Silver Spring, Md — Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) is deeply disturbed by the arrest of seven young women accused of unlawfully holding a demonstration during the Great Ethiopian Women Run that was held on Sunday, March 9, 2014. On Friday March 14, 2014 they were brought to court and the court denied them bail and sent them back to jail.
During the Great Ethiopian Women Run of 2014, several young Ethiopian women chanted for freedom in their country and demanded the government to free jailed journalists and political prisoners. They voiced about the unbearable cost of living in the country. They also expressed that they are proud daughters of Emperor Menilik and Queen Taitu. These were the messages, which subjected them to be arrested and detained as criminals. None of the reports, including videos and local news, indicated any violent acts or messages by these young women. They were unarmed. Neither public disturbances nor any violent situations were created as the result of their demonstration. They were peacefully conveying their messages to the public using the occasion.
Since the first Great Ethiopian Women Run was started in 2004, the event has been a platform to promote key messages about women and other broader concerns in the country. The annual event has become a free platform not only to recognize the achievements of Ethiopia's female athletes but also to address the broader role of women in Ethiopia.
Accordingly, the young women at the 2014 Run stated their concerns about freedom of press, speech, assembly and the intolerable poverty in the country. They did not promote nor did they incite anyone for violence.
As citizens, they have every right to peacefully demonstrate and express their dissatisfaction on the social, political and legal issues in their country. The right to freedom of expression is their constitutional rights and not privileges given to them.
CREW, therefore, demands the immediate and unconditional release of these young women.