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Ethiopia: Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan!



  09:55:58 pm, by admin   , 1547 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ethiopia: Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan!

Ethiopia: Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan!

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan (Invictus) Midekssa !

As Mother’s Day is celebrated in Ethiopia on the second Sunday in May, I feel privileged to share with my readers a testimonial tribute honoring Birtukan Midekssa, the first female political party leader in Ethiopian history and the most famous political prisoner in that country. Let me say up front that Birtukan needs no tribute or praise from me or any other person. She has written her own heroic chapter in the modern history of Ethiopia for which she will be praised by future generations. Her suffering and sacrifices in the struggle for democracy, human rights and the rule of law are inscribed in the hearts and minds of her people in the indelible ink of courage and humility. But on this Mother’s Day, I have taken the liberty to say just a few words in tribute to Birtukan for her sacrifices as a mother.

Of course, I hold great admiration, respect, appreciation and gratitude for Birtukan not only on Mother’s Day, but every day. I am awed by her display of supreme grace in the face of withering oppression by one of the most barbarous dictatorships in the modern world. When democracy is trampled in Ethiopia, and “wrong forever sits on the throne”, to paraphrase James Russell Lowell, and the rule of law, human rights and truth dangle from the tyrant’s noose on the scaffold, Birtukan did what Nelson Mandela did. She stood up and shouted for the world to hear: Only right makes might!

For her selfless sacrifices in the service of her fellow citizens, we all owe her a heavy debt of gratitude. Birtukan has been to the mountain of temptation and offered the chance to live in the lap of luxury. She could have had everything that money can buy: a posh mansion away from all the poor people, the very best of amenities, the finest garments and jewelry, power and the invisible benefits of office that many have used to accumulate personal wealth. Birtukan refused outright the temptation to sell her soul for all the silver and gold in Ethiopia. She paid a heavy price to keep her soul intact and free: Life Imprisonment.

For showing courage and integrity facing the Beast, I have the highest admiration for Birtukan. As a judge she stood up for justice and the independence of the judiciary. She refused to bend justice to serve politics; and for her judicial integrity, she was booted off the bench. By refusing to betray her professional obligations and judicial oath, Birtukan has served not only the ends of justice in Ethiopia but also the cause of universal justice. She is to be honored for being a fair and impartial judge whose loyalty was always to the supreme law of the land and never to the supreme dictator.

I appreciate Birtukan for showing dignity even when she is the object of obscene mockery. When she stood up for her rights, the constitution of her country and the rule of law, she was mocked as a “silly chicken” that “hanged herself”. After she was forced to endure six months of harrowing solitary confinement under the most brutal conditions in violation of a court order, she was made the object of the proverbial “fat woman” joke. They said she sat around in solitary confinement eating all of the prison food, not exercising and putting on a “few kilos.” I know Birtukan would never stoop to the sewer to respond to such filth. She is just a class act!

I commend Birtukan for being a great Ethiopian. As Shakespeare wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” In Birtukan’s case, she achieved greatness. Let me be clear. She did not achieve greatness through exploits in the battle filed. She was never a general. She abhors violence, brutality and inhumanity. She did not achieve greatness by amassing great fortune. She comes from a humble background; and she would never steal from the people to enrich herself. She did not achieve greatness through extraordinary scientific, literary or artistic endeavors. She never had opportunities for such pursuits. She did not achieve greatness because of her long service to the state or extraordinary political experience and skills. She is too young for that.

She achieved greatness in her profound and absolute faith in what she likes to call “the future country of Ethiopia” and her willingness to pay for it with her life. She has a bottomless faith in the future of her generation to raise Ethiopia from the ashes of dictatorship and transform it into an impregnable fortress of democracy. The “future country of Ethiopia” is the country of Birtukan’s generation. They will inherit a land that has been scorched by dictatorship and oppression, racked by enforced ethnic division and ravaged by poverty, disease, corruption and ignorance; but Birtukan’s generation will be able to build on that arid landscape an oasis of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Birtukan’s generation will be Ethiopia’s greatest generation. In her youthful idealism, Birtukan has overcome the cynicism, pessimism, negativism, defeatism, criticism, lack of enthusiasm, neuroticism, bitterness, doubt and distrust of the generations that have come before her own. I believe a person’s greatness should be measured not only by what they have done in the past, but more importantly by what they are prepared to do for the future and the sacrifices they make in the present for that future. By this measure, Birtukan is truly a great woman!

