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Ethiopian refugees
Persecuted Oromo demand UN protection in Egypt amid dam dispute.
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2013 16:15
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Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Gutama Gallatobati fled persecution in Ethiopia because of his alleged ties to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), but now finds himself homeless in Egypt because of his Ethiopian heritage.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Abdi Harboury was the first Oromo to be attacked by a group of Egyptian youth over the Blue Nile dam project. He was beaten and his back still bears scars from burns.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

An Oromo woman listens as members of the Oromo community discuss their meetings with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

A group of Oromo men are told that the UN cannot provide shelter or food for the hundreds of refugees who have camped out front of the UNHCR building in Cairo for the last week.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Many of the refugees are forced to sleep on scraps of cardboard, while sewage water leaks into the grass nearby.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Gutama Gallatobati still bears the scars of his past in Ethiopia, where guards in the prison sliced off flesh from his leg.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera
Nadia Ibrahim holds the blue United Nations refugee application card. Many of the asylum seekers have only been in Cairo for less than a month.
Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Hussein Ahmed says he was attacked by two Egyptians while outside the UNHCR building. Many refugees have complained about harassment while protesting.

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera
Requests for medication have also been turned down, so the Oromo collect money from the community to purchase the drugs needed.
Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

Anwar and his family were recently evicted from their home, a move he says was motivated by his Ethiopian origin. 

Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera
The refugees have brought many of their belongings with them, uncertain when they will be able to return home.
Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera

The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population, however, the minority Tigray government has persecuted them.

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Cairo, Egypt - For months, Gutama Gallatobati, a proud farmer and mechanic of Oromo descent languished in an Ethiopian prison over accusations he burned an Ethiopian flag. While inside, guards physically abused him.

Sada Ahmed, a mother of five children and wife of a wealthy husband lived a good life in Ethiopia until she was accused of financially supporting the rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Her husband disappeared in Sudan and she was forced to flee to Egypt.

The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population. However, the minority Tigray government has persecuted the Oromo people, jailing more than 20,000 suspected OLF members. As a result, many have been forced to flee, leaving behind family, friends and jobs.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Thursday, the Oromo who have fled to Egypt are again endangered.

"Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don't want legal protection, we want physical protection."

- Mohamed Zein, Ethiopian journalist

Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia's goal to build the "Grand Renaissance Dam". 

The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply.

In response to the project, Egypt's government has reached a new level of bellicose rhetoric. In a televised meeting of key government officials recently, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour suggested Egypt launch air strikes to stop construction of the dam. Others proposed destabilising the Ethiopian government by funding rebel groups.

The Oromo in Egypt are now caught in the middle here and say they're facing increased hostility from Egyptians.

In response, hundreds of Oromo refugees have staged a sit-in outside the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding safety. They’ve refused to leave, sleeping on the grass outside the building, near leaking sewage from a surrounding apartment complex.

Jeylan Kassim, head of the Oromo Sons/ Daughters Refugee Association, has played a leading role in organising the protests. "We will not leave until the UNHCR will protect us," he told Al Jazeera.

A heavy silence blankets the Oromo as they sit on scraps of cardboard listening to members of the community discuss in frustration fruitless meetings with UNHCR representatives.

The UN says it cannot provide temporary shelter or food outside the UNHCR building because they do not have authority over the land, nor the resources to supply those camping out for the nearly two weeks.

The UN has offered a phone hotline for refugees to call with their problems, as well as legal assistance.

But the Oromo say this is not enough. "Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don't want legal protection, we want physical protection," says Mohamed Zein, a journalist from Ethiopia.  

He fled to Egypt after he was falsely accused of providing secret government information to NGO Human Rights Watch and the Eritrean government.

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The UNHCR acknowledges the situation is a difficult one but says its options are limited. "The outcome is not in your hands. As the United Nations, you don't get involved in [internal] politics," says UN press officer Ahmed Aboughazala. 

The Oromo in Egypt are united not only by their heritage, but also by a collective sense of uncertainty.

When 33-year-old Gutama Gallatobati arrived in Cairo a month ago, he thought his biggest troubles had been left behind. A week ago, however, his landlord evicted him from his apartment and his belongings were taken. When asked what reason he'd been given, he sighed: "The Nile."

"They said if you take our water, we will take your blood," recounted Abdi Harboury, a lanky youth shy to make eye contact.

According to the Oromo community, Abdi was the first person to have been attacked over the dam issue. He was beaten by three Egyptian youth, they say.

