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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mahmoud Ahmed's Journey From Shoe-Shine boy to An International Superstar

In concert, his [Mahmoud's] enigmatic multi-octave voice seizes on a note, brief or sustained, and makes its pitch tremble as it its urgency could barely be containedThe New York Times

MAHMOUD Ahmed has a rich, deep voice that oozes liquid chocolate down a phone line crackling with static; what a pity I can't understand a word he is saying.Sydney morning herald
75 years ago a baby named Mahmoud Ahmed brought to this world by an Ethiopian working class parents at a place locally known as Mercato in the center of Addis Ababa. Neither his family nor himself had imagined that this little boy one-day would be an internationally acclaimed artist. Mahmoud coming from Ethiopia's well known entrepreneurial and hard-working Gurage ethnic group, his first profession like many of his fellow mates, was shining shoes on the streets of Addis. He tried a series of other menial jobs before he ended up as handy-man at the Arizona Club which was back then an after-work hangout place for Emperor Haile Selassie I's Imperial Body Guard Band. On a fateful night, one of the singers didn't show-up and Mahmoud persuaded the house band to let him substitute the singer and ever since then he continued doing the job he loves for half a century. Mahmoud soon was recruited at Imperial Body Guard Band, serving there until the military coup of 1974. Mahmoud released his first single with Venus Band "Nafqot New Yegodagn"/"Yasdestal" in 1971 and quickly became a pop-star across Ethiopia. Mahmoud continued to record with several bands for the Amha and Kaifa record labels throughout the 1970s.
Following the overthrow of Emperor Sellassie, the military junta suspended musical nightlife and the Imperial Body Guard Band was disbanded, nonetheless Mahmoud continued to make hit records and cassettes with many local musicians, including the Dahlack and the Ibex Bands.
Mahmoud switched to releasing his music on cassettes from vinyl as the 1978 censorship laws prevented him to do so. In the 1980s, Mahmoud operated his own music shop in the hub of Addis Ababa's - Piazza district as a side-kick to his singing career. Mahmoud became a pioneer modern Ethiopian music maker to perform in the United States for the Ethiopian diaspora on a 1980-1981 tour with the Wallias Band, Gétatchew Kassa, and Webeshet Fisseha.
Almost 30 years ago, Mahmoud's music reached a larger western audience when the Belgian label Crammed Discs released the collection Ere Mela Mela, at a time when Ethiopia was making headlines in the west because of political repression and for the worst famine the country experienced. Mahmoud gained even a huge international limelight in the late 1990s after Buda Musique launched the Éthiopiques series on CD. Eventually, this led to new recordings and tours worldwide with Boston's Either/Orchestra and Badume's Band. He tours globally, performing concerts both for international music fans as well as the Ethiopian diaspora.
iREFUGEE was able to have words with Mahmoud, when he came to perform at Stockholm's Cultural Festival on August 18, 2015 where thousands of his fans were able to enjoy his live performances. Mahmoud is witty, down-to-earth, humble and coherent. Please enjoy his interview.

iREFUGEE: How and when did you start singing?
Mahmoud: I started singing while I was in school. I used to sing during breaks to my classmates songs that I heard on the Ethiopian radio. I dropped out of school and became a shoe-shine boy. Then I worked as handy-man at the Arizona Night-Club. One evening, one of the singers didn't show-up and I begged and persuaded the band's manager to let me substitute the singer and ever since then I am singing and here you meet me.
iREFUGEE: What was your family's reaction towards your career?
MAHMOUD: They were OK with it except that my father was a bit disappointed.
iREFUGEE: Who was your role-model?
MAHMOUD: Tilahun Gessese.
iREFUGEE: How was it to be an artist back then and now?
MAHMOUD: There is a huge difference. During that time, singing was considered as something bad and people call us names such Azemarie-a derogatory term to express their contempt towards us. Today, singing is a very respected job.
iREFUGEE: How do you feel being an internationally known artist?
MAHMOUD: [laughter] Honestly speaking, I'm very happy and I do my best to entertain the audience wherever I go on tour.
iREFUGEE: Why didn't you release an album for such a long time?
MAHMOUD: I could not be able to release the album due to copyright issues. I'm thinking to release an album in the future as the implementation of the copyright law is being strengthened at the moment.
iREFUGEE: How is the situation of Copyright in Ethiopia?
MAHMOUD: it is getting better. We [artists] organized ourselves and trying to defend our rights.
iREFUGEE: In a 1-10 scale (1 the lowest and 10 the highest), how do you rate Ethiopia's contemporary music standard?
iREFUGEE: How do you see the future of the music industry in Ethiopia?
MAHMOUD: It looks promising. A copyright association is created and we made a consensus to abide by the copyright law.
iREFUGEE: What's your future-plan?
MAHMOUD: I want to rest. Your body doesn't work as it used to be when you get older. I would like to take things at a slowdown level. However, I will serve as long as I could.
iREFUGEE: What would you have been, if you were not a singer?
MAHMOUD: [laughter] I don't know. I could have might been a shoe-shiner.
iREFUGEE: What is your advice for the new generation of Ethiopian artists?
MAHMOUD: there are many talented young Ethiopian artists right now. I would be very happy if they could serve the public as we did.
iREFUGEE: If you could turn-back the clock, what are the things you would have done differently?
MAHMOUD: I can't say anything, knowing that I can't turn-back the clock.
iREFUGEE: Does any of your children follow your foot-step?
iREFUGEE: Which of your songs are your favorite?
MAHMOUD: Tizeta. It gives me goose-bump even when somebody sings Tizeta.
iREFUGEE: your happiest/saddest day?
MAHMOUD: My saddest day was when I lost my mother. Happiest days are too many.
iREFUGEE: What is your message to your Ethiopian and international fans?
MAHMOUD: Thanks a lot for letting me be where I am now.
Next week, iREFUGEE will present Alemayehu Eshete's thoughts about his career and future plan. Miss it not!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Veteran & Young Ethiopian Artists Rock Stockholm

Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian singers Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete as well as Ethiocolor, an Addis Ababa based folklore group, took the grand stage at Stockholm Culture Festival on August 13, in an evening curated by Selam — a cultural organization based in Sweden. 
Thousands of music fans from Ethiopia and other countries were first entertained by the eleven-strong Ethiocolor, which fuses music and dances using traditional instruments that are arranged in a modern touch. The musicians and dancers who comprise three different generations, are recognized for their vibrant live shows with rhythmic dances of various ethnic groups of Ethiopia.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#EthiopiansMessageToObama is storming the internet while the government and its supporters kept quiet

The idea of this hashtag was discussed as matter-of-factly by like-minded friends on Twitter, just a few days after the Ethiopian government suddenly 'freed' some members of Zone 9 bloggers and journalists at the beginning of July. One of them was suggesting to exploit this opportunity to urge President Obama to press its Ethiopian counterparts to release the prisoners of conscience and to respect the rule of law. The other suggested this seemingly harsh hashtag.

This same guy posted on twitter conversation in Amharic (Ethiopian official language) “The hustle is getting harder, I wonder when exactly this guy [President Obama] is coming.

On July 20th 2015, an Ethiopian Muslim activist Facebooker revealed the plan inviting Ethiopians at home and abroad to use #EthiopiansMessageToObama hashtag in the social media from July 21st – July 24th 2015 between 9-10 GMT Ethiopian local time. In this the fifth of its kind social-media campaign, thousands of tweets were flooded the internet from all corners of the world.
According to Vocactiv, an online media, twitter users leveraged President Obama's final appearance on Daily Show last Tuesday (July 21, 2015) to highlight the injustices. Hundreds of tweets were posted with a hashtag '#EthiopiansMessageToObama' before, during and after the broadcast to draw attention to Ethiopia’s crackdown on dissent.
But, who are these twittering people trending the hashtag #EthiopiansMessageToObama on the social media? Many of them are Ethiopians who accuse their government

As Wazema Radio turns one, its editor shares some thoughts

Argaw Ashine has served as a journalist for 18 years at different media organizations inside Ethiopia, including governmental, private and foreign media outlets. He was also in charge of various journalism unions in the country.
Ashine was one of the people whose names were listed in a Wikileaks report as a main source for the now defunct Addis-Neger Amharic newspaper. He left Ethiopia on September 2011 after the Ethiopian Federal Police gave him the ultimatum of either revealing his government sources or fleeing the country. He now resides in the U.S. and works as a researcher in media related issues. He also volunteers as the editor-in-chief for Wazema Radio – a dissident podcast he established together with other exiled Ethiopian journalists from Sweden and North America.
GIZEYAT’s Europe correspondent Theodros Yeshiarega talked to Ashine in an exclusive interview about his work at Wazema Radio — which marked its first anniversary this past June  — and also discussed the release of jailed Ethiopian writers and other matters related to the Ethiopian media.
How and by whom was Wazema Radio established?
ASHINE: Wazema Radio was launched in June 2014 by four exiled journalists, namely the trio of the

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Abrupt release of Ethiopian bloggers and journalists, an '#ObamaEffect'?

Photo by FissehaFantahun
On the same day (July 8, 2015), and just few hours before this unexpected action which stunned the defendants; their attorney and the whole world, a story was running about jailed journalists Edom Kassaye under the title "An Ethiopian Journalist Jailed for Her Integrity". And a rumor surfaced on the social media around 7 o'clock (Ethiopian local time)  in the evening about the release of Edom Kassaye, Mahlet Fantahun, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis and Tesfalem Woldyes. 

The mood was mixed among twitters: confusion, happiness, disbelief, suspicion just to mention but a few. Around 8 o'clock, the news was broken by wazema, an Ethiopian diaspora podcast in Sweden which is run by Mesfin Negash et. al. who was an ex managing editor of AddisNeger and convicted by Ethiopian government with terrorism charges.

