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  • Turkey aid agency renovates historic Ethiopia mosque

    The Nejashi Mosque is one of the world’s earliest mosques, built in the fourth century by the companions of Prophet Mohammed, who – exiled from Arabia by the Qurayshi pagans – came to Ethiopia, where they found a welcome refuge. 

    Located in the town of Wukro in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray State some 800 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the Islamic monument is now undergoing major renovations thanks to the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). 

    “We are delighted to have the opportunity to give this iconic Islamic monument the renovation it deserves,” Ismail Durhat, TIKA’s country coordinator for Ethiopia, told Anadolu Agency. 

    According to Durhat, the plan to renovate the Nejashi Mosque began some four years ago, with the actual renovation process beginning last year. 

    “The plan is being implemented in two phases; it is due to be finalized in 2016,” he said. 

    The site also hosts the tombs of the 15 companions of Prophet Muhamamd, who introduced Islam to Ethiopia. Landmarks, therefore, will be erected outside each mausoleum, said Durhat, explaining each of the companions’ respective history. 

    Since the site remains a functioning mosque in which Muslims still perform prayers, the renovations also include construction of a smooth track to ease access for those with disabilities, Durhat explained. 

    A number of auxiliary structures will also be built, including accommodations for guests, a visitors’ lounge and lavatories. 

    According to Durhat, the renovations – the cost of which is being borne entirely by TIKA – are being carried out by both Turkish and Ethiopian engineers with a view to ensuring that the mosque’s original architecture remains intact. 

    “The entire project is aimed at preserving heritage,” he said. “Hopefully, the mosque will become a major destination for religious tourism.” 


    Sheikh Adem Abdulkadir, president of Tigray State’s Supreme Council Islamic Affairs, said the regional state government and local inhabitants were pleased about the restoration effort. 

    “Ramadan [the Islamic fasting month, which began July 18] is a month of compassion,” he said. “So we are doubly blessed by the current effort to renovate the ancient mosque, which has long served as a repository of Islam.” 

    “Ethiopia’s King Nejashi [for whom the mosque was named] was a benevolent king, who should be credited with saving the Prophet’s companions from persecution when they arrived in his land,” said Adem. “The history of Nejashi – and the ancient mosque of Nejashi – means a great deal to Ethiopia and the world.” 

    In recent years, TIKA, Turkey’s official overseas development agency, has been very active in Ethiopia, where it has provided support in the areas of health, education and heritage preservation. 

    In addition to renovating the Al-Nejashi Mosque, Durhat said that TIKA also recently undertook the renovation of an Ottoman-era building in Ethiopia’s Harari state. 

    The agency, he noted, had also helped build schools in several parts of the country, including the Afar, Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regional states.


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  • New Human Species Discovered In Ethiopia Added To Human Evolution Tree

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    A fossil find adds another twig to the human evolutionary tree, giving further evidence that the well-known “Lucy” species had company in what is now Ethiopia, a study says.

    A lower jaw, plus jaw fragments and teeth, dated at 3.3 million to 3.5 million years old, were found in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia four years ago.

    That shows a second human ancestor lived in about the same area and time frame as Lucy’s species, researchers said. But not everyone agrees.

    In a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature, the researchers announce the new find and assign it to a species they dubbed Australopithecus deyiremeda (aw-strah-low-PIH’-thuh-kus day-eh-REH’-meh-dah). In the Afar language the second name means “close relative,” referring to its apparent relationship to later members of the evolutionary tree.

    But nobody knows just how it’s related to our own branch of the family tree, said Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who led the discovery team. 

    Yohannes Haile-Selasie studies bones from Australopithecus deyiremeda in his laboratory at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. (Photo: Laura Dempsey, Cleveland Museum of Natural History/AP)

    But nobody knows just how it’s related to our own branch of the family tree, said Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who led the discovery team.

    Our branch, which includes Homo sapiens and our closest extinct relatives, arose from the evolutionary grouping that now includes the new creature as well as Lucy’s species. The new arrival, and the possibility of still more to come, complicates the question of which species led to our branch, he said.

    Previously, fossilized foot bones found in 2009 near the new discovery site had indicated the presence of a second species. But those bones were not assigned to any species, and it’s not clear whether they belong to the newly identified species either, Haile-Selassie said. If they don’t, that would indicate yet another species from the same time and region as Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis

    Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who didn’t participate in the new work, said the discovery provides “compelling evidence” that a second creature lived in the vicinity of Lucy’s species at the same time. The next question, he said, is how they shared the landscape.

    “These fossils certainly create an agenda for a lot of interesting research that’s going to be done in the next decade,” Wood said.

    As evidence that the new fossils represent a previously unknown species, the researchers cite specific anatomical differences with known fossils. But Tim White, a University of California, Berkeley, expert in human evolution, was unimpressed.

    He said he thinks the fossils actually come from Lucy’s species.

    “Anatomical variation within a biological species is normal,” he said in an email. “That’s why so many announcements of this sort are quickly overturned.”


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  • Priest, bishop banned from church

    CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A dispute at a Charlotte church has led to members being banned from church property, the firing of the church's priest and a lawsuit in state court.

    At issue in the lawsuit is whether or not the head of the parish council at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Dr. Solomon Gugsa, improperly changed the church's bylaws to extend his term and alter membership requirements to exclude those who disagree with him.

    VIDEO: WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

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  • In Picture: Ethiopians in Djibouti

    Ethiopia and Djibouti have long had a mutually beneficial relationship contributing to a significant Ethiopian diaspora living and working in the country's tiny eastern neighbor.

