Eritrea’s 30 Years Anniversary of Siri’Hit Commando

As we are fast approaching the 23rd Anniversary of our most cherished and well deserved Independence day celebration, another significant occurrence is about to be remembered at 11:45 pm tonight

It was 21st of May 1984 and 1937, 30 years and 77 years ago respectively that Ethiopia invader army and fascist Italy were served a piece of the spectacular Eritrean heroism. Sirhit commando at Sembel and Zerai Deres' at the middle of Rome's square
It was 21st of May 1984 and 1937, 30 years and 77 years ago respectively that Ethiopia invader army and fascist Italy were served a piece of the spectacular Eritrean heroism. Sirhit commando at Sembel and Zerai Deres’ at the middle of Rome’s square

By Alula Abraha,

It was 21st of May 1984, exactly 30 years ago this very hour, 14 Eritrean commando fighters left their base in Ala with an important mission. The mission was to destroy the Ethiopian Derg’s Russian MIG fighters, gun-ship helicopters and Russian Antonov-12 military aircrafts that were located at Sembel airport.

That day, Eritrean commandos sneaked into the highly guarded Air force base of the Derg’s regime in Sembel, Asmara and turned 33 enemy military aircrafts including 16 MIG fighter jets into smithereens. The whole job was done at a lightening speed and took only 18 minutes before the commandos head back to their meeting points. While all reported back to base, only one got martyred. His name was Mebrahtu (AKA ‘Embaye‘).

It was remembered that the humiliated Derg officers that day acted in a cowardly fascistic fashion as usual. They were dragging martyr Mebrahtu’s body in order to impress the fuming Mengistu Hailemariam, who was visiting the destroyed airbase. They then tied Martyr Mebrahtu’s body onto their military truck and brutally began playing with his dead body. But furious Mengistu can’t help but scolded his coward armies and ordered them to stop their idiocy at once. He, instead, ordered them to bury him properly, saying that “he has martyred for the principle he believed.” (‘በስነርዓት ቅበሩት፡ እሱ ለዓላማው ነው የወደቀው’).

Thirty years ago, right at this hour, he was marching to get into position with his compatriots in order to accomplish the mission. They did so and he’ll be martyred in the next hour. Eritrea will never forget him and all our martyrs!

The year’s Calendar is usually filled with many more significant heroic events in the history of Eritrea.

The other significant occurrence related to today’s May 21st is, 77 years ago earlier today, Rome was shaken by a handsome young man from Hazega called Zerai Deres.

Like Mebrahtu, he got martyred heroically fighting against fascism and Racism by slaying five fascist officers in the middle of Rome’s square, right at the hub of Italy’s former Fascist Empire.

It was a Friday 21st of May, 1937, when the arrogant Duce (Benito Mussolini), with a puffing-up chest, had decided to celebrate the 4th Anniversary of his fascist Empires in Africa by parading what it used to call the “Subjects of his fascist Empire“.

It was a parade similar to that of what the British Empire also used to pompously organise every year show-casing their “Majesty’s subjects“, including the famous Indian Rajs. It usually involved ceremonies where the so called “Colonial Subjects” were trained to salute the monarchs of their colonial master in a parade.

Similarly, Fascist Italy had transported hundreds of its “subjects” to Rome all the way from four of its colonial holdings in Africa (the Libyans, Somalians, Eritreans and Ethiopians). Amongst the Ethiopians in the parade saluting the arrogant Duce was Ras Imru, who was the first cousin of Emperor Haileselassie himself. The Duce did this in order to embarrass Haileselassie who had fled to England for his life.

The “Subjects” usually used to hold ceremonial swords with which they salute the Duce (Benito Mossolini) and his guests of honours in the grandstand. Amongst the guest of Honours in the Grandstand was the Führer Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany next to the diminutive figure of the then king Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. King Victor Emmanuel was particularly so short, a dwarf measuring at only about 5-feet but ruling as Italian monarchy the longest for 47 years since 1900 and also adding to his claim as Emperor of Ethiopia (1936–41) and King of the Albanians (1939–43), respectively.

The Führer and the Duce are not that taller than the dwarf King. That day, the three dwarfs were so gripped with fear that they were probably shaking in their jack boots when they got more than they could have bargained for.

Amongst the so called “subjects“, it was only the young Zerai Deres who seemed to have the balls never to trade his dignity for anything and send a strong statement by using his ceremonial sword to slay those arrogant fascist and racists with it.

The fascist Italia were instead served with a piece of spectacular Eritrean heroism. But it wasn’t until the five fascist heads were slain by wedi-Deres and already rolling on the floor that he was finally martyred in the face of cowardly rain of fascist bullets. Also half a dozen more fascists officers were severely injured with their heads almost half hanging. Jig’na Zerai Deres was martyred heroically fighting fascism and racism on their own turfs never-mind Mebrahtu on his own turf that was occupied by invaders.