I have heard it said that Birtukan could walk out of prison at any time if she kissed the hands that keep her chained in the in the dungeons and licks the boots that press heavily against her neck. “She must beg for mercy and ask for a pardon,” they say. She won’t do it! Birtukan is the type of young person who personifies the principles spoken of by Winston Churchill when he urged the youth of England to “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” She is also that ordinary person anywhere to whom President John Kennedy’s message could be addressed when he pleaded with his fellow citizens, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Birtukan refuses to yield to force and asks not for a pardon, but what she can do for her country.

I pay homage to Birtukan for being an inspirational role model to all young Ethiopians. Through personal example, she has taught young Ethiopians the values of honesty, courage, integrity, intelligence, fair-, open- and broad-mindedness and an unshakeable faith in the future of democracy in Ethiopia. In the final analysis, Birtukan is a symbol of the titanic struggle between those who cling to the impoverished and bankrupt politics of the past and the young people who are fighting for a future Ethiopia built on a vision of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. If the past wins, the nation will be lost; and if the future wins, the nation will have been reborn. I have no doubts whatsoever that those who fight for the “future country of Ethiopia” will win because history is on their side.

But on this Mother’s Day, I pay a special tribute to Birtukan for being a mother to her five-year-old daughter, undoubtedly someone she values more than her own life. I can not even begin to imagine what thoughts may have rushed through her mind when she resolved to leave her then three-year-old daughter and serve out a life sentence. The psychological pain and anguish must have been more painful than the prospect of serving out a life sentence. Though her daughter will grow knowing her mother is in prison for life, I can imagine the enduring pride she will have knowing deep in her heart that her mother is very, very special.

I possess neither the poetic imagination nor the ability to write the silky prose that Birtukan deserves in praise for her sacrifices as a mother. So I shall borrow verse from William Ross Wallace, whom Edgar Allan Poe called “one of the very noblest of American poets”, to pay my tribute to her.

“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World”

Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel, (prison)
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan Invictus!

Free Birtukan and all political prisoners in Ethiopia.

Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.


Comment from: Shewarega [Visitor]

Thank you for remembering her on this day.

Happy mother’s day to all mothers out there.

05/09/10 @ 22:07
Comment from: [Member]

Dear Al…

You are so Americanized. Do you know that people in Ethiopia have no clue about Mother’s Day. Yes I live in the US and my wife is a new mom so we just got back from dinner. But tell you the truth, I never heard of Mother’s Day when I was growing up in Ethiopia. Well, March 8, however, was a different story. The professor really makes me wonder who his target audience he thinks it is.

05/09/10 @ 22:12
Comment from: Sage [Visitor]

To the noblest lady in all of Ethiopia. :)
The Iron Orange.

05/09/10 @ 22:39
Comment from: ethiopia [Visitor]

Free Birtukan!!!!

05/09/10 @ 23:58
Comment from: Banjo [Visitor]

“happy mothers day to all"!!!
Not only for particular person.

05/10/10 @ 01:35
Comment from: tommy [Visitor]

Thanks again Prof. You have said everything to be said. Bertukan redefined what courage means in Ethiopia. When Tewodros took his own bullet rather than being humiliated by The Brits, he wrote a history about bravery that lives to this day in every Ethiopian memory. Birtukan, in a way, repeated that sense of courage for our generation. I do not even have the audacity to talk about her courage. She is out of this world. From her days as a judge to her imprisonment today, she stood up for justice.

Happy Mother’s Day, Birtukan!!!

05/10/10 @ 03:53
Comment from: besak [Visitor]

Ato Alemayehu,

You are suffering from identity crisis. Who knows about mothers day in Ethiopia ? we are a nation with an all year round love for our mother so keep your wishes to your white employers & stop trying to export your foreign fake tradition to our mother land. We all know that WAL MART & the likes came up with these sort of days to get to the pockets of hard working citizens. You can`t write about any thing that pops into your bird brain just to get attention. You are nothing but a cyber warrior and you need a check up from the neck up !

05/10/10 @ 08:21
Comment from: Merry [Visitor]

Happy mother’s day to the greatest mother
on the earth , happy Mother’s day Birtukanye
Happy Mother’s day !

05/10/10 @ 08:23
Comment from: Mike [Visitor]

Happy belated Mothers day To Birtukan and all Ethiopian mothers.

05/10/10 @ 10:33
Comment from: Kokeb [Visitor]

THANK U! The wise man pro,alex that was nice of u.


