Saying NO to VAW – Follow-up on Aberash Haileay's Case

Attendees at the hearing outside the court room

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 perpetrator (sorry for the shaky image)

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.
The Responses
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!
Male Allies  
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. (
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

  1. An amazing post! Thank you for updating us about this truly vile and disgusting crime! As a man , I’ve never felt bashed! In fact I’ve always felt that what is being said and what is being written is never enough and never goes deep enough in trying to solve the root cause of men acting the way they do. Education is key and it all starts at home. The time boys are treated like kings and the feeling of entitlement has to stop!

  2. We need to expose the case to international media. All concerned living abroad should make pressure to make it happen. There is no place for impunity here.

  3. The victim of this horrible deed is my cousin and I have no words to describe how I feel about this situation. It is absolutely horrific and I can’t believe a human being who was part of the family for a long time could actually act the way he did. I truly appreciate the post and If you need any help at all, let me know. I reside in dc so I could definitely involve some Human Rights Orgs.
    Thanks again.

  4. Nina I live close to DC too. Let me know if I can help in anyway. I will do anything if you guys organize something. Your cousin & your families are in our prayers.

  5. Thank you so much for the update, for those of us who are not in Addis. Let me just say that from the response of Fisseha, it is very clear that he is not of sound mind and really needs psychiatric help, like most men who take out their anger and rage on women, lets not bash him to prison, the real help would come in form of rehab. Mental health is so very ignored in Ethiopia, and needs a whole lot more attention. I am in full support of the campaign of stopping Violence Against Women, and have even been involved in such cases in Addis,but it wont magically disappear (will definately bring so much needed attention) because a group of people are outraged, what is at the root of the problem?

  6. Thank you so much for the update! I usually hear about the crimes but never get a chance to follow cases of VAW. I hope this serves as yet another lesson to notice and stop abuse of different forms that take place in our lives, physical or psychological there’s no difference!
    I don’t think psychiatric/rehabilitative treatment for perpetrators of VAW is achievable in Ethiopia (at this time). However more strict laws and proper enforcement of sentence can be achieved with increased participation and lobbying from us all.
    ALCOHOL!!!!!!! Can’t even begin to understand how it can be considered an excuse for something like this!

  7. it is too much to bear to hear such a horrific story. I expect justice to be done soon. We need also to think of Aberash who needs help urgently. I am sure it is not only to the physical recovery but to the metal preparations is really urgent and i hope those ethiopian with REHAB skills can also help her when she returns from her medical procedures.
    May God be with her and may our prayers follow her.

  8. Nina,
    May God comfort you and your family!!! I am so sad by this horrible news. He should never be allowed to see light for the rest of his life. He should understand the crime he committed. Losing sight is not fun.

  9. Thank you for the update. It is indeed a very sad story!! Alos, It is hard to understand that still in the 21 century men think they can own woman, do what they wish to do and get away with it. I hope there are justices in Ethiopia. I am deeply sorry for Abrash and her families’ .Let GOD be with you!! As human, we should get involved and help in some way.

  10. this is a horrible news hearing my own cuzzin was stabbed in the eye and beaten for no reason by aman that nobody expected to act like that but am verry disturbed by this news and verry hurt also and i think that abuse on women in ethiopia arent taken verry seriously at this point but i think this should be an example for that motivation right now its got to be fixed they need to be facing more time for them to learn their lesson or they’re just going to go out and hurt some body else but i juss dont think what was done to my cuzzin was right and the law should enforce some new rules about abuse on women am at a verry young age right now (17) and all am sayin is that this was verry disturbing to here and its just not right.

  11. no word will be enough to explain the pain n ………… but i have to things
    dose he has family.. Mother , Sister, Brother , Cusins……… WHAT DID THEY SAY ABOUT THE SITUATION ? WHAT DID THEY FEEL? RN’T THEY HUMAN BEINGS? R THEY ALL THE SAME OR WHAT ?????
    we need justice this time there should be NO VAW!!!!! what happened is ENOUGH…. We are pushed enough now time to STOP!!!!
    please God help us you are our only help…..

