Imprisoned, Tortured and Sentenced to Death – For Supporting my People

9th December 2016  By Daljir 

My name is Daljir. I am an Ethiopian citizen, but Somali by origin. I was born in Kuwait where my parents lived in exile for decades. The first Gulf war between Iraq and Kuwait interrupted the life of my family and separated my mother and I from my father. My mother and I fled to Saudi Arabia where we stayed illegally for many years.

One day, we were caught by the Saudi police and were deported to Addis Ababa.  Life was tough, but luckily my mother worked hard and supported us. She managed to cover both our living costs and my studies. We still, however, had not been reunited with my father.  Every time I asked my mother about my father, she would tell me that he and many other Somalis could not come into Ethiopia because they had fought against the Ethiopian government to liberate the Somali Ogaden Region from Ethiopian colonization. She said that they would be sentenced to death if they came.

I was terrified because the guards held me at gunpoint. The interrogator put his gun to my forehead, threatening to kill me.

I studied a Bachelor of Art in International Relations at New Generation University. The courses at this university shed light on my future and left unanswered questions in my mind. I started supporting the needy and disadvantaged Somali communities in the Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia. We used to teach people basic education like maths and the Somali language, and we raised awareness about and campaigned against ignorance and illiteracy. We taught the people about basic human rights and their responsibilities as citizens. I was also responsible for administrative tasks like translations of interviews with locals about human rights violations in the region.

However, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the ruling government in Ethiopia, was annoyed by our involvement in human rights issues. They accused us for belonging to the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF, a grass root social and political movement serving as an advocate for and defender of Somalis in the Ogaden region against the Ethiopian regime.

On 26th June 2010 at around 2:00 AM in the morning, a group of armed soldiers kicked our door open and entered our small house in Bole Mikael, Addis Ababa. My mother and I were alone in the house when they came. The soldiers terrified us and made us cry. They then took me out of the house. I was handcuffed, with a hood put over my head so that I could not see anything.

The first two months were unimaginable and words cannot truly express what I endured. I was interrogated twice a day and when the guards took me into the interrogation room, they used to push me to the ground in a brutal manner. They started to cut my clothing with scissors. They undressed me completely and stripped me naked. They made me sit on a cold and dirty chair. I was terrified because the guards held me at gunpoint. The interrogator put his gun to my forehead, threatening to kill me.

Luckily, my mother and some Somali officials in the government put all their efforts into convincing the government that I was not involved in what I am accused of. Finally, I was let out on conditional release. However, whenever the federal security received information from the intelligence about the ONLF, or whenever something bad happened in the Ogaden region, they came to take me back to repeat the interrogations I had been through before. This forced me to leave Ethiopia. I went to Somalia where I thought I could lead a better life. I lived there for quite some time with my wife and my mother.  But things did not end so easily because Ethiopian security agents operate inside Somalia. They have networks for operations to hold back the ONLF and other organizations like the Oromo Liberation Front.*

One night while I was out at work, an armed group composed of both Somalis and Ethiopians came to our house in Hargeisa and took my wife and my mother away for interrogation. Their incarceration was related to the previous false accusations that I was subjected to. This event led me to come to Sweden and split the whole of my life and my family apart. I have not heard from my wife and mother since.

*According to their website, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is a movement to exercise the Oromo peoples’ (an ethnic group in Ethiopia) right to national self-determination.

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