Imagine locking yourself for 24 hours in a small space and the door is closed from outside! This has been happening to our brothers and sisters like Miriam for 13×365×24 = 113880 hours! This is if you count from 2001 but there are many who are arrested long before 2001.
This is Miriam Hagos arrested on October 6, 2001 and incommunicado since then. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“THE STRUGGLE OF MAN AGAINST POWER IS THE STRUGGLE OF MEMORY AGAINST FORGETTING”
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Millan Kundera
Just think for a second! This Eritrean woman who struggled for the independence of Eritrea and liberty of the Eritrean people, could be you, could be me, could be your sisters, could be your mother, could be your biological family. Is asking about her whereabouts too much? Is it a crime to say “it is unacceptable to incarcerate somebody, a woman in this case, a former fighter, for more than 12 years without any due process of law, without any charges, without her giving the chance to defend herself. No visit from her daughter, friends or family members.
If you ask me frankly, then I think not asking about her whereabouts is a crime, a top crime, because silence is a conspiracy.
Sorry if I sound too preachy, but mind you, people react to petty messages and pictures, while ignoring in deafening silence the stories and pictures of their own ex-friends, ex-comrades, ex-choir members and above all ex-fighters who suffered for their independence.
Meriam Hagos (Jailed incommunicado since October 6, 2001): I remember her with the words of The Egyptian feminist, socialist, medical doctor and author of a classic work on women & Islam; in “Memories from the Women’s Prison” she states:
“At every stage of my life I have obeyed only that voice coming from my deepest self.”
“It was late morning or early afternoon sometimes in the month of October when two simple looking men walked calmly into her office. Two simple looking men, not wearing any kind of uniform, simply walked into her office and took her.
Who were they? Nobody knows! Where did they take her? – Nobody knows. Why did they take her? Nobody knows. Of course anybody could speculate but neither her own family nor any of her friends, co-workers or anybody else knows for sure who the two men were or where they took her and why. “Elsa Chyrum in the following article.
The Tragedy of ex-fighter Meriam Hagos
Disappeared in the “Eritrean Way”
“I cannot believe that my friend Miriam Hagos is still in “prison”. I say “prison” but the big question is do I really know where she actually is. No, I really don’t know where she is. All I know is my laughing, funny and lovable friend is nowhere I could reach her, talk to her or see her. Is she in prison or is she dead? I do not know that either.
But the sad part of it is– It is not only me who don’t know. Her only daughter doesn’t know and her own Mom died without ever knowing where her daughter was. Neither her friends, nor any other member of her family knows where she is. My good friend Miriam simply disappeared! If she is in prison why can’t anybody see her? Why can’t her own daughter see her? Nobody has seen her for the last eight years since 2001 and “they” tell us she is still around.
I hear that her own daughter had asked, was it once or maybe twice or more than thrice, to be allowed to see her Mom or write letters to her or talk to her on the phone and was repeatedly told that her mom was alive and well-cared for “Somewhere” but “NO!” to seeing or writing or calling her. And long and painful eight years have just gone by! Just like that.
It was late morning or early afternoon sometimes in the month of October when two simple looking men walked calmly into her office. Two simple looking men, not wearing any kind of uniform, simply walked into her office and took her.
Who were they? Nobody knows! Where did they take her? – Nobody knows. Why did they take her? Nobody knows. Of course anybody could speculate but neither her own family nor any of her friends, co-workers or anybody else knows for sure who the two men were or where they took her and why.
Afterwards, her two co-workers who were at the office at the time told anybody that asked that two men came to the office and simply took her and as she walked out of the office with them she had looked them both in the eye and said, “Just tell people that they came and took me.’ And my dear and lovable friend Miriam was never ever seen again.
Eight years! Nobody asked who those two men were and neither did anybody ask why they were taking her. They themselves did not say who they were or where they were taking her. No explanation, no apology, no nothing. They just took her! And nobody has seen my lovable friend Miriam ever since. Eight years!
You know, people write books on such stories. Yes, they do! And believe me, Miriam’s and many others like hers would have made a nice and interesting reading. The writers would have given it a very interesting title like “The Disappearance of Ms So and So”…or “The Mystery of Ms….Last Day’ –something like that and I, being a mystery lover, an Agatha Christie reader, would have loved to read it if it was somebody else’s story.
But this one, let alone to read it, I still don’t even want to talk about it because it really and truly hurts! Yes! It hurts so bad nothing else compares to it! They say, all pains go away as time passes. Yes, it is true even the pain of the death of a loved one passes away as time passes. But this pain of Miriam never goes away. Not only does it not go away, it gets worse and worse as time passes by.
Nevertheless, whether it hurt or not, if it had happened in America or in any hundred other places in the world, people would have written about it and others would have read it. And mostly and most importantly when something so unjust like this occurred, people would have made a riot to show their dismay and disgust and would have called and shouted for justice. BUT NOT in ERITREA where it actually happened.
Yes, my friend Miriam Hagos disappeared without a trace in Eritrea. Yes! Eritrea– a tiny, mini, myni mo of a country, almost nobody knows about unless one mentions Ethiopia and declares that it is close to Ethiopia and maybe add that at one time it was part of Ethiopia before it became an independent country in 1991 and then, only then, you might find one in a thousand who would say, “Oh yea, Eritrea!”
Yes! It happened in Eritrea, in that tiny country whose people, at one time, not very long ago either, were fighting for freedom and independence from the Ethiopians because the Ethiopians were not respecting Eritrean human rights and dignity.
Yes, it happened in Eritrea but why am I not surprised! I am sad, bitter, hurt, angry, frustrated but I am not at all surprised! Why? Because it happened the Eritrean Way! And what, in God’s name, is the Eritrean Way one might ask! THAT! What happened to my friend Miriam and many others is the Eritrean Way– that is the Eritrean Government’s Way, that is the “fighters’ way’.
