By Tedros G. Belay
In Tigray being Tegadalay is seen as something approaching a duty that one undertakes with pride. I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse. I guess, over the course of time, the repeated savagery of invaders had left us with no option other than fighting.
40 years ago, my mother, then aged 15, had to get armed to fight the Derg regime. In 1985, three years after she joined the armed struggle of Tigray people led by TPLF, she was wounded in the Dabat front while marching to Gondar. She sustained a serious injury to her left arm. But that didn’t keep her away from the front-lines. After receiving treatment at a hospital in Sudan, she re-joined her unit to fight in the front-line of Dansha. Nothing was going to stand on her way to fight for her people. Neither death nor a permanent wound.
She and her comrades were successful in removing the Derg regime and realizing the goal of building a democratic system, which recognized minorities as equal to the class and ethnic oppressors of the imperial state. They have also managed to introduce a multi-national political system by dismantling the highly centralized and brutal regime. As a result, we, their beloved sons and daughters, have got a chance to live in peace and pursue education.
Unfortunately, history repeated itself and the neo-Derg have come back to power. The regime has committed unthinkable atrocities against the people of Tigray. We have been forced to suspend the process of building Tigray.
As history reminds us, neither the colonial powers nor the authoritarians have managed to subjugate Tigray. As a nation, we were and we still are solid and determined on the matter of our survival. My mother and her comrades are the living witnesses.
Today, I, in my mid-twenties, have had to follow the same path my mother had taken, to safeguard her legacy. To ensure that, I devotedly served TDF as a good and disciplined member; as disciplined as my mother taught me to be. My generation has proved to the world its commitment and determination in the frontline of Chifra, Hayk, Mille and other fronts, by routing the enemy, with our inferior weaponry, yet stronger cause. I feel so proud of having played a role in registering those historic victories.
Alas, I’ve met the fate of my mother. I have sustained a wound to my right arm. I cannot carry on fighting on the battle fronts but I will make sure I continue to play my role in everything else I am capable of doing.
It always aches my heart whenever I realize a significant number of TDF members were university students and graduates, aspiring youngsters who were working on their own start-ups. And as part of the industrious and determined generation, I was an architect and an Assistant Lecturer at Mekelle University. Unfortunately, I had to give up teaching sustainability and global issues, because I was forced to get armed to protect my sister from being raped and my parents from being slaughtered. This war, besides its hazardous damage to the environment, effectively turned an environmentalist and an academician into a perpetrator of environmental catastrophe.
In the meantime, the international community has ignored the suffering of our people whilst the genocidal camp is escalating it. Our cause is to end the vicious cycle which cost us generations and build a democratic state, in order to maintain a virtuous one. As a second-generation Tegadalay, I believe, in addition to routing the enemy in every battlefield and ensuring the survival of our people, I and my comrades in the TDF have a responsibility to make sure that the fate of the coming generation will be different than ours. I also believe our aspiration for nationhood is a stepping stone to that future.
About the author: Tedros is an active member of the TDF. Before joining TDF, he was a university lecturer.