The whole episode of that day was filmed on Video and still kept in the Italian Archive today. It was a highly guarded evidence that the then Fascist Italian establishment didn’t want a copy of the video ever to be available for viewing by the Italians themselves, let alone by outside world simply because it was understood at the time, if such video is ever viewed by the world, it certainly would have had a real repercussion across all the Empires of, not only in the colonies of fascist Italy but also amongst the “colonial subjects” of the French as well as the British Empires.

In those days, as people didn’t have mobile phones or any other personal video camcorders, the only video taken was by a team of the official video documentation of fascist Italia. Only Fascist Italy had the copy and the power to disseminate it or not. Had the millions of “colonial subjects” across the globe seen this video, they definitely would have drawn encouragement from the young Eritrean Jig’na, Zerai Deres, so as to rebel against their colonial masters, at least, in their own country.

After all, what victims of colonialism needed was a little encouragement to trigger a rebellion against their brutal colonial occupiers and what more can be there than that of Zerai Deres’ heroic display in Rome, at the centre of a European capital, when the other “subjects” couldn’t even pluck up the courage to resist in their own country.

But now, it’s about time the Italian authorities finally open the vaults of their highly guarded archives and de-classify the video of that heroic piece of world history made 77 years ago today.

Besides, successive regimes in Ethiopia had been exploiting Zerai-Deres’ heroism to suit their political narrative at any particular times.

Zekri N’semTatna
Awet n’Hafash!!!

The Eritrean commandos
The Eritrean commandos that participated in the operation

  • Teddy Sheda

    @ Alula & @ Tesfanews you have done it again. Our History is coming to Life in another Medium. This nation and us people owe you so much. Bring back proud History now all young people will have access. Serheit Komando nay temali, Zerai Derese nay abhagotataena…all in the same time Amazing. Thank You.

  • B.Adal

    Alula, Happy May 24 to you, Eritreans, and friends of Eritrea.
    You seem to always know how to write great and well timed articles, be in sport, politics and now history. Thank you very much for all your hard work.

    Cheers Eritreans,
    Glory to our Martyrs.
    Awet n’Hafash

    P.S. Would you please verify the number of commando who attacked the airport were 14 or 16? I believe they were 16 and one was martyred. I will verify it tomorrow, … I am away form my home Library.

  • Vic

    Zerai Derese sacrificed his life not because he was Ethiopian or believed in it he was so upset that his neighbour country (Ethiopia)was getting humiliated and he could not tolerate it. Unfortunately the payback has always been the opposite,annexation,dismantling,sabotaging…..sanctions.

  • John

    There is a picture of Mebrahtu (Embaye) on the book called si´rihit commando in tgrgna. That lion´s face should be known.

  • L.T

    When I see Gen Sibhat and Zeray in the same picture I came upon a larger growing interest in qualiative Eritreans operations in Ethiopia ..though their goal was to develop Eritrea to Independence..

  • L.T

    I have read many books and have done researches on those who were in Ethiopia and has fought common enemy both Italian and Ethiopian from Bashay Awaaelom Haregot war in Aduwa to Lt General Aman Micheal Andom.

  • L.T

    Zeray Deres,Abrah Doboch and Mogos Asgodom,Belatta Leoronzo Teazaz Mebrahtu,Belatta Gettan Epfriam Teweldemidhen Gebremedhin,B.General Tesfatsion Andom,Col Belai and Martha Mebrahtu Fisah..the title should be”Stories fm Awaaelom to Gen Aman,for our enemy we fight in fifferent ways,means,place..

  • L.T

    We provide help,personality development,support,security,knowledge and harmony and own intitiative to Weyane for them to put the Dergue in Focus..

  • Mary

    @ Alula, what a piece of history. My father’s favorite book was about the Commando- he would read it to me because I don’t know how to read Tigrigna. In fact, that book motivated me to learn to read tigrigna. Additionally, I am glad to see my great uncle’s story (Eritrea’s story) of what transpired in Italy so long ago. Zerai Deres’ is typically recognized as the man who stood up for Ethiopia but as my dad (and my family) would share, that he refused to bow down to our colonizers or any foreign invader. He was a proud Eritrean, a man of integrity; a man who stood up against enemy occupiers who stole Eritrea’s riches for many years. My dad and aunt also shared with me that he was initially arrested and assassinated shortly thereafter; no one ever knew who actually killed him- whether it was the Brits or the Italians. I wish and hope one day that such documentary (or evidence) will become available. I am proud of my Eritrean history; I am proud of my Eritrean identity. Awet NiHafash, Zelalem zikrin, kibrin Nsematat.

  • Remembering May 21

    It was 21st May 1984 and 1937, exactly 33 years and 80 years ago respectively, when Ethiopia and Facist Italia were served a piece of spectacular Eritrean heroism. Srhit Commando at Sembel air force and Zerai Deres at the middle of Rome square.

    • Hafash

      Funny, Alexander Pushkin’ got statue but not our heroes.

      • One Observer

        Nonsense! Pushkin is rather a Russian hero with Eritrean ancestry, and the statue simply celebrates this linkage.

        It’s too much for TPLFites like you to understand but…. we Eritreans don’t glorify one or two individual heroes at the expense the many who paid the ultimate sacrifice. We call All Eritrean Tegadeltis, Soldiers, National Service ‘Heroes’, and we have monuments for our martyrs in every Eritrean city.

