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2. Paperback Edition
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- 40 pages
- 8.5 x 11.0 inches
3. Hardcover Edition
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- 40 pages
- 8.5 x 11.0 inches
- Young Adult Nonfiction, Biography & Autobiography
- Young Adult Nonfiction, Cultural Heritage
- Young Adult Nonfiction, Social Topics
Immigration, Ethiopia, Red Terror, Immigration from Africa, Immigration to America, Oromo immigration, Muslim immigration
Life in Ethiopia during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie was bleak. The prospect of securing a job after graduating from university was unthinkable, especially if you were an Oromo and a Muslim who couldn’t afford enormous bribes. One way to secure a job is to bribe government officials. The hopeless and corrupt culture of bribery and favoritism starts with a guard at the gate and runs all the way up to the hiring officer at the very top. The working motto of Ethiopia’s civil service was and is: “ሢሾም ያልበላ ሢሻር ይቆጨዋል/ If you didn’t embezzle while in power, you will regret it while out of power.” Another way to secure employment in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia was if you knew someone who knew someone important. So, naturally we cheered and hooted when the emperor was deposed by the military the summer of 1974.
Just as quickly, our happiness was replaced with sadness as the military junta known as the Derg placed the emperor under house arrest and executed fifty-six senior minsters. Thus, a suffocating and toxic cloud of fear enwrapped Ethiopia for the next two decades.
The change we cheered for drove citizens into three camps: those for the socialist military government, those against it, and those, like Omar, Abdul, and I, who were for neither.
Too young to fully understand what was happening and too afraid to stay, we decided to leave Ethiopia for destination we’d only heard about, Djibouti.
On our long journey from Dire Dawa to America, we encountered many generous souls willing and able to help us escape tyranny. Hence, this story is not just about escape from tyranny, it is also a story of kindness by friends and complete strangers. The men and women to whom we refer as our lifelines in this picture book were there for us during our darkest hours, when we really needed someone to show us a way forward.
We remain grateful.
Life under Emperor Haile Selassie's Ethiopia was bleak. Prospect of securing any job after graduation was unthinkable if you are an Oromo and a Muslim. One way anyone can secure a job is to bribe government officials. The hopeless, corrupt culture of bribery and favoritism starts with a guard at the gate to a hiring officer at the very top. The working motto of Ethiopian government was and is “ሢሾም ያልበላ ሢሻር ይቆጨዋል/ If you don’t embezzle while in power you will regret it while out of power”. So, naturally we cheered and danced when the emperor was deposed by the military the summer of 1974.
Just as soon our happiness was replaced with sadness as military junta placed the emperor under house arrest and executed 56 senior minsters. Thus, the suffocating toxic cloud of fear engulfed Ethiopia for the next two decades.
The change we cheered for drove citizens into at least three camps, those for the socialist military government, those against, and those like Omar, Abdul and I, neither. Too young to fully comprehend what was happening around us and too afraid to stay we decided to leave Ethiopia for a destination we only heard about, Djibouti.
1970’s Ethiopia was a very dangerous place for young people. Rumors of forced military conscription was rampant. Political climate was toxic. Too young to understand the political climate and too afraid to stay we took the one and only choice available to us, leave Ethiopia and seek refuge in Djibouti. Our journey from Dire Dawa Ethiopia to Kirkland Washington covered approximately 16,700 kilometers/10,371 miles. We traveled by bus, rail, feet, and airplanes. We reached America a month short of three years. On the way we saw and felt fear up close. We also saw and felt kindness in strangers we met. In long distances we covered to get away from tyranny we learned no force can severe attachment we feel for our place of birth. Omar’s heart is in Laga Yakka, Harar. Mine is in Achaba, Arsi.
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