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Ethiopia: Aberash Hailay's Case Ignites Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Human Rights, Women & Gender

Aberash Hailay is an Ethiopian Airlines flight attendant whose ex-husband, Fisseha Tadesse, stabbed both her eyes with a knife in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ethiopian activists are using the Internet to call for justice for Aberash Hailay and draw attention to issues of violence against women in Ethiopia.

Billene Seyoum covered the story on the AfricanFeminism blog, [1] on September 19, 2011. She wrote [2]:

Aberash, an Ethiopian Airlines flight attendant whose ex-husband, Fisseha Tadesse, stabbed both her eyes out with a knife last week, now lies in a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand receiving medical attention to retain sight in one of her eyes, although local medical experts have ruled out the chance of survivability. According to the Amharic newspaper, The Reporter, Aberash was married for seven years before the marriage amicably ended a few months ago. Her uncle says that the night of the incident both Aberash and her ex-husband were invited for festivities in his house and they appeared to be in “good condition”, whatever that means. What the article did not express however was that both her eyes experienced multiple stabs from various directions which made it near to impossible for surgeons to even sew shut the gaping socket which once housed beautiful eyes.

She stressed [2]:

Her wounds and her pain are symbolic of a dysfunctional society stained by the tears and blood of countless women whose cries and plea have often gone unheard and silenced by the taboos of culture

Ethiopian airlines hostess Aberash Hailay. Photo taken from africanfeminism.wordpress.com [3]

Ethiopian airlines hostess Aberash Hailay. Photo taken from africanfeminism.wordpress.com

On September 22, netizens took a campaign called Ahun BeAyne Meta [4]!!!” Campaign for Aberash Hailay and other suvivors of VAW (violence against women) to Facebook. The campaign page with over 200 page likes reads:

“Ahun BeAyne Meta!!!” (“Now Through My Eyes”). The Amharic phrase expresses sentiment towards an injustice or a grave act committed against a person which surpasses bodily harm.

Latest news [5] about Aberash's case:

Tuesday, October 18th, 9am – Followup court hearing for suspect in Aberash Hailay's case. The Network of Ethiopian Women's Association (NEWA) is asking you to show up and spread the word.

Another page on Facebook with more than 900 likes is called Justice for Aberash Hailay [6]:

This page is created to raise our VOICE for Justice!! To Aberash Hailay & all the ladies in Ethiopia & all over the world who are being terreriosed, abused and harrased by Men everyday!!!! .

More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition [7] to the Ethiopian government to stop violence against women. The petition reads:

To protect and redress the injustice committed against Aberash Hailay, an Ethiopian Airlines flight attendant and countless others who had endured attacks on their persons.

One person who signed the petition, Etsub Ethiopia said:

It is sad that there is no real support from any government and non-government agencies. There lots of women who tried to get such support [from] government……. it is [really] sad this should be [stopped] and the government need[s] to take action.

The “Ahun BeAyne Meta” campaign was launched [8] last month in Addis Ababa:

The purpose of the gathering on the morning of September 23rd at the Sheraton Addis was three-fold:

1. To give a press statement on the case of Aberash Hailay and other survivors of VAW

2. To unveil the open letter addressed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and sign the petition

3. And thirdly, to discuss the issue of increasing levels of violence against women in Ethiopia and arrive at strategies for way forward.

The open letter to the Prime Minister Melese Zenawi reads:

Your Excellency, you have also on many occasions spoken on the issue of violence against women and girls. The issue of gender-based violence as an issue intrinsically tied to political, economical, social and traditional issues requires the leaders in each sector to play a key role … Read the full text. [8]

Ethiopian netizens have also taken the Shweya Mullah campaign online [9]. Shweya Mullah is a 30-year-old Ethiopian who was brutally tortured by the wife of Gadhafi's son.