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The Lion of Gash-Barka

Hamid Idris Awate

The Lion of Gash-Barka

By Bereket Kidane

Nearly fifty three years ago, Hamid Idriss Awate’s five-bullet rifle (Abu Khamsa) in Western Eritrea fired the first shot of the great liberation struggle for Eritrea’s independence that would transform Eritrean society in every conceivable way forever. We think of the first shot fired by Idriss Awate as having its causes in the illegal annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia and extreme brutality of the Ethiopian Army in lowland Eritrea but the real roots of the armed struggle lay in superpower politics of the cold war era that cynically refused to grant independence to Eritrea when all former African colonies were being awarded their sovereignty.  President Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, typified the cold war era superpower politics when he shamelessly suggested that despite the wishes of the Eritrean people and their strong case for independence, the United States’s strategic interests in the Red Sea basin dictates that Eritrea be linked with America’s ally Ethiopia.

The biggest mistake successive Ethiopian administrations ever made was in thinking they could handle the Eritrean people by force or defeat their ambitions for nationhood and sovereignty by military means.

On September 1, 1961 Hamid Idriss Awate, the former Italian Ascari and Security Officer of the Gash Barka region, is considered to have fired the first shot in the liberation of Eritrea.  There is much that is still unknown about Awate but recorded interviews with his comrades indicate that he was harassing the Ethiopian Army with just a few rifles and only thirteen men for years in his native Gash Barka demanding that the Ethiopian flag come down and be replaced with the Eritrean one.  The Ethiopian Army sent several armed convoys to his village for his arrest but he always fled in time after being tipped by Eritrean nationalists within the Ethiopian Army that sympathized with his cause.

Following the increasing brutality by the Ethiopian Army in lowland Eritrea, he steadily gained more followers in 1960 and 1961. Needing more ammunition for his men he and eleven of his comrades launched a daring attack on a police post and arms depot in Western Eritrea on September 1, 1961 that lasted for several hours. That night's gunfire exchange with the Ethiopian Army marked the first shot being fired in liberation of Eritrea. That night's armed conflict started a chain of events that led to the long and bitter armed struggle for the liberation of Eritrea.

The resistance gradually spread to the highlands and culminated with the total liberation of Eritrea in 1991 when the EPLF tanks rolled into Asmara.  Indeed long before the heroic tegadeltis of Nakfa, there was the Lion of Gash Barka.

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The Lion of Gash-Barka Reviewed by Admin on 5:40 PM Rating: 5


  1. Rip awate. We will never forget your sacrifices for Eritrea.

  2. Awate started the opened armed conflict against the Ethiopians. He fired the first shot and later died from his battle wounds. Truly a hero!

  3. Awate,
    You Are A True Eritrean Legend.
    Thank you and May Allah/God Rest Your Soul.
    My fellow madotes: What do you think Eritrea starts erecting statues of Eritrean Heroes/Heroines like Awate.

  4. Awate was a shifta . Pure and simple. Stop glorifying an illiterate man, who could have never had any understanding of the concept of nationhood or Independence. It is because illiterate people like him who followed on his footstep and went on a mindless and purposeless 30 years journey that Eritrea finds itself in its current predicament.

  5. agame adgi troll, go away. go to your own website and vomit there

  6. There is one, not sure where it's located ( May be his final resting place)? Idk but eri tv did a piece on his history & I've seen a group of ppl escorted by a tour guide visiting the site. Intact a simple google brings up the image of the site it won't let me copy it to post here!
    But there is one.

  7. There is a statue of awate at his burial site in Haykota, his hometown. It was erected by GoE in 1994.
    Also, Awate is listed among the lions of Africa in an Italian book and has a tree named after him in the Peace and Justice Garden in the town of Cologno Montezze outside of Milano.