    Ethiopia’s lifeline

    Djibouti has long had strategic and commercial significance for neighboring Ethiopia, especially after Ethiopia lost Eritrea in the 1990s and with it access to the sea. Now landlocked Ethiopia imports almost all its goods through Djibouti’s expanding network of ports. Ethiopian ships regularly glide across the Gulf of Tadjoura, bringing valuable cargos for loading on to Ethiopia-bound trucks.

    Relying on trucks

    The Addis Ababa-Djibouti City railway built during the early 20th century transported goods from the coast to the Ethiopian capital. But since the beginning of the new millenium Ethiopia has relied on legions of lorry drivers to keep it supplied. A new Chinese-built railway due to open soon will re-establish the Ethiopia-Djibouti rail link.

    'Little Ethiopia in Djibouti'

    Djibouti’s close proximity to Ethiopia has resulted in a large Ethiopian diaspora estimated at 50,000. "Many people came here during the Derg’s communist rule," says Ashenaf Harege who works at the Ethiopian community center in Djibouti City. The center is a focal point for Ethiopians to celebrate holidays and festivals, and meet to discuss Ethiopia and learn about what’s happening back home. 

    A taste of home

    The center serves Ethiopian food and drinks (the government exempts it from tax). "I came because the salary is better here," says Haile Gebremedhin (right), who works for a transport company. "It’s good living here, especially compared to other places in the region. Obviously there are problems, but the people are good."

    Religious identity

    Djibouti is predominantly Muslim with the call to prayer a regular daily refrain. But every Sunday morning Ethiopian Orthodox Christians gather for Mass at Saint Gabriel’s Church next to the community center. Both institutions were built on land donated by the Djiboutian government. "In other countries people hold religion against you, but here they don’t mind," Gebremedhin says.

    Orthodox devotion

    Inside the church grounds women are wrapped in Ethiopian sheumas (delicate white shawls), the priest holds a large metal cross aloft during Mass as incense swirls in the air; worshippers bow to icons of the Virgin Mary and approach the priest to touch three times with their lips and forehead a wooden cross he carries.

    Stay or go back home?

    Many Ethiopians living in Djibouti, particularly those with children like the girl seen here, are torn between either permanently settling in Djibouti or relocating back to Ethiopia.

    Daily struggles

    "I do odd jobs like cleaning when I can, it’s very hard to get a full -time job here," says Samuel, 24, who came 12 years ago. His father was killed during the Derg after which he lived with his mother near the border with Djibouti. Like many Ethiopians he crossed without a passport, leading to four months in prison. "Without a passport I can’t go anywhere unless I stow away on a ship."

    Story of stowaways

    Both Alex (left), 25, and Zerihun, 29, live in Djibouti without documentation. They have been stowaways on ships to places as far away as Cape Town and even Singapore. Now they clean cars and clear rubbish for money. "It’s a dog’s life, living like that, having to run from police," Zerihun says. "No, we live like soldiers," Alex objects.

    Searching for 'sira'

    Across the Gulf of Tadjoura in the towns of Obock and Tadjoura, the Ethiopian language Amharic is widely spoken. Almost all Ethiopians came to Djibouti for the same reason: 'sira,' the Amharic word for work. "In Djibouti, a cleaning job can earn you as much as a professor in Addis Ababa," says Hussein in Tadjoura. "But I miss Ethiopia’s perfect weather. Here it’s too hot."


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  • Too graphic to see or not to see

    The age-long dialogue surrounding censorship, war photography and editorial discretion has been rekindled by the recent images of killings by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

    As long as photography, videos and war have existed simultaneously, there have been graphic images — and, with those images, the decision whether or not to publish them remain to be a contentious issue. And now with the emergence of social media, the issue seems to be gaining momentum as everyone on social media is the “reporter”, “editor” and “publisher”. In that regard, new media is struggling to find ways to strike the balance between citizen journalism and human decency, writes Tibebeselassie Tigabu. 

    More than a dozen Ethiopians, and possibly some Eritreans, each wearing an orange jumpsuit are seen walking by the shores of a water body. This is no feel-good-stroll by the lake. The young men, heads down and hands behind their backs, are being escorted to their slaughtering spot by militants in balaclavas and full military attire. The image becomes deplorably gruesome after that as the militants start beheading each of their captives. 

    These were the last scenes of a 29 minutes video released by the terrorist group calling itself ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) on Sunday April 19, a week after an Ethiopian Easter. The cruelty is perpetrated by the Libyan branch of ISIL. The same video also shows another group of captives, dressed in black, being shot in the back of the head purportedly in the southern Libyan province of Fazzan.

    As the news broke and many mainstream international media showed footages from the video, Ethiopians expressed utter shock, disgust and rage. The mainstream media restrained itself from showing graphic images of decapitated bodies, however, the online community shared the graphic video and still images from the video on social media.

    Many have seen the video titled ‘Until it came to them-clear evidence’ on You Tube, which has since been removed by the video sharing site. 

    Undeterred by the graphic nature of the content, the images and video were freely shared on the popular social media sites including Facebook. Some shared the video downloaded from You Tube to their friends’ mobile devices via Bluetooth. Unsurprisingly, the consequences of watching such a video reduce many to tears, depression and loss of sleep and all the unpleasant feelings. Why watch it in the first place?

    Read the full story on the thereporterethiopia website.

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