BY BEREKET KIDANE
OVER the last 60 years, some 90,000 Eritrean combatants and countless civilians have been killed and murdered by successive Ethiopian regimes who wanted to erase Eritrean identity and later on Eritrean sovereignty.
Eritrea’s Memorial Day (Mealti Sematat) is observed on June 20, a mere few weeks after Independence Day in order to remind us of all the sacrifices that went into creating and defending the Eritrean State.
It is an emotional and personal day for most Eritreans and those families of the fallen heroes who gave up their lives and limbs so Eritrea could exist. Numerous public memorials are held throughout Eritrea on Martyrs Day, but this day of remembrance is by no means confined to Eritreans at home.
An important bond is expressed by Eritrean communities around the world with the State of Eritrea and the families of the fallen heroes on Martyrs Day.
What is most striking is to see how deeply personal Martyrs’ Day is to most Eritreans. Eritrea being a small country, nearly every family has been affected. Too many households in Eritrea have framed photos and a small memorial corner of their son or daughter who fell in battle fighting for Eritrea’s independence or in defense of its sovereignty. As a result it is hard to find an Eritrean for whom this day is not personal.
Each and every Eritrean has a number of people they remember on Mealti Sematat when they were young and full of life before they gave up their life so Eritrea could exist. This can be a childhood friend, a neighborhood kid you grew up with playing soccer, a brother or sister, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, or a high school friend.
Martyrs’ Day is one of the most solemn on the Eritrean calendar. There is an awe and sanctity to it. Most places of entertainment and cafes are closed on that day. Eri-TV and radio play somber music and sad songs that convey the mood of the day.
Eritrean sovereignty is a modern day miracle that has come at great cost and sacrifice.
As we gather in our respective cities around the world this Friday, June 20, to commemorate Martyrs’ Day, let us stand tall for Eritrea’s fallen heroes. The memory of those fallen heroes should serve to remind us of the heavy responsibility we bear as Eritrean citizens in making sure we fulfill the dreams of the sons and daughters of Eritrea who are no longer with us.
Zelealemawi Zikhri n Sematatna!
Awet n Hafash