By Abebe Gellaw
Washington DC–Ethiopia’s freedom icon Birtukan Mideksa heartedly thanked her fellow Ethiopians here on Sunday for their unreserved support during her incarceration and urged them to unify in celebration of their country regardless of the fact that it is still neither a land of freedom nor justice.
In a remark she made at the conclusion of the Ethiopian Heritage Festival held at George Washington University from July 1 to July 3, Birtukan said that despite all the difficulties facing Ethiopia we need to unify to celebrate the rich heritage and greatness of our country.
She noted that ordinary Ethiopians live under the indignity of abject poverty while so many compatriots have chosen to live in exile to escape the harsh realities back home. However, she underlined the importance of keeping hope and faith to claim the true greatness, potential and future of our country.
“I still have a dream about my country. I really have a dream. I have faith in you, in myself, my daughter and the next generation.” She reminded her fellow Ethiopians that they need to unify not only to celebrate and claim the future but also to realize the true potentials of Ethiopia and to make her a common home for all.
Birtukan has also pointed out that the current situation in Ethiopia and our bad experiences in our own country, which is facing many intractable problems, have made it really hard to dream. “It is possible to mention many instances of the triumphs of people over difficulties, but I call to you to look at me so as to keep hoping.”
She reminded her audience that she was a prisoner in solitary confinement in a very small prison cell but never lost hope. She said that she had felt the immense suffering she endured very deeply. When Tilahun [Gesese] died, she even tried to share her grief with a female prison guard, who only rebuffed the gesture of mourning by slamming and locking the door behind her. “We even need people around us to share our grief”, Birtukan said.
She appreciated the fact that the harsh ordeals she had endured solitary confinement was over. “I was locked alone but today I am surrounded by so many people who love me,” the iconic figure said.
Birtukan is in currently in Atlanta to attend the 28th annual sport and cultural event organized by the Ethiopian Sport Federation in North America (ESFNA). ESFNA had faced a serious crisis over its decision to disinvite Birtukan MIdeksa as its guest of honor. The federation was forced to reverse its decision after it faced an intense boycott campaign by Ethiopian activists who took offense at the insensitive measure.
Meanwhile, organizers of the first Ethiopian Heritage Festival have expressed their pleasure at the success of the colorful event which was attended by thousands of Ethiopians who came from all over North America. The presence of Birtukan at the event added deeper meaning to the mission of the event which was aimed at unifying Ethiopians and celebrating the rich cultural, historical, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity of the nation.