Monday, September 29, 2014
Crimes Against Womanity: Marriage by Abduction in Ethiopia
September 29, 2014
14-year-old Aberash was walking home from school when a group of horsemen thundered across the plain and kidnapped her. They beat her up, forced her over the back of a horse and took her to a hut where she was raped by a 28-year-old farmer. Only afterwards did she realise that the man who had taken her virginity by force now considered himself to be her husband.
In Ethiopia’s Wild South, when a man wants a bride he goes out and kidnaps one. It’s common practice for him to keep her hidden, raping her repeatedly till she’s pregnant. Then he can approach her family and arrange the marriage contract. Marriage by abduction has been going on so long that no-one can remember how it all began.
When Aberash was abducted, her older sister was already married by abduction, ruining her chance to run for her country at the Olympic Games. Now she lives with her husband and four small children in a tiny hovel from which they are scraping a living selling home-brewed liquor.
After she was raped Aberash thought about her older sister and made her mind up. She managed to steal a gun and escape. When her “husband” gave chase she fired in warning. He ignored her. Fearing for her future, Aberash aimed, fired and killed. She was arrested and charged with murder.
Now she is on trial for her life.
By Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam | September 24, 2014
In my September 7 commentary, DIFRET: The Abduction of a Film in Ethiopia, I expressed my outrage over the aborted Ethiopian premiere of the film DIFRET. That film, based on a “true story” of Aberash Bekele, tells the dramatic story of a teenage victim of the inhuman and barbaric practice of “telefa” or “marriage by abduction/abduction of child brides” in certain parts of Ethiopia. The screening of that film in Addis Ababa on September 3 was halted seconds before it was scheduled to start. The director of DIFRET, Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, took the stage and announced with consternation and dismay:
Distinguished guests, ambassadors, we were just told by the police that we have to stop this film because there is a court order on it. We have not been informed prior to this. The Ministry of Culture knows about this and the government knows about this. This is the first time we are hearing it. This is obviously an attack on us and I am really sorry for this to happen and I hope we’ll see you again…
The “attack” on DIFRET was only the latest assault on free expression in Ethiopia by the ruling regime in that country. A month earlier in August, six popular independent publications including Afro Times, Addis Guday, Enku, Fact, Jano, and Lomi were shuttered and dozens of journalists were jailed or exiled. In July, the regime jailed the “Zone Nine bloggers” (named after a cell block holding political prisoners at the infamous Meles Zenawi Kality Prison just outside of the capital Addis Ababa), after illegally detaining them for some 80 days. In the same month, the regime arranged the abduction of Andaragatchew Tsgie, General Secretary of the Ethiopian opposition group known as Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, in Yemen.