        There is a big difference b/n us and you. One good example is: we don’t have photos and statues for PIA. None. On the other hand, you have Meles Zenawi photos and banners everywhere; and buildings, squares, tournaments named after him – LOL

        FYI — Unlike your TPLF Ethiopia, we don’t have foreign heroes with no contribution to Eritrean history. Of course I am referring to the statues you have in Addis Ababa, such as Karl Square, Bob Marely and so on.

        • You killed it.

        • ኣሌክ – Alec you

          ????????????????

      • Halhal

        Zerai Deres was not and is not your hero, stupid Woyane beggar.

      • ኣሌክ – Alec you

        ሰክት..

  • King Yacob

    Alula’s article is another Srhit of this important month of May. I feel very proud as an Eritrean

  • forto sawa

    Happy Independence day deki Erey!! sWuAtNa HyaWaN eYOM… Awet nHafash!!

  • Ebay-Asmara

    I’ve always wondered, guys, about the fact that, Eritrean commandoes went into Sembel a second time, after this as well. Haven’t they? I recollect that happening, if I’m not mistaken but it’s not talked about as much. Am I wrong on this one? If it is true, then that’s more amazing to me because the security of the airport, was highly enhanced after the 1st attack.

    Has TN, any info, on that?

    • ራኢ

      እታ “ኤርትራውያን ኮማንዶ ቅያ 18 ድቓይቕ” ብሰሎሙን ድራር ኣብ 1996 ዝተሓትመት ከተምብባ ፈትን። እቲ ቅያን ታሪኽን ኩሉ ኣብኣ ኣሎ።

      • Ebay-Asmara

        You misunderstood what I said. I read that fantastic book.

        My question was, that I heard Eritrean commandoes went into Sembel, the SECOND time?

  • Traitors Acting like oposition

    We have to tell this Story to our kids. Its impotant to know our proud History

    • Zemen

      Wow, memory !
      This article reminds me of the fascist Derg’s “red star campaign” on Eritrea. If I am not mistaken it was in 1982 or 1983. It was during President Mohamed Jafar al-Nimeri’s government in Sudan as this campain was waged on Eritrea by air and land. I was in Khartoum Sudan as that campaign started. What I don’t forget in my life is, because of the constant unstability relationship between the Sudan and Derg, Sudan used to apprehend as many Ethiopians and Eritreans to bring them out of Khartoum to the border towns like Kessala, Ghadaref, Metema and Homera. As the apprehension from week to week, from month to month intensified, many young Eritreans, who were friends of mine decided to go to battle field, instead of living in Khartoum and being harrased by Sudanese securities. Actually, the Sudanese government and people were friendly and guest-giving people, but sometimes the Sudanese securities in Khartoum acted on their own. One best friend of mine, who was called “Asmerom” and could scarcely speak Amharic like me ( an Oromo ) was amongest those voluntarees. May be he is still alive or has sacrified himself for his mother land Eritrea like these above heroes.

  • ኣሌክ – Alec you

    ዘልኣለማዊ ክብርን ሞጎስን ንስውኣትና????????
    ዓወት ንሓፋሽ✊????????????????????☝????️❤️????????????????

  • ራኢ

    ነጻነት
    ====
    ነጻነት፣ ዋጋ ቡሉጻት ዋጋ መስዋእትነት
    ዋጋ ጀጋኑ ንሰላም ሓርነት
    ዘውዲ ሓፋሽ መግለጺ መንነት
    ትዘከር ነብዕላ ብሰላም ሓድነት

    ቀይሕን ጸሊምን ኩሉ ዝወሰደት
    ሙሁርን ዓዃይን ሂይወት ተመገበት
    ፍራይት ጸጋይት መኻን ዝገበረት
    ሁርኩትን በሊሕን ጉድጓድ ዝኸተተት
    ዓብይን ጭልቅዕን ኣካሉ ዘጉደለት
    ብደምን ረሃጽን ጸሓይና ዘብረቐት
    ልዕሊ ሚዛን ወርቂ ኣልማዝ ዝኸበረት
    ትጸምበል ትዘከር ብሓበን ብኽብረት

    ህያብ ጀጋኑና ዕንቊ ዝኸበረት
    ኤርትራዊ ዜጋ ኣብ ሓደ ዘሕበረት
    ዮሃና ንዘምር ብሓጐስ ብስምረት

    ተኸፊሉ ዋጋ ይኽፈል’ውን ኣሎ
    ክትድራዕ ነጻነት ወለዶ ክርህዎ
    ምስጋና ንሕቡን ዋርሳይ ይከኣሎ
    ዋሓስ ነጻነትና ፍጹም ዘይሕለሎ

    ትዓምብብ ነጻነት ትምበር ንዘልኣለም
    ክብሪ ወለዶታት ክሕፈር ከይድፈር
    ኣብ ኩሉ ብኹሉ ነጻነት ይዘመር
    ኣልፋ ዎ ኦሜጋ ኤርትራ ንበል!