WHY DC WAS SIMPLY DIFFERENT – A personal reflection

Dear all,

As a new day starts here in DC and the warm morning sun rises over the capital that is home to one of the most powerful democracies in the world, I finally found the time to visit Facebook again and reflect on the recent events here in DC.

My shortest summary: WOW!
(But then as most of you know by now: I don’t do short…)

When the conference was announced 3 months ago, only few of us thought it would be possible for the committee to organise a global demonstration and youth conference of major significance. Let alone one that would make history. Gosh were we wrong!

The eyes of the world were upon us, literally…Al Jazeera and Voice of America reported, congratulations arrived from a member of the Swedish Parliament, and a follow up invitation in the State Department in DC was extended to some of our colleagues this afternoon…and not to mention: the eyes, ears, and soul of every freedom loving Eritrean in this world were with us in DC. We received messages of support and congratulations from inside Eritrea and from Eritreans living in Ethiopia and the Sudan.

But then there is something else that happened here in DC that made it clear to me that we have not given up as a nation and that indeed we were experiencing the start of a new chapter…
The demonstration in DC was different from what we have seen before…
And so was the conference…
Let me give you some more insights:

The DC demonstration was attended by a minimum of 500 people, some suggest even close to 700 if you consider people leaving and joining throughout the day. But we did not only chant slogans. Demonstrators were given phone numbers and calling cards bought through Arbi Harnet donations and we all called LIVE to Asmara reporting of the protests and of our solidarity. At one point, our much honoured muslim representative (bless you Ato J.) held up proudly a poster of the arrested Orthodox Patriarch. Everyone had lost their fear of the many PFDJ cameras that appeared behind embassy windows, in fact everyone wanted to be seen. And towards the end, five of our brothers and sisters (3 youth and 2 from the older generation) peacefully stepped over the Police blockade, as previously agreed, so they could be arrested. This was a symbolic reaffirmation of our solidarity with those suffering inside Eritrea, in particular those under brutal detention. The brave five joined us again later that evening.What an inspiring day it was!

And then there was the conference. It would take too long to summarise the details of the event. But I would like to share why I think this occasions was indeed special: The conference hall was packed. Every single seat was taken, and everyone in that room remained highly focused and engaged … over 10 hours later, every single seat was still occupied..
We had many standing ovations, we had live media coverage, and our conference was followed LIVE by over 1,000 people from all over the world via Smerr Paltalk Room and Upstream TV. Our strong united message: that from now on we needed to engage in ACTION above everything else.

But there were two things that truly surprised me, which I had not expected: One is the sudden and newly gained feeling of determination and urgency. It was as if everyone – including those who organised this historic event – experienced a newly found level of devotion to do even more than they had been doing already.
And there was something else I did not expect. This event was highly emotionally charged, and it was a gathering of some kind of therapeutic release for so many. I am not sure you believe me, but I truly found myself hugging or encouraging seven, yes seven participants crying or fighting tears over those two days (not to count the many that cried when we looked at pictures of Sinai torture victims). And out of the seven who were fighting tears, maybe surprisingly, five were men…
Why am I telling you this? Several reasons: It made it so clear to me that these people who fight for freedom and justice are indeed people of heart, they are genuine, and it reaffirmed to me that I can proudly work alongside them. But moreover, it suddenly hit home through how much personal sacrifice one goes when he or she becomes a true activist for the cause…
… Serious sleep deficiency, sad memories of those who suffer, marital problems and break ups, financial strains as a result of high conference call phone bills or flight tickets, mixed feelings of great exhilaration and depression, the burden of responsibility, guilt of spending too much time for the cause and not enough time with your family and children, …yet all of this somehow tied with a strong feeling that there is no way back, because there is something happening that is much bigger than all of the above.

And suddenly I knew I was not alone. And I became part of that mutual feeling of determination and urgency that swept through our conference hall while realising that above all we were truly blessed: Because we were free to fight for a better future. We were given an opportunity to shape history in our own humble ways. But above all, we were blessed because we were all surrounded by so many friends who had the same dreams and so much love for each other. And nothing in life makes you stronger than that.

I miss you all, my fellow fighters, thank you so much for your friendship and some truly special days. And yes, as we agreed when we departed, let us now start to step up our fight for freedom with all those who were unable to be there with us in person, but who joined us in spirit.
Our work has begun, brothers and sisters. Are you in?


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Posted by on May 31 2012 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

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