However, there was no word from the government media until the next day. The government affiliated 'private' broadcaster Fana revealed that 'Five so-called bloggers in the Soliana Shimelis et-al case released in Ethiopia'.
Photo by FissehaFantahun
Some were jubilant while others were cautious and skeptics of Ethiopian government's abrupt move which happened after the court has finished hearing evidences and was due to deliver a guilty-not-guilty verdict the coming week. Some even considered it as an 'Obama effect' where Ethiopian officials are in a preemptive charm-offensive ahead of US President's official visit to the country. It is to be recalled that a few days before this sudden action of the Ethiopian government, thousands of expat Ethiopians in the US made a huge protest in front of White-House demanding Barack Obama not visit Ethiopia.

If one dissects these various approaches, it appears that there are two main camps: pro-government groups on one side and the rest on the other side;the former is defending/justifying the Ethiopian government's action while family members and friends of the released/jailed bloggers and journalists; international media outlets; net-citizens and international human-rights and freedom of expression watchdogs who demand the government to release all Ethiopian prisoners of conscience. Members of the net-citizens continue to include the hash-tag #FreeZone9Bloggers in their social media posts and recommended others to do the same until everybody is free.

As result, #FreeZone9Bloggers, continued to be trending and has become the second largest hash-tag mentioned on twitter, at least here in Sweden.
In an exclusive with VOA Amharic, the released bloggers and journalists as well as father/attorney of columnist Reeyot Alemu expressed their mixed and shocking feelings towards the abrupt government's action. Zelalem Kibret a.k.a Zola said he has this survivor's guilt for being released because his four colleagues who were accused with the same charges still remain behind bars. A pro-government Facebooker replied to him in a cruel manner. 

nobody is holding you back to go back [to the prison]. The food, the drinks and the rent are free. It's better for you there especially at this time when life is very expensive in the country.

Meanwhile aigaforum, an Ethiopian diaspora pro-government media in the US made a complaint against CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) for taking sides with the groups which it alleges are terrorists not journalists.
Well, others are urging Mr. Obama to visit Ethiopia as often as possible so that all Ethiopian prisoners of conscience could be released.

According CPJ's latest reports, Ethiopia ranks the second journalists' jailer in Africa after to Eritrea and is listed among the top ten censored countries in the world. 
Our message, nobody is free until everybody is free! Free Eskinder Nega, Woubshet Taye, Abel Wabela, Befqadu Hailu, Atenaf Berhane, Andualem Aragae, Zelalem Werqalemahu and thousands Ethiopian prisoners of conscience who are being incarcerated for exercising their constitutional and birth-rights.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

እውነቱ ይውጣ! (ፕ/ር መስፍን ወልደ ማርያም)

ለመሆኑ ሊቃነ ጳጳሳት፣ ጳጳሳት፣ መነኮሳት፣ ቀሳውስት — ሼሆች፣ ሽማግሌዎች በአገሩ የለንም?
መስፍን ወልደ ማርያም
Prof. Mesfin Woldemariamሴቶችን በወንዶች ፊት፣ ወንዶችን በሴቶች ፊት ልብስ እያስወለቁ የአካላቸውን ክፍሎች ሁሉ ለማየት የሚያስችል አንቅስቃሴ አንዲሠሩ ማስገደድ በሽተኞችን ያስደስታል፤ የምርመራ ዘዴ ግን አይደለም፤ ውርደት እንዲሰማቸው ከሆነ በወራዶች ሰዎች ፊት የምን መዋረድ አለ? ወራዶች እነሱ ደረጃ ላይ ከእነሱ ጋር ያስተካክላሉ አንጂ አያዋርዱም፤ በሌላ አነጋገር ወራዶች አያዋርዱም፤ ወራዶቹ ደንቆሮዎችም ሆነው ነው እንጂ ልብስ የሚያስወልቁ እነሱ ብቻ አይደሉም፤ ሀኪሞችም ልብስ አስወልቀው፣ አጋድመው በጣታቸውም ሆነ በመሣሪያ የፈለጉትን የአካል ክፍል አንደፈለጉ ያደርጉታል፤ ወራዶቹና ደንቆሮዎቹ ከሚያደርጉት የሀኪሞቹ የሚለየው ሀኪሞቹ ሰዎችን ለማዳን ሲሉ ነው፤ ወራዶቹና ደንቆሮዎቹ ግን የራሳቸውን ሱስ ለማርካት፣ የራሳቸውን ህመም ለማስታገስ ነው፤ ወራዶቹንና ደንቆሮዎቹን ከመለዮአቸው አራቁቻቸዋለሁ! ከነውር በቃላት ወደነውር በተግባር፣ ያውም በመሥሪያ ቤት! ዱሮ ዱሮ ከቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ ቲያትር ፊት ለፊት የአንድ ኢጣልያዊ ቡና ቤት ነበር፤ እዚያ ውጭ ተቀምጠን ቡና ስንጠጣ አንዲት ውብ ሴት ወደጸጉር መሥሪያው ቤት ስትመጣ የሁላችንም ዓይኖች እየዘለሉ እስዋ ላይ ዐረፉ፤ ከሦስታችን አንዱ ስለሴትዮዋ የወሲብ ችሎታ በዝርዝር መናገር ሲጀምር ሁለታችን ተያየንና አፈርን፤ ጨዋታው የጣመለት መስሎት ሲቀጥል የሕግ ባለሙያ የሆነ ጓደኛዬ አቋረጠውና ‹‹ስማ! ይህን ጊዜ እናትህ

