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Eritrean Festival DC a Show of Unflinching Unity

Amanuel Biedemariam

As usual, on August 17-19, 2012, Eritreans in Metro DC celebrated Eritrean Festival in grand fashion. Eritreans all over have taken these annual rituals as a second nature.

Year after year, for over thirty years, Eritreans have gathered to celebrate each other, music and Eritrean cultures.

Eritreans gather to exchange information, educate each other, to get updates on the current developments of their nation and the region. They sell goods and services to each other. It is a festive moment with a purpose that Eritreans look forward-to with great enthusiasm.

Eritrean festival is unique success story, unique to Eritrea that played pivotal role in the fight for independence of Eritrea. Before independence, before Eritrea had a government, the Festival brought Eritreans together from all around the globe in Bologna Italy and, made Eritrean history year after year.

After independence, the festivals grew and spread globally reaching Eritreans wherever they are. In North America the charged, festivals are celebrated in every corner where Eritreans reside. The major metropolitan areas draw large crowds. This year for example, Oakland California, Toronto Canada and DC celebrated in a grand fashion.


What is fascinating is the festivals ability to bring Eritrean communities from different areas as one. For example, five million people covering Maryland, Virginia and the District inhabit the Metro DC area. The Eritrean community leaves scattered everywhere but when it comes to the festival, they flourish and show identity of a community inseparable by distance.

Local musicians and musicians from Eritrea come to celebrate. This Year, Faytinga, Bereket Mengisteab, Tareke T-Hiwot, Korchach, Hailom and others came and added color to an already colorful event. Locally, musicians such as Tefeno Aklilu, Sami Berhane and others and added to the fun by singing songs like the new sensation Elele sending the people into frenzy.

This year, the three-day festivities included a seminar given by three intellectuals namely, Isayas Tesfamariam, Dr. Asghede Hagos and Elias Amare. This seminar was a highlight of the event that needs to be shared by every Eritrean.

Issayas Tesfamariam is a historian, film director, writer, photographer, blogger, and head of Microfilming Department at Hoover Institution. He is the author of the book ‘Eritrea, Colors in Motion’, producer of the films ‘Asmara: City of Radiance’ and ‘Eritrea an old new nation. Mr. Tesfamariam presented a paper about Soft Power. He explained what power is, what Soft Power means and, how Eritrea can take advantage of this untapped potential. His detailed presentation is “must” see by every Eritrean. He explained how culture, art, history, human stories, individual achievements, geography, artifacts… etc… can help promote and defend Eritrea. Lack of awareness of this Soft Power is tantamount to wasted opportunities. He showed many slides as examples of Soft Power. Mr. Tesfamariam’s educational seminar is powerful tool that will help Eritreans jump-start businesses and industries all over.

Dr. Asgede Hagos is a Professor of Mass Communications at Delaware State University. He is the author of ‘Hardened Images: The Western Media and the Marginalization of Africa’. He also wrote Media Intervention in Peace Building in Burundi ‘The Studio Ijambo Experience and Impact as part of USAID’s Greater Horn of Africa Peace Building Project. Dr. Asghede educated Eritreans how the enemies use their media to demonize and forward their agendas and, gave some solutions to counter their offensive. Dr. Asghede said Western media are businesses, concerned, primarily about their pocket books and, willing to do anything to get exclusive stories. These agenda setting news organizations like the Washington Post get their exclusive stories in a quid pro quo from institutions like the State Department. It is perpetual cycle, hard to break, that the handlers know how to use effectively while keeping the public in the dark. There is no regard to balance or fairness. Hence, it is important to counter their negatives with stories of our own.

Elias Amare, an Independent freelance researcher/writer, a Senior Fellow  with Peace building Center for the Horn of Africa (PCHA), served as an  ERI-TV journalist, a senior book editor, Communications Director and  cultural attach’ with the Eritrean Embassy in Washington, DC and a longtime volunteer community organizer. Mr. Elias Amare presented a paper that explained how they wage Psychological Warfare against Eritrea and what their goals are. Mr. Amare explained “Creative Destruction,” explained how it is applied on Eritrea and provided examples such as the Arab Spring. Mr. Amare noted, even though Eritrea has successfully foiled their ploys, vigilance is still necessary to continue defending the nation by what he called “Writing is Fighting.” Mr. Amare showed historic slides that dated back to the 50s, 60s and 70s highlighting the importance of writing vigilantly. He told stories about Eritrea’s giants such as Aboi Weldeab Weldemariam and Musa Aron and stressed the significant roles they played in challenging the colonial propaganda machinery. Writing played significant role in the fight for Eritrea’s independence and Mr. Amare stressed that the current challenges requires writing, more and, often in order to challenge the barrage of demonizing attempts being waged.