  12. I want to say thank you for your prayers. I am currently on the process of writing a letter to Human Rights Watch, they are the only well known influential international organization that follow up on cases in Ethiopia. Unfortunately we don’t even have Amnesty International in Addis, their office doesn’t exist in Ethiopia sadly. I’ll let you know if i hear from them. Belene, if you would like to hear updates about Aberash, let me know.

  13. He had the nerve to say…. ” it was a sudden act that happened under the influence of alcohol”
    ” we wait for Aberash to come back and she will explain everything”…..:(

  14. I would like to make the campaign aware that Fisseha is known to be a career criminal. He is a shady character who has accumulated significant wealth through crime.
    This was a premeditated and planned crime – clear and simple. He handed himself to the police to give try and soften the court and give the illusion that he is a law abiding citizen. He still believes he will be let out on bail (which he can easily afford) then he can either disappear or bribe himself out.
    Read between lines. When he tells us that we need to hear it from Aberash (about the ‘fact’ that this was just alcohol fueled accident), it is obvious that he still thinks he will be able to threaten her and her family and silence them. He is already in the process of silencing her and her family using threats – That is not going to work. With out your support she would have been forced to keep quiet like many women in her postion who eventually end up on their own without any support. Fisseha will need to know she is not alone and that we shall not rest till he is put away for life.

    1. Dear R Tesfaye,
      You stated that Fisseha is in the process of silencing her and family using threats. If he succeeds in buying her & families silence he can cripple the campaigns effort. Aberash & her family are the key players in this case and if he wins in silencing them our effort will come down to zero.
      It sounds like you have some information about this. If for sure you have some credible information that he is threatening her & the family, please let this campaign know in detail so we can combat it before too late. You can do this in many ways without revealing you identity if that is a concern.
      I agree that Fisseha has to know clearly that his victim is not alone in this. Ethiopians around the world, who learned his barbaric act, are rounding up to support this lady. But how can we communicate this to him? I am not in the country and have no suggestion.

  15. I do agree with R.Tesfaye’s comment this has to stop!!!this time she is not alone we all are with her and we shall not rest till he is judged professionally.This is ridiculous!!!!

  16. Dear All,
    First and for most I would like to thank you for coming up with this initiative and blog. It really is amazing how you are updating everyone. My prayers are with the victim, her family and friends. Although I do not know the full and detailed facts of the case to make a comment, based on the information we all have from the media and this blog, I was tempted to make few comments. I am fascinated by the amazing comments that were made in the above and I couldn’t help but notice some of the remarks. It was reported and sometimes quoted by others, that the Perp. used ” Alcohol as an ‘excuse'”. Legally speaking, alcohol, unlike the legally recognized excuses, is not a sufficient defense to fully excuse the defendant from criminal responsibility. The key here is the Perp.’s motive, knowledge and intension in consuming the alcohol. Alcohol, in fact, can be used as an element to reduce the degree of responsibility depending on the circumstances. If he intentionally or knowingly put himself to commit the crime by consuming the alcohol, then he is criminally liable to full extent. This shows that the perp. chose, out of his free will to be intoxicated, to act under the influence and cause the crime.(like I mentioned above I do not have the full factual knowledge as to what exactly happened) however, I may remind you that the most serious crimes are committed under the influence. Why? Because the perp. wants to commit the crime sooo bad that even when he doesn’t have the physical strength to do it guess what?? He goes ahead and treats himself with few rounds of alcohol until he is all set and ready to execute what he initially intended to commit. The whole principle of Criminal law is to punish those who freely choose the evil from good, in the legal sense ofcourse. The fact that he claimed to take the victim to hospital after the commission of the crime is a relevant information that could ( the court has discretionary power) enable him to beg for mitigated punishment. If he pleads guilty, which most likely is to happen….but it’s hard to tell definitively, such an initiative should work on to remind the sentencing judge to take into consideration the purpose of punishment. A little back ground on general purposes of punishment is that it serves as a means to deter the general public, deter the perp. from committing another crime again, Incapacitating the perp. from committing another crime (by either incarceration or sometimes death penalty), and rehabilitating the perp. and from the retributive view, make the perp. pay for morally blameworthy crime that he committed.
    Although, the accused seems to have few mitigating grounds, there are more grounds in favor of aggravating his punishment, such initiative could do a great deal to show the court and remind the public that the nature and commission of the crime is so heinous which is a clear indication of the perp’s perversity and cruelty. Say No to VAW! And keep up the good work.

