4 August 2012 [ESAT]
Ethiopian Muslims living in and around Addis Ababa held their now regular protest on during their Friday prayers mainly at the Grand Anwar Mosque and various mosques in their locality.
Throngs of believers estimated in the upwards of 500,000 defied a torrential rain to participate on yesterday’s prayer and protest rally. The government apprehended most of the 17 leaders of the peaceful movement in the first week of the holy month. Ordinary protesters numbering in the hundreds were taken to temporary detention facilities and were subjected to dehumanizing punishments. Scores have seen been released after signing incriminating papers and some still remain in detention at unidentified locations.
After the government’s violent crackdown at the eve the holy Ramadan fasting season, activists had devised various civil disobedience techniques to show the peaceful nature of their protests. On Friday, the believers waved white peace of rug, handkerchiefs, and white tissue papers to dispel the extremist label the government often paint them with. Pictures released on social media show protesters hugged one another and in various symbolic peaceful protest poses.
Some were seen with their mouth taped to in an apparent lack of freedom of speech and others were symbolically chained themselves in what one analyst said is to show the illegal incarceration and maltreatment in the hands of the Ethiopian Federal Police.
The government accuses the protesters of sympathising with a hard-line Wahabi sect of Islam. One protester our reporter has talked to was vehement in his opposition to the Wahabi label. He attributed the series of peaceful rallies and prayer sessions they have had for more than seven months now to their strict adherence of peaceful methods they have avowed to.
Large numbers of federal police forces were alert near and around the mosques.
The government has apprehended almost all of the 17 ad hoc arbitration committee members in what observers say a brass knuckle tactic to quash the movement. There is an ongoing propaganda onslaught by the government to paint the movement weak and waning. The Federal Affairs Minister, Shiferaw Teklemariam, was on TV to declare the movement on its death throes just a few days ago. One analyst who follows the protest closely doesn’t agree with the minister. According to the analyst the reality seems to belie the government’s narrative. The Ethiopian Muslim movement unlike what the government says is peaceful, resilient and maturing from week to week.