Pacific Scoop – Report – By Jessi Mee – Muslims in Ethiopia are being detained and tortured for speaking against the government’s plan to control the Muslim representatives election, say New Zealand-based protesters.
The Islamic Affairs Supreme Council in Ethiopia is supposed to have a national election every four years.
There has not been one in more than a decade.
More than 60 Muslim protesters marched down Auckland’s Queen Street in a protest last week chanting their support for a peaceful struggle for justice in Ethiopia.
They were protesting for rights – not for their own, but for those of their fellow countrymen who they claim are being persecuted because of their Muslim faith.
Protester Mohamid Haj said Muslims were being unfairly detained.
“We want the government to stop arresting and killing innocent Muslims in Ethiopia,” he said.
“And to stop forcing people to accept the new teaching of Islam (Al Ahbash).”
Haj said this was a “human rights” issue, which New Zealanders need to be aware of.
“We want the New Zealand government to support us,” he said.
Co-coordinator of the protest Jibril Mussa said Muslims in Ethiopia did not have the same freedoms as those in New Zealand.
“In New Zealand we have our rights to demonstrate peacefully but in Ethiopia they don’t have their rights. Not even in the Muslim centres.
“We want to let everyone know what is happening in Ethiopia,” he said.
Mussa said he hoped the recent appointment of an Ethiopian ambassador for New Zealand would encourage the New Zealand government to speak out on this issue.
“We want the New Zealand government to know about the human rights issues in Ethiopia.
“We want the New Zealand government to use whatever influence they have to help create democracy in Ethiopia,” he said.
Mussa said Muslims in Ethiopia were unhappy with how the government planned to conduct the new Muslim representatives election.
“They are saying the election will be done in local government offices. They will run the election,” he said.
“The people are saying no. This is a Muslim issue we want to elect our own leaders in our own place, which are mosques.”
He said the government had detained the religious leaders who were protesting for the election to be held in Islamic centres.
“Those 17 plus hundreds of others are in prison at the moment,” he said.
“There is no human rights, there is no democracy.”
Amnesty International activism support manager Margaret Taylor said her organisation had documented a developing religious intolerance from the government.
“Amnesty has a range of concerns about human rights issues in Ethiopia, including a clamping down on freedom of expression, political opposition leaders and those peacefully protesting on the streets,” she said.
Taylor said years of conflict and poor governance and a lack of respect for human rights had led to the people taking to the streets to protest.
She said many Muslims were arrested in the capital city Addis Ababa during a peaceful demonstration at Awalia Mosque.
“We have reports of excessive use of force by police and when those people who are detained we are receiving reports of ill treatment and torture,” she said.
“Many of the detained are being denied access to family members and lawyers.
“Ethiopian people generally are not well served by a government that is ignoring their human rights.”
She said the protesters in Auckland were helping to raise awareness of the issues in Ethiopia.
“You have to build pressure in many ways and in many places and by joining together you build enough pressure for positive change.”
“Also Ethiopians living in Ethiopia will benefit from knowing they are not alone in the struggle,” she said.
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