Sunday October 22, 2017
Home World Critics Skept...

Critics Skeptical as Ethiopian government pardons 700 Prisoners during Muslim Festival Eid

In 2012, the Muslim community in Ethiopia was introduced to new religious teachings known as Al-Ahbash

0
82
FILE - Muslim men sing after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 6, 2016. VOA
  • Prisoners were released from Kaliti, Dire Dawa, Ziway, Shewa Robit and Harer, as well as other prisons
  • Ustaz Kamil Shemsu was imprisoned in 2012 when many Muslims in Ethiopia protested what they said was government interference in their religious doctrine
  • Hayatel Kubera was a freshman in college in Addis Ababa when she was arrested in 2012 and taken to an Ethiopian investigation center known as Maekelawi

Sept 14, 2016: The Ethiopian government pardoned more than 700 prisoners in celebration of New Year’s Day on the Ethiopian calendar and the Muslim holiday Eid.

Among those released were people charged under the country’s controversial anti-terror law. Critics of the law say it is used to stifle dissent and lock up political opposition members.

Ustaz Kamil Shemsu was imprisoned in 2012 when many Muslims in Ethiopia protested what they said was government interference in their religious doctrine. He was sentenced to 22 years.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

“It’s difficult to say I am happy because there are still other brothers left in prison,” he told VOA Amharic.

Prisoners were released from Kaliti, Dire Dawa, Ziway, Shewa Robit and Harer, as well as other prisons administered by the federal government in the Southern region, Tigray region, and Amhara region.

Hayatel Kubera was a freshman in college in Addis Ababa when she was arrested in 2012 and taken to an Ethiopian investigation center known as Maekelawi. She said she was arrested in relation to the Muslim protest movement and was still under investigation and awaiting trial at the time of her release.

FILE - A Muslim boy attends Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 6, 2016.The Ethiopian government pardoned more than 700 prisoners in celebration of New Year's Day on the Ethiopian calendar and the Muslim holiday Eid. VOA
FILE – A Muslim boy attends Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 6, 2016.The Ethiopian government pardoned more than 700 prisoners in celebration of New Year’s Day on the Ethiopian calendar and the Muslim holiday Eid. VOA

“The prison suddenly called us last week on Monday, along with men and one woman,” she said. “They told us that the government doesn’t want you to be imprisoned so you will be released.”

Government media announced that the president signed the pardon for Muslim groups because they expressed regret, according to Ethiopian Prosecutor-General Getachew Ambaye.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

In 2012, the Muslim community in Ethiopia was introduced to new religious teachings known as Al-Ahbash. The Ethiopian government considered the teaching to be modern and began training in the fall of 2011. However, it encountered stiff resistance from some Muslims uncomfortable with the new teachings. Students walked out of classes in protest and demanded a change of teachers appointed by the government.

Silent protests and sit-ins at mosques followed, and the members of a 17-person committee selected to represent students were arrested and charged with extremism.

“The claim from the committee’s side, and I think there is good enough evidence that supports that, was that the Al-Ahbash movement was invited and forced upon the Muslim community, kind of like telling them what type of Islam they were supposed to be adhering to, which is a violation of the constitution,” said Terje Ostebo, director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies and an associate professor at the University of Florida.

Muslims make up of 33.9 percent of the total population of about 100 million in Ethiopia, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ostebo stressed that the government has released prisoners before and that this holiday pardon doesn’t necessarily signal a willingness to change.

“It’s kind of common in Ethiopia that New Year is the time when you show leniency and grant pardons,” he said. “I’m not sure if I could put it that strongly that they are acknowledging any mistakes.”

Yusuf Getachew, editor-in-chief of faith-based magazine Ye Muslimoch Guday, or Muslim Affairs, was one of the people released. He was arrested in July 2012.

“The government asked if we are going to accept the pardon or not, and we accepted it and that’s why we were released,” he said.

He had been sentenced to seven years.

Murithi Mutiga of the Committee to Protect Journalists said his organization was calling on Ethiopian authorities to free all prisoners of conscience.