  8. Died of food poisoning.

  9. Yap, that is what I know to be correct, ( May be even a bad milk)!

  10. "Dejen": If you think Awate was shifta, then you must be Ahya Amara of Haile Slassie or Mengistu Era, if not you must be todays woyane.
    * If you are Ahya, then you are considered today Shifta by Woyane
    * If you are woyane, then you were considered Shifta by Haile Slassie and Mengistu.
    You see, in either case you are considered shifta by your people.
    Awate is an Eritrean freedom fighter and a Hero during any period according to his people, Eritreans.

  11. Abe:
    I feel your pain :)
    The only Hero your Mama Ethiopia had was Zerai Deres! and sadly enough you discovered he actually was from Hazega Eritrea.

  12. Adgis and Agames only say "Zeraf, Zeraf" they don't actually lay down their lives for the causes they believe in like Eritreans do.
    Eritrean history is full of heroes. Adgi and Agame history is full of lies and treachery. They do not have a single hero. Their entire history is make belief and legends. It is all bogus.

  13. Dejen shame on you. If Illiteracy is
    a criterion Isayas is the best qualified

  14. B. Adal You are great.haile-17 May Allah/God bless you. Kubur Seb

  15. B.Adal: Yo my Grandfather didn't stood up for your asshole Ethiopia. He stood up for his country Eritrea and the rest of African nation at that time he saw Ethiopian flag. As an African nation he pick it up and raised. So don't bow for my Grandfather what he did for Ethiopia, he didn't do a shit, he did it for ERITREA and the rest of AFRICA!!!

  16. Dejen , he is a hero for the Eritrean ppl not for the agame qomal hizbi tigray at all ,you have the rat face meles,

  17. Picture below: In September 1994, the remains of martyr Awate were buried in the town of Haikota (Western Eritrea) by the Eritrean Government.

  18. Like wise brah, i appreciate the insight on how to, thx a bunch brother!

  19. DEAR .PR ISAYAS AFEWORKIAugust 16, 2014 at 2:16 AM

    Dejen we know tigrian interfer in our affair. so you kondaf agame . this is eritrean web not agames. evry minit you change your name and insulting ppl and religion, leaders , ethic ,... to creat havoc among ppl. but we now kondaf agames writeing in eritrean web. lementy tegaru hasadat mekankum tarek yefeltekum. AWATE IS AWATE FOREVER. if you said what ever we know very well kondafat lementi tegaru.

  20. Ethio history is falseAugust 16, 2014 at 2:21 AM

    their whole history is false. Like
    1. they have 3000 years of civilization. Ooops! False!
    2. The ark of Noah is in Ethiopia except that you are not allowed to see it. Ooops! False.
    3. Menelki is the son of Queen Sheba and King Solomon from the bible. Ooops! False.
    Shall I Stop now or keep going. Their whole damn history is false.

  21. I think the area where the first battle in liberation of Eritrea took place is called Mt. Adal if I am not mistaken. I would love to see a reenactment of that battle. Is Bahti Meskerem a national holiday in Eritrea? If it is not, it needs to be.

  22. Idris Awate Int'l AirportAugust 16, 2014 at 3:03 AM

    If it were up to me, I would re-name the Asmara Airport "Idris Awate International Airport."
    I would say he is very deserving of that honor.

  23. Awate was an interesting man in many ways. He spoke fluent Arabic, Tigre, Tigrigna. He was also a comfortable speaker of the Italian language.
    He fought in World War II at the Battle of Keren on the side of the Italians and later served as the Security Chief in the equivalent position of Deputy Mayor of Kassala, Sudan for the British during which he lobbied the Sudanese elders in Kassala to become part of Eritrea.

  24. If PIA is the Lion of Nakfa, then Awate is the Lion of Gash-Barka.

  25. Dont worry we will have a third airport in the middle of Gash Barka and we will call it AWATE !

  26. You forgot "the FIRST mosque in Africa is in MeQele."..As if tgray had had an airplane at the time to help the first moslem fly to Meqele...LOL

    Ofcourse the first Mosque ever in Africa is in Massawa...
    Same as Moses crossed the RedSea and King Solomon/Queen of Sheeba, they all used the
    Grandious Gate of Civilisation ERITREA!

