Welcome to the Irob Advocacy Association (IAA) Website!
This website has been established by Irob Advocacy Association (IAA) to house its web content and activities, and comprehensive facts about Irob. The website will be updated regularly with more information and additional services that will accommodate more interactions with the visitors and registered users. Stay tuned and keep visiting our website!
IAA dedicates the website to the heroes and heroines who paid the ultimate price with their life to defend Irob (their homeland and people) and the innocent Irob civilians that were rounded-up in their homes and abducted by Eritrean forces over two decades ago.
Though the website contains general information about Irob in many sections, we thought providing a brief introduction about Irob from the outset could be helpful. Irob is found in North-Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. The name Irob represents both the ethnic identity of the people and the land they live in. The usual appellation of the Irob people and land is “adoo’ha Irob, The Three Irobs, because of three subdivisions of the people and the area they inhabit. The northern part is called Adgadi-Are, the central part Buknaiyti-Are and the Southern part is Hassaballa (Hassaballa-Are). The town of Alitena, the first host of modern education in Ethiopia, was traditional capital of Irob until two decades ago. The current government moved the Irob capital from Alitena to a place called Dawhan, about 6 Km south west of Alitena. Dawhan is located south side of the river that dissects the Irobland into two.
The geographical location of Irob in Tigray Regional State, Ethiopia.
As it is so common in all societies, Irobs do share culture and traditions with their adjacent neighbors. Hence both highland Tigrayan way of life and lowland Saho customs are manifested in the Irob culture. However, the Irobs also possess their own distinctive cultural features. How the Irob people celebrate Masqal/Mesqel holiday, for example is one of the well-known unique Irob ways. St. Michael’s days are celebrated twice a year, in November and June, in a special way as well. Most of Irobs are Christians, Orthodox and Catholic, and have many holidays in common. Masqal, Christmas and Easter are some of them.
One of the most famous monasteries, of Ethiopia, the Gundagunde Monastry, is found in the Irobland. The age old Lideta Lemariam Church of Alitena and the Saint Ghiorgis’ Church of Hido are in the Irobland as well. Interestingly three of them are in the three parts of Irob: Gundagunde in Hassaballa, Lideta-Lemariam in Buknayti-Are and Saint Ghiorghis in Adgadi-Are.
As indicated above, Irob due to its geographic location between the highland agriculturalists and the lowland mostly pastoralist communities, share many customs with both flanking societies. But the Irobs have their own traditional ways in actual practice of the customs. Marriage custom, for instance, is mostly the same with the highland Christians but Irobs, to some extent, have their own ways regarding marriage festivity. For example, the bridegroom’s side showy manifestation known as ‘Waradi’ is mainly Irob reality. The dowry practice in Irob differs from the habit of both neighbors as well.
Some of homestead tools and goods of the Irobs are the same with that of highlanders, especially goods made of terra cotta such as Gaana, Itro, Sarima, Mogogo but the Irobs make some of the utensils for serving drinks such as pitchers, flagons, carafes, beakers, mugs, cups etc. from horns and woods unlike the highlanders who make them mainly from terra cotta. The way the Irobs make goods made of grass and a kind such as milk containers: Faarena, Kurru, Daggude, Bahharre, Ayni, ‘Arare etc. differs from their highland neighbors but in this regard the Irob custom is similar to the customs of their lowland neighbors. There are also goods made of skin one can see in the Irob homes: Goobo/shield, Ghirib,‘Armo, Soro, Dabul, Ghirbo, Saar, Sibbadh,‘Okkat, ‘Hil’hilo, Ma’hzal, Sido, Kiba (Gurade-are), etc.
Tools the Irobs make out of wood include: Dawdena, Galadda, Wayda, Lakle-galadda, Madagdag, Moogod, Moogod-na, Koorayto, Lifeena, Masbana, Diga, Ilo, Sefseffo, Ttela, ‘Haklo, Naa, Ed’erto, Dukka, Member, ‘Arat, Qero etc. Materials for traditional plow: Nayiit, Ar’ut, ‘Erfe, Dugre, Qaraqiro, Qetirti, etc. are made of wood as well. These tools are made by their highland neighbors as well. Types of sports and games the Irob play include: Latitiya, Qarsa, Dufla, Arda, Gabatha, Fatana dha, fiddho, Wuuno etc.
It is the Irob tradition to relate genealogy to their progenies. Irobs also pass on their folklores and traditions in their traditional ways known as Tine-yan-tine, Simbo-simbot etc. The fairytales and orally told fictions too are conveyed this way; these are some of the Irob traditional facts.
Something that must not be forgotten when we talk about Irob culture is ‘Adar. ‘Adars are poems recited to convey one’s feelings of happiness or sadness. Some other concerns and views are expressed by way of ‘Adars as well. Irob is also very well-known by its cultural icons like Ghi’dim and Sola. Burkuta can be mentioned as one of the common cultures of Irob as well.