“There is a very large number of people that have been detained within very secretive and large detention facilities that have done nothing else other than to simply do their jobs as journalists,” he said. “I think the Ethiopian authorities would do a very good thing to just let all prisoners of conscience … please let them go.” (VOA)

Next Story

Living the Big, Fat American Dream : Tashita Tufaa talks about his Journey from a Dishwasher to a Millionaire

Tashitaa did not believe in giving up; a spirit that helped him achieve the big American dream!

0
42
Tashita Tufaa
Tashitaa Tufaa drives one of his company's school bus. (VOA)

Minneapolis, September 26, 2017: When Tashitaa Tufaa first arrived in Minneapolis from Ethiopia in 1992, he remembers craning his head skyward in disbelief. Looking up at the tallest skyscraper he had ever seen, he began counting the stories until he couldn’t count anymore. Eventually, he found out the building had 55 floors.

It was a long way from Negele Arsi district in the Oromia region of Ethiopia where he grew up. As a child, he worked alongside his 13 siblings on the family farm.

Now he’d have to do other types of work. He thought he had a fluent command of English that would open doors in the job market.

“But I found out that I didn’t after I came to Minneapolis,” he said.

Tashitaa Tufaa
Tashitaa Tufaa, owner, CEO and president of Metropolitan Transportation Network Inc., at the company’s headquarters, in Fridley, Minnesota (VOA)

He began as a dishwasher at the Hilton Hotel, earning $5.65 an hour. Eventually, he held as many as three jobs at once, including ones at manufacturing companies and another as a security guard.

The small paychecks of those days are long gone for Tashitaa Tufaa, who is now president of a successful bus company.

Each day, Metropolitan Transportation Network carries more than 15,000 children to schools, field trips and other destinations in Minneapolis and other Minnesota cities. The multimillion-dollar transportation company has more than 300 employees and recently moved to a new, larger operations centre.

‘I do not believe in giving up’

The road to success hasn’t been easy, but Tufaa believes his experience shows that for those willing to work hard, anything is possible.

“I do not believe in giving up,” he told VOA.

Tashitaa Tufaa came to the U.S. as a refugee. He had been a school teacher in Ethiopia and was also active in politics. Following the fall of Ethiopia’s communist Derg regime in 1991, he helped campaign for the Oromo Liberation Front in his native Oromia region.

When his party withdrew from the transitional government after a fallout with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, Tufaa no longer felt safe in the country and decided to leave.

“I was a political asylee. I didn’t like or agree with the Ethiopian government,” he said.

While working his menial jobs in the U.S. he also earned his master’s degree in political science and international relations from the University of Minnesota. After obtaining the degree, he worked for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.

Tashitaa Tufaa
A fleet of Metropolitan Transportation Network buses in a parking lot at the company’s headquarters in Fridley, Minnesota (VOA)

Dishwashing and factory work was not enough to provide for his family, so he took an evening and weekend job as a shuttle driver, transporting senior citizens and people with disabilities to and from work.

“As a result, I fell in love with transportation and I call myself an addicted driver,” he said with a chuckle.

He left his city job after a conflict with a supervisor and began driving taxis. But other drivers complained that he worked long hours and favored shorter trips to avoid long queues at the airport.

Eventually, the taxi company fired him and, with no other options, he decided to strike out on his own.

“To do a business, you need to face a challenge. You can’t start a business if there is a luxury,” Tufaa said.

Starting with one van

After sketching out their idea for a transportation company in 2003, Tashitaa Tufaa and his brother began delivering handwritten letters to public school districts seeking contracts. He started with his wife’s single minivan transporting homeless children.

Tashitaa Tufaa
Tashitaa Tufaa chats with mechanics and drivers at Metropolitan Transportation Network’s maintenance shop in Fridley, Minnesota. (VOA)

Tufaa — who had once aspired to be a diplomat — says his negotiation and bargaining skills paid off. Their service was rated as excellent by public school districts and the business grew.