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jailed #FreeZone9Bloggers demands John Kerry to Stop Supporting Ethiopia

Natnael Feleke has been imprisoned for a year without trial. In a letter smuggled out of jail, he asks the US secretary of state to stop supporting the regime
Dear John Kerry,
Zone 9I first came to know about you back in 2004, during the US presidential election, when you were running for office against George Bush. At just 17 years old I knew little about US politics – or politics in general – but I discussed the campaigns with my schoolmates.
A year later, the historic 2005 Ethiopian national election took place. This election differed from previous votes in that the lead up to it was mostly democratic. This left many Ethiopians hoping they would witness the first elected change of government in the country’s history. But it was not to be.
After the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front realised they couldn’t win the election without rigging the vote, the true face of the regime emerged.
After polling day, we saw civilian bloodshed, and the arrest of thousands – including journalists and opposition leaders.
I was only young then, but the election gave me my first

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IS shows purported executions in Libya of Ethiopia Christians

Image grab taken on April 19, 2015 from a video reportedly released by the Islamic State group purportedly shows men described as Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya kneeling in front of masked militants before their beheading on a beach in LibyaThe Islamic State group on Sunday released a video purportedly showing the execution of some 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.
The 29-minute IS video purports to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in text captions as "followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church".
A masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam.
The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.
It was not immediately clear who the captives were or how many were killed.
Before the killings, the video shows purported footage of Christians in Syria, saying they had been given the choice of converting to Islam or paying a special tax, and had decided to pay.
The video bore the logo of the IS media arm and was similar to past footage released by the jihadists, including of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach in February.
Feeding on the political chaos and unrest that has wracked Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to IS.
Almost two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, who say they have been in the Horn of Africa nation since the first century AD.
There are also large numbers of protestants.
Ethiopia is Africa's second largest nation in terms of population, but large numbers of its more than 90 million people travel abroad to work in menial jobs so they can send money home.
Many go to Libya, using the North African nation as a stepping stone for the perilous crossing to Europe.

 Source: AFP

Friday, April 10, 2015

Evidence Against #FreeZone9Bloggers & Journalists Doesn’t Back Charges

By William Davison
(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopian prosecutors have failed to present evidence relating to charges that a group of bloggers and journalists support terrorism, a defense lawyer at the latest court hearing said.
Six members of the Zone 9 blogging group and three freelance journalists were charged in July at the Federal High Court in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, for working with banned organizations such as the U.S.-based Ginbot 7, which the Horn of Africa nation categorizes as a terrorist group. A witness on Wednesday testified that police last year collected a political manifesto from a Health Ministry office, where one of the defendants worked, lawyer Ameha Mekonnen said.
No witness is brought who has either direct or indirect knowledge of the material element of the charge,” Ameha said in an interview. “The witnesses are here to prove that there was no maltreatment or pressure when the search was conducted.”
The defendants are the latest government critics to be tried under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, which the U.S. has said is being used to criminalize legitimate dissent.
Ethiopian officials reject the accusation.
The manifesto collected was for a “peaceful” political party led by the author Lencho Lata, a former head of the rebel Oromo Liberation Front, Ameha said. All of the other evidence filed to the court by prosecutors is of a similar public nature, he said. Prosecutors will get a final chance to present witnesses when the trial resumes on May 26, Ameha said.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Israel to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to third countries

Authorities will give people 30 days to leave; those who refuse will face a hearing to determine their indefinite imprisonment. 
Israel will begin deporting asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to unnamed third countries in Africa even if against their will, the immigration authority announced on Tuesday.
The assumption is that the third countries are Rwanda and Uganda, although Israel has not revealed details.
African asylum seekers gather around a fire during protests outside the Holot detention centre in the NegevAccording to the interior minister, Gilad Erdan, the move will “encourage infiltrators to leave the borders of the state of Israel in an honourable and safe way, and serve as an effective tool for fulfilling our obligations towards Israeli citizens and restoring the fabric of life to the residents of south Tel Aviv”.

Until now, the state exerted pressure and provided a one-off monetary incentive for asylum seekers to leave voluntarily, but only if they signed written consent. Now the state will give them 30 days

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ethiopian Gov't Intensifies Digital Attacks: Human-Rights Watch

(New York) – The Ethiopian government has renewed efforts to silence independent voices abroad by using apparent foreign spyware, Human Rights Watch said today. The Ethiopian authorities should immediately cease digital attacks on journalists, while foreign surveillance technology sellers should investigate alleged abuses linked to their products.
Independent researchers at the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab on March 9, 2015, reported new attempts by Ethiopia to hack into computers and accounts of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) employees based in the United States. The attacks bear similarities to earlier attempts to target Ethiopian journalists outside Ethiopia dating back to December 2013. ESAT is an independent, diaspora-run television and radio station.

“Ethiopia’s government has over the past year intensified its assault on media freedom by systematically trying to silence journalists,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These digital attacks threaten journalists’ ability to protect the safety of their sources and to avoid retaliation.”