    Viva Eritrea !!!!

  27. As an Eritrean, I am interested to learn and I challenge any knowledgeable Eritrean on the subject of Awate to pin point any truths and fallacies in the argument given by an Ethiopian, Abe. It is not enough to tell Abe that he is agame or hamema or anything like that. He has given detailed account albeit no references to look into; we Eritreans need to answer him if he has fallicified any part of the life of Awate. As an example was Awate conscripted by Italians in 1935? If he understood freedom or nationalism, did he object his conscription? Has he tried to continue to battle the British in 1941 when the fascists themselves were giving up? Was he approached by ELF in 1961 or was it his own initiative to fire his shots in 1961? If it was his own initiative, was it for the sake of liberation of Eritrea? But then how can one accept Italian fascists with open arms but understands Ethiopians are colonizers? What was his criteria/definition of colonization? And most importantly, what was Awate doing between 1945 and 1961? A farmer? A nomad? Did he have any encounter worth mentioning with Kunamas as alleged by Abe?

    Dear Eritrean brothers and sisters, if we truly love our country Eritrea then let us detail this important history and its maker with humility and based on only truth. Not for political consumption for pro or against higdef but rather for history purposes.

  28. Your obsession with everything Eritrean is disturbing to say the least. No amount of name changing can hide your green-eyed jealousy. At the end of the day, your backward leaders and their racist policies only helped to accelerate Eritrean's desire for legal independence. So yes, we shot at all our colonizers and eventually got our freedom and the right to forge our own way.

    Worry more about your ever-fracturing artificial white man created empire

  29. Go Away Agame TrollAugust 16, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    Both you and abe are agame and hamema. Furthermore, you need to stop trolling Eritrean websites and go to your Agame website

  30. Lol. You got me laughing with your Agame Tigrigna. That's pretty good! "Shufta ma meles laakoney? Untay agnina nyena?"
    Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh

  31. Very wise reply !
    What I always been telling to myself is this. We Eritreans are good on explaining every little thing to woyane agents knowingly or unknowlingly sometimes. We know how ugly and sick their brain is to misuse every little information they get from us, for their evilish purposes. For example we use to explain our events, our inside/outsider future plans that help them to organise themselves to stand on our way. Please lets learn to act wisely but not irresponsible and gullible and lets keep Eritrean matters to Eritrean !

  32. Above all we are proud that we have fearless "AWATE.COM" webseit that serves the Truth.

  33. is never the Ahmed Idris Awate's Eritrean Vision same goes to which never been the dream of Real Asmarinos
    they both are hijaked like all our football players, our smuggled youth..etc...
    by the Evil woyane and colaborators working hard to discourage Eritreans unity and stability.

  34. Version of history rewritten, nice. But even if the man fit your version, you haven't said a word that would discredit his place in the history of Eritrea. For example "Killing was just a profession for him. That in short is who Hamid Idris Awate was, no more and no less", this is the closest you came, if anything thing this confirm the type of man I personally expect, he is no more than the many Eritreans who paid their dear life for what they believed and no less because he was an Italian soldier, (hint hint Atse Yohannes got atse Tedros killed - no detail required).

    Many who passed to free Eritrea came from different walks of life, but they all had one thing in common ERITREA. So the way you painted the man really does not matter, the fact remains the same he is HERO.

    Hint hint,

  35. Next stop for 16-year-old Milwaukee whiz is the Ivy League
    Helen Fetaw, 16, recently graduated from Rufus King International School and will be heading off to University of Pennsylvania.

  36. Nice piece, Bereket!

    God bless Eritrean martyrs!!

  37. Nice piece, Bereket!

    God bless Eritrean martyrs!

  38. Nice piece, Bereket!

    God bless Eritrean martyrs!!!

  39. Nice piece, Bereket!

    God bless Eritrean martyrs!!!!

