A survivor of the Red Terror in Ethiopia who now lives in Amber Trails will be speaking about surviving great challenges and becoming a refugee in a peaceful country.
Ali Saeed is one of the 15 speakers at TEDxWinnipeg. With the current influx of refugees dominating the news, TEDxWinnipeg organizers thought it would be important to include it in one of its talks.
"The notion of refugees is top of mind these days, so why not have one of our TEDx talks focus on it? In fact, why not have an actual refugee deliver the talk? That’s why we selected Saeed, who has not only the most incredible story as a refugee but also one of success later in his new land after his arrival," Kerry Stevenson, speaker team lead with TEDxWinnipeg 2017, said.
When Saeed was in high school, he was wrapped up in the social issues his country was facing, especially toward women, and became a member of the Confederation of Ethiopian Labor Unions, a movement against the Derg, the communist government which ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. He started voicing his discontent publicly and for this reason, was arrested and endured horrific torture while in prison.
"When you are oppressed, silence is not golden," he said. "When you see people are imprisoned for no reason when the father is taken (off) his land when there is no equal payment, when you see women deliver babies in the factory… if you are not saying something, if you are not screaming and saying no, you are part of the killers. If you don’t say anything, it means you support the system."
After crossing 500 kilometres for eight days and nights in the Wuchallee desert, Saeed arrived in Somalia thinking he would gain his freedom again. There, he was accused of being a spy and was sent to jail and tortured again.
He said with much conviction that humankind could bear anything except becoming slaves for cruel and oppressive governments.
"To stand up to those torturers, to stand up to those cruel people, you need to pay the price. And the price is torture," he continued. "I know it’s painful. But I don’t regret it. If I had to do it again, I would do it."
"We sacrificed our time, our nature, and our beloved ones for the liberation from the oppressors."
Saeed was on death row when the intervention of Amnesty International and the United Nations rescued him. With the help of the Canadian Embassy, he arrived in Winnipeg in 1984, barefoot.
Winnipeg has been the place where he and his family live without fear and have prospered. Saeed owns a bakery with his wife, sponsored more than 100 refugees, founded the Ethiopian Society of Winnipeg and co-founded the Winnipeg Multi-Cultural Human Rights Forum. His story is also featured on the fourth floor of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
TEDxWinnipeg is an all-day event that happens on June 6 at the RBC Convention Centre. For more information and to register, go to https://tedxwinnipeg.ca/