In Defense of Bewketu Seyoum

Bewketu Seyoum’s hit literary pieces (poems, essays, novellas and short stories) puts on hold for the last five years amongst young Ethiopians and I dare to say that Bewketu is becoming the most read contemporary Amharic writer. His literary pieces established, Bewketu, as a rising literary talent to watch.

One of his recent essays, titled “እግር ዐልባው ባለ ክንፍ” brought aggressive beatings up on him, but I see this article as a literary piece which exceptionally dig deep down into the roots of some of our beliefs and challenge our convictions. Bewketu has tried to present food for our thought. I strongly believe that this piece would have ignited some ferocious controversies had it been read by more people and I decided to write this piece in defense of his right to freedom of expression.
As I clearly states on bio section of my blog I strongly believe in freedom of expression. Though it is on the paper and with its all claw back clauses our constitution defends the right to freedom of expression. If not government at least people who claim themselves as a freedom pugilist should be abided by it. I am even deeply worried by some folks who started a cause page on facebook against this “እግር ዐልባው ባለ ክንፍ” piece of writing. Many people despite their claim of being civil and gentle if I use Robert Frost’s words despite their claim of their –“ability” to listen to almost anything without losing their temper or self-confidence some facebook friends of mine sadly seem to have displayed impatience towards the spread of extremism by joining this group. For me this act of my friends is an inability and unwillingness to challenge different ideas. Please understand that I am not saying what Bewketu has written is right or wrong I am supporting his right to freedom of expression, which is also mine and yours and which means nothing if it does not include the right to say stuff that upset other people.
You know what I believe, had Ethiopians protect freedom of conscience, thought and expression, nobody would have a problem with somebody like Bewketu telling his point of view in friendly and hilarious language as in the article in the question.

15 Comments

  1. Hi Endalk,
    Good to hear your view on the issue of the essay by Bewketu Seyoum. However, I remained unanswered from your argument about the definition of freedom. What does that really mean by “freedom of expression”? Literally the term “freedom” by itself has a multi-fold meaning when I hit in google or any world wide dictionary; and no where it reflects the abuse or insult of one’s right.

    What I have seen from Beuketu’s article is against all the definition and it end up touching others freedom. If you want your freedom of expression you should know that others have their own way expression too; that is what happened to him. Though I am not in favor of his article, I still am against that kind of physical attack; that is not freedom.

    Hence in my view, I would say you are free to defend his “freedom of expression”. But still my point is when I announce my freedom I should not try to diminish ones belief. Overall perception matters and may be the way I understood his article is not acceptable in his “freedom world”; whatever, I am against his recent ideology.

    የሀገር ቤት ጋዘጦች ምን ጻፉ የሚል ነገር ሳነብ አንድ ነገር ቀልቤን ሳበው:: ሁልንም እንደሚከተለው “ፔስት” አድርጌልሀለሁ::