The government has repressed independent media in Ethiopia ahead of the general elections scheduled for May, Human Rights Watch said. Many privately owned print publications heavily self-censor coverage of politically sensitive issues or have shut down. In the last year, at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers have been criminally charged, at least six publications have closed amid a campaign of harassment, and many journalists have fled the country.

Many Ethiopians turn to ESAT and other foreign stations to obtain news and analysis that is independent of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. However, intrusive surveillance of these news organizations undermines their ability to protect sources and further restricts the media environment ahead of the elections. Government authorities have repeatedly intimidated, harassed, and arbitrarily detained sources providing information to ESAT and other foreign stations.

Citizen Lab’s analysis suggests the attacks were carried out with spyware called Remote Control System (RCS) sold by the Italian firm Hacking Team, which sells surveillance and hacking technology. This spyware was allegedly used in previous attempts to infect computers of ESAT employees in December 2013. If successfully installed on a target’s computer, the spyware would allow a government controlling the software access to activity on a computer or phone, including email, files, passwords typed into the device, contact lists, and audio and video from the device’s microphone and camera.

Citizen Lab also found that the spyware used in the attacks against ESAT appeared to have been updated as recently as December 2014. On November 19, a security researcher, Claudio Guarnieri, along with several nongovernmental organizations, publicly released a tool called Detekt, which can be used to scan computers for Hacking Team RCS and other spyware. Citizen Lab’s testing determined that Detekt was able to successfully recognize the version of RCS used in a November attack, but not the version used in a December attack. Citizen Lab concluded that this may indicate that the software had been updated sometime between the two attempts.
These new findings, if accurate, raise serious concerns that Hacking Team has not addressed evidence of abuse of its product by the Ethiopian government and may be continuing to facilitate that abuse through updates or other support, Human Rights Watch said.

Hacking Team states that it sells exclusively to governments, particularly law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The firm told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that “we expect our clients to behave responsibly and within the law as it applies to them” and that the firm will suspend support for its technology if it believes the customer has used it “to facilitate gross human rights abuses” or “who refuse to agree to or comply with provisions in [the company’s] contracts that describe intended use of HT [Hacking Team] software.” Hacking Team has also stated that it has suspended support for their product in the past, in which case the “product soon becomes useless.”

Media reports and research by independent human rights organizations in the past year have documented serious human rights violations by the Ethiopian government that at times have been facilitated by misuse of surveillance powers. Although spyware companies market their products as “lawful intercept” solutions used to fight serious crime or counterterrorism, the Ethiopian government has abused its counterterrorism laws to prosecute bloggers and journalists who merely report on public affairs or politically sensitive issues. Ethiopian laws that authorize surveillance do not adequately protect the right to privacy, due process, and other basic rights, and are inconsistent with international human rights requirements.

Hacking Team previously told Human Rights Watch that “to maintain their confidentiality” the firm does not “confirm or deny the existence of any individual customer or their country location.” On February 25, 2015, Human Rights Watch wrote to the firm to ask whether it has investigated possible abuse of its products by the Ethiopian government to target independent media and hack into ESAT computers. In response, on March 6 a representative of the firm emailed Human Rights Watch that the company “take[s] precautions with every client to assure that they do not abuse our systems, and, we investigate when allegations of misuse arise” and that the firm is “attempting to understand the circumstances in this case.” The company also stated that “it can be quite difficult to get to actual facts particularly since we do not operate surveillance systems in the field for our clients.” Hacking Team raised unspecified questions about the evidence presented to identify the spyware used in these attacks.

Human Rights Watch also asked the company whether contractual provisions to which governmental customers agree address governments’ obligations under international human rights law to protect the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and other human rights. In a separate March 7 response from the firm’s representative, Hacking Team told Human Rights Watch that the use of its technology is “governed by the laws of the countries of our clients,” and sales of its technology are regulated by the Italian Economics Ministry under the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export controls regime for dual-use technologies. The company stated that it relies “on the International community to enforce its standards for human rights protection.”

The firm has not reported on what, if any, investigation was undertaken in response to the March 2014 Human Rights Watch report discussing how spyware that appeared to be Hacking Team’s RCS was used to target ESAT employees in 2013. In its March 7 response, the company told Human Rights Watch that it will “take appropriate action depending on what we can determine,” but they “do not report the results of our investigation to the press or other groups, because we consider this to be an internal business matter.”

Without more disclosure of how Hacking Team has addressed potential abuses linked to its business, the strength of its human rights policy will be in question, Human Rights Watch said. 

Sellers of surveillance systems have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes preventing, mitigating, and addressing abuses linked to its business operations, regardless of whether government customers adequately protect rights.
“Hacking Team should publicly disclose what steps it has taken to avoid abuses of its product such as those alleged against the Ethiopian government,” Wong said. “The company protects the confidentiality of its customers, yet the Ethiopian government appears to use its spyware to compromise the privacy and security of journalists and their sources.” 

