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ET-409 and the surplus Ethiopians

By Yilma Bekele

It took an article on LA Times to help me gather my thoughts together. I knew there was some thing missing in the story unfolding in front of me. The article by Alexandra Sandels and Borzou Daragahi of Los Angles Times brought it all in focus.

ET409 is a tragic story. We all felt the pain. Although death is a natural occurrence, an accident like ET409 has unpleasant effect on all of us. It is death magnified. ET409 was death in the family. Sudden unexpected death.

Then the passenger manifest started to come out. There were eighty passengers and seven crewmembers. Twenty-two of the passengers were Ethiopians returning home from Lebanon. As far as the foreign press is concerned they were ordinary passengers. Business people or vacationers returning home. But we Ethiopians know better. It was no surprise to us that they were all women. No one has to tell us they will all be young. We have close relatives like that all over the Middle East. They are the surplus Ethiopians.

This group of Ethiopians returned home in a body bag. Some will stay in the Mediterranean. All will have a special place in our hearts. On the other hand talk to any Ethiopian Airlines employee and they will tell you the horror stories of the returnees from the Middle East. The trip back home should be renamed the ‘horror express’. Some return with deep psychological scars, some with visible body scars and some in a casket. Some sit there like zombies unable to talk, afraid to move unsure of themselves. Some come back home to die. They will never recover from the deep humiliation and abuse.

They all go there to better themselves and their family. There used to be a long line stretching all the way to the street and sidewalk in front of the old courthouse in Ledeta. It was a line of girls registering a name change to go to the Middle East. Having a Muslim name was a plus. Then came Woyane and institutionalized the process. They called it employment opportunity and started to charge for the service. Woyane makes a lot of money selling citizens. It is a very lucrative business. It is true they started selling maids to the Middle East before they graduated to selling children to the West in the so-called ‘adoption’ scam.

So our sisters flock to the Middle East to make something of their life. In Lebanon, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc. they join others like them from the Far East in perpetual servitude. They enter a region with no laws, minimal view of human right and total absence of justice. The plight of our people in the Middle East is an open secret. The suffering and humiliation have been told and retold plenty of times. They jump from high-rise building and kill themselves. They kill their tormentors in self-defense. Unable to understand their agony their brain shuts off.

So the ones that died in the accident are the carriers of this horror. Despite all this happening to them our sisters are on of the highest contributors to Woyane’s 10% growth that is told and retold again and again. Let us take Lebanon by itself. They say there are over twenty five thousand Ethiopians working there. Let us assume each one sends US $100.00 per month. That is US$ 2.5 Million per month and US $30 Million a year. In Ethiopia that will be $390 Million Bir. A lot of money if you ask me. That is what you would call a cash cow.

How does the Ethiopian government appreciate the contribution of these citizens that cling to their motherland despite the threat to their well-being. Silence and indifference is their response. So it was a surprise to see the Woyane Foreign Minster in Beirut after the accident. There he was sitting with the Lebanese Prime Minister. Why did he go there is a good question? Did he go there to gather his people around him and console them in this time of grief? Did he go to meet with friend and family of the victims and tell them their government’s commitment to help in the search and rescue effort? Did he go there to give them moral strength? Did he go there to hold their hands and be with them? I am afraid the answer is none of the above. In Woyane’s Ethiopia those who rule don’t mingle with those ordinary Ethiopians. His Excellency does not have time for uneducated simple maids.

Then why did he go? Well he went as his capacity as Board Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines. Yes he is the Chairman of the Board. Don’t ask what his qualifications are for such a high post. Does his resume shows his talent in managing a little kiosk? Does it show his education and capacity for such a demanding job? Does he have a track record of growing a business? The answer is none of the above. His qualification is his membership in TPLF. Thus he went there because some Lebanese officials used to degrading our Ethiopian sisters upgraded their contempt and questioned the skill of the pilots and crew. The Foreign Minster went there to calm the nerves of the Lebanese officials. He went there to protect the integrity of his cash cow called Ethiopian Airlines. Why they don’t change the name to ‘Woyane Airlines’ is a mystery. The only thing Ethiopian is the name. In America they call it truth in advertising.

Thus it was no surprise to see my Diaspora friends decrying the racism of the Lebanese in the ill treatment of those in grief. Despite the fact that the horrible condition of the Ethiopian guest workers is known to all of us some of us choose to vent our rage on the people of Lebanon. I agree with Fekade, it is totally ‘a misplaced rage’. Our rage should be directed at those that allow such conditions to exist. Our indignations should be directed at the root of the problem. We should be careful in our wholesale condemnation of the Lebanese people. We should be aware that there still are over twenty five thousand of our people working there. We don’t want to contribute for their further ill treatment. Our quarrel is with the TPLF regime that considers the rest of us as trespassers in our own land. We fix our house first and the world will shower us with respect and love. As Henry Thoreau said ‘there are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots…’ don’t tell me you are still hacking at the branches! That is so yesterday my friend. Rage against Lebanon is hacking the branch.

One thought on “ET-409 and the surplus Ethiopians

  1. I personally don’t know the foreign minister trip brings anything to anyone. The bottom line is the airline is owned and run by the government. As such, they are all abut the bottom line and the airline image.

    We diasporas have to take some responsibility to what’s happening to our sister. What have we done to pressure middle east countries to treat our citizens in a humane? When was the last time we made an effort to bring what is going on there to the media? I have seen some report by BBC but this is not enough to bring change.

    We can’t depend on our so called government to fight for our sisters. We (You and I) need to find a way to a means to force middle east countries to treat our people in decency. Our sisters are emotionally dying everyday.

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