    “ሰንደቅ” ጋዜጣ በጥበብ አምዱ የኪነጥበብ ሰዎች ድንገተኛ ሞትን በተመለከተ አንድ ጽ ፍ አስነብቦ ነበር፡፡
    ኢትዮጵያዊው የመጀመርያ የልቦለድ ደራሲ ነጋድራስ አፈወርቅ ገብረየሱስ አይኑ አላይ ብሎት በግዞት ጅማ ውስጥ ተወስዶ ሞተ፡፡ ስመ ጥሩውን ምሁር ገብረ ሕይወት ባይከዳኝን አንድ ጣልያናዊ መርዝ ሰጥቶት ገደለው፡፡
    ዮፍታሄ ንጉሴ በጣልያን ወረራ ወቅት አርበኛ ነበር፡፡ ድንቅ የጥበብ ሰው እንደነበር ይነገራል፡፡ አንድ ቀን በሰላም ሲጫወት ዉሎ ቤቱ ሄደ፡፡ ሄዶ ተኛ፡፡ ጠዋት አልጋው ላይ ሞቶ ተገኘ፡፡ ተመስገን ገብሬ በስነጽሑፍ ችሎታው ድንቅ ኢትዮጵያዊ ነበር፡፡ በ1941 ከምግብ ጋር ተቀላቅሎ መርዝ ተሰጥቶት ሞተ፡፡
    አቤ ጉበኛው “አልወለድም” በሚለው ስራው ብዙዎች ያውቁታል፡፡ በእንግሊዝኛ ልቦለድ አሳትሞ ከአፍሪካ ደራሲያን አንዱ ለመሆን ችሎ ነበር፡፡ ማንነቱ ባልታወቀ ሰው በ1972 ተገድሎ ተገኘ፡፡
    ዮሐንስ አድማሱ ድንቅ ባለቅኔ ነበር፡፡ በአዲስ አበባ ዩኒቨርሲቲ ተማሪ ሳለ በጻፈው ግጥም የተነሳ ትምህርቱን እንዲያቆም ተደርጓል፡፡ ሀያሲና መምህር ሆነ፡፡ የመሬት ላራሹ ትውልድ መካከል ይመደባል፡፡ ይህ ባለቅኔ በግዞት ወደ ሀረማያ ተልኮ ነበር፡፡ እዚያው ሂርና ውስጥ በ1967 ባልታወቀ ሰው ተገድሎ ተገኘ፡፡
    አሳምነው ገብረወልድ ዝነኛ ጋዜጠኛ ነበር፡፡ የሬዲዮ ጋዜጠኛ፡፡ ግሩም የስነ ጽሑፍ ችሎታም ነበረው፡፡ አሳምነው አዲስ አበባ ውስጥ ሳሪስ አካባቢ ባልታወቀ ሰው ተገድሎ ተገኘ፡፡
    አሰፋ አባተ የወሎ ሰው ነው፡፡ የሀገር ፍቅር ትያትር ቤት ዝነኛ ድምፃዊና ገጣሚ፡፡ “ዓሳ አበላሻለሁ አባይ ዳር ነው ቤቴ” በሚለው ዘፈኑ ይታወቃል፡፡ ድንገት ታሞ ሞተ፡፡ ቀብሩን የሰሙ ወዳጆቹ ተመርዞ ነው የሞተው አሉ፡፡ ከዚያ አመፁ፡፡ አስክሬኑ ተቆፍሮ ወጣ፡፡ ሆስፒታል ተወሰደ፡፡ ተመረመረ፡፡ ሆኖም ማወቅ አልተቻለም፡፡ የተመረዘ ነገር ተሰጥቶት እንደሞተ ግን በስፋት ታምኖበት ተመልሶ ተቀበረ፡፡
    በዓሉ ግርማ ኢትዮጵያ ዘመናዊ ደራሲዬ ብላ የምትጠራው ሰው ነው፡፡ በናቱ ኢትዮጵያዊ ባባቱ ህንዳዊ ነበር፡፡ ኢሊባቡር ነው የተወለደው፡፡ በ1975 ከቤቱ ወጥቶ አልተመለሰም፡፡ በሰው እጅ እንደተገደለ ይገመታል፡፡ በሕይወት ሊኖርም ይችላል ማን ያውቃል? ይህንን የህትመት ዳሰሳ በኢንተርኔት እያየ ፈገግ ብሎ ሊሆንም ይችላል፡፡

    የእኔ የመጨረሻ ጥያቄ ግን በዕውቀቱ ስዩምስ የነዚህን ዱካ ለመከተል ፈልጎ ይሆን??

  2. Hi ‘Me’ or any body concerned-

    I would like to argue here that freedom of expression is the idea that you speak your mind without fear of being threatened with your life or persecution. If freedom of expression was as narrow as what you described, that is, speaking your mind while at the same time caring for others, it is no more freedom. You have to accept that with all the differences we have, any statement one freely makes is likely to offend many others who are from a different school of thought.

    In a civilized society, one’s expression of his view, be it radical or not, is met by counter arguments that are based on reason not physical force. However, in a society where a weak god that needs its followers protection is preached (eg. radical Islam, Orthodox Christians…), any critical assessment of their god is met by the brute force of its followers. That is what has happened to Bewketu. My question is this: why don’t you leave Mr. Bewketu (or any other guy who happen to take fun of your god) to the god you worship so that he will protect himself ? Are you worshiping a dead god?

    This god is the same as the hard man Meles and his EPRDF. Any time an influential and law abiding citizen finds the courage to speak against the dictatorship, EPRDF’s armed cadres knock his door one day …. and torture, imprisonment or total disappearance will be his fate.

    My advise is this: don’t fear reason! Reason won’t torture you, reason won’t send you to jail… reason is always ready to negotiate and evolve to a De facto societal view!

    Thanks Endalk for bringing this up, I remain one fan of your blog!

    1. Thank you very much for the comments! I absolutely agree with you but the first responder here is a link I wish you to read this piece by Abiy T and have a deeper understanding of what a freedom of expression is.We can take our arguments further and involve other people as well.