Source: Human Rights Watch

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ethiopia's imprisoned #FreeZone9bloggers have not been forgotten : BBC

In April 2014 BBC Trending covered the arrest of six bloggers and three journalists in Ethiopia. The bloggers are part of a group known as Zone 9, and are well known for campaigning around censorship and human rights issues in Ethiopia. Ten months on from their arrest, the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers continues to be used in the country as the trials continue.
The Free Zone 9 BloggersThat's not typical - campaigning hashtags often tail off over time. This one is being kept alive by activists both inside and out of Ethiopia who are challenging the government's decision. The total number of tweets is still only in the tens of thousands, but that is enough to be noticed on the global map (Twitter does not produce an official trending topics list for Ethiopia).
Why are they so focussed on social media? It certainly isn't the best way to reach the Ethiopian people: the internet is estimated to reach just over 1% of the population there. But it does allow them to network with the global blogging fraternity and the international media. Recently a blog began in support of the nine prisoners, and to report on the hearings. A campaign video has also been released in which complaints are raised over the conditions of Kalinto prison and Kality prison, where the bloggers are being held.
These complaints include torture, unlawful interrogation tactics and poor living conditions. The Ethiopian Embassy in London told BBC Trending that allegations of torture and unlawful interrogation tactics are unfounded, and that they have taken a series of measures "in collaboration with stakeholders, including civil society, to improve the conditions of prisons". They say the nine individuals are charged with "undermining the constitutional order, inciting violence and advocating the use of force to overthrow the legitimate government." They are also accused of working with an organisation proscribed by the Ethiopian Parliament as a terrorist organisation. However, activists in support of the group maintain that Zone 9's actions were constitutional.
Blog by India Rakusen
Source: BBC

የዛሬ የቂሊንጦ አጭር ቆይታ አብርሃን መጠየቅ ከጀርባ ሰው ያስከትላል (ከኤልያስ ገብሩ ጎዳና )

‹‹ዕድሜያችንን መቼ ሰራንበት፣ ልደት ማክበርም ያስፈራኛል፡፡
እንኳን ተወለድክ ላላችሁኝ በሙሉ ከልብ አመሰግናለሁ››
ጦማሪ እና ጋዜጠኛ በፍቃዱ ኃይሉ
ከዛሬ ከሰዓት በኋላ ከወዳጄ አቤል አለማየሁ ጋር ወደ ቂሊንጦ እስር ቤት አምርተን ነበር፡፡ አካሄዳችን በዞን ሁለት የሚገኙትን አብርሃ ደስታን፣ ጦማሪ እና ጋዜጠኛ በፍቃዱ ኃይሉንና ጦማሪ አጥናፍ ብርሃንን ለመጠየቅ ነው፡፡
የቃሊቲ እና የቂሊንጦ ጸሐይ ከረር ያለች ብትሆንም በቦታው ደርሰን ወደፖሊሶች ለምዝገባ ተጠጋን፡፡ ጠያቂና ተጠያቂ መዝጋቢ የሆነችው ሴት ፖሊስ ‹‹ማንን ነው የምትጠይቀው?›› ብላ አቤልን ጠየቀችው፡፡ በፍቃዱን እና አጥናፍን መሆንኑ ነገራት፡፡ መዘገበችውና ሂድ አለችው፡፡ ‹‹አንተስ ማንን ነው?›› ስትል ጠየቀችኝ፤ ‹‹አብርሃ ደስታን›› አልኳት፡፡ ቀና ብላ አየችኝና ‹‹ቆይ፣ ቁጭ በል›› የሚል መልስ መለሰች፡፡ ሌሎች ሰዎችን መመዝገቧን ቀጠለች፡፡ ‹‹ሰዓት እየሄደ ነው፣ ችግር አለ ወይ?›› አልኳት፡፡ ‹‹አይ ችግር የለም›› ካለች ከተወሰኑ ደቂቃዎች በኋላ ሌላ መዝገብ አምጥታ ፓስፖርቴን መዘገበችው፡፡ (መታወቂያዬ አልታደሰም) ከመዘገበች በኋላም ሌላ የፎርም መሙያ አውጥጣ በድጋሚ መዘገበች፡፡ ይሄንን ስትመዘግብ እኔ እንዳይባት ስላልፈለገች

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More Than 200 Migrants Feared Dead After Boats Sink in Mediterranean

By VICE News
February 11, 2015 | 1:16 pm
More than 200 migrants are missing in the Mediterranean sea after the motorboats they were traveling in sank, the UN refugee agency says.
Nine people were saved after four days at sea, but a further 203 were "swallowed up," Carlotta Sami, the UNHCR spokeswoman in Italy, said on Twitter.
She called the incident a "horrible and enormous tragedy."
The two boats departed from the Libyan coast on Saturday, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Lauren Jolles, UNHCR officer for Southern Europe, criticised Operation Triton — Europe's Mediterranean border patrol — for lacking a "core mandate" of saving human lives.
"We are shocked by the news of the death of another 203 migrants and refugees," she said in a statement.
She added: "The Operation Triton does not have as its core mandate of saving human lives and therefore can not be the answer of which is urgently needed."
Triton was brought into replace Operation Mare Nostrum, the Italian government's program of maritime patrols, which ended last year to warnings from refugee experts that the death toll could soar. The EU operation, run by the bloc's border agency Frontex, covers a much reduced search area and is mandated with border surveillance rather than search and rescue.
Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, also denounced Triton's inadequacy, saying the loss of life could have been avoided.
The news comes just days after 29 migrants died after their inflatable raft capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa. 22 of those died from hypothermia after being picked up by a rescue vessel.
More than 165,000 undocumented migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the first nine months of 2014, accroding to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, compared with 60,000 for the whole of 2013. Almost half of the 2014 migrants were Syrians and Eritreans.
At least 3,000 died or went missing at sea in 2014, according to UNCHR estimates, compared to over 600 in 2013.
Main image: Migrants are picked up by an Italian navy patrol in December. Image via the Italian navy.

