Sinai 2013


This is a continuation, or rather a more thought-out and through post of an earlier rant I made via twitlonger ( I hate wasting the time of whomsoever is reading what is written here so I’ll just go straightforward to the topic.

I believe, for the sake of clarity and in avoidance of this issue being twisted and misunderstood by some quarters, I think I need to divulge certain facts about me. My name is Bealfan Tesfay, and I am an an Eritrean currently residing in the United States. I’m a journalist working for Bloomberg (Your financial equivalent of CNN).I was born and raised in Asmara, went to school in Eritrea. Right after graduating from the University of Asmara, I joined the Ministry of Information, and held different posts, my last post was the Chief Editor of I left Eritrea in July 2011. And all my family still reside in Eritrea.

I am, if I may call myself so, a man of contradictions. For example, I don’t pay 2%, I abhor the Eritrean government, and yet I stand with it regarding anything that concerns Ethiopia. I think Eritrea, its people and its government are three separate entities. I believe Eritrea deserves a better system and administration,  but I wouldn’t want the current so-called Eritrean opposition anywhere near my country. I do not hold any membership in any group, union, affiliation or political parties, oh wait, I belong to a local shooting club here and I own 2 guns, a Glock-19 and a Czech made Cz-75b, but that’s about it.

In September 2011, I was residing in Khartoum, the Sudan, and after hearing the awful tales of what was going on in Sinai and being in Khartoum in person to hear everything, I approached Meron Estefanos volunteering to help with the issue. Meron related to me that she’s been working tirelessly to bring this issue to the attention of the mainstream media, for me, it sounded like something that would interest whomsoever is in the journalism business. I am a journalist, we spend our days in search of stories to break and this, I thought , was such an important thing for a journalist ( We call such stories career-hypers, because it would fix the journalist for life as it would be his/her magna opus) . I didn’t have any doubt that the story would be picked soon and this phenomenon would come to an end pretty soon.

A few weeks went by, and there was no one covering that story despite frantic attempts of Meron and lots of other people ( there was one coverage by an Egyptian journalist, but it didn’t bring much change). And I, stationed suitably in Khartoum and frequenting the companionship of Eritreans quite a lot was in the midst of all that talk about Sinai. But Media attention was scarse (After all, who cares about black, backward and Godless Africa, right?  one of the journos of the Economist Magazine actually wrote me stating that in the UK, if the cover story of the Economist is something that involves Africa, the off newsstand sales drop by about 60%-75%).

Some of the major hurdles Meron faced in bringing this issue to the attention of the concerned parties were 2 things. Foremost, it took people, especially Eritreans to actually believe that there is a crisis involving Eritreans in the Sinai a real while– the opposition thought it was impossible and there would be no such thing and the pro-government thought it was something that was being orchestrated and wrung by the opposition.

Another hurdle was that the interviews with the victims were done in Tigrinya, and wanting to share this with the Swedish Government and the European Union, who, if they wanted, were actually capable of stopping the crisis, Meron wanted the help of someone to translate those interviews she recorded with the victims held in Sinai, and I naturally, wanting to help those people and do my bidding as an Eritrean, got into it.

Doing those translation is an insurmountable task, seriously, I thought it was easy, I mean, I thought, how hard could it be …what’s a few minutes of someone speaking in my native language, easy I thought at first. But it wasn’t, I cried, I wept, I couldn’t eat for three days or come out of the house when I heard the first interview. Now, I’ve heard so much of this and that, that I’ve become a totally different someone, hardened and emotionless someone. I actually fight everyday with my girl friend regarding working on it, she thinks I will one of those days lose my mind, if I haven’t already– I still work on it though, after all, who would do it if I don’t do it?

Right now, it is April the 28th, 2013. And I must tell you, the situation in Sinai is worse than it used to be a year back. The business being very lucrative more Bedouin are joining into the trafficking circles and more people are being kidnapped and sold to slavery.

Sinai is such a lawless place for obvious reasons. Sinai is a no-man’s land between Egypt and Israel as you may already know. After the War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel, both countries agreed to have some buffer corridor between them, and that corridor happens to be the place where no government administers, it is under the sphere of influence both nations, but not much of an interest to both of them, and therefore, a lawless land, ( Here, it must be clear that I am not talking about the whole Sinai peninsula, but the areas that are very close with Israel, especially in El-Arish)

And moreover, the people who live in that area are called, Bedouin, and the word Bedouin itself actually means without land in Arabic, landless, used to denote early dwellers of the desert, these people have no political allegations, no national sentiments, and most of them belong to tribes ( Sawarka, Saheed, Abu Reidi..) and are active in illegitimate businesses, be it trafficking humans, arms sales, contraband and so on. The fact that most of them do not earn their living legally has forged them to create a bond in an unusual way and they protect one another.

Anyway, as you know, the situation in Sinai is going out of hand, and there are those who have become millionaires at the plight of our brothers and sisters.

A few days ago, I was listening to this particular phone conversation with this woman who is held victim there, she spoke with a very faint and yet clear voice. She detailed her pain, her agony and what she goes through, but what she finally said towards the end made me beset with anger that I can no longer keep inside me.Her exact words were “ኣብ ማዓልቲ እኮ 666 ግዜ ኢዮም ዝጋሰሱኒ በይነይ ስለ ዘለኹ.”