  3. The Irony of most arguments on the issue is how people are excited to see thoughts which they don’t believe in, attacked or insulted. To cover this un-coverable intention, they abuse the concept of Freedom of Expression.

    Some, even come up with an amazingly low-class argument, such as “Let your GOD defend himself, why are you talking on his behalf”! These are the kinds of minds that claim to have the moral justification to even talk about ‘spirituality’. Ayi Zemen!!!

    1. actually, i happen to like the whole “let your God defend themselves (it could be a Woman for all we know)” argument. would save us a whole lotta hassle.

      hey endalk man! when are you gonna write about a bad/good day in class? cuz i would really love to read about it.

      sincerely yours,

      soldier of the same struggle (a.k.a. a teacher)

      1. aww man! comment moderation?! i would rather have an “indecent” comment posted outright, and then decide between keeping or deleting the hell out of it.

        and how come you like your own post? 🙂

  4. We need freeedom of expression to expresses our opinion ,however disagreeable that opinion is to the listner.We don’t need legal or other protection of freedom of expression if it is onlty to protect our freedom of expressing opinions which are only pleaseant to the ears’s of the listener, because there is no danger in this case of supression..Therefore, Beweketu has the constitutional right to express his opoinion on the relation ship of our economic development and religios belief. If you find his opinion as false , show it(write your response), so that evrybody can get the truth of the matter out of this dialogue. No one has the monopoly over the truth, we get the truth by allowing differnet opinions ,however unplatable, compete in the market of ideas.

  5. በእውቀቱ ምን ሆነ ተደበደበ የሚባለው እውነት ነው እንዴ እባክህ እንዳልክ የሰማኸው ካለ ጻፍልኝ፡፡ እግዚአብሔር ከክፉ ነገር ሁሉ እንዲጠብቀው ምኞቴ ነው፡፡አንተንም እግዚአብሔር ይጠብቅህ ሥራህንም ይባርክልህ፡፡

  6. Let me use the infamous quote by Meles Zenawi…”Meles melata new malet tichilaleh, melatayen gin menkat atichilim” (just for the record I am not a fan of Meles Zenawi)…Bewketu touched my melata when he caricated Saint T/Haimanot. A liberal might talk about freedom of speech and accuse me of being conservative, but who cares about a worldly argument while what we are dealing with is purely spiritual…at least for me it is. If Bewketu critiqued our culture of laziness without appeasing the saint all could have been good. According to my religion, Bewketu’s act is wrong…so I totally stand against it. I have two laws to use for the two worlds. But obviously Bewketu has got only one and he used it to judge the second world in which he obviously have no faith in. Let me say this though I wouldn’t get physical, but I stand a strongly against Bewketu’s approach, but not his ideas. We need to be successful in the earthly life, but while doing so we must not lose our spiritual identity and respect for the faith.

  7. Thanks to Edalks wonderful piece and Tibebu’s comment i would like to add my point.I have read Bewketu’s essay and felt that most of the conservative readers misunderstood his intent. In the article, Bewketu doesn’ t want to lampoon the saint.But even if he does he has the right.Blasphemy is part of rational mind.To my mind,Bewketu rather wants to come up with a new interpretation of the story so that he could describe the regressing mind of his nation.As we all know in Ethiopia the most important ideology is religion.The religious mind writers and preachers have been teaching us to denounce the world and urge us to focus on the next life.Since we have taken them seriously ,we ended up living amid recurring famine and poverty.my friends; it seems to me that we have been worshiping a failed god.What is the sense of praying and fasting the whole year while the Jewish god and his saints don’t give a hoot about our suffering? shade your wings that you inherited from your god intoxicated fathers and walk on the real earth.

  8. Bewketu lives in a time and place that is not right for him. People are so backward and don’t understand what freedom of exprsion means.

  9. Bewketu is undoubtedly a great, witty writer. He is at his best when he writes and narrates humourous writings of our Kafka-world-type of life and living. His observation are funny, critical and awsome. But then when Bewketu tries to go a religion critic theologist or philosepher, he loses his usual wit and eloquence. He not only becomes boring but also angers religious extremists (to the extent they physically attack him.

  10. I am not against writers’ freedom of expression. What matters is as to the definition of the term ” freedom”. I want to say that if one is touching the morale and belief of others, how can it get acceptance to defend in the name of freedom? I have read some works and jokes of beewketu. Despite their attractiveness and being funny, they are full of religious (orthodox) criticisms. This activity is really bad for the followers including me and he must refrain from such kind of mistakes for the future. He may be writing in the name of freedom of expression but must know that he is depriving the beliefs and values of orthodox Christians.

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