  17. he has committed a horrible act against a single woman, but also against women, half of humanity…he should be imprisoned for such malicious crime for life. This is my opinion. But this should be the work of Eth. Judiciary, I hope they would look at it very carefully. It is also a mammoth task to these juries to pass a perfect verdict — having in mind they have to struggle with millennia old patriarchal culture where it prioritizes in Ethiopia the male, in every aspect. This culture dumbly forgets, every woman has the right to choose as her male partner, to give and/or neglect him love and attention, as her male partner does, day in and day out. It must be her right to abandon her husband, break up her marriage relations when ever she wants, and when ever she thinks it is appropriate, (Be Shimagile /village elders/ or in court). Men every time do that when ever they build new liaison at the back of their wives.
    If he is sick, psychopath and has a mental breakdown, and I strictly advice , he should be helped by psychiatrists in hospital until he gets cured – if he ever gets cure at all. In both instances he is danger to the society and must be kept under control – in prison or in hospital.
    Lock him for life.I’m not a death penalty supporter.

    1. we should not talk abt mental breakdown or sickness or being drunk. this are the reasons most abusers give for their action no more of this. I have see abusers use this so many times

  18. Oh God what kind of man is he? I can’t even start to think what has happened to her. It is beyond horrifying. My feeling abt love, relationship and marriage has changed so much. I have seen violence this is ………… NO WORDS. This kind of act is scarily increasing. I don’t know if he can get the punishment he deserve…… only GOD should give him Justice. even animals will not do what he did to there kind. GOD be with her. oh ….so much pain

  19. Blen Yayne
    Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us all imagine / place ourselves right at Aberash’s situation … What happened to her, where she is now, and what the doctors said about her … Dear Brothers and Sisters, Someone has taken from Aberash Something without her permission… This Person must return to Aberash what he took from her without her permission. This will only be the first step. The second step should follow. Let us STOP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

  20. This is a terrible crime ever let alone touching human eye with knife me as A m n I don’t sloghter a sheep. This man is a true revelance of sadist and so crule man does he do this so that she will look for his assistance same punishment should be excerted on him he should feel what she felt he should feel the pain and the psychological damage she passed through. he did not take her eyes only he took our eyes as well our eyes too. Especially her families. Who knows how she passed her marriage life with this evil man. The Ethiopian law would be tested bybthis

  21. when i first heard about the news i was in the hair salon with my friends and u know as would be expected having fun, talking about this and that. but after i read the article about her(dont remember from which magazine) i just felt sick to my stomach and honestly run out of words to express what i was felling.i mean how dear he……..cruel, inhuman, barbaric…….words in my vocabulary didnt help me get out all the anger and rage inside of me.
    Every thing has a starting and ending point and for long i have heard people say ‘okay now its about time that something should be done” but i can say noting of a revolution type has taken place and every thing is taken lightly. its because Aberash lives in addis that almost everybody is talking about the same thing with similar rage and anger, how about those that live at remotest of places, how about the children that get to experience the cruelty of man kind at an early age when they are not even able to identify whats wrong from whats right?really something must be done this time, that can show that women also have voice and they can make it be heard. it should be the beginning of the end of all the cruelty women face.lets think of it this way SHE LOST HER SIGHT so that we that we stop taking things lightly and we need to end this.i pray for her and her family to have the strength to carry on.MAY JUSTICE BE SERVED!!!!!!!!!

  22. I am so sick right now, dont know how to cope with this,, God help us all.. What a cunt?? Lock him up and let him stay in the dark for the rest of his life time..I understans about the movment and respect this.. but please let us get involved in her recovery as it should be a priority..

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