From China to Ethiopia and from Belarus to Saudi Arabia, there is no shortage of repressive regimes in the world. In general, repressive societies are defined as exerting pervasive state control over daily life, banning free speech and political opposition, and practicing severe human rights violations. All of these attributes describe the Ethiopian regime from head to toe, but the TPLF regime in Ethiopia has many more attributes that makes it the worst of the worst. Oppressive regimes don not hate their country, yet the Ethiopian regime does. Even though oppressive regimes kill their citizens for a variety of reasons, they don’t kill out of hatred. The TPLF regime in Ethiopia hunts and kills people that it really hates. Almost all countries of the world, authoritarian or egalitarian, show the utmost concern and respect for their citizens who immigrate to other countries. Ethiopia is visibly different; it is really different, so much so, that the Ethiopian embassies throughout the world (including Saudi) are happily opened for certain kind of people and are inhospitable and closed for everybody else.
In recent years, the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia with its growing economy has been a magnet for migrant workers from Ethiopia and other poor countries of Africa and Asia. Although Ethiopian migrant workers have constantly been harassed, abused and treated like a plug horse by their Saudi employers and the police, many young Ethiopians who have been denied opportunities in their native country, have considered Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states as much better and attractive destinations for hope and better life.
When the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) saw the persecution to which his followers were subjected to in Mecca, he told them to find safe haven in Ethiopia (aka Abyssinia at the time). His followers trusted their trustworthy leader, and they fled to Ethiopia where they enjoyed the unmatched hospitality of the Ethiopian people. The year was 615 AD, It was the First Hijra (migration); and Ethiopia was its destination. As he would never forget the hospitality and generosity of the Ethiopians, the Prophet Mohammed said: “Abyssinia is a land of justice in which no one is oppressed”
Well, today, 1398 years after the First Hijra, two things have changed dramatically. Ethiopia, hailed as the land of justice by the Prophet, is now the symbol of brutality in Africa. And on the other side, Saudi Arabia, the very land of the Prophet and the Holy Land of Islam, has become the land of acute brutality. Ironically, the victims of this brutality are none than the very people that extended their warm hands to the very first migrants of Islam. In the year 615 AD and thereafter, the people and government of Ethiopia showed their utmost hospitality and love towards the first immigrants of Islam. Today, one of the most repressive and brute regimes in the world, the Saudi regime, is returning the favor with absurdity, brutality, and outright inanity.
I hope the Saudi government understands that there is a fine line between tightening its immigration policy and ill-treating and killing immigrants – I only hope because as brute and as injudicious as the Saudi government is, it is never right and it has never been right on anything related to justice, freedom, and human right. Did I say human rights? Oh! Yes, and it does not get more tangled or meshed than this. The Saudi government is known for its sever human rights violations, and Ethiopia is no better if it is not worse. Many young Ethiopians leave their home land and head to Saudi for two main reasons: employment discrimination and lack of opportunity, and lack of freedom and sever human rights violations at home. In Saudi, well; yes Ethiopians are employed in Saudi, but the assault, the abuse and the torture follows them.
The other very strange and undesirable similarity between Ethiopia and Saudi is that, in a very ironic move, these two repressive regimes and three other countries (Russia, China, and Cuba) with questionable human rights records recently secured seats on none other than the UN Human Rights Council. It’s sad, rather absurd that the Saudi and the Ethiopian governments that torture and kill their own citizens are elected to oversee human rights violations elsewhere in the world.
Obviously, from what has been said, the two oppressive regimes, Ethiopia & Saudi, seem to be complementing each other in abusing Ethiopians. Yes, indeed, these two oppressive regimes are as close as ‘lips and teeth’ where one causes the pain and the other finishes off the patient. I personally applaud the current international effort in support of our people in Saudi, but until we tackle the root cause of the problem, the teamwork of Addis and Riyadh continue, and so does the suffering of our people. Therefore, It is crucially important that we start slashing the lip and sending the teeth into the cold.
Saudi Arabia sees Ethiopia as its bread basket for the future, and the ever gluttonous and cash thirty TPLF regime wants to exploit this need by granting the Saudis a massive amount of cheap & fertile land. Hence the leadership in Riyadh harbors no illusion that it is truly interested in the survival of the TPLF regime so long as Addis can keep its promise of supplying cheap labor and land.
In this dominant-submissive relationship, the Saudis take their own self-interest more seriously and do what they want without worrying about Ethiopia. Swallowing its own feelings and avoiding standing-up for the interest of the Ethiopian people, the bigoted and subservient TPLF regime regards Saudi’s needs as paramount. Hence, Ethiopians go to Saudi as domestic workers where they are assaulted, abused and killed; and the Saudis come to Ethiopia as entrepreneurs and get all the respect they may not be getting in their own country.
What we saw in Riyadh and Addis in the last week or two is the reflection of this dominant-submissive relationship. In Riyadh and many other Saudi cities, Ethiopians who protested against the abusive actions of the Saudi regime were arrested, beaten and killed. In Addis, Ethiopians who tried to protest in front of the Saudi embassy were rounded up by the Ethiopian police and beaten like dogs. As long as this dominant-submissive relationship exists, when we talk about Ethiopia and Saudi, as the political satirist Abe Tokichaw would say; it may be very important to make a distinction between Saudi Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia.
In the last two weeks, I watched hours of gruesome and excruciating video clips from Saudi that made me sick to my bones. The street crackdown, the house to house arrest and beating, the rape, the mutilation and the killings have made me ask . . . is Saudi the Holy Land or the land of brutality?
Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have become the world of mean streets, where bloody killers are operating with the “immortal certainty” that they will never have to pay for the snuffling out of human life. We must make them pay, and we must stop the team work of this brute and savage duo. There are the Ethiopian people, there is the opposition and there are the damn TPLF gangs. We must get rid of the damn gangs!
by Ephrem Madebo