Friday, January 05, 2007

Will the KTU respond? We can't if we're to stay "in the classroom" ...

UPDATE: After 3 months of beatings, the activists have been released.

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Today, from Education International:

Urgent Action Appeal for Ethiopia

Torture of Ethiopian Teachers’ Association activists

Dear colleagues,

Education International calls on your solidarity to support the elected union officers of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA). Currently, two ETA officers are reported to be subjected to torture while in detention without warrant. A third one is reported missing since December 15.

For years now, EI has been concerned by the actions taken by the Ethiopian authorities to dismantle the ETA, which has been representing the legitimate interests of the teaching profession in Ethiopia since 1949.

Since the creation of another Ethiopian Teachers' Association in 1993, the first ETA, a member of Education International, has been subjected to repression and interference seeking the destruction of the independent union.

The harassment was so intense in 2006 that EI and the ETA submitted complaints to the International Labour Organisation (Committee on Freedom of Association) and to the ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). Fortunately, despite the harassment of ETA leaders and interferences in ETA affairs which hamper the day-to-day work of the union, the ETA continues to enjoy the support of teachers and gains new members every month.

With your help, EI aims to encourage the Government of Ethiopia to respect freedom of association and to stop immediately the ill treatment of our three colleagues. You will find attached a model protest letter which can be used by your organisation to express your concern about the continued harassment, and now torture, of ETA activists. More information about EI's action can be found on the EI website.

December 2006: Abduction and torture of ETA activists

On 14 December, the family of Tilahun Ayalew reported his arrest on his way from his school to his residence in Dangla. Government security agents took him to the police station of Bahir Dar, in the North of the country. He was later transferred to the Addis Ababa Criminal Investigation Bureau, known as Maekelawi. He is reported to have been "heavily tortured". On 1 January, Tilahun Ayalew was brought to the Lideta Borough Initial Court in Addis Ababa. "He was so heavily beaten that he could hardly walk on his own from the police van to the court room," reported the ETA General Secretary. The judge adjourned his case to 15 January to allow the police to undertake further investigation. Tilahun Ayalew, aged 49 and father of 7 children, teaches at a primary school in his city of Dangla. He is a prominent ETA activist and is Chair of the ETA Awi zone. Earlier in 2005, Tilahu! n Ayalew was among the 68 teachers arrested after the post election demonstrations in November 2005. No arrest warrant was ever produced and he was finally released on bail without explanation. Since 14 December, he has been detained incommunicado and was refused access to a lawyer and/or to medical assistance. His relatives and colleagues are unaware of any charge filed against him.
Meqcha Mengistu was reported missing on December 15, 2006. He had been under constant surveillance by government security agents following his participation in an ETA conference held on 8-9 December in Addis Ababa. His relatives know nothing about his whereabouts. Meqcha Mengistu, aged 38 and father of 4 children, teaches at a secondary school in Dejen, in the Eastern part of the country. He is chairperson of the ETA East Gojam Zonal Executive and is member of the ETA Committee for the implementation of the EI/ETA Education For All-HIV/AIDS programme (EFAIDS). Meqcha was arrested along with Tilahun Ayalew and 66 other teachers in November 2005.
Education International is also concerned about the fate of Anteneh Getnet, a male teacher aged 42. On 8 May 2006, Antenech Getenet was abducted and tortured by unidentified men. He almost died and will never be able to teach again. A prominent ETA activist, he was elected to the ETA Addis Ababa Regional Council in August 2006. Antenech Getnet was arrested on 29 December and detained incommunicado at the Maekelawi Investigation Bureau. He is reported to have been severely beaten again. On 1 January, he appeared before the court, together with Tilahun Ayalew. The court also adjourned his case to allow for further investigation by the police.
The ETA leadership knows these three men very well. Their only offence is that they are members of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association.

What can you do?

When informed about the tragic events, EI immediately addressed a protest letter to the Ethiopian Prime Minister; EI also approached the International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation and Amnesty International to denounce the detention without warrant and acts of torture against trade union officials in the context of their legal trade union activities.

As a national teacher association, you can undertake the following action:

Protest to the Ethiopian authorities - a model letter can be found on our website ( The letters should be addressed to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and to the local Ethiopian embassy. A copy of your letter should also be forwarded to EI for our records.
Contact the ETA to express your solidarity > Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Gemoraw Kassa, General Secretary, P.O. Box 1639, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Tel: +251-11-552.46.68 - Fax: +251-11-551.28.26. (Bear in mind that phone is not always safe and the fax is often disrupted. Email messages can be forwarded to EI which will forward them to the colleagues in Ethiopia).
Give visibility to the situation of teachers in Ethiopia in your magazine, on your website, during meetings and via other appropriate means.
Approach your embassy representatives in Ethiopia. This step requires some care and concerted action. EI therefore invites you to be in touch before acting upon this recommendation.
EI will of course keep you updated on all development or when the Urgent Action Appeal is closed. For additional information or to discuss possible action, contact the EI Human and Trade Union Rights Coordinator

I thank you in advance for your support of our Ethiopian colleagues.

Yours sincerely,

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary


I forgot to note that yes, the union did respond.


Anonymous said...

Dear colleagues,
I am really happy that your contribution on human rights development in my home country!
I had about many ETA activists are in prison and suffered by the dictator Meless Zenawi regime.
I want tell you that Mr. Tilahun Ayalew Birhanu is suffering here in Kenya as refugee. Even UNHCR can not properly protected and assist him.
Thank you,

sam59527 said...