It shook me to my cores to hear those words. I was resigned for the rest of the day. I went to see a friend of mine, she doesn’t know jack about Eritrea or Ethiopia or Sinai; but she was more understanding and sympathetic to the situation compared to some of my Eritrean friends regarding the issue, who always attempts to indoctrinate me politically, but is always disappointed as I have no head for politics.

And that of course, complicated matters? I began to ask why are we this fragmented? What brought this? Why is it that we scourn and hate each other? Why is it that we choose to alienate or label ourselves along lines that are purely politics? You know what I mean if you’ve heard lines that go like “ኣብ ናይ ህግደፍ ጓይላ ከይትኸይድ: ጓይላ ተራኢዩካ” or “ኣብታ ባር ከይትኣቱ፥  ናይዞም ዱሁላት ተቓወምቲ ኢና በሃልቲ ኢያ.”

The thing is, we’ve hopelessly fragmented as a nation and entity that we do not stand a chance if something bigger than this comes? Suppose Ethiopia invades us again, would we unite as a nation as we did in 1998? Or would  the opposition simply decide  its the affair of the PFDJiates and will pick up everything once this is done? I hate even remotely imagining that this is a possible outcome if it comes to that.

So, back to Sinai. I understand there are those who still have doubts, but the situation is real. And it is not something that can any longer be entrusted to the care of the opposition , ( I should decide in this point that the so-called-opposition parties haven’t done anything and they only instance they mention it is when they want to point out the faults of the Eritrean government, and the Eritrean government has done nothing so far ( even though some people would like to dispute it). Infact, the most hopeless thing I heard about the matter came from Zemhret Yohannes, PFDJs Research and Documentation head and a very close acquaitance, he said “እዞም ሰባት እዚኣቶም ካብ ሃገሮም ብዘይ ሕጋዊ መንገዲ ወጺኦም ኣብ ሳይናይ በጺሖም። ከመይ ገይርና ብዘይ ሕጋዊ መንገዲ ዝወጹ ሰባት ንሕግዝ፧” You don’t believe me? Do a little research and find the video of him saying that in YouTube.

I went to twitter and twitted about it, but there was a somewhat iry touch to it, because it seemed to me, the opposition use this as a weak point against the government, and the government supporters see it as a ruse that has been overinflated beyond proportions to lay blame on Eritrea.

I am asking a simple question, of course, we could go on day and out discussing the sociopolitical dynamism and economic factors that fuel migration, why people are being forced to leave Eritrea, how the United States and Ethiopia are working to discredit Eritrea, how General blah blah is involved in illicit trade and so on…

But at the end, the most important question is , what good will it do those captives in Sinai?  Will it lessen the rape sessions? Will she be tortured less if you engage in an intellectual diatribe of root factors fueling trafficking? What good will it do your cousin/brother being set ablaze with kerosene?   ( if you don’t believe this, please email me and I will email you even more harrowing audio records that will make the hair in your back stand, or if you’re in the US, we could call her and we could just talk to her using three-way.) And solutions have been sought, but ransom money is being paid for the release of our brothers and sisters and so long as the trade is profitable for those Bedouin traders, the practice won’t come to an end!

So, brothers and sisters, and those especially who are ardent supporters of the Eritrean Government, we need your help. We need to come up with atleast a one-time bridge between us and try to work this to an end.  There’s no way we can stop this all by ourselves. It is an issue that is of concern to everyone, and there’s a call for fresh tactics we need a change of tactics, how about we unite for a change? How about we work together, how about we protest the inactivity of the Egyptian government to stop the issue in whichever country we reside on? How about we go on a peaceful march to raise the awareness of our respective communities?And we do this in such a civilized manner, we keep it no-nonsense, to the point and devoid of any poltical sentiments and so on.

I don’t know, but there are those who need our help desperately, we can’t help them all by ourselves. But they might stand a chance if everyone was willing to see beyond our differences and deflate our egos and seek, for once, to understand something.

I’m chronicling every twit I got here, just so to point out what I mean.

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Hence my feeling that I am misunderstood!

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Here are some of the responses, some of them are positive, some of them aren’t.

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 12.06.39 PMA few days ago, some dumb fuck calling himself @ri_kh on twitter posted something to the effect of those “Amiches” are the ones who are pushing through crimes and bad things in Eritrea. Although that was a pretty assumptive sentence that shouldn’t have been made by an adult such as himself, I went to see beyond his logic of deciding to speak so. So, its kinda obvious our friend @ri_kh, grew in the Diaspora, speaks Tigrinya with an accent ( Just like @Stesfamariam) and generally doesn’t know much about Eritrea because that wasn’t where he grew up, and therefore is inclined to make mistakes and its our duty to correct him. So using the same logic Eden, when have you actually sat down with a member of the PFDJ, discussing what you know about Sinai and the atrocities going on there with the same levels of willingness and civility of a pentecostal preacher wanting to take whomsoever he’s speaking about the bible to church? I have never done that, all I do is call them names.

Positive reactions:

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Thanks for the heads up Bereket! I was thinking more of an entirely Eritrean solution. But seems like a great suggestion otherwise.

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@Ternafi, you’re a ray of light in a dark room! But stop politicizing this yourself, lets help those people, period.

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And @Stesfamariam did also grace us with her great intellectual presence, this time, I think she was talking about Nuclear Physics.

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And Finally, here’s a post that summarizes my whole attitude about this issue.

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