An Eritrean in Ethiopia: Teddy Love’s story

In 2016 Ethiopia welcomed nearly 800,000 refugees, with Eritreans forming the third largest group. Most Eritrean refugees live in camps along the country’s border, but last year around 20,000 were granted special permission to live in urban areas. There is more freedom for refugees outside the camps, but there are still restrictions on work and limited ways to earn a living. For some, their only hope is to apply for resettlement in America or Canada, where there are more opportunities for work and education. Gabriel Pecot tells the story of one Eritrean refugee’s search for a country.

My first meeting with Teddy Love took place at a glitzy hotel in Addis Ababa.

I was tired, just back from the north of Ethiopia, where I had been reporting on Eritreans living in a refugee camp close to the border. I wanted to tell the story of Eritrean refugees in the city too, and Teddy was an interesting case: a refugee trying to make a living through his music. I had been in communication with Teddy by phone, but I wasn’t sure what to expect or if he would even turn up.

Teddy waltzed into the lobby like a rock star, with a huge smile and masses of self-confidence. He launched into the conversation, ruminating at great length on love, understanding, bridges, suffering, freedom, passion, family and a better world. Maybe this is what it would have been like to interview Lionel Richie in 1985 after the release of ‘We are the World’?  But I’m a sceptical journalist, and after two hours I thought: ‘Who is this guy? He can’t be real.’

But after some digging, I discovered that he is real.

Tedros Atakliti AKA Teddy Love is an artist and a refugee. He faces a daily struggle to feed his small children, but that hasn’t weakened his passion for music as a vehicle for change. In Teddy’s world view music can transcend borders and unite people. And it seems to me that in these times of increased hate and hostility, it is worth listening to those who are fighting alone, those like Teddy who see against the odds, a better future for us all.


First published and commissioned by the Overseas Development Institute

Banner photo by Gabriel Pecot ©

Gabriel Pecot

Gabriel Pecot is a visual journalist based in Madrid. He began his professional career in 2007 as a staff photojournalist on the Spanish national newspaper Publico. In 2010, Gabriel joined Clarín as a contributor specializing in Europe and North Africa. He has produced and reported stories for the Associated Press, TIME, GEO, Discovery Channel, El País, El País Semanal, Univision, teleSur, among others. He also works with NGOs including the Overseas Development Institute, the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR), the European Anti-Poverty Network, Oxfam, Intermon and porCausa. Gabriel’s images have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. His work has been awarded the 2011 Luis Valtueña Humanitarian Photography Prize, the 2014 Desalambre Video Journalism Award, and he has been nominated twice for the WPP Joop Swart Masterclass. Film festivals in the UK, Italy, Germany, Greece, Spain, Brazil and México have screened his short documentaries and multimedia stories.

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  • […] a few succeed, many are tortured and die along the way. What happens to those left behind? In a short documentary film Gabriel Pecot brings to life the story of Teddy Love, an Eritrean refugee working against the odds to create a better life for his family. Waiting & […]