Bilen people

Eritrea Agaw people Cushitic peoples
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly: Islam Minority: Christianity (Roman Catholic Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church)
Related ethnic groups
other Agaw people

The Bilen (also variously transcribed as Blin, and also formerly known as the Bogo, Bogos[1] or North Agaw[2]) are a Cushitic ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. They are primarily concentrated in central Eritrea, in and around the city of Keren and further south toward Asmara, the nation's capital.


According to local oral tradition, the Bilin migrated to the Eritrean plateau from the south around the tenth or eleventh century. They then mixed with the prior Tigre population.[3] Some of the Bilen entered Eritrea from Ethiopia during the 16th century.[4] Primarily agriculturalists, they number about 96,000 and represent around 2.1% of Eritrea's population.[5][6]


Traditional Bilen homestead

The Bilen practice both Islam and Christianity. Muslim adherents mainly inhabit rural areas and have intermingled with the adjacent Tigre, while Christian Bilen tend to reside in urban areas and have intermingled with the Biher-Tigrinya.[2] Sunni Islam is the most adhered religion among the Bilin (about 65% being Muslim) followed by Christianity of various denominations, and a few practice their traditional faith.[3] The religious diversity of the Bilin has and is currently been peacefully coexisting for much time with little conflict arising out of religious differences.[3]


The Bilen speak the Bilen language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Many also speak other Afro-Asiatic languages such as Tigre and Tigrinya. In addition, younger Bilen often employ Arabic words and expressions in their everyday speech.[2]


  1. ^ Pease, A. E. (1909-10-16). The Book of the Lion. Ravenio Books.
  2. ^ a b c James Minahan, Miniature empires: a historical dictionary of the newly independent states, (Greenwood Publishing Group: 1998), pp.77-78.
  3. ^ a b c Skutsch, Carl, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. New York: Routledge. p. 222. ISBN 1-57958-468-3.
  4. ^ Niaz Murtaza, The Pillage of Sustainability in Eritrea, 1600s-1990s: Rural Communities and the Creeping Shadows of Hegemony, (Greenwood Publishing Group: 1998), p.45
  5. ^ U.S. Department of State - Background Note: Eritrea
  6. ^ Woldemikael, Tekle M. "Eritrea's Identity as a Cultural Crossroads." Race and nation: Ethnic systems in the modern world (2005): 337-55.