During the era of so called Red Terror, Yirdaw Anteneh spent two and a half years in prison where he was tortured and in 1979, he was one of the fortunate few to be released.

By Julia Gaspar‐Bates (Hyattsville Life & Times) |

Despite many hardships, including imprisonment, Yirdaw Anteneh remains grateful for the many miracles he’s received in his life. Born and raised in northern Ethiopia, Anteneh was educated in the French school system and became a French teacher after completing university in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. A few months later, however, he was arrested and imprisoned by the military junta that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in a bloody coup d’etat.

“I was arrested for distributing suspicious readings to my students about democracy,” said Yirdaw Anteneh. “They chained my legs for two weeks. It happened to thousands of potentially dangerous people who would ask why, such as students and their teachers.”

During this period, known as the Red Terror, Anteneh spent two and a half years in prison where he was tortured.

“For most people like me who were detained, we were in a shelter and always waiting until they would come to kill you. We didn’t know when we would be released. There was no case, no interview.”

In 1979, Yirdaw Anteneh was one of the fortunate few to be released, and he resumed teaching French. He also received a scholarship allowing him to obtain additional training in France where he received a master’s degree. He eventually settled back in Ethiopia and began to teach at an American international school.

“It was a huge opportunity for me to get paid in Addis Ababa with an American salary. Life in the school was unbelievable, but outside of school life was tough. There was no democracy. For a long time I lived in fear.” Loyalty to his family kept Yirdaw Anteneh in Ethiopia. “I have a large family with many brothers and sisters, so I didn’t bother to stay in France so I could support my family. I couldn’t imagine staying there in anticipation of being happy there by myself.”

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