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Asrat Woldeyes (June 20, 1928 – May 14, 1999) was an Ethiopianmarker surgeon, a Professor of Medicine at Addis Ababa University, and the founder and leader of the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO), as well as a political figure who was jailed by the Derg and later by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Professor Asrat was the founding member of the Ethiopian Medical Association (EMA), Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (FRCS Edinburgh) and FRCS marker, member of the British Medical Association (BMA), the East African Surgical Association (EASA) and International College of Surgeons (USA).

Early life and medical career

Born in the capital city of Addis Ababamarker, Asrat Woldeyes was about three years old when his family moved to the eastern Ethiopian town of Dire Dawamarker. He was eight years old at the time of the Italian invasion. His father, Ato Weldeyes Altaye, was captured and murdered along with thousands of other civilians following the attempted assassination of the Italian General Graziani on February 19, 1937 in Addis Ababa. His mother died shortly afterwards.

His grandfather, Kegnazmach Tsige Werede Werk, was one of the Ethiopian patriots who was deported to Italy and interned there for three and half years. (Kegnazmach is a title of nobility in Ethiopian monarchial society equivalent to a baron).

Following the liberation of Ethiopia, Asrat Woldeyes moved to Addis Ababa and enrolled at Teferi Mekonnen School, where in 1943 he was awarded a camera for his studies. He was sent to Egyptmarker to continue his education at Victoria College, then to the UKmarker where he studied medicine at Edinburgh University. Completing his training, in 1956 he returned to Ethiopia to work as a general practitioner at the Princess Tsehai hospital (now known as the Armed Forces General Hospital) in the capital, then went back to Edinburghmarker to specialize in surgery.

He returned to Ethiopia to help in the creation of the first medical school in the country, which came into existence as a part of then Haile Selassie University (now Addis Ababa University) in 1965.

Professor Asrat was the personal physician to Emperor Haile Selassie. Following the overthrow of the Emperor in 1974, Professor Asrat performed prostate surgery on the Emperor and cared for him during his recovery. When the Emperor died suddenly in August 1975, the Derg regime announced that the death was caused by complications of this surgery and old age. The statement also alleged that Professor Asrat could not be located at the time the Emperor's condition was deteriorating. Professor Asrat promptly issued a statement denying that the Emperor had suffered any complications from his surgery which had taken place months earlier, and that he had been available at his home, but that no attempt had been made to reach him.

Years later, although he himself had been imprisoned by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which deposed the Derg, he willingly testified against the members of the Derg in open court about the death of the Emperor under suspicious circumstances. He was brought from his prison cell to the courthouse by the EPRDF government in order to do so.

Political career

Following the Derg's rise to power in the mid-1970s, Professor Asrat Woldeyes was an outspoken critic of the regime. His public statement regarding the circumstances of the death of the deposed Emperor, and his general anti-communist attitudes placed him in the bad graces of the Derg regime. In response, the Derg sent the professor to the Eritrean port city of Massawamarker, then part of Ethiopia, where he treated the injured from both sides of the raging war. Upon his return to Addis Ababa in the late 1970s, Professor Asrat was assigned as chief surgeon at the Black Lion (formerly Prince Makonnen) Hospital in the capital.

However, his first purely political act was participating in the July 1, 1991 conference convened by the EPRDF to form a Transitional Government for Ethiopia at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War after the fall of the Derg regime, where he was one of two representatives for Addis Ababa University. His was the sole voice that objected to the manner in which this conference endorsed the separation and eventual secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia, questioning the mandate of the Transitional Government and the conference to do so. At this conference the Amhara people of Ethiopia believed they were excluded from the new government, and later formed the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) to defend their rights. The government then initiated a campaign against the AAPO, and ironically labelled Professor Asrat Woldeyes a collaborator of the Derg by the EPRDF for his medical work in Massawa, and subjected him to a smear campaign in the national press. This in spite of the rather well documented record of the Professor as a vocal opponent of communism.

Professor Asrat Woldeyes was arrested in 1992 following an AAPO rally speech in Debre Berhanmarker on the charges of inciting inter-communal violence. That same year Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, and he was released on bail. Asrat Woldeyes was arrested again in 1993, with four other men, on charges of planning violent attacks against the government. All five were tried and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Professor Asrat Woldeyes was then sentenced on December 18, 1995 to a three-year imprisonment.

By 1998, Professor Asrat Woldeyes had been reported to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and to have suffered a stroke. He had suffered a massive heart attack in 1980, and his heart now weakened due to his poor health. After international pressure, the professor was released from prison in December 1998, and allowed to travel to the United Statesmarker for medical treatment, where he was placed in intensive care in January 1999. He died in a Philadelphiamarker hospital, and buried in Addis Ababa on May 26 in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of Ethiopians. His funeral was conducted by the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, and he was buried at the neighboring Bale Wold ("Church of the Feast of the Son of God") Church. His funeral was attended by leaders of the opposition parties in Ethiopia, members of the diplomatic community, the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, and members of the former Imperial family.

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