Tribute to Dr. Hassen Mohamed-Ibrahim Ennati

Dr. Salah Ibrahim

3 March 2006

Prophet Mohamed peace and blessings be upon him (PBUH) said, “Remember the good deeds of your deceased people.” There are also several verses in the QURAN and statements in the HADEETH (Holy Prophet’s traditions) that encourage people to convey rewards to those who have passed away by performing good deeds on their behalf*. The belief is that good deeds bring about good results and evil ones, evil results. On the basis of this noble idea, I feel obliged to honour and pay tribute to a long-time friend, Dr. Hassen Ennati, by remembering his good deeds that earned him enormous respect with the Eritrean Community in Australia (ECA) and with others.

Hassan passed away on the 13th of December 2005 in Melbourne, leaving behind a very admirable long-lasting legacy attributable to his success in life. Hassan will be remembered by many for his determination and commitment to succeed. The passing away of Hassen is a big loss to ECA for many reasons. As part of his Ph.D. degree, Hassen was researching into the experience of Eritrean Community in Melbourne with the ultimate objective of gaining understanding of the needs of his community so as to better inform policy makers to take on board the findings of his study. That would have benefited the community a great deal.

Recounting of Hassen’s life will give some understanding of who this great Eritrean personality was and what he stood for+. This English version, which is not an exact translation of the Arabic, is mainly intended for the youth to whom English is more appealing. The obituary primarily will focus on the strong desire that Hassen has had for education and his determination and dedication to succeed in his study against all odds. Different views expressed by some of his academic staff and others who knew him closely will also be presented. To me, this obituary serves as a reflection on Hassen’s life and as a mark of respect to a great person that I personally knew for a long time. But, the main purpose of writing it is to remind the reader, especially the youth, of the good traits (perseverance, steadfastness, hard-work, optimism, etc.) that Hassen possessed and how these attributes made him successful in life against many difficulties. It is advisable that the youth take the success of Hassan in education as an example.

Hassen was born in Massawa in 1965. He was the fourth eldest in a family of eight. His father, who owned a well-established business in both Nakfa and Keren, was a successful merchant by Eritrean standard. Hassen encountered a setback since his childhood following the imprisonment of his father by the Ethiopian authority. His father died in prison due to torture by the cruel authorities who inflicted colossal pain and suffering on the innocent Eritrean population. Because of the nature of the business his father was engaged in, some of his family members settled in Keren in my neighbourhood and the others in Nakfa. I knew his respected family very well since my childhood. His brother, Saleh, currently living in Melbourne, and myself were brought up around the same time and played together during our childhood. Hassen was one of the family members who settled in Nakfa and so I didn’t have the opportunity to know him well in Eritrea. But I do remember him occasionally visiting the rest of his family members in Keren.

Like many Eritreans, Hassen left his hometown of Nakfa for the Sudan in 1978 in search of refuge, peace and education. His family settled in Port-Sudan where Hassen commenced his education in Comboni Schools. His desire for knowledge drove him further north when he moved to Egypt to continue his study in Cairo. I came to know Hassen more closely in 1989 when I met him in Cairo. As adults, the common factor between the two of us was education. He immigrated to Australia in October 1992 and settled first in Melbourne and then in Geelong. I immigrated to Australia seven months earlier and my destination was Perth, Western Australia. But we kept in touch via telephone. For those interested in more details, a power point presentation prepared by his brother, Saleh Ennati can be viewed on

Regarding University education, Hassen graduated with First Class Honours in Commerce from Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. He was an outstanding student who always achieved highly in every level of his education. He enrolled in a doctoral degree in 2002, which he resumed till his untimely death. ECA honoured Hassen with a doctoral degree presented to his brother Saleh by academic supervisor of the late Hassen, Prof. Pasquale Sgro. Although Hassen was about a year away from submitting his PhD thesis, ECA as well as anyone else who knew Hassen are convinced beyond any doubt that he would have successfully completed his PhD research project had he lived longer. The supporting evidence for this confidence in Hassan’s ability is that he had a well-established record that proves he was a capable student who successfully completes research projects in time and who achieves set objectives with high standard. Hassan was unique in this and other respects.

Apart from his childhood setback, Hassan encountered difficulties in his life due to ill-health that physically weakened him overtime. His eyesight was already poor by the time I met him in Cairo, and it further deteriorated after a surgical operation in Australia. Hassen lost his sight completely following many operations, but he never lost his will and remained emotionally strong to the end. I cannot ever recall Hassen complaining about his sickness. On the contrary, he was always thankful to Allah, which is an attribute of a true believer. Hassen has never depended on others despite his long suffering from the debilitating disease that finally claimed his life. Hassen was a person with good sense of humour who can joke, fully alert of his surrounding. His discussion on topical issues including Eritrean politics was always rational based on knowledge. Regarding his personal traits Hassen, among other things, was a very friendly person who always gave his visitors cordial reception. Even more admirable is the fact that Hassen made good friendships with many people whom he never had the chance to meet or see by talking to them over the phone.

