THE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE
FOR ETHIOPIAN PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE (ISCEPC)
Dates: 3-8 March, 1997
Professor Asrat was born June 12, 1920 in Addis Ababa. His father Ato Woldeyes Altaye was among the thousands of Ethiopians massacred on February 12, 1929 during an attempt on Grazziani's life. His mother followed her husband in death a few years later. Because of the loss of his parents at a tender age, Professor Asrat faced hardships as a young boy. Following the death of his parents, Professor Asrat moved to Dire Dawa when he was 3 years old. The young Asrat served as a deacon at St. Michael Church in Dire Dawa, Harar and also attended a local French school.
His grandfather Kegnazmatch Tsige Werede was exiled in Italy. Upon the return of his grandfather from exile, the young Asrat returned to Addis Ababa to live with him. In spite of the loss of his parents, he continued his church education and confirmed as deacon by Bishop Kirlos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. His church school teacher Aleka Lemma Wolde Miskal had reportedly said that the young Asrat was an exceptional student and completed the Psalms when he was only 7 years old. Later, Professor Asrat enrolled at Taffari Makonnen School where he completed both his elementary and secondary education. In 1935 he came first in his class and was awarded a Camera, a highly prized item at the time.
Upon completion of his secondary education, Professor Asrat was among the few Ethiopians who were chosen to go abroad for higher education. In mid 1940s he left Ethiopia for Alexandria, Egypt and enrolled at Victoria College where he stayed for five years. Upon graduation from Victoria College, Professor Asrat was awarded a scholarship to study medicine at the Prestigious Edinburgh University in Scotland. At Edinburgh, Professor Asrat was advised to study Law but chose medicine instead. He is the first Ethiopian medical doctor to graduate from Edinburgh and 42nd among Ethiopian students sent abroad after liberation. He began his medical practice in Ethiopia in 1947 Ethiopian calendar. He is also the first medical doctor after the liberation of Ethiopia from Italy. Professor Asrat has served 37 years as a heart surgeon, chief heart surgeon, director, dean, founding member of the medical school of AAU and participated in many policy implementation in the medical field.
Professor Asrat began his career in Ethiopia as a heart surgeon at Princess Tsehai Hospital where he later became the Director of the hospital. During his practice at Princess Tsehai Hospital, Professor Asrat was one of the pioneers of the school of nursing where a large number of Ethiopian nurses received their formal training. Professor Asrat is known for his hard work, dedication to his profession and no nonsense person in his capacity as Administrator of the hospital. People who have known him attest to the fact that Professor Asrat paid equal attention to the poor as well as the rich who needed his services. He was the personal physician of the late Emperor Haile Selassie.
In 1965 Professor Asrat joined the Haile Selassie I University faculty of medicine and began his teaching career and educating Ethiopian medical doctors. Later he became the Dean of the faculty of medicine.
During the Ethiopian revolution Professor Asrat was asked by Dergue officials to train more medical doctors and shorten the time needed to train physicians to a maximum of 3-4 years. Professor Asrat had been reported to have told Dergue officials that he could only train dressers and nurses but not medical doctors in 3 to 4 years time. Because of his unwillingness to carry out the Dergue's demand, he was vanished to Assab and to the war front in the north of the country. The Emperor Haile Selassie was reported to have been killed during Professor Asrat's absence. It was rumored that Dergue Officials wanted Professor Asrat to be killed while attending the wounded and disabled members of Ethiopian armed forces in various military installations. On completion of his tour of duty, Professor Asrat returned to his teaching and practice at Addis Ababa University and Tikoor Anbesa Hospital medical center.
Here are some of the medals, Professor Asrat received and professional associations he is a member of:
1. Ethiopian Honor Star Medallion
2. Menelik II Medallion
3. International Gold Mercury (individual merits)
4. Red Sea Medallion, 1st class
5. Member, British Medical Association
6. Royal college of Fellow Surgeons
6. Member, International College of Surgeons
7. Member, East African Surgeons
In July 1991 Professor Asrat was elected by the Addis Ababa University Faculty to represent the Faculty at the TPLF/EPLF staged managed conference. At the conference Professor Asrat voted against the language of TPLF authored and doctored charter and the election of peoples representatives. He was the only person who declined to vote and approve the charter. He told the participants that the body that could draft the charter must be elected by the Ethiopian people and without their participation the charter could not be adopted. Because of his opposition to TPLF's sinister plans, the TPLF denied Professor Asrat a seat in the council of representatives and targeted him for media attack.
As ethnic Amharas became the target of TPLF and its armed political organizations' onslaught, Professor Asrat championed the cause of Amhara Ethiopians. He later formed the All Amhara Peoples Organization to bring public awareness to the plight of Amharas that were being murdered, raped, and evicted from their birth places in the south and south east. One of Professor Asrat's major disagreement with TPLF lead government is the fact that TPLF and some of the armed political organizations, which have pledged the faithful implementation of the Charter and assumed power in the name of the people, are advancing policies of ethnic enmity and committing crimes of mass murder, particularly against the Amhara. He repeatedly reported to the Council of Representatives on the incessant massacres perpetrated over a year since the adoption of the Charter. Professor Asart argued that although the Amhara, a substantially large segment of the population of Ethiopia, were not represented during the transition.
When the transitional government was unwilling to take any action except to continue disarming the Amhara, Professor Asrat took his case directly to the people at a rally in Debre Berhan. At the rally Professor Asrat told the huge gathering the contribution of Amharas to Ethiopia's independence and program of TPLF and other political organizations to disarm Amharas and wreak an unfathomable orgy of violence against the helpless Christian villagers. He told the gathering that men were castrated and slaughtered like livestock. Expectant mothers had their fronts slit open and fetuses merrily snuffed out of wombs. On the basis of this factual speech he made to the gathering, TPLF charged him for inciting Amharas against its rule. Professor Asrat, who is not in good health and close to 70 years old, is now serving a 5 year prison term and lives in a cell full of common criminals. He is also among the 41 AAU Professors summarily fired by TPLF for protesting the killing of University students during peaceful demonstration.
Recent reports from Addis Ababa have indicated that TPLF is in the process of preparing another politically motivated charges against Professor Asrat to keep in prison indefinitely.