Do u see the different between u and others. While u joined the north american mother’s day custom and nibbling down the so-called dinner like squirrel, somebody must mark down the facts of life to keep up things in prospective.

05/10/10 @ 10:55
Comment from: Sami 1 [Visitor]
Sami 1

I love those who realy think of the selfless the fair person in the whole Ethiopia.
She had a choice to sit in the HIGH CHAIR and act as Meles, but she choise to be real and do what is right and fair.
She had a choice to act and apologize for Meles to lagh at court and the people who lost their freedom and life and choice of free speech, free election but she stoped him short!

Your are a mother of Freedom in Ethiopia !

Yes, Many are blaming you, insulting you, talking bad about you, but MANY MANY more are going to look up to you one of this day… Even if this monster kills you you will be the ston of freedom to Ethiopia!

You may be working sielently in prison for all things there is a reason so please do nto be discourage. Pray for God to intervine.
Yes, it may be later but alway God used the simple and truethful people to bring about freedom!

You are FREEDOM!

05/10/10 @ 11:02
Comment from: TEDDY [Visitor]

:idea::idea:Thanks a lot ,dear prof Al .Birtukan
is our great HERO .Who is still and shall
remain in our soul and HEART !!!!

05/10/10 @ 11:18
Comment from: Selalie [Visitor]

Besak you looks like one of those Kehadi. They are the one, who don’t give creadit when it’s due and offer one meaninglessly.
From infantry soliduger to millitary higher archy. Like General.
And you are calling this highly regarded scholar in one of few world best institiution you call him Ato. As if it matters to him.

05/10/10 @ 11:55
Comment from: ethiopia [Visitor]


05/10/10 @ 12:14
Comment from: Zeraf [Visitor]

Prof Al why don’t you propose to marry Burtukan on the election day in ethiopia.

05/10/10 @ 13:04
Comment from: Minyaregal [Visitor]

Happy Mothers Day for the Lady Liberty of Ethiopia, My Dear Birukan!!

Ethiopia will build a statue for you when the moment arrives and the brigands have been sent packing!

You represent truth, rule of law, courage, perseverance, honesty, all wanting qualities with the current tyrant Meles Zenawi and his cohorts, the Woyanes!!

05/10/10 @ 15:02
Comment from: wedi bole [Visitor]
wedi bole

Whatever ………..fools.
diaspora Amharas are very similar to the die hard anti castro right wing cubans.
You are irrelevant to the new ethiopia.mind your parking lot,bell boy,nursing home jobs and go to starbucks to curse Tigrayans and wallow in your misery.

05/10/10 @ 16:29
Comment from: Gabriel [Visitor]

Dear Yemata,

I think you too are americanized. Wester culture is booming in Ethiopian for example there wasn’t friends when I was in Ethiopia but thesed days it is a different story. I was amazed people deliberately buy red suites for that particular day. So, you need to get a lot of information what is happening in Ethiopia today. Quit a lot of Ethiopians know mother’s day and you have given already an account that we went for a dinner so no need to mention who are his target audiences. If I mention you are one of them and gave a feedback. More over it is not an issue of mother’s day, it is speaking about Birtukan.

05/10/10 @ 16:37
Comment from: besak [Visitor]


Every one is entitled to their opinion & if i choose to call Alemayehu … Ato Alemayehu or Kes Alemayehu, don`t you think it is my prerogative ??? If you are his lady friend & therefore offended by my remarks, you should keep it down & to yourself and by the way, we don`t want you to export this sinful activity either if you know what i mean… unlike you i choose to call a spade a spade. Alemayehu is dumb cyber warrior & if he is man enough to prove me wrong, he should come back to Ethiopia & stand up in what for what he believe in. That goes for you as well !!!

05/10/10 @ 17:27
Comment from: Ethiopian2010 [Visitor]

I have never heard of Mother’s day in Ethiopia this is new to me.But as someone said we love our mother’s all year
round, so there is no need to blap!You just wanted an excuse to write about

05/10/10 @ 18:07
Comment from: Cobra. [Visitor]

Why can’t we have ethiopian Mother’s day? Why we are follwing the western? Is Birtukan American? :crazy:

05/10/10 @ 18:14
Comment from: no eng [Visitor]
no eng

I don’t know Birtukan have a child?

If she doesn’t have a child then she is not a mother therefore how one could say “a happy Mother’s Day”

05/10/10 @ 19:51
Comment from: Kestu [Visitor]

no eng DOMMA Woyanne .

these is how your PM do . he will raise question and answer it himself as u did.

first try to search..

