Amreya Shefa: My Husband's Prisoner

Amreya Shefa hasn’t known freedom since setting foot in the United States. After her husband brought her from Ethiopia in 2012, Shefa says he kept her a prisoner in their home and threatened to take their children away if she reported his continuing abuse. One December night in 2013, she stabbed him to death. A judge found that Shefa had been raped and beaten by her husband that night but convicted her of manslaughter in 2014. She has completed her prison term, but at 41 remains jailed while the Department of Homeland Security works to deport her, a fate she believes would be worse than prison. She’s certain if she steps foot back on her home soil, she would be murdered as revenge by the family of the man she killed.


The family of Shefa’s husband believe he never harmed her. They call her a pathological liar and say they live in fear of her. “She is very dangerous,” said Ahmed Elphato, the brother of Habibi Tesema, the man Shefa killed.


Before her marriage with Tesema, Shefa used to work as a merchant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She thought she would never find love. She had already been married, had a child and divorced. In 2006, a mutual friend introduced her to Tesema, who had been living for years in Richfield and went to Africa looking for a wife. They were married within a month. He returned to Minnesota, pledging to eventually bring her to the United States. She bore two children by him while in Africa, and the family reunited in 2012.


Once they started living together, Shefa said his demeanor changed. He would ask to bring another woman into their bedroom and wished to use a sexual device on her during intercourse against her will. He would rape and beat her almost daily. He would beat her if he didn’t like the way she cooked dinner or was unhappy with how she cleaned the house. During one rape, she said she was in so much pain that she passed out. Shefa says that Tesema told her never to leave the home. Once she told him she would call the police, but he laughed. If she called police, he said they would take their children away and deport her.


On Dec. 1, 2013, Tesema was drunk and high on khat, an African plant stimulant. When he began to rape her, she grabbed a knife and stabbed him. He swiped the knife from her, cutting her hand. She grabbed another knife and stabbed him 30 times, according to court documents. Tesema stumbled to a bathroom and locked the door. Shefa called 911, and police found his naked body in the bathtub. She said “I did not mean to kill him, I just needed him to stop raping me.” Over the course of a 2 ½-hour interrogation, she told a detective of the abuse. “I am not even afraid of Allah as I am afraid of him. I am afraid of him all the time.”


Tesema's family thinks Shefa is a gold-digging killer who murdered her loving husband. They said Tesema was a gentle, giving man and that they never saw him abuse Shefa. They believe she used him to get out of Ethiopia and come to the United States. However, the court put out a written decision saying the statements by Tesema’s family not credible. Instead, the evidence corroborated Shefa’s account of that night and of the monthslong abuse, based on what was found at the scene, such as sex paraphernalia and pornography in the room where she stabbed Tesema. Neither she nor Tesema were clothed. After police arrived, Shefa “consistently reported she was abused by the victim,” and a witness for the state said Tesema had previously “acknowledged verbal abuse” of Shefa.


Source: Star Tribune

Art by Amreya Shefa Graphics