It was graduation day at Mount Vernon High School (MVHS) on June 16 and some parents were annoyed. A group of protesters had gathered outside the school. “It’s graduation day for our kids,” the parents complained to the protesters. “Can’t you go somewhere else?” The protesters responded that they were there because children in Ethiopia can’t always get to high school, or graduate, without dying of hunger, or being arrested or killed for their political beliefs.
Metro Washington, D.C. is sometimes called the second largest Ethiopian city because it has the largest concentration of Ethiopian-Americans in the U.S. — over 200,000 according to the U.S. Census. Many of those who are here continue to dispute the authority of Ethiopia’s ruling party, or conversely, dispute the opposition. The “DC Area Ethiopian Joint Task Force,” many of whose members sought political asylum in the U.S. because of their opposition to the ruling party, seeks to highlight the plight of the Ethiopians who remain in their country.
The DC Area Ethiopian Community Joint Task Force sent a letter to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Garza on June 1 in which they asked her to cancel the AESAONE (All Ethiopian Sports Association) sporting event at Mount Vernon High School because of the association the event has with the Ethiopian ruling party. They said that AESAONE was established and financed by Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, a Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire who supports the [Ethiopian] regime.
The task force cited the 2014 U.S. State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia, which states concern about “freedom of expression, including continued restrictions on print media and on the internet, and restrictions on freedom of association, including through arrests; politically motivated trials; and harassment and intimidation of opposition members and journalists.” The report goes on to cite other human rights problems, including “alleged arbitrary killings; alleged torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; reports of harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention …..”
One of the protesters, Tassaw Erimas, a resident of Alexandria, said most of the money in Ethiopia, and most of the companies there, are run by the minority TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front) regime. According to Erimas, the players and participants in this AESAONE are all TPLF-sponsored or supporters of the TPLF political minority. TPLF is sometimes known by the name “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front” (EPRDF).
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