Why did the Ethiopian government take so long to rescue its citizens?

By Helina Belete

The brutal and inhumane treatment of Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia was not an overnight incident. The Saudi Arabian government gave months long warning to all migrant workers to legalize their situation before evicting those who did not fulfill the administrative requirements.
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The Ethiopian government was well aware of this timetable. In fact, the Ethiopian government admitted requesting that the Saudi Arabian government extend the deadline for another four months. But the question here is: what did it request this additional time for? Was it to bring its citizens back home in a safe and more dignified manner? Not at all! That was not the case! Actually, those illegal migrant workers were desperately trying to get caught by Saudi authorities within those extended months, so that they could avoid possible abuse and cruelty later on. As a matter of fact, as confirmed by several testimonies and even an official statement by the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, legal migrant workers themselves were also arbitrarily harassed!
According to Ethiopians interviewed during the actual incident in Saudi Arabia and also stories from the returnees, the Ethiopian embassy did not respond quickly and properly to their desperate cries for help. The embassy basically shut its door on its citizens. This gave the Saudi Arabian security officials and even civilians an opportunity to mass rape, torture, severely injure and kill innocent Ethiopians who had only gone there to make a living.
The Ethiopian government says it started negotiating with the Saudi Arabian government months earlier, but what does such a negotiation help without taking an immediate measure? We cannot undo what is already done; we cannot retrieve the lost lives and cure our sisters who are physically and psychologically damaged after being raped by multiple men at a time. In fact we have witnessed many images of these women who committed suicide after this disgraceful incident. The thing is it is not only Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, but rather the entire Ethiopian community in Ethiopia and all over the world who is humiliated and discredited by the crimes committed. That was why we were supposed to stand as a nation together and show our resentment of this outrageous violations of human rights committed against our fellow sisters and brothers.
ETHIOPIAN PROTEST AGAINST SAUDI ARABIA IN CHICAGO [Video]Ethiopians in London, Paris, Washington D.C., LA, Canberra, Stockholm and other parts of the world showed their discontent in mass demonstrations. All except those of us who are actually here in Ethiopia. Ironically, the Ethiopian government which has quite a considerable record on calling for mass rallies to build up its image in the global media was however delayed to assemble its citizens to demonstrate on such a major matter of national interest. Our government is usually so active on organizing such demonstrations, for instance at the time of the death of the premium and other rallies for which it goes to the extent of knocking at every individual city dweller’s door.
Some Ethiopians who were bold enough to demonstrate in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy here in Addis on November 15, 2013 since they could not remain silent after witnessing the mass rape and killings of their fellows in Saudi Arabia got beaten up by Ethiopian Federal Police. Police also arrested an unidentified number of protestors on the premises that organizers had not sought permission to hold such a protest.
The other lame excuse that the government used to justify the very brutal and unjust force that it engaged to break up the demonstration is that an international meeting was being held in the city. They also said many of the demonstrators carried anti-Arab messages that would tarnish the strong relations between Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. I personally find it mind-blowing that our government prioritizes its relation with a foreign country over its own people whose protection was supposed to be its very raison d’être. As far as I am concerned, the relationship has been ruined from the moment the Saudi Arabian government decided to mistreat Ethiopians instead of peacefully deporting them to their country.
Some of the protesters used social media like Facebook and twitter to express their confusion as to how they were deprived of their rights to protest against the savage attacks on Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia by writing a sarcastic line: “We didn’t know that we were governed by the Saudi Arabia government!”
Cry Ethiopia in SaudiThe other fact that urged me to write this article was that some imposters pretending to be among the illegal workers in Saudi Arabia were trying to mislead the international community by uploading some nonsense articles claiming that the social media were exaggerating facts and not giving a sober analysis. The truth is it is obvious that they are not among those workers, because if they had ever experienced the brutal and inhumane treatment, or at least witnessed this brutality firsthand they would not be able to be calmed or take the issue lightly. In fact even we who are quite far away from the actual site of the incident are highly disturbed by pictures and video footage of the violence being perpetrated against Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia. Secondly, it is highly unlikely that a clandestine worker who crossed borders illegally to work as a domestic worker would be able to offer such an in-depth analysis of the matter in highly proficient English. Hence it is obvious that this is a cover-up story by some entity just to obscure the true nature of the matter.
The overall question I am asking here is why wait until all this damage is done before we take action as a country to defend our citizens from such brutal offences? And also, what is the guarantee of other Ethiopians who are living in other countries? And how many lives are we going to lose in the future before our government intervenes if an incident such as this one occurs especially in one of the other Arab countries? These unanswered questions remind me of my kinsmen’s famous saying “the dog barks after the hyena left”, which is to say it is not of much a use pretending to run here and there once the harm is already done!

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