The Initial Court Hearing
The first court appearance for the accused, Fisseha Tadesse, was scheduled on the morning of September 21st at the Bole Sub-city higher court. The concern for the ad-hoc campaign group – “Ahun BeAyne Meta” was that the accused may be granted bail, and if that was the case, may run loose and disappear like many other perpetrators of Violence Against Women have here before. So we went out in numbers to show that we were saying NO to VAW.
The accused appeared handcuffed among other accused wearing a brown hooded sweater with the hood over his head, covering most of his face. He was guided to the prisoners waiting area of the court compound under the piercing gaze of those who had come out to demand that justice prevail in Aberash’s case. I can’t imagine what he must have felt like under the scornful gazes of the gathering crowd, but I witnessed him getting smaller and smaller as if his shame had grabbed him by the collar and was dragging him down to the floor.
I highly doubt court houses in Ethiopia receive an enthusiastic crowd eager to sit in on a hearing as was the case this time. As the door flung open for Fisseha’s case to be heard, a drove of people dived for the door to ensure that they would be able to fit into the microscopic court room. Already on the second day since the “Ahun BeAyne Meta” campaign had began, it witnessed success in the sheer amount of people that had shown up to make sure concerned parties understood that there was a growing need for a STOP to Violence Against Women.
As the hearing began, the investigator of the case recapped the crime that had been committed and informed that Aberash Haileay’s health status remained unconfirmed. The investigator requested that bail be denied to the accused because the investigation was not done yet as Aberash was still receiving treatment in Bangkok and that releasing him on bail would entail the space to tamper with evidence.
The judge gave the accused the chance to make a statement if he so wished, and without a doubt Fisseha took the opportunity, in the presence of media, to let it be known that he would not deny the deed but that “it was a sudden act that happened under the influence of alcohol”. A sudden murmur escaped from the mouths of those in the room who were taken by disbelief at the audacity of explaining the crime away. The accused continued that “we wait for Aberash to come back and she will explain everything”.
I fought back tears that welled up in my eyes, and chocked back the emotions, watching him standing there explaining it in a remorseless tone and state. Explaining it without compassion, simplifying it and assuring us that it was he who indeed took her to the hospital.
The judge denied bail and granted police the time to finalize their investigation, with a court hearing date set for Meskerem 23 (October 4). With that, the first session of what i hope will be a speedy hearing to justice, adjourned.
My initial post on this case here garnered a lot of attention and responses. Some of the responses i got from male readers was that they wanted to express that not all men are like him and that my post gave the impression of blaming ALL men. I would like to correct that as i do not blame all men. There is no doubt a wave of strong emotion that everyone experienced as well when hearing of this barbarity, male or female, and i am no less human than those who experienced these sudden rush of emotions. However, the post was not intended to male-bash or spread a message of man hatred. I and all those in this movement, in this campaign cannot have room for hate and i acknowledge that too. I have a father I love dearly, brothers i adore, male friends whose compassion and kindness towards the women in their lives that is warming, and a man i love whose sensitivity to equality is healing. So no, i don’t think all men endorse Violence Against Women. I also acknowledge that women also commit violence against men, some on the physical and mostly through the emotional conduit. However, a disproportionate amount of violence in Ethiopia is committed against women and girls and this is what i will continue to address!
The journey to tackle any form of violence is one that can only be taken in unity, regardless of sex, age, race, gender, etc. The journey to tackle Violence Against Women, specifically, is one that requires the involvement of passionate and committed male allies who believe in the principles of equality and do not shy away from taking a stand when push comes to shove. At the Monday afternoon meeting where the “Ahun BeAyne Meta” campaign was launched, one of the ad-hoc group members, a journalist, told the story of the horrendous crimes one of his best friends had committed against his daughters and wife. Having raped his older daughter, murdered his wife and manipulated the justice system to get away with it, this journalist realized that enough was enough and ended his friendship with the perpetrator, knowing that he had to make a stance, while other friends began to campaign on the perpetrator’s behalf. While this does not demonstrate the levels of activity male allies could be engaged in, it tells the story of individual ways of saying NO to VAW.
My criticism towards Ethiopian men is their absence from the forefront, making noise to STOP VAW. Show me this activism, this commitment that VAW can only stop with men on board, this understanding that men are key partners and i will gladly stop my criticism. The occasional comments pleading that you are not the same as the perpetrators is not enough, because the movement to STOP VAW and to say NO to VAW needs active men, not afraid to stand up and say Enough is Enough.
What Male Allies Can Do
Write about it – I’ve offered male allies to use my blogging platform with an already established audience to talk about these issues. This invitation is open to all male allies. Speak up and speak loud against VAW. Thanks to one my male allies Vahe for his contribution here.
Organize – get a group of male friends and prospective allies and discuss these issues. Discuss culture and its impact on what it means to be a man in Ethiopia. On what it means to be a women in Ethiopia. On what masculinity is right now and what it can be about. Masculinity is a social construct. And masculinity which promotes male aggression can easily be deconstructed through discussion amongst peers to arrive at healthy masculinities.
Reflect – reflect individually on how you treat women, the dynamics of your relationship with women. What is the power dynamic like? Is there space for both to be equal participants and contributors in the relationship of whatever form? What stereotypes about women and men do you maintain? Is this a derivative of your upbringing, your culture?
Volunteer – Women’s organizations that have registered as resident NGO’s so they can continue their work on advocacy are strapped for cash but need expertise. Show your support by volunteering your expertise with these organizations.
Fund-raise – these resident organizations need money to make impact but have to raise 90% of their funds locally. Help out with a funding strategy and assist in rallying up support of funds for their cause.
Show Up– show up at events that require you to add your voice and support in saying no to VAW. Don’t shy away from expressing your vision for gender equity and equality because “your friends will tease you”.
These are some of several ways on how you can become an active male ally to work in partnership in putting a STOP to VAW. Feminism, at least the one i embrace, is not about isolating men and bashing men. It’s about inviting you to become a key ally. Read more here on what feminism means to me.
“Ahun Be-Ayne Meta”
Ahun Be-Ayne Meta (“Now Through My Eyes”). The Amharic phrase expresses sentiment towards an injustice or a grave act committed against a person which surpasses bodily harm. This is the leading theme of the campaign which was initiated by concerned individuals and organizations that gathered to express their disgust with the case of Aberash Hailay and the increasing levels of Violence Against Women and Girls. Join this campaign and invite your friends, male and female, to say NO to VAW. Enough is Enough!!
Join the official page on facebook here for future updates and discuss the various issues. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ahun-BeAyne-Meta-Campaign-for-Aberash-Hailay-and-other-suvivors-of-VAW/178969895510885).
Additionally, the campaign ad hoc group will be holding a press conference at Sheraton Addis on Friday Sept. 23 at 10:00am. In addition to the unveiling of the Open Letter written to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, petition signing is also expected to take place. So come and join us in saying NO to VAW.
Keep posted for more.
Love & Light