Monday, February 9, 2015

C'est ENCORE en Lampedusa! Plus de 20 migrants morts de froid.

Des gardes-côtes italiens ont retrouvé en mer Méditerranée plus de vingt migrants morts de froid, lors du sauvetage d'une embarcation sur laquelle se trouvaient plus d'une centaine de personnes.
Plus de vingt migrants sont morts de froid sur une embarcation qui a été secourue dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi par des gardes-côtes italiens, a annoncé, lundi 9 février, une source médicale à l'AFP. Selon les médias italiens, le total des morts pourrait atteindre 25 à 27 personnes.
"Il y a beaucoup de morts, certainement plus de vingt", a déclaré un médecin du centre des urgences de l'île italienne de Lampedusa, où ont été transférés lundi après-midi une centaine de survivants, dont certains hospitalisés pour hypothermie. "Nous avons dans le centre six jeunes souffrant d'une forte hypothermie et on tente d'organiser leur transport par hélicoptère" vers des hôpitaux mieux équipés, a ajouté le médecin.
L'alerte avait été donnée dimanche après-midi par les migrants à l'aide d'un téléphone satellitaire. Le centre opérationnel des gardes-côtes a dépêché sur place deux navires marchands qui se trouvaient dans la zone, ainsi que deux vedettes parties de Lampedusa, qui ont secouru les migrants dimanche vers 21 h GMT.

Source: France24 Avec AFP

Friday, January 16, 2015

Khaled Idris Bahray, The 20-year-old Eritrean Refugee, was allegedly killed by Racists in Germany

Killing of Eritrean refugee in Dresden exposes racial tensions in Germany

RIP, the late Khaled Idris Bahray 1995-2015
Anti-immigration sentiment highlighted after 25,000 rally in support of far-right Pegida movement on night of murder. t was 8pm on Monday when Khaled Idris Bahray told his seven flatmates he was popping out to buy some cigarettes from the Netto supermarket about 100 metres away from his flat in a prefab high-rise in the south of Dresden.
The 20-year-old Eritrean said he wouldn’t be long. But a few hours later he still hadn’t returned. “We assumed he’d gone to stay with some other friends nearby,” said his flatmate, Abdulrezak Suleman. “So we weren’t really worried.”
But around 7.40 the following morning, other residents in the six-storey building found his body slumped in the inner courtyard of the housing estate.
According to his flatmates, in reports that the police will not confirm, he was covered in blood, with at least one deep cut visible on his body. Rigor mortis had already set in. “He was lying on his back, and had blood coming out of his nose and mouth, with drops of blood leading towards the door as if he’d tried to get in, but not made it, and drops on the grass,” said Abdulatif, 23, a fellow Eritrean who lives nearby but had spent that night in Bahray’s flat.
Hmm not surprisingly, Police say No Foul Play!
The police had first said there seemed to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the young Muslim’s death, saying in their initial statement that on first appearance “there are no indications of foul play”. But just hours later they confirmed the results of the postmortem showed that Bahray had been unlawfully killed in what appears to have been a vicious knife attack.
“We now have evidence to confirm that a stab from a knife was the cause of his injuries,” said Dieter Kroll, president of Dresden police. “We can exclude the possibility that this was an accident. It is murder.”
Dresden police have launched a murder investigation in the east German city that has been making headlines recently for its anti-immigrant rallies, which, on the night of Bahray’s death, attracted a record number of 25,000 supporters. Tensions in the city have been high in the 12 weeks since the rallies began, with a reported increase in racist attacks.
I want to earn some money and send to Mom, Bahray

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nearly 3,500 Migrants reportedly died in 2014 alone while crossing the Mediterranean: UNHCR

