founder of Awra Amba
He can’t read or write, but Zumra Nuru created a society that would have made Karl Marx proud. The 60-year-old Ethiopian farmer founded and cochairs Awra Amba, a commune where men cook, women plow, and religion has no place. His inspiration came from his childhood: He was sent to the fields instead of to school and beaten for eating meat at his Christian neighbor’s home. His mother had to work much more than his father … In the 1980s, Nuru finally launched the egalitarian society he dreamed of with 19 other people who adopted his vision. Today Awra Amba has some 400 members and is lauded as a model to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in a country where women generally hold a subservient status to men. (full text).
He says: “It made me sad, when I asked my parents about it … they acted as if I were foolish” … and: “Everybody I ask tells me that mankind has one root some say that it started from Adam and Eve and others prefer to say it was Adem and Hawa,” … and: “I decided then to ignore such lines, which create differences among human beings, and establish a heaven that has a place for all by giving love to each other and avoid all causes of conflict among themselves”.
Zumra Nuru Mohammad – Ethiopia
Bio, exerpt: … In 1972 when he first settled in Awramba, there were 66 households who agreed to live according to his new lifestyle. As other people in the surrounding districts politicized his activities and began accusing him, he began to realize what he dreamed of since childhood wasn’t going to be easily realized … and: In the final days of the Derg regime in 1989 when they heard that the neighborhood is going to massacre Zumra and all of his followers, the whole Awaramba community left their homes in the middle of the night and descended on Bonga town in southern Ethiopia, to save their lives. (full text).
He says also: “People always ask me if I read communist or religious books; I tell them that I am an illiterate farmer and don’t know or need to read books to know about life, since the books are written from our real lives I learn from what I see in the real world,” … and: “We have made lots of sacrifices, ranging from imprisonment to displacement,” Zumra recalls. After eleven years of exercising his new life with the community, he ended up in jail for six months without appearing in court and not being told why he was arrested. And: “I later realized their intention was to frighten us and stop us from living the life we chose,” Zumra says. As a result, by the time he was released from prison in 1993, the number of his followers had declined to 19 from 66. (full text).
Government officials and members of parliament, sheikhs and priests, and local and foreign nongovernmental organization workers have made the trip via a rocky road only accessible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle to see the success for themselves. “I was completely captivated by my visit to the community,” says Ambassador Tim Clarke, head of the European Union delegation to Ethiopia. “I regard it as the model for the world community on how gender issues should be treated. I have come across nothing else like it anywhere in Africa – and indeed the world. I am using it to inspire the work of my office here on gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women.” Once ostracized, now lauded. But achieving this level of recognition was a long time in coming. (full text).
And he says: “My family is originally Muslim. I visited my Christian neighbors and ate meat at their home. My mother got angry and beat me. She said, ‘We can’t eat meat slaughtered by Christians. I said, ‘Is it not the same animal?’ I began thinking about these issues of religion. Later I thought why not make one family? There is one God. So why not unite? Honesty and love for fellow human beings is our religion”. (full text).
MSF says blocked from Ethiopia’s volatile Ogaden, Aug. 31, 2007.