holding my kids tight in my arms. If she has kids, she might have to leave them behind because the Eritrean regime does not offer passports to spouses/families of jailed husband/wife.

- I like to write and inherited that quality from a father that was a judge of the Supreme Court in Asmara. This gave me a perspective in life Gual Ankere does not have, because she was a Freedom fighter for our independence from ethiopian slavery.

- At the time I left, had I contacted our Freedom Fighters they would have helped my kids and me escape. Now, some of the same former freedom fighters offer prison and not escape to the many like Gual Ankere.

- This is her husband’s photo and her photo as well. Against the love she felt for him, a fear started taking shape inside her. How do I know? I was there! Our jailers might differ, but as Eritrean women all that grows inside us - in such situations- is pure fear! I compare this fear of women living under EGDEF like a choice between facing the same fate and having an abortion of the love that was and give space to the fear that is! Facing soldiers taking away a loved one seems like a factory rather than a clinic filled with doctors, nurses. It is a line of women waiting for their turn to the table. Against the love they have for that man, they have no way out but little-by-little abort the love and conform to the surroundings. They carry guilt for years. Had they been in normal circumstances, she could visit her husband. Hire a lawyer. Normal circumstances would offer a pro-bono lawyer paid by the government for low-income or no-income women. Visits would take place, touching hands over a table and whispering love words to each other would be her right. However, she does not live in such system.

Was it her choice to sing and ignore him or was she forced to keep singing? Too easy for us to judge. Pointing fingers at present female singers is being afraid of the truth; and fear of reality does not eradicate the wrong done by passive witnesses. Which means all of us. Our conscience needs to bear witness to the suffering of Eritrean women who are obliquely “singers” or “refugees” but are actually enslaved by the political situation in our country, and conveniently accused of all they are not as human beings.

In a climate such as Asmara, finding a normal job is terrifying. Many surround the like of Gual Ankere, but these women are alone. Raising kids and surrender them to a system that will send them to the war in Badme or Yemen and not walking colleges campuses holding hands with your kids, is a major difference between the many “Gual Ankere” and myself. Living in a culture of hate and destruction is a culture she owns and I was fortunate to never belong to. She is living in a world that seems to expand the ability of stand-in for anyone to knock at your door and take you to the unknown underground prisons. Where female and male prisoners become the slander of a machine that glorifies jailers and pop-up prisons yards. It is terrifying.

Women of any age are left with the only option of enforced pleasure given to some generals in order to obtain a passport. Then the exit visa stamped on said passport becomes another orgy they have to participate to from all we hear from witnesses that escaped. What does this system offer besides shakiness to women and men? Eritrean women with husbands in jail are left to face a world that requires negotiating survival. Who teaches the language of survival? Not the system, not the traffickers’ network with- apparently- head offices in Asmara. Her tears are constant even when one is forced to sing, singing being her daytime job! It is a life punctured with violence. With a diplomatic violence, shall I say? Because none of the above is done in broad day light. It is a culture were no armor against danger could shield a woman.

"Do you remember me?" will be their question to us once we return home. A remorse for all the pain caused by our lack of unity should express our repentance. For, our so many dismantled “opposition groups” are only adding to the tremendous damage and suffering of our people and permanent pain to women in particular. In a spirit of humanity these irrefutable facts of our history, such as mistakes of judging others, should fuel a deep remorse and a heartfelt apology to women put on the podium to be stoned virtually via Facebook or YouTube.

Finally, yet outstandingly, the difference between Gual Ankere and myself is that I could be a strong woman to stand up and raise my kids. I could introduce my kids to their missing father, murdered for a principle and for our freedom. The like of Gual Ankere cannot stand up in a system that grinds all your bones and stumps over your being! Moreover, she can never tell her kids about the father that left for a principle and – yet again – for our freedom. If she does, she would put the life of her own kids in danger! Such silence to accusations could be that she is a strong woman adapting to her environment and camouflages her stress! We should not judge until she can tell us - with no fear - why she kept singing and most decisively let us learn NOT to interfere in what is strictly an issue between herself and her husband.

Let us hope that Veteran Feron Woldu, will make it out from the underground prison alive. THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!

Eritreans own the courage and wisdom to look evenly at history. Let us not lose this quality to futilities on social media.

Kiki Tzeggai
March 02, 2019

"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)

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