An endless stream of pictures of injured and dead people. Pictures of men and women lying on beds or on the street. Some of them are surrounded by a grieving crowd, others are alone. Some of them are crying and screaming because of their pain, some are staring hopelessly into nothing. For the last few weeks my Facebook newsfeed has been covered in blood.
The injured and dead are protesters. They criticized the irresponsible expansion of Addis Ababa, the capital in Ethiopia, that is threatening to displace Oromo farmers living close to the city. Many of the protesters are students coming from universities. They wanted someone to listen. They demanded their basic human rights to be respected. Now, they are dead. The closeup photos of their horrifying injuries makes me feel sick to my stomach.
In many countries, these people would have been allowed to hold their peaceful demonstrations without interference. Their right to protest would have been respected. But not in Ethiopia, not under the governance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, because they make sure that anyone who is protesting, criticizing or demanding their rights gets tortured, jailed or killed. The pictures that have flooded Facebook are speaking a clear language. The police use brutal force on peaceful protesters, and for the last few weeks not only protesters have been targeted, but the crackdown on press freedom in general has intensified too. Journalists have been jailed, and the blogging group Zone 9 Bloggers, who were released in July respectively October 2015, have been summoned to court again. The ending of 2015 and the start of 2016 does not look good.
But there is still hope, and it is lit by people who refuse to give up. Among the pictures of injured and dead, other pictures show up. They are coming from Ethiopia, USA, Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, and many other countries. Dressed in black and with down-turned faces, people continue their protests in silence. Holding their fists crossed, as if they are shackled, they are showing solidarity with the protesters who were robbed of their freedom and lives; in a country where no one is allowed to express opinions, no one is free. Their determination and message is clear: They will not let the evil win.