Martyrs Day: June 20
Martyrs Day is a public holiday celebrated in Eritrea.
In Eritrea, June 20 is celebrated as Martyrs Day. This day has been declared a national holiday for all the people of the country for the one purpose of paying tribute and respecting all those who died in its 30-year war. Through the war, the ultimate goal was to claim liberty and national independence for all the people of Eritrea.
History of Martyrs Day in Eritrea
Like every other African country that we see today, Eritrea first morphed into geopolitical form during the period of nineteenth century colonialism. At the end of colonialism all territories except Eritrea and a few others countries like Spanish West Sahara and East Timor were granted the independence they deserved.
At the end of Italian colonialism in 1941, Eritrea was denied independence. British military occupation followed until 1951, when the United Nations imposed a federation with Ethiopia on Eritrea. Within ten years of the imposed federation, things began to turn dire for Eritrea’s people when Ethiopia dissolved the federation and made Eritrea its fourteenth province in 1962.
Events on September 1, 1961 led to what is widely known as the Eritrean War of Independence, a battle that was waged until 1991, primarily by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF).
On May 15, 1991, the EPLF captured the entire Ethiopian 3rd Army headquarters, and days later, the head of the Ethiopian regime fled into exile. A conference was held with high-level U.S. delegation on July 1-5, 1991 to set up a transitional government for Eritrea. Finally, in April 1993, independence was almost unanimously voted on.
Eritrea’s Martyrs Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
War veterans and the dead alike are commemorated on Martyrs Day. Like many such celebrations, parades honoring veterans of the 30-year war are held in Eritrea. Many folks will go to graveyards to honor the dead that fought for Eritrea’s freedom. The president typically gives a speech to the people of the country, encouraging all to remember the source of their independence.