To the Right Honorable Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
Mr. Prime Minister I am writing to you as a Canadian citizen and the Secretary General of the Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners.
I wish to raise concerns about injustices being perpetrated against the people in my country of origin, Ethiopia. More particularly, I wish to voice my outrage about how these injustices are being aided and abetted by the Canadian government through the provision of bilateral aid to the Ethiopian government.
In recent months, the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has increased its wrongful detentions, torture and intimidation of peaceful Ethiopians. Journalists critical of the government are accused of being ‘terrorists’ and detained without hard evidence to back up these allegations. The human rights abuses of the regime are well documented by Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists among other authoritative bodies.
Just last month, 29-year-old Yenesew Gebre, a respected teacher in southern Ethiopia, set himself on fire in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the crimes of the Zenawi government. He died in hospital four days later.
Another victim of the regime, Jilalo Siraj, was an election observer during the fraudulent byelection last February. Like so many people critical of this regime, he has disappeared. Since 1991, EPRP leaders like Tsegaye Gebre, Medhin Lucha (a.k.a. Debteraw,) Yishak Debretsion, Belete Amha, Sitataw Hussein, and thousands of others have disappeared by this government.
Recently, journalists Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye were jailed and accused of being terrorists even though there is no hard evidence to back up this allegation.
A serious concern is Zenawi government’s infiltration of religious sects, placing his people in high ranking positions within the country’s religious institutions.
In Ethiopia, there is no such thing as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom of the press. Yet, the Canadian government has been sending development assistance to the country. That assistance is being used by the military dictatorship not to alleviate suffering and foster the development of law abiding Ethiopians, but to persecute them.
I arrived in this country nearly 30 years ago, having survived five years of torture and detention at the hands of an Ethiopian regime that is not much different from the one which controls those loved ones I left behind.
I have never stopped being deeply appreciative of the generosity of the Canadian people. But as a torture survivor, a human rights advocate, and a taxpaying businessman, I am outraged that Canadian people are, through their tax dollars, furthering the abuses of my beloved country men.
I urge you to do the right thing, and immediately withdraw support for one of the most brutal regimes in the world. Canada’s reputation and the lives of millions of Ethiopians are at stake.
I look forward to receiving your response to this letter.
Ali Saeed is a Winnipeg-based writer.
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