Hussein Ahmed, an asylum seeker who has been in Cairo almost two years, admitted he lies when asked about his origins. "I was at the barber and he asked me, 'Where are you from?' I said Nigeria. I am scared to say I am from Ethiopia." 

Even outside the UNHCR office, the refugees say it is not safe. Ahmed said he was beaten recently, and a woman was groped on her way to find a toilet. They claim the police did nothing to stop the attacks.  

Some police officers have told locals passing by that the refugees are not suffering, and are being paid by the American government to protest, the Oromo say. "They protest in the day and then at night they're paid and many of them leave," said a young officer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, meanwhile, arrived last Sunday in Addis Ababa to meet with his Ethiopian counterpart in an attempt to find a political and economic solution over the dam issue.

Ethiopia and Egypt agreed to hold further talks on the impact of a huge Ethiopian dam project to quell tensions between the two countries over water-sharing.

Until it gets resolved, however, the Oromo who fled persecution in Ethiopia say they will continue to face threats to their safety in Egypt.


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images:
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captions:

Gutama Gallatobati fled persecution in Ethiopia because of his alleged ties to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), but now finds himself homeless in Egypt because of his Ethiopian heritage.

;*;

Abdi Harboury was the first Oromo to be attacked by a group of Egyptian youth over the Blue Nile dam project. He was beaten and his back still bears scars from burns.

;*;

An Oromo woman listens as members of the Oromo community discuss their meetings with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

;*;

A group of Oromo men are told that the UN cannot provide shelter or food for the hundreds of refugees who have camped out front of the UNHCR building in Cairo for the last week.

;*;

Many of the refugees are forced to sleep on scraps of cardboard, while sewage water leaks into the grass nearby.

;*;

Gutama Gallatobati still bears the scars of his past in Ethiopia, where guards in the prison sliced off flesh from his leg.

;*;Nadia Ibrahim holds the blue United Nations refugee application card. Many of the asylum seekers have only been in Cairo for less than a month.;*;

Hussein Ahmed says he was attacked by two Egyptians while outside the UNHCR building. Many refugees have complained about harassment while protesting.

;*;Requests for medication have also been turned down, so the Oromo collect money from the community to purchase the drugs needed.;*;

Anwar and his family were recently evicted from their home, a move he says was motivated by his Ethiopian origin. 

;*;The refugees have brought many of their belongings with them, uncertain when they will be able to return home.;*;

The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population, however, the minority Tigray government has persecuted them.

