Addis Abeba is no stranger to street beggars. Many people from the countryside go into Addis Ababa looking for jobs and sometimes end up begging. But recently, many Syrians have been seen on the streets
Mahamat Anas holds up a sign in Amharic saying: “We are your brothers, we fled from Syria. We are in dire conditions. We ask you to help us in God’s name.”
Islam has a long and special history in Ethiopia, with the first Muslims coming to Ethiopia in about 615 AD to escape persecution in Mecca during the reign of the Axumite King Armah (Ashama Ibn Abjar in Islamic tradition).
It is said that he heard them tell about their new religion and their beliefs and thought it so similar to his country’s Christian beliefs that he welcomed them and settled them in Negash in Tigray. In this town, north of Wukro, there is still a mosque at the site of the original mosque in Ethiopia.
In Islamic history and tradition, Ethiopia (or Al-Habasha) is known as the “Haven of the First Migration or Hijra.” For Muslims, Ethiopia is synonymous with freedom from persecution and emancipation from fear.
“We are trying to survive. We beg in the streets close to traffic lights and in mosques. I wish we were not doing this but we have no other option,” Mr Mahamat told to reporters.
Many homeless Syrians have touched the hearts of volunteers in the city. Aisha Mohamed says, “They are helpless people. We are helping them when they come here. We give them blankets, food, and clothes. “We are also asking others to help. They have children and don’t understand [local] language.” Since the start of Syria’s devastating civil war 2011, around 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country while millions more are internally displaced. Close to half a million people are believed to have been killed in the conflict. “What can we do, we were never like this but this is our reality now. I plead with Ethiopian to help us,” says Mr Mahamat.