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Op-ed: Solidarity, to me, is practicing love

Sketch of a woman holding Tigray flag (Picture: Author)

By Hafsa Mohamed @hafsatheruler

Addis Abeba – The way the world is so unkind. Shamefully, indescribable injustices had to happen to me for me to be effusively mindful of how punishing unchecked power is, for how understanding I wasn’t toward countless people in my young life. I departed Ethiopia in November 2020, around two weeks into the globally-ignored War on Tigray. Imagine my privilege, as a Somali-American – I was able to leave Ethiopia. I was able to come home to my family in California.

Soon as I reached the United States and almost 1,000 days of Tigray ethnic cleansing later, the list of unanswered questions I grappled with grew. The world and the people of the Horn of Africa expected reforms in Ethiopia but received mass death, inflation, hate speech and religious extremism instead. And the international community continues to somehow disregard the experiences and urgent needs of families in the region.  

Still, the public awaits transformations and “peace” – and the uncertainty is crippling even after diplomatic agreements applauded by the most influential institutions. 

Maybe it was survivor’s remorse when I have seen a friend or colleague I used to break bread with presented as a prisoner of war on state television that regularly deceits the public. Maybe it was something far worse when I remember the small children I entreated to be released with me from a concentration camp before I was able to return home and was given a terrifying ultimatum by pugnacious federal security forces. Maybe it doesn’t matter right now.

“Solidarity is supporting people both privately and publicly without the self-seeking desire to be recognized or overtly commended.”

I don’t know what it is, but I wish I could do more. I wish I did more. No one can put into words the unspoken memories and questions occupying millions of hearts. This isn’t about you or me, it’s about the hundreds of thousands of people brutally killed. The people who are still living in starvation. The people maneuvering nightmares and struggling to find little normalcy. That’s who this is about. That’s who we should be listening to.

I will ceaselessly remain unforgiving toward every individual who discounted, denied and downplayed the worst unobserved ethnic cleansing of our time. All of us continue to play a distinctive role in enabling the war on Tigray. How could the world let it happen? Why aren’t decision makers, the diaspora and the rest coming together to confidently condemn state sponsored violence and pushing for transitional justice, an indefinite end to the horrific carnage and displacement of civilians?

The people deserve better. Tigray deserves peace. Parents should always be able to send their children to receive an education without fearing the federal government of bombing local schools.

The people cannot be complacent toward the experiences of their targeted neighbors and friends. Tangible actions must be implemented to end all hindrances to humanitarian aid and stop Eritrean troops in Tigray. If Ethiopia is to remain the opposite of disintegrated, nations and nationalities must have the autonomy to manage and administer their own affairs. But I’m only echoing what people have been saying for more than three years now.

Audre Lorde once said, “your silence will not protect you.” And they’re right.

“Solidarity is resisting. It’s simply fighting back and standing ten toes down against all the naysayers.”

Solidarity is supporting people both privately and publicly without the self-seeking desire to be recognized or overtly commended. Solidarity is correcting oneself or discontinuing one’s approaches when those in pain request you to do so. Solidarity is munificently overstanding something transcending faith, ethnicity and all social markers. Solidarity is resting. Solidarity is expressing the truth even when it’s a gargantuan disservice to everything you know and thought you knew.

Whatever it is, I hope we try to get it right every day of this unpredictable life. 

Solidarity, to me, is practicing love. That love can be an unhinged series of committed-to-the-truth actions, authentic speeches, exertions promoting accountability, autonomous movements, a simple yet unexplainable glance or a kind smile that disarms someone and all their beliefs. Solidarity is resisting. It’s simply fighting back and standing ten toes down against all the naysayers. The matchless love that is solidarity is inspired in me when I see people compassionately existing in a world which has built indubitable and unbending alliances to erase them.

Resilience and tireless attempts at togetherness make this life meaningful. Universe willing, circumstances will change for the collective better. I will observe hope daily. 

Free Tigray. Free Oromia. Free all oppressed people in the Global South. And free my Somali people dem.

Author’s Note: This guest essay is dedicated to the friends I’ve made during the past couple of years and to the inspirational sisters at Tigray Action Committee (TAC), Maebel Gebremedhin and Hawzien Gebremedhin.

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