A crime is a crime

Rodas Hailu, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Late Wednesday night, as my father was on his way to drop me off at home, he asked me if I heard about the hijacking of the Ethiopian Airlines plane. I told him, of course I did. But immediately after my response, I had a feeling that our conversation about this news would turn very bitter very quickly.

On Monday, February 17, an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft that departed from Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia, was scheduled to land in Rome; however, the co-pilot hijacked the plane by locking the cockpit door when the pilot left to the restroom. The pilot made numerous attempts to knock down the door, but the co-pilot threatened to crash the plane if that happened. The co-pilot eventually landed in Geneva, Switzerland and surrendered to the Swiss police. No passengers were harmed in this hijacking, but many of them feared for their lives when oxygen masks came down. When this story was first reported, there was no given context about why the co-pilot hijacked his own plane. But as the story developed, it was clear the the co-pilot committed this crime because he wanted political asylum.

“I think what the co-pilot did was selfish and stupid. Dad, please don’t side with the co-pilot because he’s Ethiopian.”

“Rodas, don’t be ignorant. The co-pilot was trying to make a statement.”

So the co-pilot tried to make a statement by almost sacrificing hundreds of lives? I told my dad that this act was completely ludicrous; there was absolutely no reason for the co-pilot to hijack the plane. If the co-pilot wanted asylum so badly, why didn’t he just land the plane in Rome, as he was supposed to, and apply for asylum there? The co-pilot knew what crime he was committing, and in that act, he was giving up his career, his family, his possessions, and his fortune to make a “statement.”

I didn’t understand why my father had to side with this man; I knew he would defend the co-pilot, most likely because he was Ethiopian. But what about this “statement” my father was talking about?

My father was born and raised in Ethiopia, but ever since he escaped a communist Ethiopia to make his way to the United States, he’s tried very hard to keep himself updated on current Ethiopian news. I had a feeling that even though he knew the context of the hijacking, he would still defend the co-pilot. And later when I got home, when this conversation really sank in, I understood my father’s stance.

My father understood what it felt like to live in a state where basic human rights are violated every day, where freedom of speech is almost non-existent, where politics is a one-sided game. Although Ethiopia is no longer a communist country, it still has many of the characteristics of one. Human Rights Watch constantly reports on the corruption this country embraces, but other than that, there isn’t much coverage on Ethiopia.

So I suppose this co-pilot wanted to put Ethiopia on the eyes and ears of the world. But does this reason justify his crime? No, it doesn’t. What this man did was not only make his passengers fearful, but he committed a selfish offense that could put him in jail for almost 20 years. Although I am Ethiopian, the co-pilot is human, just like the rest of the us. I won’t put my ethnicity ahead of my morals. I see the co-pilot as any other individual, as any other criminal.