  40. Nice piece, Bereket!

    God bless Eritrean martyrs!!!!!

  41. AWATE=first illiterate ASKARIS, then A BANDIT and MASS MURDEROR, then a JIHADIST ISLAMIST, and then a DEAD BODY. Now, he is a HERO in ERITREA. ኣዬ እነ ጀግና ብርቁ!! "ጋኖች ኣለቁና ምንቸቶች ጋን ሆኑ" ኣለ ያገሬ ሰው::

  42. Eat your heart HASAD AGAME !

  43. micael
    Please go back and read what I said before you go into a wrong accusation. Ethiopia used to think Zarai Deres was their son and now they found out he is not. He is Eritrean. That's all I said.
    After all he is A Grand Father to all Eritreans not just yourself, if ur truly Eritrean.
    Have A Great Day.

  44. Woops! What did I just do.
    Sorry Wisdom, my response was meant to micael. That's what happens when you try to respond using cell phone.
    Sorry again.

  45. micael
    Would u please re-read what I wrote before you start calling names. Ethiopia's used to claim Zerai Deres was their son. Now they found out he is Not. He is Eritrean. If you are patriotic Eritrean then you will know Zerai Deres is A Grand Father not only to Eritreans, but to all Africans including all Africans. So pleas tell us more stories about Zerai Deres that u know from your father or mother and the rest of Eritreans might not know.

  46. haile-17
    T'h'sho Z'Hawey
    May Allah/God also bless you and your family.
    Thank Brother from another Eritrean Mother.

  47. Listen peopleI rather call Isayas Lion than awate. He freed us in million yrs. Awate or anyone else could not have done it and he is our eternal enemy just wait to see if you dont earn from past. Ask Melake teckle will tell you. If you need more proof watch Nat geo video "eternal enemies'

  48. Born: June 24, 1989 in Eritrea.

    Live: Kode (Kungalv).

    Club: Hälle IF.

    Branch in EM: 5000 meters.

    Personal best: 14.59,49 (Swedish record).

    Coach: Ulf Friberg.

    Background: Competed as a junior for Eritrea. Come to Sweden as a refugee in 2009, Swedish citizen since December 2013 Europe Second on 5000 meters in the year and sixth of 1 500 meters. Lowered in May the Swedish record by seven seconds. (TT)

    Meraf Bahta Defeats Sifan Hassan 5000m Final Euro Champs Zurich 2014

  49. B. Adal I would love to do it.

  50. Abe, while you were clapping to the tune of 'Hash'ker nay geza eeway bizbza'
    We were saying
    N'nebari selam zKales Gedli
    K'tGobTu tmexu Bhaili
    A front that is fighting for perpetual peace
    Ye who come to conquer by force

  51. Wisdom
    The ReEssi Medri mosque in Massawa might actually be the oldest mosque in the world standing (built the year 615). The mosque actually faces Jerusalem as opposed to the mosques which face Mecca. Mosques in Saudi (year 622), China (627), India (628), etc were all built after that of Massawa. The special thing about the mosque in Massawa is that it was build for the purpose of Mosque. There are some other old mosques in which the building was built for other purpose but later converted to be mosque.

  52. If it quacks like a duck,
    It's a freakin duck !
    That is agame site , you must be one !

  53. Well Done Meraf, you are an inspiration to all Eritrean Female that there is no boundries that can hinder an Eritrean from reach our goals. The Sky is the limit !
    I encourage all newcomers to follow the path and do whatever they can to gain all positive things possible from their new country be it studies and intelligence to be someone and confident Eritrean, wherever we are.
    Good luck one more time for Meraf and C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S ! for your first but not least - European Champion and Gold Medal ever !!! in the name of Sweden.

  54. Congratulation-it-is a victory for Eritrea too-----

  55. vision
    Extend your vision and let Awate come to the capital city.

