Bilen language is one of the ancient language used some 5000 years ago during the period of Egyptian pharoahs era. Today, very few people are speaking Bilen language in central Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Although the Bilen speaking communities in Ethiopia is near extinction, the language has managed to survive in Eritrea around a small but uniquely strategic position, the Senhit region.
The Bilen speakers of Eritrea have managed to preserve their ancient language by adapting to different political situations and social dynamics. Today, around 200,000 strong people live in Eritrea who speaks this ancient language of the horn of Africa.
For the last 60 years, the Bilen speaking communities were subjected to constant war, displacement and forced migration. And, for the last 20 years, many young and educated Bilen youth are leaving their homeland in fear of their life and slavery.
This is giving new opportunity for the development of Bilen language literature and use in social media. Today, there are many Bilen language users scattered across the world.
These exiled Bilen language speakers are working to preserve their language. Many initiatives are taking place to prevent it from extinction.
In this article, my objective is not to cover all the on-going initiatives. However, I will try to mention some important developments which are increasingly growing to use Bilen language for their means of communication.
Blin language is increasingly used in social media. Before 4 years, there was none. Now, there are 3 official youtube based radio channels.
Radio Blina is the first and independent youtube based Radio program. It was founded by three individuals who live in different parts of the world. Its central station is in the USA.
It was born on November 3rd, 2014. Yesterday, November 03, it is celebrating its 4th year anniversary.
On this special day, I would like to say Happy Birthday. Thank you for those who make this happen.
Radio Blina’s primary mission is to preserve Bilen language, culture, and tradition. Although its policy is “No Politics here”, today it seems to evolve into a “Neutral position”
2. Radio Jahray
The second was born on September 3rd, 2017. It has celebrated its first anniversary two months ago. This radio was initiated by Dissident Eritreans. A group of independent Eritreans led by Abdu Mohammed Babje came together to form a pro-justice radio with an objective to be the voice of the voiceless Eritreans. Abdu Mohammed Andu was a former journalist and co-founder of Radio Dimtsi Hafash Bilen language branch. After serving for more than 15 years, he left Eritrea in fear of his life. He became a refugee in Switzerland and soon he started to contribute to Radio Blina. In 2017, he and other like-minded Bilen language speakers decided to have their own free and independent radio channel that focuses mainly on human rights and to increase public general awareness about Blin language, history, culture, and traditions.
Radio Jahray is a very successful radio in covering current developments in Eritrean political situation by bringing on-time issues. It is also concerned with international politics in general, and Red Sea geopolitics in particular. Many Bilen speakers who are educated in political sciences are contributing to the program. It is the first time educated political scientists from Bilen speakers to hear their knowledge being heard.
3. Radio Cheberi
This youtube based channel is a religious program that teaches about the Bible and the Catholic religion.
It broadcasted on a weekly bases and its content in Bilen language. Its first program was broadcasted on 31/12/2017. This program is run by a Catholic priest, Abba Meconnen Amanuel. Its content is religious. However, its contribution to the preservation and growth of Bilen language is very important.
4. Yaqeen Tube
This youtube and facebook based channel is dedicated to teaching Qu’ran and Islamic religion using Bilen language.
Although I have encountered this channel recently, I found it very interesting. This channel teaches Qu’ran and Islamic religion. What I appreciate most about it is that unlike those who advocate the Arabic language simply because of their Islamic religion, Blin people are proving they can use their own language to teach their own people about Islam and Quran. I appreciate our brother who took this great initiative. I hope he will make it more regular and formal one like that of Radio Cheberi.
It is also available on youtube channel. You can find it at:
5. Bilen Youth.
This facebook based entertainment channel is a wonderful one. The program is run by young, energetic, dynamic and great visionary youth who grew up in the diaspora. They are simply amazing.
There are also websites dedicated to documenting Bilen language, culture, history, literature and other important documents about Bilen speaking communities. Among these, daberi.org is the leading website where one can find resourceful materials.
To conclude, the use of Bilen language is booming. Immigration and a new opportunity for technology are encouraging free and independent social media outlets to grow independently without fear of oppression. This kind of opportunity is unthinkable inside Eritrea. Nevertheless, what is going around the world anything activity related to Bilen language, culture, tradition, and other social values have a direct impact on the people who are living in Eritrea. Therefore, I encourage everyone to take the initiative that uses Bilen language.