Yesterday, 9 October, Italy held a state funeral for the unfortunate victims at the coast of Lampedusa. The incidence is not exceptional; over the last 20 years, an estimation of 25 000 people have died crossing the sea in hope of a better life. Most of the 300 Africans migrants who tragically lost their lives when their boat caught fire, capsized and sank just a few hundred meters off land, were Eritrean.
Just like Dessale Berekhet. He is a writer and journalist and fled his own country Eritrea in 2010 in fear of his life. To physically get away from the regime of widespread and systematic human rights violations, absolute state control and the censorship and crack-down on any independent media.
Together with his colleagues at the Unitedvoices Media Center, in exile, Berekhet works to inspire the citizens of his home country to stand up for democratic change and to build a strong network with different government and non-government organizations to boost their mission for swift political transformation for the interest of the majority in Eritrea.
But today, he feels powerless.
A person’s name in Eritrea is of great importance, but as Berekhet says:
“No Eritrean has a name under this tyranny regime… all of these caskets have no name at all.”
Dessale would like to share the poem No. 92 in respect to and remembrance of the powerless and numbered victims.
I wonder what she called you?
Your precious mama...
Maybe she called you Berhan?... my light
Or did she call you Haben?... my pride
She may have called you Qisanet... rest
Or were you Awet? Victory....
Tell me little one did she name you after her hope?
Or her aspirations...her dream?
Did she name you after the brother she lost?
Or after her father long gone?
Did she name you after the desert she crossed
Or the land she left behind...?
Maybe she named you for the land you were to inherit?
Tell me little one what did your precious mother call you?
For I can’t bear you being called number 92...
ICORN Guest Writer, Bø City of Refuge 2012-2014
Dessale Berekhet is an Eritrean writer and journalist. He worked as a journalist until the crackdown of the private media in Eritrea in September 2001. He then started working for the state owned media as a freelancer. Berekhet has published two cultural books and written five books for children in the local languages Tigre and Tigrigya. He was one of the founders of a Tigre cultural magazine Takiyat, and has worked as its Editor-in-Chief. But it was short lived due to censorship and interference of the regime.
After many of his friends and colleagues were arrested by the regime, Dessale, was forced to flee his home country in Sep. 2010. In exile, Dessale, has continued his fight for justice. He formed a group of veteran Eritrean journalists under the name Unitedheartz team and together they launched the independent website www.unitedheartz.com in 2011. The purpose was to fill the gap between opposition and pro-government websites providing neutral, objective and verified information that could serve the interest of the public. It was shut down.
Recently Berekhet and his colleagues launched Unitedvoices Media Center (UMC) or “LISAN”, which serves the voice of the people who may have multiple views, attitudes, perspectives and interests for building a united, stable, democratic and prosperous Eritrea.