The business has steadily grown and now includes a fleet of nearly 300 buses and vans that take children to schools across the state. In 2012 Tufaa was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association in Minneapolis.

Since the beginning, Tufaa says, he prioritized the safety and punctuality of the children his company serves.

“I will not accept for my kids to arrive in school one minute late,” the father of five said. “I make sure that is the case for all the children we serve.”

Minnesota has long, snowy winters. Although buses typically drop off kids and leave, MTN pays its drivers to wait until the children get inside their homes or are met by an adult.

ALSO READ Beyond Borders: Syrian Refugee Re-unites with Family After a Year, Shares Kisses Through Wired Fences in Cyprus But Hopes to go ‘Home’ Someday

Employees marvel at his ability to grow the business without sacrificing his values.

“When I joined everything all I was hearing was, ‘We want to be more like a family,’” said Charles Marks, an assistant transportation manager at the company. “We kept that tradition and that makes the drivers come back every year. I always keep an empty chair next to my desk for anyone who wants to come and talk.”

Tufaa believes in building and empowering communities to be self-sufficient. He is active in the local Oromo community.

Estimated at 40,000 by the Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota is home to the largest Oromo population outside of Ethiopia in the U.S.

Tufaa advises and mentors employees interested in starting their own business. In fact, since 2012, three former employees have started their own successful transportation companies.

“The greatest gift I think you can give people like you is that it can be done and I feel like I’ve done that,” Tufaa said.

This, he says, is a lesson for all African immigrants pursuing their American dream.

“When a person is free, you can do anything,” Tashitaa Tufaa said. “So appreciate what you have, work so very hard, and get rid of the wrong pride we have back home that if you have a college degree you have to be in a professional line [of work] and you can’t dig the potatoes or do the dishes. Work is work and go out there and do what is available. Be proud of it.” (VOA)

Next Story

31st Annual Dastkari Haat Craft Bazaar in Delhi to Focus on Rich Crafts tradition of Iran

Visitors can also enjoy Baul music and Chaau dance from West Bengal, along with folk singers and dancers from Rajasthan on weekends

0
133
Representational image. Pixabay

New Delhi, December 26, 2016: Starting on New Year’s Day, the 31st Annual Dastkari Haat Craft Bazaar at Dilli Haat here will lay special emphasis on the diverse arts and crafts of Iran, the organisers said on Monday.

Nine highly talented craftspeople, artists and calligraphers from Iran are coming here to engage with their Indian counterparts in a bid to revive the old civilisational and creative links between the two countries. The outcome of this unique India-Iran collaboration will be displayed on January 14 at Dilli Haat, INA.

NewsGram brings to you latest new stories in India.

Iran is considered the birthplace of designer earthenware utensils and is home to the unique and creative art of metalwork which is used to make a variety of ornaments and decorative objects. It is also the producer of exotic carpets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Tehran in May 2016 and signed a number of strategic, development and cultural agreements.

“The cultural agreement promotes regular exchanges in arts, literature, poetry, language and other forms of cultural activity between Iran and India. And the Dastkari Haat Craft Bazaar is laying the stepping stone in that direction,” the organisers said in a statement.

Go to NewsGram and check out news related to political current issues

Along with the India-Iran collaboration and products related to it, visitors can also enjoy cultural performances, such as Baul music and Chaau dance from West Bengal, along with folk singers and dancers from Rajasthan on weekends.

Around 200 artisans from various parts of India will also showcase the rich and diverse culture of the country through handlooms, pottery, jute, among other things.

Look for latest news from India in NewsGram.

Dastkari Haat Samiti President Jaya Jaitley, said “The Samiti has constantly worked towards expanding opportunities for craftspeople as conservationists of Indian heritage. The Samiti’s artisan-members have travelled all over and collaborated with local artisans in other developing nations to create utility-based and market-friendly products. We hope to create beautiful products and relationships through the interaction with Iranian craftsmen as well.”

Arts and crafts from various parts of India, presentation of newly discovered craftspersons and skill demonstrations will be showcased at the bazaar from January 1 to January 15 at Dilli Haat. (IANS)