Other important custom that made Irob historically unique, especially compared to the highland society, was relative democratic norms. The Irobs had their own electoral system with which they elected their leaders. The leaders used to elect the top leader known as Ona among themselves. The Irobs also had a democratic familial relationship, and other democratic norms. But those norms and traditions have been suppressed by consecutive antidemocratic regional and national governments.
Today’s Irob, especially after the 1998 Eritrean Occupation, is different. The Irob people endured many natural and manmade hardships. Especially following the 1998 invasion and occupation of Irob territory by Eritrea, many clues indicate that, Irob in fact might be heading towards collapse. The two years of occupation, the war and its aftermath destroyed the socio-economic fabric of Irob community. Subsequently Irob became almost unrecognizable. The forest and all big trees that we once knew are not there. The two years stay of the Eritrean occupying force in Irob-land caused massive destruction of the environment and contributed to desertification of the area. Animal rearing which was part of Irob livelihood in the occupied area is unthinkable now. The social, environmental and infrastructural destruction is immense. Irob is still suffering from this destruction after two decades.
To reverse the incalculable damage done by the Eritrean occupying forces in Irob, there needs a huge investment to restore/mitigate the environment and to support modified or alternative livelihoods for the people. But the Irob people have no resources to even bring the environment and livelihood to where they were, let alone advance farther progress an inch. It is in this context that we have been obliged to confront the complex problems Irob is facing and so to establish IAA, to help galvanize the society for change. As the crises, Irobs are experiencing are amply told in this website, we will not go into the details here.
Therefore, with this short introductory message, IAA would like to introduce itself with you, the website visitors. IAA is a non-for profit, non-political and non-religious autonomous organization that is dedicated to the Irob causes (Please read about us and governance sections for details). The difficulties Irobs are facing are immense. To overcome these difficulties, resources, skills and manpower must be found and harmonized. IAA hopes to be a positively contributing factor to change this extremity with our visitors’ support in generous donations, advice and skills to those engaged in development work. IAA is committed to the multifaceted pressing Irob issues that are detailed on the website in general by prioritizing the most urgent needs such as the Irob abductees, the border issue, and the ongoing rampant youth crises in Irob.
Irob Advocacy Association's vision is to see an economically empowered vibrant united Irob, where all rights are fully upheld.
IAA envisions Irob society fully aware of its rights, history, culture, and social values. Hence, it strives to preserve Irob’s social values and its group identity.
IAA’s aspiration is to see all democratic, political, economic, and human rights are upheld in Irobland and to all Irobs, wherever they might be.
Irob Advocacy Association's mission is to empower Irob people through research and advocacy to ensure the vision is realized. IAA shall work so that safety and security of Irobs are guaranteed and shall monitor that all rights are upheld. IAA promotes the “concept of unity in diversity” in Ethiopia and peaceful co-existence with all neighboring peoples.
IAA strives for emergence and flourishing of united Irob community with strong socioeconomic and democratic foundations. Hence, IAA will work to preserve the right of Irob minority’s indivisibility which is a matter of survival as a cohesive community.
IAA uses the following four common tools of advocacy mechanisms to achieve its mission: organizing, lobbying, educating and court litigation.
IAA PRIORITY PROJECTS
Since the Eritrean invasion of the region, the continuity of the Irob people as an undivided entity in the Ethiopian setting is being threatened. This danger overtly started in 1998 when the Eritrean Armed Forces invaded and occupied part of the Irobland and some other Ethiopian territories.
Understanding the consequence of the occupation, the Irob people had gallantly resisted the invading Eritrean forces that were equipped with tanks and artilleries. The Irob militia had heroically fought for days on the battlefields of Aiga, Maychia, Makata and other localities defending its homeland. Initially, the militia managed to repel the invading forces.
The Eritrean armed force kidnapped more than 93 innocent civilians from the Irob-land when the region was under their occupation. Those abductees were not combatants. They were civilians in the countryside engaged in farming and cattle rearing. The whereabouts of these victims is still unknown. The traumatic effect of this heinous crime spills far beyond the victims themselves to their immediate families, relatives and the entire Irob community. Thus, we call upon the Federal Government of Ethiopia and international community to salvage all measures in their powers to rescue our abductees. Please refer to the research paper by Angesom Adayu for an in depth analysis on this crime and the available instruments including those by UN Working Grouped on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID).
It can be said that the Irob youth gave up on Irob-land, but are they to be blamed? Besides what is described under “Border” section above, there are additional push and pull factors in play when it comes to the overall crises of Irob youth and their mass migration out of Irobland.
THE PUSH FACTORS
Irobland is a mountainous region with only less than 2% of its 90,000ha landmass, arable so not apt for farming. Instead, for a long time, it has been suitable for grazing. The main livelihood of the Irob people, therefore, has been based on pasturing. However, livestock carrying capacity declined as the population grew and droughts have become more frequent and severer due to the changing climate.