The Eritrean Festival opened on Friday with enthusiasm and, on Saturday, Ambassador Araya Desta briefed Eritreans about the current developments. He spoke about Eritrea’s achievements and said that Eritrea is in a much better position especially when considering the state of Eritrea after independence. He also said that brighter future awaits Eritrea due the strides the people of Eritrea have made in achieving food security. He noted that the abundant rainfalls of this year has filled the dams Eritrea built recently. In addition, he noted that the mining potential such as potash will ensure Eritrea’s long-term economic viability. Ambassador Desta explained the current challenges Eritrea faces at the UN and noted that the resoluteness of the people and government of Eritrea are foiling the evil attempts of the enemies.

The Eritrean Festival is a major cultural event that adds to the luster of DC every year. It is infusion to DC’s robust tourism and cultural diversity. This year dignitaries, diplomats and the media attended the festivities from many parts of the country. Congressman Jim Moran’s office sent representatives. Many nationalities from the horn of Africa were also present adding to the beauty of the festival, a testament to the positive role Eritreans play in bringing the people of the region together.

The Eritrean Festival in DC was significant achievement for Eritreans in the Metro DC and the US, it is even a greater achievement when one considers the large number of youth that participated for it is a testament of the unflinching unity of Eritreans worldwide.

Hence, it is imperative for every Eritrean to play a due role to enrich the festivals since the festival is part of our rich history and reflection of who we are. It is also a way to promote Eritrea by introducing it to other cultures and organizations that could become future friends of Eritrea. Our national expression ought to be service oriented to the nation and each other. That is the only way we can add to our rich, colorful and robust future.

By Amanuel Biedemarian
  • Hsbi

    So true my brother! I love the way you see things! So many Eritreans are confused and harm their country as they do not see things clearly!

  • Berhanne

    When I was fourteen years old, in 1977 I went to a little town with my two young cousins, my age, to join the Eritrean fighters. The people in the village told us the Eritrean fighters where here last night but they moved to another town, my cousins and I went back to our family in Asmara. After a few months we tried that again, the same thing happened and it was pouring rain in that village and we had to go back to Asmara, again. My family did not know all this that we wanted to join our brothers and sisters to fight against Dergs. There was shooting every day in Asmara and there was curfew sun down to sun rise. After a couple weeks my father decided for us to move out of the country. My two cousins, however, left with their family and both of them joined the fight for Eritrea. One of my cousins fought and died for freedom of Eritrea. For me to see people die and suffer from the hands of their brothers and sister who I once wanted badly to join is a suffering renewed every day. In this life we only live once and to see Beasts dominate others thinking they will live forever is a big mistake from the people who supports the Beast. Eritreans everywhere let us do the right thing and give Eritrea its freedom it deserves.

  • isayas afe whisky

    I was in Asmara Friday the start of gun shots in Asmara during first derg invasion, and Saturday was worst, and then the rest was history. So I too was in Asmara during those days.

    I too have a brother who died fighting Derg

    Now, Eritrea got independence, but ‘Ethiopia’ Woyane that was trained by Eritrea back stabbs Eritrea and wants to fight and byte the finger that once fed her. Woyane wants to go further and give Assab to once Enemy Ethiopia. Talk about back stabbing.

    Ethiopia then becomes friends with the west and conspires to turn Eritrean into this monster zombie country.

    Ethiopia is upset for what ever the reason and wants war with Eritrea and tries to bully her and accuses her of being a terrorist and sanction is in effect by false accusation without evidence.
    Then they try to destabilize the country by rumors saying Isayas is dead which was fabricated lie and a psychological operations used to inject fear.
    But guess what happened, God turned the wrath and gave the rumor back to Eritrea as Reality by taking Meles away (not to punish Meles – but to change the equasion).

