Some Thoughts on June 20, Martyrs’ Day
No nation, perhaps, has penned more poems and songs in honor of its martyrs
than Eritrea. These are written in all nine Eritrean languages and in the
languages of many of the countries where Eritreans now live in our
globalized world. Their artistic standards vary greatly; some are of high
quality, most are the work of amateurs. But their message is profound and
consistent- respect and gratitude for Eritrea’s tens of thousands of
martyrs, strong commitment to support and look after their families and a
quiet determination to build a nation worthy of their sacrifices.
If Eritrea’s attachment to its war heroes seems particularly strong, there
is a good reason for it. Unlike many former colonies, its independence was
not a product of a political arrangement with its former colonizers, but
was the outcome of a 30-year war of national liberation, during which the
Eritreans had to dig deep within themselves to overcome an adversary,
Ethiopia- 20 times the size of Eritrea- and supported alternately by the
United States and the former Soviet Union. Over 65, 000 mostly young men
and women paid their lives for the dream of freedom that became a reality
in 1991. Seven years later, the current tyrannical government in Ethiopia,
again with US support, waged a war of aggression against Eritrea, and an
additional 20,000 Eritreans defended the hard-won freedom with their lives.
Over 85,000 martyrs in a small population of four million is simply huge
and means that virtually every family has lost a son or daughter or close
relative for Eritrean freedom. No wonder the sacrifice is raw and deeply
felt. What is truly wondrous; however, is the response- a sense of
responsibility, a rededication every year on June 20 to remain truthful to
the liberating vision that guided Eritrea’s remarkable and successful fight
against all the odds that were stacked against it.
Even as we honor our heroes and celebrate Eritrea’s past achievements, we
cannot fail but notice that once again Eritreans are being challenged to
rise once again in defense of their nation and aspirations for justice,
dignity and prosperity. The United States, which, in Eritrea’s case has
consistently stood for oppression and against freedom, stood -as was
subsequently proved-on the wrong side of history, is once again working to
thwart Eritrea’s self-reliant nation building.
And what is it that so angers the United States? Eritrea’s insistence that
the “final and binding” international arbitration ruling be respected and
Ethiopia withdraw from illegally occupied Eritrean territory? Eritrea’s
criticism of faulty US policies in our region, in Somalia and in Ethiopia,
where the United states is protecting the country’s rulers against the
wrath of the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians- Amharas, Oromos,
Ogadenis, Afars and others? Policies that run counter to the interests of
peace and stability in the strategic Horn of Africa? Policies that many
have argued have not served the interests of the United States itself
As in the past, Eritreans will not tire from engaging the United States-
the administration, Congress and other institutions. The Eritrean
government has tried to improve relations and has repeatedly stated that it
is willing to work with the United States on issues of common concern.
But Eritreans also know that when it comes to the protection of their
national interests and aspirations, the primary responsibility lies with
them. At home and abroad, they are digging deep, confident that once again
they will find within themselves the strength to continue to live and
thrive as a free people. This, more than anything else, was the message of
Martyrs’ Day this year."
*YPFDJ British Columbia Chapter*
YPFDJ Goal and Purpose
- Our goal is to build a strong, conscious and patriotic youth movement.
Our purpose is:
- To raise the awareness and level of organisation of Eritrean youth to
serve our nation
- To reassert the identity, patriotism and unity of Eritrean youth
- To promote the participation of Eritrean Youth in the national
reconstruction of Eritrea as well as guarding the sovereignty of Eritrea
- To enhance the position and influence of Eritrean Youth in their
respective countries of residence.
Received on Thu Jun 07 2012 - 20:17:11 EDT