05/11/10 @ 05:58
Comment from: jijiga [Visitor]

I don’t like reading of your hypocrite articles.Because of your hateful and morn’s you’re always missing the points.Yes,Burtukan has a daughter and jailed illegal by Melse.Yes,she became famous after she challenged Melse regime for her political will but,she isn’t right mother to pick up on mothers day.Mother is day is nothing to day with women who chose being a good mother with being more politician.Thus,Burtican isn’t either a good mother nor a good politician.She is rather a naive politician and I believed that from the beginning, she doesn’t care much of her daughter since she opted and became politician.

Therefore,let me tell you Prof Al, you’re a morn and crazy tribalist person who simply hates the Tigraians and yet,that still couldn’t be a capable person who could come up a one single reasoning article to prove it or justified the wrong doing of woyane regime while plenty of errors cabe founding the melese regime your hatefulness blinds you at all the time to write down the fact of EPRDF crime actvities.Forexample,Burican sentence jail is number one of wrong doing mistakes but she isn’t good mother to pick up on mothers day.Yes,the hero good mother is Almaz at Pennsylvanian,who raises her children in hard working of three different jobs.But not a Burtucan who left her daughter for her political will and her carer political wishes of from the beginning,thus she not mother of the years as flout cried in your article.But,that her wrongly and illegality keeping in jails you never chosen which was the right things to pickup and write an article but your hatefulness makes you blind always and that is why your articles were bias and distasteful.Relax,and think carefully before you decide to write next article.

Don’t be missed the right point,otherwise all your efforts would be a wasted energy,Mr prof.

05/11/10 @ 06:15
Comment from: MIke [Visitor]


Don’t waste your time on these village idiots. Most of them are refugees who left Ethiopia via moyale and such and have never been to addis or any of the major cities. Their image of Ethiopia is that of their small farming Villages. What they don’t know is Ethiopians back home are more informed about global and western events than most people in the western world.What puzzles me the most is their audacity to denigrate such a brilliant piece by a brilliant professor with their two line sentences.
Take for example the “no eng” dude. he says …
“I don’t know Birtukan have a child?
If she doesn’t have a child then she is not a mother therefore how one could say “a happy Mother’s Day”

According to this moron, if he didn’t know something, that thing must have not existed.This guy gives ignorance a new meaning. I call him the ati-Socrates.

05/11/10 @ 10:49
Comment from: kul [Visitor]

no eng

Birtukan Midekssa is a proud mother of a baby girl. Her child’s name is Hale.

05/11/10 @ 15:07
Comment from: Tsimona [Visitor]

I do not see any thing wrong about selebrating mothers day. People who wrote against it may not know people in Addis celebrate it. Any ways Besak, you called Prof. Alemayehu dume? I wonder what you do for life? Denkoro..

05/11/10 @ 15:09
Comment from: almaz enkoselasse [Visitor]
almaz  enkoselasse

all i want to say( yemata)wherever your name is just can u shut up and just injoy your small understanding in life
i was in ethiopia last year they do know mothers day i have grat respect to alemayehu g mariam so wash or watch your mouth if u keep on act stupid all i have to tell u is (betam tebeda) keletam woyane shafada kuletam atebedada ere tebeda

05/11/10 @ 21:26
Comment from: almaz enkoselasse [Visitor]
almaz  enkoselasse

to kentramu besak you know what you have no idea about any thing befor u jump and try to talk to alemayehu
just go to school and learn more betam tekolahe kotetam wedi shermut you need open house with red light and stand @ the door then betam tebeda ere betam never ever fuck around with alemayehu go learn more then we see if u can talk for now evrything betam tebdadtobehal go sleep /good night

05/11/10 @ 21:38
Comment from: almaz enkoselasse [Visitor]
almaz  enkoselasse

well we know all of u you comment against pro’alemayehu and u hate bertukan woyane and woyanit both of you ye enberkek betam tebedu keza yeshalachehual amesgenalhu betam tebedu be dehna jela tebedu ena tebedadu we dont care wich is vary true dehena walu

05/11/10 @ 21:47
Comment from: adam muluneh [Visitor]
adam muluneh

wow the most amezing women in africa history i heard her ones she was wondering why we freely give up our port of assab and we be come landlock after that day i do lot of study about assab there isso many proof show that port never was part of eritria the afar people display ethiopian flag even after 1991 they still claim ther ethiopianism but my understanding there is no suport

05/11/10 @ 22:05



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