This leads me to give synopsis of an event organised by ECA in collaboration with Deakin University to honour the late Hassen. The event was held on Saturday 25 February 2006. First, I would like to express my appreciation to Dr Berhan Ahmed- Chairperson of ECA, for his effective communication and liaising skills that always play a crucial role in connecting our community with other organisations. This time for his coordination with Deakin University to make the honouring ceremony successful. Dr Ahmed described Hassan in few words: an exemplary student. I share the views of Dr Ahmed. Below are some views expressed by people who knew Hassen closely:

1. Prof. Pasquale Sgro

Prof. Sgro who was Hassen’s PhD supervisor described him as very enthusiastic and energetic learner who never gives up. The great courage and determination exemplifies the avid desire that Hassen had to succeed in his education, as understood by his supervisor Prof. Sgro. Prof. Sgro indicated that the entire Eritrean Community should be proud of Hassen’s achievement, expressing at the same time his great honour to have Hassen as one of his students. Following this, Prof. Sgro speech focused on the importance of Hassen’s PhD research, whose main theme is on the contribution of immigrants to the Australian economy.

2. Kevin Murfitt: Willing & Able Mentoring Program, Deakin University

Mr Murfitt met Hassen about ten years ago and described him as someone who “helps you to help him” because of Hassen’s ability to effectively use services provided by the “Disability Resource Centre” of his University. Mr Murfitt, as someone denied the beautiful gift of eyesight himself, explained the enormous difficulties that he had to overcome to succeed in life. Comparing Hassen’s situation with his own, Mr Murfitt emphasized that Hassen faced extra challenges due to lack of assistance that has been available to him. Whereas Mr Murfitt had the luxury of being surrounded by families and relatives who can provide necessary assistance, Hassen, on the other hand, had to march on his own. Hassen had to regularly commute to Geelong where his main campus was located, some 70 km southwest of Melbourne. For this reason, Mr Murfitt described Hassen as ‘tenacious.’ Further admirations included traits like incredibly hard-worker and determined at the expense of his health.

3. Sharon Dunpar: Social Worker

Ms Dunpar is a social worker at “Springvale Community Aid & Advice Bureau”, well known for her assistance and compassion to refugees’ plight from around the globe. Ms Dunpar knew Hassen since his arrival in Australia on October 1992. She described Hassen as respectful, productive and independent. Hassen did not forget to send Ms Dunpar presents on the right occasions to express his gratitude for the help she offered him. She particularly admired Hassen for his close friendship with her family, in time of need. Ms Dunpar expressed the view shared by Mr Murfitt that Hassen had a unique ability to motivate others to assist him. The last interesting point that Ms Dunpar make of Hassen’s resilient qualities was of how, on learning that Hassen had enrolled for a PhD, she was able to dismiss her own petty worries about finishing or interrupting her Masters studies. Currently she is enrolled for a doctoral degree and is pursuing her studies with diligence. I hope this example will motivate others to see Hassen as a model student and follow his path.

5. Twanny Farrugia: Pro-ability Consultancy Services

Mr Farrugia cited a very moving poem, which unfortunately cannot recall now. His organisation offers a variety of services to disadvantaged people. He gave an excellent speech; in fact, an emotional tribute celebrating Hassen’s wonderful life.

Almost everyone who knew Hassen closely could not escape Hassen’s charm.

Even Woldeyesus Ammar, who met Hassen for a short period of time in Melbourne, Australia had this to say:

“The plight of our refugees in the Middle East and North Africa regions up to Australia is being researched by Hassan Ibrahim Ennati, who is doing his Ph.D. project on that subject. Hassan is a courageous Eritrean in Melbourne who lost his eyesight during a surgical operation but has not lost his determination to live and pursue his studies in order to succeed in life against all difficulties.”

Indeed, the indomitable Hassen never gave up hope and optimism about life despite the noticeable physical weakness due to a steady decline in his health. He continued to fight for his life and to stay well until the last minute. He passed away while doing the things that he liked most to do in life, which is, working hard to reach a higher level of education. The achievement he recorded might have been at the expense of his health which is true of major historical geniuses

Hassan’s achievements in education should be seen as a model example by the youth who are expected to achieve a lot in their life; the story of Hassen can serve as an inspirational and encouraging one to look into the future with optimism. Hassan proved to us that success is realised by working hard against difficulties of all sorts. His family, rather than only grieving his physical absence, they should instead also be extremely proud of the achievements of their son. Once again Hassen was an exemplary student.

I ask Allah to give his family and relatives the strength and courage.


+Ahmed Mahmoud Ali, a prolific Arabic writer and editor of the website Awna has comprehensively documented the inspirational and interesting story of Hassen in two episodes; the latest can be viewed at It is 5.59 MB file so downloading is recommended over viewing it online.



Short URL:

Posted by on Mar 3 2006 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

Photo Gallery

Log in |2011