The Shame of Silence

5th November 2016  By Aden Hassan

ogaden_tplf_fact_square_untold_storiesWhen I came home tonight, my 10-month-old daughter, as usual, crawled frantically towards me, shrilling in exhilaration and expecting her usual dosage of hugs, kisses and rubs. I picked her up, but I did not feel good about it. The hug felt a little rubbery. I almost cringed, but had to fake the routine. It just did not feel right. For the first time, and hopefully the last, I felt guilty hugging my little infant.

Because thousands of miles away, in Ethiopia, a child suddenly lost access to his or her father, and will not regain it. That child was as innocent as my little daughter and had every right to have a father who would pick him or her up to be hugged and pinched in the cheek a little.

I have never met Faysal Muhumed Omar, and would probably never have heard about him, if his youthful life had not been robbed out of cruelty. It matters not a bit that I never even heard of his name until three days ago. Not a minute passed today that I did not think about him in anguish and visceral anger. I felt hatred, actually.

Why? His young life was cut short in his mid thirties. It was cut short by a man whose only motivation was the fact that, without the slightest compunction, he could destroy a life, and it would not mean much or even little. After all, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, the merchant of death, the president of the Ogaden region, has been doing his trade for over a decade now. And with every life he takes, he only gains more prestige from his masters, the TPLF generals, and more bondage from his people.

They killed Fayisal, threw him out of a speeding vehicle while his tortured 70-year-old father saw it.

What did Fayisal do wrong? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that is why I today kept having a feeling of being choked. Again and again. This young man lost his life because this quisling, who runs the Ogaden region, felt his ego pricked by what Faysal’s brother Mustafa Omer said about injustice and human rights in the region.

To silence Mustafa Omer, they killed his brother, tortured his father, displaced his sisters and performed cruelty upon a defenseless family.

And no, it is not an isolated incident. It is how the affairs of this godforsaken place are run by a man whose blood-lust would probably have put Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to shame had he lived and ruled in that time.

This is a tactic that worked for him before, to discourage dissidence by killing and jailing critics’ families, raping their women and confiscating their property. And decentralizing the manifestation of his evilness by having each family savaged by its own members and closest relatives to break their spirit. And for Abdi Mohamoud Omar, it worked perfectly. A once-proud people are reduced to zombies who hang their heads; humiliated and violated.

Faysal’s soul was not more sacred than the thousands of young souls decimated by this man. His savage murders are no longer considered to be devastating. The orphaned and the widowed are no longer considered to deserve empathy. It happened to thousands, and continues to happen. And we remain silent. By “we” I mean those of us, cowardly beings, who do not do anything for these poor people other than having the decency to register our opposition to this mass murderer.

No dignity is won by bowing your head and lowering your gaze. We prostrate in prayer, but even the Almighty told us to bow in reverence and stand up. There has to be more to life than the primal urge to eat and defecate. Life with no dignity is no life.

People have been enslaved for hundreds of years, sold like animals, treated like beasts. But they still fight, kick and scratch, and when they cannot even do that, they film their death to reinvigorate their anger and add one more piece of cinder to the fire in their belly. The human being is hard-wired to love dignity; not even hundreds of years of bestial slavery could smother that most primordial of human instincts. People have lost everything; family, lives, livelihoods and land. But they kept their spirit. It was not broken.

Why did it take just a decade to break our spirit?

I refuse to believe that we never have had much of a heart, pride, and a feral entitlement to dignity and respect. So what is it that Abdi Mohamoud Omar did to break us in just ten years?

After Faysal, the merchant of death is coming for you, or if you are beyond his tentacles of terror, he is coming for your sibling and parent. Or, if those are out of his reach, he will grab your cousin. You are not safe.

You who read this: Go to bed tonight and have a dream – or a nightmare. This is the day when all things are to be answered for: You are on trial. The judge is Faysal’s child. The question is simple; no nuance needed. No contortions. No sophistry:

Did you speak up for me?

People! Rise yourselves from this ignoble stupor and brace for that most defining question of our age. That child needs an answer. And, by God, he deserves it.

Originally posted on Facebook October 30, 2016. Slightly edited and published with permission. 

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