    Now, I can understand Isayas getting paranoid and arresting every one. Because that is what the west will make you do if yu do not bow down to them. They are very very good at creating chaos. They earn PHD in Psucological operations and they know Man Kind physiology and sycology real well.
    All you need to do is pray for God to give our leader wisdom.Not revolution. By the way I dont think loud mouth like some people here have the guts to fight.
    They are just internet warriors or may be kids.

    God bless in the name of Christ

  • Berhanne

    What the West and Woyane have to do for what your leader, a harsh dictator is doing to his people? And I think I asked that before and that means you are psychologically brain washed. You said “Now, I can understand Isayas getting paranoid and arresting every one. Because that is what the west will make you do if yu do not bow down to them.” Really? and you said you believe in God. Let me tell you something Shabiat boy, go ahead protect whatever you believe you are protecting and my discussion with your lying person is ended right here. I really don’t have time for people like you, who are not honest and leaving in dreams off others misery. But one day you and people like you will get what you deserve, misery.

  • isayas afe whisky

    You probably think they guy in a cave with laptop did 911 (sept 11).. right?
    You think a guy named osama binladen did that with 19 mullahs, right?
    Now, who is brain washed.? You believe that because the main stream media told you right and brain washed you.


    Now who is brain washed, yuo or me.

    By the way you get angry too much. You will get diabetes.

    You can wish all the misery you want on me, I will wish you the best.
    You want revolution, I want peace and change of heart through the power of God.
    You want an eye for an eye? you will lose big time and rot in jail.

    I never started discussion with you, you did.
    So you can end it for all I care.

    You and lots of people don’t understand how the west and cia works and how their psychological operations work.

    You are a robot that is repeating what the west main stream media is telling you.
    You are like a parrot repeating words from CNN FOX ABC CBS

    You are not at my level. You think you live in a dictator free world?
    in USA, Australia, EU, Russia China?

    “american dream is just a dream because you have to be asleep to actually achieve it”

    You are asleep, so keep dreaming the American dream.

    You are not at my level Berhane, so get lost. I will be protected by God while you wish me mysery!

  • awad alikerar

    To all who expressed their supportive opinions to the regime in Eritrea and those who expressed their opposive opinions against the same regime.

    I would like to start by forwarding my greetings to all. Next I would like to forward and explain facts I faced in my own life while I was in Eritrea.

    1. I and other 5 individuals where forcely deported from Sudan to Eritrea in late 90s after being tortured in secret prisons of Sudan.
    When we came to Eritrea, the warm hospitability we received from the Eritrea Authorities was beyond my expectations (this is not exaggeration) I still have all the documents that proofs this in my possession.

    2. I stayed in Eritrea for few days to obtain copies of my personal documents which were left back in Sudan and to obtain a travel permit to go to Ethiopia. All my requests were accomplished with great support from the authorities.

    3. In 1998 few months before the conflict between my country and Ethiopia, I returned back home for good and stayed with my family in Asmara. I started looking for jobs. One day I heard that the PFDJ office in Asmara was looking for Arabic/Tigrigna translator. I went to their office and applied for the job. They tested my language proficiency. I passed. Then they asked me if I were a member of the party and if I was willing to be a member which was a condition for the job. My answer was no and never got into any trouble as some people think.
    3. When it became clear that the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea was imminent, I decided to leave to Saudi Arabia via Yemen. I was granted the Yemeni visa but my application for the Saudi visa (Umra visa) was declined because of age limitation. I went to our Ministry of Interior and explained the issue with them. They helped me obtain the Saudi visa by stamping my passport saying that my birth day was corrected to be 1958 instead of 1962.

    There are more and more positive acts and decisions made by our government to help its own citizens.

    So please let us stop the prefabricated propaganda. I don’t think there would be an Eritrean who would love to see a divided Eritrea which would be a piece of cake for foreign invaders. Our liberation day is the birthday of our beloved country it is not the birthday of Issayas or PFDJ. If any Eritrean would assume the liberation day of Eritrea is a tragedy day then let the people of Eritrea judge such person.