Making Music

Faces and Voices – Grown-Ups

M. Tewelde – Age 49

MusicI joined the Eritrean war for independence at age 12. I served with a children’s unit. We were taught how to be hard and cruel: we would have to eat rotten food, and if we complained, we would be punished for 10 days; if we broke a tooth of a hair comb, we would be punished for 10 days; we were forced to serve in firing squads used to execute Ethiopian prisoners of war. At age 16 I joined the adult fighting force. I loved music. I liked to sing and play the guitar, but was wounded in battle and lost the full use of one of my hands, so I could no longer play. Still I was forced to continue shooting a rifle and operating artillery, despite the pain. I was eventually discharged, but then drafted again in 2011. I escaped to this camp with several of my children. My son left the camp for Sudan in the hopes of forward migration, but he was kidnapped and sold to the Eritrean military. Fortunately he escaped and is now back here in the camp. I manage to do some construction work here, but my hand is still disabled, and I head the Committee for Disabled Refugees. What do I do for music? I play the organ. They could never take music away from me! I’m now partnering with an outside NGO to try to organize a musical instrumental program at the camp.