Martyrs’ Day: Remembering Eritrea’s Famous Few

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June 20th, Eritrea's Martyrs' Day
The sacrifice of those ‘special few’ is what essentially saved Eritrea from the threat of occupation and invasion. For that, we have unflinching commitment to the unity and sovereignty of the country entrusted by these Martyrs of ours.


On Tuesday August 20th. 1940, in London, Sir. Winston Churchill delivered a speech to the House of Commons. The lengthy speech, although in general was a Milestone account of the Second World War situation as far as Britain was concerned, it was in particular a tribute to the ongoing heroic efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were at the time trying to quell off the German Luftwaffe in the frenetic battle in the skies over England.

The eternally famous Battle of Britain is equally as famous as Churchill’s tribute: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

The efforts of those few may very well be what essentially saved Great Britain from the threat of the fascist invasion and occupation under which France and the Benelux Lowlands had already fallen. The heroes of the British RAF of the Second World War will forever fondly be remembered as “The Few”.

Exactly seventy-six years and ten months to the day, Eritreans all over the world will be commemorating their own “Special Few” in this year’s occasion of Eritrean Martyrs’ Day which, as always, falls on June 20th.

On this day every year, regarded as the saddest day in the Eritrean calendar, we Eritreans take time to reflect on our dear loved few who unselfishly gave up the most sacred-of-the-very sacred; their very lives, for the freedom from fascism of all Eritreans; for all posterity.

It is estimated that in the Noble Struggle for Independence that lasted from 1961-1991, the lives of some 65,000 Freedom Fighters and tens of thousands of civilians were lost. An additional 19,000 Freedom Fighters sacrificed their lives while defending the sovereignty of Eritrea during Ethiopia’s renewed attempt to occupy Eritrea in their 1998 – 2000 expedition.

There is no living Eritrean who does not have a relative, relative of a relative, friend or relative of a friend who belongs to the “Special Few”.

As most of us will be mourning and praying for a friend, neighbour, son, daughter, father, mother, uncle, aunt etc… on Martyrs’ Day, some families will be mourning and praying for at least four or five close relatives who paid the ultimate price.

Our neighbours in the Horn of Africa and beyond earned their respective independence through negotiations, and in some cases, minor armed struggle. To us Eritreans Independence will always be synonymous to sacrifice in the dear human lives of our glorious Martyrs.

Although volumes have been written about them, vigils held on their behalf, processions marched and millions of candles lit for them on that day by Eritreans all over the world, we can never sacrifice or pay any price stiffer than they did: their very own dear sacred lives.

Therefore, we will never tire to pray for them to Rest in Perfect Peace for Ever and Ever.

“How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
Lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.”
(Psalm 13:2-4)