  56. Lol he was a servant of the invaders .athen he was mad when they left because he was left unemployed. how about that for a national a hero :) The Algerians lost over a million men and women fighting for freedom from the French.You people on the other hand looove the Italians and are even proud of being their former slaves. Habesha are pathetic people

  57. Hero for Eritreans, headache for Ethiopians.

  58. Tow importatnt Points: Eritreans were also member of Ethipian arm even in 1960s.
    The bullet of Awate (if it is a true story) had taken 53 years of misery. What brings the first bullet of Ali against isaiasim and how soon? It wont be more than 3 years, i Guess.

  59. Happy Awate Day! It was the shot heard 'round the Horn of Africa!

  60. You got to be kidding me. Who told you awate was speaking tigrigna ?

  61. Robel, Awate was an italian ascari (real paragraph3) and how can we believe that his forst shot was for the eritrean liberation? I heared he was a bandit.

  62. trust me, he was a shifta. He is in fact the reason why we are in problem now/

  63. Is Awate a Bandit or Banda?August 31, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Tekeste Negash in his book Eritrea and Ethiopia The Federal Experience briefly mentioned that there were three type of shifta in 1940's.

    HAMID IdRIS AWATE: According to the book of Tekeste Negash "The
    most notorious among these shifta was Hamid Idris Awate of Beni Amer
    origin. Idris Awate began his career in early 1942 and by 1948 his army
    may have numbered about 50. His main activity was to raid the Kunama and
    Baria people. In the middle of 1950, he participated in the clan feud
    between the Beni Amer and the adjoining districts of Hamassien, namely
    Liben and Anseba. Idris Awate was one of the three shifta leaders about
    whom the British were most concerned. To read more click on the link below.

    Here is a PDF link the book.

    Well it seems he was first a Banda and then later he became a Bandit! :)

  64. Awate was shifta. Shiftas produce shifta regimes and cult leaders. That's what we have in Eritrea today.

  65. Awetash.said ...he was.

  66. Let's give wind powered light to eritrea Intersted invest

  67. ስጋ ቁጠር ቢሉት ጣፊያ ኣንድ ኣለ! Who cares what Tekheste Negash wrote. What do you expect from an anti-Eritrea, pro-Ethiopia (one who chose to be Ethiopian) writer? Whether Awete was originally a shifta or not, he was the first who harassed the Ethiopian army and heralded the fight for independence! During those times, anyone who fought against authority was call "shifta!"

    You wanted to insult and belittle Eritrean history, so that is what you did! Does it change our history? NO!

  68. You obviously do not know Eritreans.

  69. Mogues Asgedom and Abraha Debotch were also Eritrean. They threw bombs at Graziani in Addis Ababa, an Italian general.

  70. Gasha, Selam; Thank you for the reminder.
    I have heard & read amazing patriotic stories of these Heroic Eritreans in Ethiopia. It is also sad how/where they died. Ethiopia has no respect for their Heroes, especially when they are ethnically Eritreans.

  71. Ante defar! gehna bereku? Ene Zeray Deres, ene Abraham Deboche, Ene Mogus Agedem, Ene Dej. Abera etc yete heduna?

  72. PIA was also considered ShiftaSeptember 1, 2014 at 5:28 AM

    Isaias Afewerki was also considered "Shifta" and "Wenbede."
    Anyone who left the comforts of his home and settled in the bush or "Bereka" to fight for independence was considered "shifta" or "wenbede" by the Ethiopian Government.
    Shifta is not a bad word.

  73. U seem angry. are u okay?

  74. R.I.P. Hamid Idris Awate.

  75. Bella vision..issu iyu iti tarik..

  76. Eritreans put Him in the Nobel Book of their History..and someone who get there is someone special, shiftas in Eritrea's History used to come from tigray, this is real the time of Abona Weldeab Weldemaria, Sheik Ibrahim Sultan, Kebire ect..
    Every Eritrean know this perfectly

  77. I rathetr be shifta than hungry topian any day !

  78. Because Asmara international air port is reserved for another Eritrean hero Abdelghader Kebeire

    Kebeire international air port



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