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Meet Five Eritreans Making History

Happy Independence Day, Eritrea! On this day, the nation of Eritrea celebrates its 25th year of independence! As a country of six million, Eritrea is a multi-ethnic nation with ethnic groups such as the Tigrinya, Tigre,

Happy Independence Day, Eritrea! On this day, the nation of Eritrea celebrates its 25th year of independence! As a country of six million, Eritrea is a multi-ethnic nation with ethnic groups such as the Tigrinya, Tigre, Kunama, Saho, Bilen, Nara, Afar, Hedareb, and Rashaida people. Of those nine, Tigrinya people are the largest group. The most widely-spoken languages are Tigrinya and Arabic.


As well, Eritrea is full of natural resources such as copper, salt, gold, potash, and fish; among which, livestock and salt are their main exports. Within the country is also the location of what is considered the oldest settled agricultural community in Africa.


While its age as a nation is still young, Eritrea has a long and culturally-rich history filled with Eritreans who are making an impact across the diaspora.


In celebration, here are 5 Eritreans who are making history:

1 – Zersenay Tadese

Zersenay Tadese

Home to a number of gifted athletes, Zersenay Tadese is the most decorated one among them. Tadese became the first Eritrean Olympic medalist when he won the bronze medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The long-distance runner has received the first place medal five times for the World Half Marathon Championships. At the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon, Tadese set a new world record when he came in at a 58:23 finish. His record has not been broken since then.



2 – Mebrahtom Keflezighi

Mebrahtom Keflezighi

This Eritrean-born American has made a name for him in the racing world mile-for-mile. Mebrahtom Keflezighi is an Olympian who won the silver medal in Men’s Marathon for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He then went on to make history by becoming the first America man to win in the 2009 New York City Marathon and the 2014 Boston Marathon – where both in both races an American man hadn’t won for decades. At the 2014 Boston Marathon Keflezighi made the choice to honor the four people who died as a result of the marathon bombing the previous year. His wrote their names on his racing bib and eventually won the race, both breaking a record and uplifting a nation that had been in mourning.


3 – Natnael Berhane

Natnael Berhane

A professional road racing cyclist, Natnael Berhane is giving Eritrea a good name in the cycling world. In the 2013 Tour of Turkey, Berhane won the queen stage. This multi-day race is considered the most difficult but also the most prestigious part of the race. Berhane is also the first African to win La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, a road cycling race held in Bongo for the UCI Africa Tour.






4 – Semhar Araia

Semhar Araia

As well, the nation is home to Eritreans who are making powerful social changes in the world. Such as Semhar Araia, an accomplished social activist, lawyer and professor. Her work in U.S-Africa foreign policy and international humanitarian law has had an impact on the African diaspora. She has been a guest speaker, analyst, and contributor for many esteemed groups like the United States Congress and The Elders, an international human rights organization founded by Nelson Mandela. Araia is also the founder of DAWN (Diaspora African Women’s Network), an organization focused on the development and growth of skilled women and girls in the African diaspora.


5 – Haben Girma

Haben Girma

In the past year the world has become familiar with the name Haben Girma, Harvard Law School’s first deaf-blind graduate. Girma, however, is more than her alma mater. She is a rising civil rights attorney and disability rights advocate who seeks to increase the accessibility of information for people with disabilities through technology and advocacy. Girma had the honor of giving the opening ceremonial remarks for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act where she expressed her mission and beliefs. Recently, Girma has made the move to focus on education-based advocacy where she plans to provide diversity consulting, accessibility training, civil rights workshops, and public speaking services.



Feature Image courtesy of Madote

Ademidun Adejobi
Ademidun Adejobi is a graduate student of English with a focus on minority literature. She believes in the importance of stories as a way to empower the underrepresented and give a voice to identities that lie outside of the tradition. She is an Editor and writer with Applause Africa.
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