Ethiopia: Ethiopian Muslim activist Ali Meki threatened with re arrest

Ethiopian Muslim activist Ali Meki threatened with re arrest

Press Release

Nejashi Justice Council

Washington,DC

November 14, 2014

The Ethiopian government issued arrest order for two of Ethiopian Muslims human rights activists Ali Maki and Shekh Abdurahaman Usman after they had been released from prison along with 8 other Muslims activist in December, 2013 in connection with ongoing Ethiopian Muslims protest against government interference in religious affairs. The report that reached Nejashi Justice Council from Ethiopia has indicated that Shekh Abdurahman Usman has been rearrested and activist Ali Meki Bedru escaped the arrest and he is currently in exile.

The two activists have been detained at Kilinto, a notorious prison center for more than one year and half for just demanding government to respect the freedom of religion that enshrined in the constitution. Among the 29 jailed activists and Muslim protest leaders, on December, 2013­­­­­­­ Federal High Court found not guilty and let 8 Muslims including Shekh Abdurahamn Usman and Ali Meki free when the prosecutor failed to substantiate the charge against them with evidence.

The Nejashi Justice Council interviewed Ali Meki who managed to flee the country and currently he lives in exile. Ali Meki was a prominent Muslim activist and openly criticized the government for violating the constitutional rights of Ethiopian Muslims.  He stated that, he has been traumatized and tortured both physically and psychologically for more than 4 month in central prison (Maekelawi) and a year in Kilinto prison center in Ethiopia. He described that beating, electric shocking; desecrating religious identity and rape are common practices. He has been suffering a day to day follow-up and 24 hour surveillances after he was released from prison by Ethiopian government security agents.  He is still living in hiding fearing the security of Ethiopian government may follow him and arrest him. Ali reported that when the government started searching for him for the second time, the only option he had was fleeing the country to save his live.

Many news outlets including Aljazeera have reported that the government has continued cracking down Muslim activists. Report by Human Rights watch acknowledged that Ethiopian government has been conducting relentless crack down on Muslims for more than three years as a result of their stand against government interference in their religious affair. Thousands of Muslims along with 17 Committee Members of Muslims leaders are still languishing in prison.

Background on Ethiopian Muslims Peaceful Demands

Introduction

Around mid January 2012, Ethiopian Muslims began gathering at Awoliya college campus, Addis Ababa, and began deliberating on the government interference on religious affairs. In the weeks that followed, the gathering attracted several thousands of Muslims from the capital and surrounding areas, often estimated to be well over 500,000. The gathering called for an end to the government’s forced indoctrination of an alien Ahbash sect , to stop its interference in the Muslims religious affairs; and above all for the constitutional rights of citizens to be respected vis-à-vis the separation of the state and religion (Article 11), the freedom of religion, belief and opinion (Article 27), the right of thoughts, opinion and expression (Article 29), the freedom of Association (Article 31) and the freedom of movement (Article. 32).

How the Committee was formed

On January 20, 2012 the protestors at Awoliya campus setup a council of representatives and mandated it to speak on their behalf in any negotiation that might take place with the government. Beyond the hundreds of thousands of Muslims that met at Awoliya campus for successive Friday’s for a public protest, the wider Ethiopian Muslim community threw itself behind the elected council and its members[1] by organizing petitions and issuing public statements as well as writing letters to concerned regional and federal government offices including the office of the Prime Minister.

The Religious freedom Demands

The council of representatives worked out further on the demands of the people and summed them up in to three main categories:

  1. To end the government’s interference in their religious affairs and respect their right to freely elect and put in position the leaders of their institution, the Majlis,
  2. To return the Awoliya Islamic institution to the community and let it be administered by an independent elected board,
  3. To end the government’s use of punitive measures in its attempt to indoctrinate Ethiopian Muslims with the Ahbash ideology.

The three demands were but the realizations and respect of the constitutional provisions regarding the separation of state and religion, and the freedom of belief and the expression thereof.  They are just demands for the implementation in practice of secularism and democratic system as the official system and the best formula for a multi-cultural, multi-religious nation as Ethiopia.

The council worked indefatigably to present the three demands of the people to the government and sought to get a negotiated settlement that would satisfy both the demanding people and the ruling government.

Response of Ethiopian Government

To the dismay of the millions of Ethiopian Muslims who stood behind the cause, the response of the government has so far been one of defiance, arrogance and treachery. It considered the appeal of the people as political while the demand is in reality basic religious rights issue. It intensified its imprisonment and criminalization of innocent people who happen to oppose this particular project of the government. The elected members of the council are put under 24 hours surveillance and subjected to mental and physical intimidation, forced to live under constant fear. Muslim journalists and editors of independent Muslim Newsletters had also been rounded up many times and are still receiving threats. Several Muslims intellectuals, religious scholars, and community leaders are languishing in different prisons throughout the country. On April 27, 2012, government security killed at least five civilians in small town called Asasa, Arsi, Oromia Region. Gruesome measures against Muslim activists are being reported by teach day.

In the meantime, the resistance to the government’s action has grown beyond its birth site in the capital. Muslims are voicing their demand peacefully from Mosques throughout the country, most notably are those from Anwar Grand Mosque and Nur Mosque in Addis Ababa. The huge and intense rallies being held around these two historical Mosques and other regional community centers are indicative of the extent and determination of the Muslims community to pursue its demands.  April 20, 2012 was a historic milestone where an estimated one million people turned out in the effort to reach out the Ethiopian Government which up to that moment refused to hear their cry. The day coincided with another historical landmark in the Ethiopian Muslims history and called to memory the 1974 Ethiopian Muslims demonstration that attracted well over 500, 000 people, the first of its kind in the history of the country, where Muslims called for equality, religious freedom and respect for their right. It is astonishing that 38 years later Muslims had to cry for essentially similar rights. Despite all these, the GoE has continued and even intensified its meddling in the religious affairs of the Muslim community and refused to recognize the legitimate and peaceful demands of the people. Furthermore, the Ethiopian government has intensified its widespread crackdown and arrests throughout the country.

 


[1]    In just two weeks, around one million signatures were reported to have been gathered in support of the council and the demand it submitted to the government of Ethiopia.