Yes, the fighter’s way! The fighters who fought for independence from Ethiopia, the fighters who fought for justice, for liberty, for human rights and human dignity, the fighters who later on became the Eritrean government.
Yes! I am not surprised at all because everything has been the Fighters’ Way. Yes, things had always been like that, doing whatever you feel like doing, not respecting any law or rule, not caring to follow any rule at all. I am not surprised because I got used to it from seeing it all the time.
What is worse, after a while, it started looking that there was nothing wrong with it– that it was the right way of doing things. Not only me– but almost everybody in Eritrea thought whatever the Government of the fighters did was right. Even if you felt it was wrong, it was Right. It had always been like that.
Many things felt wrong but they were right! Putting a person in prison without a court order sounds and feels wrong, but when the Government put Miriam and all the others in prison without them seeing their day in court, it was right.
When the government refused to disclose their whereabouts, it felt wrong but it was right. When the government refused family members to see the prisoners, it felt wrong and it hurt a lot, but it was right! Because that is the Eritrean Way– On second thought maybe I should say “The Fighters’ way” and quit saying the Eritrean Way!
But this thing could only happen in Eritrea– nowhere else. Even the Ethiopian Dergue whom we had condemned as being Fascist allowed family members to see their prisoners. But in Eritrea, it is okay if you just take a person and put him in prison, not only for 48 hours but for days, weeks, months and even years.
It is still okay if you do not tell family members, children, husbands, wives, friends, the whereabouts of their loved ones. It is still okay if you do not disclose the reason why they are wherever you have put them. Almost like the “magic wand”, you wave it and make people like my friend Miriam disappear into thin air and nobody asks you about it and you don’t care explaining it.
That is the most frightening thing. Nobody says anything, nobody does anything about it! Everybody accepts it and life goes on as usual. Isn’t that strange? Nobody says anything, nobody writes about it, nobody talks about it even in private.
Isn’t that frightening! It is just as if the prisoners were never there, never existed, never been born. Nobody asks about an unborn person. It is so very sad that my good friend Miriam has simply disappeared and the silence surrounding me in Eritrea is so great that I feel that I had dreamed her and that she was never born.
How do they do that?? How do they make us to feel like that– forget our loved ones, forget our values of right and wrong, forget to fight for our rights. What about all those years we fought because so many wrongs were done on us? Where did all that fighting spirit go?
What are they telling us that we have clogged our ears and closed our eyes and have refused to fight for their rights which indirectly are our own rights as people. We are so silent, it is deafening. Eight years???
I wonder what I, as a single person, can do for my dear and lovely friend Miriam? What can I do for you my friend Miriam? Maybe always remember you and never ever forget you?, that I had done everyday, for the past eight years.
But it did not help any. Maybe write about you and make them know what they are doing to you is unfair, unjust and simply not right? If writing would help, I would write everyday.
But I know it doesn’t. Many before me, if not in Eritrea, outside of Eritrea, had written about you and many others and it did not help at all! Yes, how can it ever help because we are dealing with people who, without any shame, say, “Oh! the fact that they are in prison hurts us more than anybody else– these people were our own comrades. we really feel sad that this thing happened to them. What about all those years we fought because so many wrongs were done on us? Where did all that fighting spirit go?
“Can you imagine? That’s the kind of people they are! But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they are what they are. Because I, yes, I with many thousands like me, let them be what they are now.
And the sad part of it is we also let ourselves be what we are now. The time to do something was when we felt” Even if you felt it was wrong, it was right” — that was the time when we should have done something. Yes, that was the time! Can somebody talk me down, please! ”
Written by a close friend of Miriam Hagos
Miriam in her office with her ex-husband Zerai Haile who divorced her due to her firm stand on the current Eritrean affair
Background: Miriam Hagos
Miriam was the type of person who speaks her mind. She would criticize openly and suggest changes. It was difficult for her to interact or deal with a culture that did not encourage openness. Soon, she was put under surveillance and, like many others, suffered a great deal for harbouring petty bourgeois tendencies. Between the years 1979 and 1981, she was put in prison for two years.
She suffered kidney problems and had difficulties with her eye-sight. Having served her sentence, she was asked (by one of the superiors) how she found her revolutionary training. She replied back by saying that she was in prison and not, as he intended her to feel, in training. He said that she has not learned a lesson yet, and he returned her to prison for some more months.
When she was released and asked the same old question, she replied back by saying, “I was in training.”
There she met and married Zerai Haile, a fellow fighter who also joined the movement from North America. In 1985, she had a daughter and called her Deborah. She raised her daughter under difficult conditions. After the independence of Eritrea, she worked as the Head for cinema management. On the 26th of September 2001, three Eritrean ex-ambassadors who resigned from their posts by criticizing their government organized a meeting in New York (the USA). They were: Haile Menkorios, Hebret Berhe and Adhanom Ghebremariam. Zerai Haile, Miriam’s husband was living in the United States since 1996, and It is reported that he was one of those people who disrupted the meeting, and verbally abused the three ex-ambassadors. He was in support of the PFDJ. Not only that, but in 2001, Zerai Haile wanted to disassociate himself from his wife and the mother of his child due to Miriam’s firm stand on the current Eritrean affairs, and he divorced her through his power of attorney.
When Miriam heard what had happened and what her ex-husband did at the meeting in New York, she expressed her displeasure and her disappointment over the phone. Those who know them say that Zerai was furious and angry at Miriam and he was heard saying that “she would face the consequences”. What was contained within their private lives came out in the open. People who know say that Miriam was reported by her ex-husband and was put in prison on 6th of October 2001, because she showed (however indirectly) her support for those who asked for change.