GENEVA (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Wednesday warned that the international community was losing its focus on saving lives amid confusion among coastal nations and regional blocs over how to respond to the growing number of people making risky sea journeys in search of asylum or migration.
Group  risking their lives to reach Europe from North Africa
With preparations under way for the opening today in Geneva of UNHCR's 2014 High Commissioner's Dialogue – an informal policy discussion forum whose focus this year is "Protection at Sea" – UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said some governments were increasingly seeing keeping foreigners out as being a higher priority than upholding asylum.
"This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars," Guterres said. "Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage."
The clandestine nature of these sea crossings makes reliable comparisons with previous years difficult, but available data points to 2014 being a record high. According to estimates from coastal authorities and information from confirmed interdictions and other monitoring, at least 348,000 people have risked such journeys worldwide since the start of January. Historically, a principal driver has been migration, but this year the number of asylum-seekers involved has grown.
Europe, facing conflicts to its south (Libya), east (Ukraine) and south-east (Syria/Iraq) is seeing the largest number of sea arrivals. Although not all are people needing asylum, more than 207,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since the start of January – almost three times the previous known high of about 70,000 in 2011, when the Libyan civil war was in full swing. For the first time, people from refugee-producing countries (mainly Syria and Eritrea) have in 2014 become a major component in this tragic flow, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the total.
In addition to the Mediterranean, there are at least three other major sea routes in use today both by migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution. In the Horn of Africa region 82,680 people crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in the first 11 months of this year en route mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia to Yemen or onwards to Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Persian Gulf.
In Southeast Asia, an estimated 54,000 people have undertaken sea crossings so far in 2014, most of them departing from Bangladesh or Myanmar and heading to Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. In the Caribbean, at least 4,775 people are known to have taken to boats in the first 11 months, hoping to flee poverty or in search of asylum.
And many die or fall victim to international organized crime in the process of making these journeys. Worldwide, UNHCR has received information of 4,272 reported deaths this year. This includes 3,419 on the Mediterranean – making it the deadliest route of all. In Southeast Asia, an estimated 540 people have died in their attempts to cross the Bay of Bengal.
In the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, at least 242 lives had been lost by December 8, while in the Caribbean the reported number of dead or missing as of the start of December was 71. People smuggling networks are meanwhile flourishing, operating with impunity in areas of instability or conflict, and profiting from human desperation.
Guterres said that by focusing on isolated elements to a problem that by its nature is multi-layered and transnational – often involving routes that stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres – governments were finding themselves unable to either stem the flow or stop people dying along the journey.
"You can't stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more," said Guterres. "The real root causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks that prosper from this, while at the same time protecting their victims. It also means having proper systems to deal with arrivals and distinguish real refugees from those who are not."
This year's High Commissioner's Dialogue gathers representatives of governments, non-governmental organisations, coast guard and, academics as well as representatives from partner international organisations. It is being held in Geneva's Palais des Nations over today and Thursday.

Source: UNHCR

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yemen migrant boat carrying Ethiopians sinks killing 70 : BBC

Migrants waiting to board a boat to Yemen in DjiboutiThe irony is that these migrants are from one of the countries who boasts to score 'double-digit growth' consecutively over the last decade. Why would anybody risks her/his precious lives in such a tragic manner says volumes about the real desperation and frustration of these young people back home. This isn't an isolated incident; it becomes a norm now a days. Last month, UN released a report about the ever increasing number of Ethiopian migrants who are crossing red-sea, knowing the risk, to reach Yemen. Are there any explanation from the government and its apologists to clarify these contradictory realities, absolutely NOT! They will blame the desperate migrant who are victims of a system which forced them to make such desperate decisions. My thoughts goes to those who lost their lives and their bereaved families.    
A boat carrying African migrants has sunk off Yemen's western coast, killing 70 people, Yemeni officials say.
The boat, carrying mostly Ethiopian migrants, sank off Yemen's al-Makha port due to strong winds and rough waves, security officials said.
Tens of thousands attempt to cross the Red Sea into Yemen every year, often in rickety, overcrowded vessels. Hundreds have died making the journey.
Yemen is viewed by many migrants as a gateway to the Middle East or Europe.
The latest sinking occurred on Saturday, with reports of the incident emerging on Sunday.
The Red Sea crossing between the Horn of Africa and Yemen is one of the world's major migration routes, BBC Arab affairs editor Alan Johnston says.
File photo:  Illegal Somali and Ethiopian migrants wait to embark on boats on a voyage to Yemen on Shinbivale beach, 17 kms, east of Bosasso, Somalia, 7 September 2007Migrants dream of finding jobs and better lives in rich places like Saudi Arabia - but they are in the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers and, too often, never reach the Yemeni shore, our correspondent adds.
In October, the UN refugee agency said that more than 200 people had died at sea in 2014 while attempting to reach Yemen.
"There have been frequent reports of mistreatment, abuse, rape and torture, and the increasingly cruel measures being adopted by smuggling rings seem to account for the increase in deaths at sea," the UN said at the time.
 Source: BBC

Saturday, November 22, 2014

We have no asylum-seekers in Ethiopia: Eritrea's U.N. Ambassador

Unaccompanied Eritrean refugee children in Ethiopia
Eritrea’s top diplomat to the United Nations says the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has committed a “conceptual mistake” in a report, which stated that in the past 37 days more than 6,000 Eritreans had claimed asylum in neighboring Ethiopia.

The U.N. refugee agency said Eritrea’s renewed conscription drive was to blame for the sharp increase in the number of youths fleeing the country.

But Eritrea's U.N. ambassador, Girma Asmerom, dismissed the report as a calculated effort to undermine the government by creating disaffection among its population. He said Eritrean citizens migrate just like other nationals, which he said is a global phenomenon.
“The U.N. has to do its bit of homework, because there are no asylum-seekers in Ethiopia,” said Asmerom. “We do not understand why they are