A Minnesota woman fears the worst because her husband is an Ethiopian political prisoner.


Arfasse Gemeda is worried if she will see her husband again.

Converted from a media influencer to a politician, Jawarmohammed traveled from Minnesota to his hometown of Ethiopia in 2019 to help rebuild the country.

However, opposition leader Mohammed was arrested by the Ethiopian government as part of a crackdown on the opposition after the assassination of popular Oromo singer and activist Hachar Hundessa in June 2020.

“My husband is suffering in jail,” Gemeda said. “It’s a nightmare, and the hardest part is explaining to my son where his dad is.”

Mohammed’s arrest is one of the alleged human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government that has garnered a sensation across Minnesota, causing national protests and putting pressure on the US State Department to demand the Ethiopian government’s release.

Mohammed’s health deteriorates after Mohammed and other imprisoned opposition leaders carry out a 40-day hunger strike demanding that the government release all Oromo political prisoners and end violence against their families. These calls have recently intensified after the news that they did.

In February, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning the actions of the Ethiopian government and declaring support for Oromo and Tigray activists.

“Most of the individuals targeted or killed in Ethiopia are Minnesota individuals who have returned to make positive changes,” said councilor Jamal Othman, who introduced the resolution. .. “We will do everything we can to evoke violence against the Oromo community.”

Mohammed, 34, is faced with allegations, including plots to force the government to overthrow and incite violence against Amhara people and Orthodox Christians. He described him as a “violent Islamic fanatic to advance the outlawing goal”, claiming that the Ethiopian government and its supporters had “well-coordinated and funded campaigns”. I accused him of drawing. I despise the struggle between my cause and the Oromo people. “

The Ethiopian consulate in St. Paul’s family of activists declined to comment, saying the Mohammed case was being dealt with in court.

Gemeda, an activist who has been involved in Oromo’s politics long before her husband, said the indictment was forged and politically motivated that the court could not resolve her husband’s case.

“My husband is not a criminal,” she said. “All accusations leveled against him by the Ethiopian government are inconsistent with who he is and everything he supports.”

Mohammed, the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, was born in Ethiopia. In the early 2000s, Mohammed received a scholarship to study in Singapore. This was an intriguing experience for him to gain a deeper understanding of Oromo’s identity. In 2006, he went to Stanford University to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science and received a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University.

While in Stanford, he married a Lutheran Christian, Gemeda, who lives in Twin Cities. The couple has a 4-year-old son named Oromo.

TV station arrives expatriate Mohammed has already done much of his political work from afar. In Minnesota, he helped set up a satellite television station called the Oromia Media Network (OMN). This has helped to draw international attention to Ethiopia’s insecurity and spur some major political changes in the country.

Those who have known Mohammed for a long time say he was a critic of the government’s peaceful voice, not a fuss. He and Gemeda were the brains of the International Oromo Youth Association, known as Qeerroo, a global nonviolent movement known for expelling the former Ethiopian government, which had been in power for nearly 30 years.

The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, but are considered a minority because they do not have political power. Decades of ethnic conflict and a long history of oppression by the Ethiopian government have increased the number of Oromo people fleeing their homeland.

“Our people have been suffering for a long time,” Gemeda said. “Jawar wanted to make a difference through the peace movement.”

When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, he promised dramatic changes and the end of years of conflict. He was the first leader of the country. Visit Minnesota, Home to the largest Oromo community outside of Ethiopia. He delivered a message of hope and promised to prioritize peace, press freedom, share reform progress with the country’s diaspora, restore Internet access, and release political prisoners.

At that time, Gemeda said at the invitation of the Ethiopian government that her husband had traveled from Minnesota to the country of his birth.

His supporters flocked to the streets of the Ethiopian capital and welcomed their heroes. The hero then urged the prime minister to give him a second chance to restore peace in a country hurt by ethnic tensions and violence.

Shortly thereafter, however, Mohammed formed an opposition against his former allies after opposed the response to political reforms. Mohammed has abandoned American citizenship and announced his appointment in late 2019.

He applied for the restoration of Ethiopian nationality because the Ethiopian Constitution does not allow dual citizenship, but was subsequently denied due to his proceedings. On June 30, 2020, the day after the murder of prominent musician Hundessa, Mohammed and other leaders of his opposition were imprisoned.

Desperately, Gemeda turned to parliamentarians and the State Department for help. But she said there wasn’t much they could do because of her husband’s citizenship status.

“I’m stateless now,” “my husband is now stateless,” Gemeda said in tears. “I feel defeated.”

Many Ethiopians at home and abroad who were watching Mohammed’s case were afraid that his prison death would put the country into a civil war. However, in early March, after constant plea from the elders and other celebrities, Mohammed ended the hunger strike, giving him a sense of security.

Obsa Hassan, director of the Oromo community in Minnesota, who hosted Ahmed when he visited Minnesota in 2018, said he had put off all his promises when the Prime Minister returned to Ethiopia. Hassan said many are afraid of what will happen in Ethiopia after the June general election.

“There was hope in the air that Ethiopia would embark on the process of democratization,” Hassan said. “But the Prime Minister mishandled it completely, and not only that, we now have the catastrophes of the Tigre and Oromia wars, which have been going on for more than two years.”

The Minnesota Oromo community has launched a social media campaign, held a press conference, wrote to local representatives, and raised awareness of the Mohammed incident and other humanitarian crises in their home countries. Last summer we had a three-day hunger strike in front of the Capitol. St. Paul.

One of the protest organizers, Iftuu Shato, said that the situation in Ethiopia was dire and many Oromo expatriates could not communicate with their families in their hometowns as the government still restricted the internet and used telephone lines. Said.

“When we wake up every day, we ask ourselves how many people are dying and how many families are buried today,” said Mr. Shato. “We will continue to fight for the people of our hometown who cannot do what we can.”

A candid political activist for peace, Gemeda now feels incapable of reuniting his family.

“I’m so far away that there’s really nothing I can do,” Gemeda said. “It’s very stressful not knowing what will happen next.”

Physama Hamd • 612-673-4203

Posted on