Daylife ID:
1371468005128
Photographer:
Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco;*;Leyland Cecco
Image Source:
Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
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Oromo photoshttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photosen-usAl Jazeerafeedback@daylife.com10Mon, 17 Jun 2013 11:20:05 GMTMon, 17 Jun 2013 11:34:12 GMTOromoAlJazeera-1.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0c0u4Fr28l0qgAn Oromo woman listens as members of the Oromo community discuss their meetings with the United Nations Hight Commissioner for Refugees. Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0c0u4Fr28l0qgLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesAn Oromo woman listens as members of the Oromo community discuss their meetings with the United Nations Hight Commissioner for Refugees. OromoAlJazeera-1.jpgOromoAlJazeera-2.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=03LK5IN0Ww8MVA group of Oromo men are told that the UN cannot provide shelter or food for the hundreds of refugees who have camped out front of the UNHCR building for the last week.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=03LK5IN0Ww8MVLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesA group of Oromo men are told that the UN cannot provide shelter or food for the hundreds of refugees who have camped out front of the UNHCR building for the last week.OromoAlJazeera-2.jpgOromoAlJazeera-3.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0eVXgUE66f5XbAbdi was the first to be attacked by a group of Egyptian youth over the dam project. He was beaten, and his back still bears the scar from the burns. Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0eVXgUE66f5XbLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesAbdi was the first to be attacked by a group of Egyptian youth over the dam project. He was beaten, and his back still bears the scar from the burns. OromoAlJazeera-3.jpgOromoAlJazeera-4.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=02TEg2b0WRdGKMany of the refugees are forced to sleep on scrap cardboard, while sewage water leaks into the grass nearby. Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=02TEg2b0WRdGKLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesMany of the refugees are forced to sleep on scrap cardboard, while sewage water leaks into the grass nearby. OromoAlJazeera-4.jpgOromoAlJazeera-5.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=00o60qDb8P6i4Gutama Gallatobati fled persecution in Ethiopia due to his alleged OLF ties, but now finds himself homeless because of his Ethiopian heritage.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=00o60qDb8P6i4Leyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesGutama Gallatobati fled persecution in Ethiopia due to his alleged OLF ties, but now finds himself homeless because of his Ethiopian heritage.OromoAlJazeera-5.jpgOromoAlJazeera-6.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=038m5T0ggObvPGutama still bears the scars of his dark past, where guards in the prison sliced off flesh from his leg.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=038m5T0ggObvPLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesGutama still bears the scars of his dark past, where guards in the prison sliced off flesh from his leg.OromoAlJazeera-6.jpgOromoAlJazeera-7.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=05Qw43faCW7EbNadia Ibrahim holds the blue United Nations refugee application card. Many of the asylum seekers have only been in Cairo for less than a month.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=05Qw43faCW7EbLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesNadia Ibrahim holds the blue United Nations refugee application card. Many of the asylum seekers have only been in Cairo for less than a month.OromoAlJazeera-7.jpgOromoAlJazeera-8.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=02pL2wqeAa7O3Ahmed claims he was attacked in the evening by two Egyptians while outside the UNHCR building. Many refugees have complained about the harassment they have received while protesting.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=02pL2wqeAa7O3Leyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesAhmed claims he was attacked in the evening by two Egyptians while outside the UNHCR building. Many refugees have complained about the harassment they have received while protesting.OromoAlJazeera-8.jpgOromoAlJazeera-9.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0ga02IA4bW2woRequests for medication have also been turned down, so the Oromo collect money from the community to purchase the drugs needed.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0ga02IA4bW2woLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesRequests for medication have also been turned down, so the Oromo collect money from the community to purchase the drugs needed.OromoAlJazeera-9.jpgOromoAlJazeera-10.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0cJP4fV1da4rVAnwar and his family were recently evicted from their home, a move he says was motivated by his Ethiopian origin. "The landlord calls me each day. She says she will call the police to deport me. To send me back to Ethiopia."Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0cJP4fV1da4rVLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesAnwar and his family were recently evicted from their home, a move he says was motivated by his Ethiopian origin. "The landlord calls me each day. She says she will call the police to deport me. To send me back to Ethiopia."OromoAlJazeera-10.jpgOromoAlJazeera-11.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0fN6flE9M17igThe refugees have brought many of their belongings with them, uncertain when they will be able to return home.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0fN6flE9M17igLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesThe refugees have brought many of their belongings with them, uncertain when they will be able to return home.OromoAlJazeera-11.jpgOromoAlJazeera-12.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0efUe0D26peGlMany of the refugees shared similar stories about the shaky accusations against them, and how they realize they may never be able to return to their homelands.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0efUe0D26peGlLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesMany of the refugees shared similar stories about the shaky accusations against them, and how they realize they may never be able to return to their homelands.OromoAlJazeera-12.jpgOromoAlJazeera-13.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=01GA0h81Pn0ok A cotton-candy seller walks through the camp set up by the Oromo. Tensions are gradually mounting, as the locals who live in the surrounding apartments are getting frustrated with the continued presence of the Oromo. "After 6 in the evening, that is when the troubles start," one man tells me. Incidents between the Oromo and Egyptian have increased over the last few days, with the police doing little to mediate the situation.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=01GA0h81Pn0okLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images A cotton-candy seller walks through the camp set up by the Oromo. Tensions are gradually mounting, as the locals who live in the surrounding apartments are getting frustrated with the continued presence of the Oromo. "After 6 in the evening, that is when the troubles start," one man tells me. Incidents between the Oromo and Egyptian have increased over the last few days, with the police doing little to mediate the situation.OromoAlJazeera-13.jpgOromoAlJazeera-14.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=06jZ3gYfHqeKrThe Oromo have refused to leave until their demands for safety and protection are met. Small stands selling roasted corn and tea have been set up to alleviate the hunger many feel.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=06jZ3gYfHqeKrLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesThe Oromo have refused to leave until their demands for safety and protection are met. Small stands selling roasted corn and tea have been set up to alleviate the hunger many feel.OromoAlJazeera-14.jpgOromoAlJazeera-15.jpghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0cmrcAtcis92QThe refugees first identify with being from Oromia, an area that stretches between Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. To many, the homeland is just an idea, and they worry that soon, it will be just a memory.Mon, 17 Jun 2013 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Oromo-photos?image_id=0cmrcAtcis92QLeyland CeccoAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload ImagesThe refugees first identify with being from Oromia, an area that stretches between Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. To many, the homeland is just an idea, and they worry that soon, it will be just a memory.OromoAlJazeera-15.jpg

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