Senait Ghebrehiwet Mehari

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Senait Ghebrehiwet Mehari (* probably December 3, 1976 in a village near Addis Ababa , Ethiopia ) is an author and singer .


In Eritrea

Her birthday is officially December 3, her year of birth is probably between 1974 and 1976 (in Hamburg she was kept in a youth hostel with the year of birth 1973 during her stay). Her father was Eritrean , her mother Ethiopian.

Senait Mehari was abandoned by her mother, according to her own statements in the book, she was placed in a suitcase on a cupboard. After she was rescued, she was taken to the Orfan state children's home in Asmara . Two years later she was taken to another home founded by Daniele Comboni , a convent of Italian nuns. After spending a few years there, she was taken in by her grandparents.

Later, her father took her over and beat her regularly so that she almost died. At the age of six he and her two older half-sisters Tzegehena and Yaldiyan brought her to the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), of which her father had previously belonged. According to her own statements, she was trained there as a child soldier and should also go to the front.

In Germany

Two years later, her uncle Haile freed the three girls and brought them to live in Sudan , where they spent the next four years. Mehari's father had meanwhile emigrated to Germany. He asked the girls to come to Germany too. The siblings lived with him in an apartment in Hamburg until Mehari fled from his father's violence to a youth hostel (stayed there from 1992 to 1994).


During this time she started to write songs in Tigrinya , English and German. She sang as a background singer in bands and was hired for the girlie group Corniche .

She has been a solo artist since 1999 and is under contract with Polydor . Two singles were released with Life and Aura . In 2003 Senait took part in the German preliminary decision for the Eurovision Song Contest . With a heart of ice , she took fourth place. In November 2005 their first album Mein Weg was released , which did not bring the hoped-for success.

In 2006 she worked as a singer in the project “Encounters - An Alliance for Children” by Peter Maffay .


In 2004 she published her biography Fireheart , in which she processed her childhood in Africa. In May 2006 the book Wüstenlied was published , which describes the search for her roots on a temporary return to Eritrea.


The scientist Günter Schröder doubts that there were any child soldiers of the kind described by Mehari in Eritrea during the 1980s. In a scientific report, Schröder lists numerous errors from Fireheart :

“Whether the 'life story' of Senait presented in the book is indeed true or at best only an extremely broken and distorted rendering of reality through the prism of distorted perception and memory of a very young girl, at worst it can be largely a pure invention of the book's authors however, cannot be determined by the definition. The truth of this 'life story' can only be verified by reconstructing Senait's real biography […]. "

In 2010, Schröder told the internet portal

"I am sure that Senait Mehari could not have experienced the events described in her book like that."

At the beginning of 2007, after research by the NDR magazine Zapp and the freelance editor Peter Disch were published, a controversy arose in various media about the truthfulness of Senait Mehari's book Feuerherz . Among other things, several former classmates say that the camp described by Senait Mehari was actually a school. Students and teachers did not take part in the fight, nor did they carry weapons. In the school of the ELF, the children were not subjected to military coercion, and no consideration was expected from the children. Children “were well looked after all the time, […] always had to eat and nothing to do with weapons”, contrary to Mehari's account, they fared much better than the vast majority of the Eritrean people.

Confronted with the research, Mehari relativized her role as a “child soldier” in an interview with Zapp. After the program was broadcast, however, she repeated her assertion of a past as a child soldier in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung .

Mehari and the aid organizations working with her refer to the definitions of the term child soldier as formulated in the “Cape Town Principles” of 1997 and the additional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for the Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts (2002). Accordingly, "all camps of the ELF were military in nature".

In the context of the public debate that followed, other media, such as the Berliner Zeitung, point out that the children's aid organization UNICEF defines a child soldier as follows: “Child soldiers are all minors who are part of a military structure.” Accordingly, it is a matter of interpretation to what extent children are who are taught in "schools" run by paramilitaries, thereby becoming "part of a military structure" themselves.

Criminal proceedings on the accusation of portraying a former classmate in the above-mentioned interview with the Berliner Zeitung as a brutal commandant who even had children executed in the above-mentioned interview with no evidence and defamation were discontinued in January 2008 against payment of 1000 euros to a charitable children's institution. The classmate's lawsuit against the Droemer Knaur publishing house was settled out of court in April with a revocation and financial compensation. On October 15, 2010, the district court of Hamburg upheld the complaint of the classmate and the headmaster. Senait Mehari can no longer claim that the plaintiff was a brutal commander of a training camp for child soldiers. She was also forbidden from claiming that children had received military training in the school.



  • 2005 - my way
  • 2006 - Encounters - An Alliance for Children ( Peter Maffay )


  • 2001 - life
  • 2003 - Heart of Ice
  • 2005 - aura


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Jens Fleischhauer: Fireheart. ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In:
  2. Abini Zöllner: A concept is being hollowed out ( Memento from March 28, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In:
  3.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  4. Günter Schröder: Expertise on the book "Feuerherz" ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) September 2007.
  5. 'Fireheart': Quality broadcaster Arte on the wrong track . In:, accessed on March 15, 2020.
  6. Lots of headlines - violent reaction after Zapp's article about 'child soldier' ​​Senait Mehari ( memento from April 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Serious allegations against the singer Did Senait lie to us all? In: Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  8. Mehari? “Märchen!” In:, accessed on March 15, 2020.
  9. Aid organizations stand behind Senait Mehari - definition of 'child soldier' ​​/ reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child In: Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  10. Frank Nordhausen: Senait Mehari wrote a book about her life as a child soldier. Now everything is being called into question. But what is the truth? In war. ( Memento from March 7, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Berliner Zeitung, February 24, 2007.
  11. - child soldier-, 10810590,10457412.html
  13. Hand Leyendecker: The pack needs substance In:, accessed on March 15, 2020.
  15. ^ NDR media magazine ZAPP, broadcast on April 17, 2008 ( Memento from December 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Press release on the book 'Feuerherz' (Droemer Verlag) ( Memento from August 3, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) In:
  17. Best-selling author Senait Mehari loses invitation to press conference in court ( Memento from November 26, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) In: