Ethiopian women immigrants in the middle east have experienced all sorts of tragedy. When Girum Teklehaymanot, an Ethiopian journalist who is exiled to what is now war-torn Yemen, shared on his face book page last week a story of new born baby girl in Beirut, Fekat, in a jubilant mood for being a father, there was a marked exhilaration among his facebook friends and hundreds of them liked the updated. But he was not really talking about a baby girl that he fathered. It was an honorary fatherhood that a victim of rape bestowed on him. The story, in its own right, represents a resilience and perseverance of Ethiopian woman and the desire of Ethiopians to stand in guard to Ethiopian immigrants who face unimaginable attacks in the Arab world.
Stories of homicide, alleged suicide and rape, among other things, of Ethiopian immigrant women in the middle east is not uncommon. Many families and parents in Ethiopia have received dead bodies of their loved ones. And Beirut is one of the places where horrifying tragic stories of Ethiopian maids has become rife. Some are stories of victims of abusive employers who tend to see maids as slaves. Others showcase outright xenophobic attacks. There was even a time when Ethiopian immigrants were attacked as community. Two or so years ago, Ethiopians the world over were outraged the by Saudi government backed xenophobic attacks on Ethiopians in the name of “illegal immigrants.” Sill, Hundreds languish in prisons as “illegal immigrants”. And it is not secret that in all those tragedies, the government in Ethiopia does not seem to think, that it has a duty to protect citizens – so much so that Ethiopians are questioning the relevance of Ethiopian embassies in various Arab countries. Ironically, Ethiopian government has warm relations with many of the countries in the Arab world and many Arab countries have huge investments in Ethiopia. [adToAppearHere]
The exiled Ethiopian journalist,Girum, told the writer that he initiated an Ethiopian Association called Fekat with the objective to be a solace for Ethiopian immigrants who experience attacks and who are depressed because of rights abuse in middle eastern countries. He says, there are even times when Ethiopians are killed but the story is told as suicide. Fekat in Amharic translates to a state of mood opposite to depression. It could also mean blossoming and joy.
The mother of the new born girl who is named Fekat was maid is Beirut. In the update that Girum shared on his facebook, he wrote that the mother (she is not named) was raped by her employer and was chased out from the house. As undocumented worker (“illegal immigrant”), she had no clue what to do or where to turn to. It was like a long brick wall for a lonely, rapped and pregnant women.
It was at this point that Fekat Association stepped in to ease the condition of the rapped and pregnant Ethiopian girl who was despaired beyond words. She could not afford to pay for housing or live on her own. Homelessness was not really an option of undocumented and pregnant women. And her due date was fast approaching. Girum had mobilized effort to find a place for her. Alemtsehay Tadesse, a member of Fekat group who lives in Beirut, decided to let the rapped mother live with her until she gives birth and lasting solution is found. Members of Fekat raised a small fund.
When the rapped mother gave birth to a baby girl, she named her Fekat – in recognition of the love and support she received from Fekat association. The mother also honored Girum ’, the Ethiopian journalist, with honorary fatherhood and the new baby girl – Fekat’s father name became Girum. In Amharic, Girum means wonder. And the story is indeed a wonder.
Fekat Association’s solution based approach to what was a desperate situation of the rapped mother is very patriotic, in its own right, and commendable.
The Ethiopian journalist who is involved in the effort to help the rapped mother still lives in Yemen as an immigrant. Yet, he seem to be selflessly relentless in helping out those who are in need of support. This morning for example, he,along with another Ethiopian, was in a hospital to visit Hassan Gobena – whose leg was amputated following snake bit infection. Girum mobilized Fekat and Ethiopians raised a fund and supported the amputated Ethiopian who appear to be from Oromia region of Ethiopia. Next step for Hassan Gobena is to move to Ethiopia but he can’t do it on his own and Fekat Association is working on it.
Fekat Association deserves respect,admiration and support of Ethiopians for what it has been doing. Borkena intends to have a an interview with Girum in the near future.
Girum Teklehaymanot is on Facebook.
Written by Dimetros Birku. Writer could be reached on twitter : @dimetros