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#TigrayGenocide | Grave Humanitarian Crisis is Unfolding in Ethiopia | National Geographic

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on June 1, 2021

I never saw hell before, but now I have.”

The only roads open in besieged Tigray, a semi-autonomous federal state in northern Ethiopia, lead to endless tales of darkness. Most roads north and south from Tigray’s capital of Mekele have been closed to journalists and humanitarian aid. Burnt-out tanks and looted ambulances stripped of engines and wheels line the road west. Patches of towering eucalyptus trees give way to rocky, untilled fields—and checkpoint after checkpoint manned by Ethiopian troops. Soldiers from neighboring Eritrea saunter casually through villages, marking their presence.

Almost everyone in the region has a story to share, but few will show their faces on camera. Fear is everywhere.

Araya Gebretekle had six sons. Four of them were executed while harvesting millet in their fields on the outskirts of the town of Abiy Addi in west Tigray. Araya says Ethiopian soldiers approached five of his sons with their guns raised; as his children begged for their lives in the fields—explaining they were simply farmers—a female soldier ordered them dead. They pleaded for the troops to spare one of the brothers in order to help their elderly father work the fields. The soldiers let the youngest—a 15-year-old—go free. He lived to recount the story to his parents. Now, says Araya, “my wife is staying at home always crying. I haven’t left the house until today, and every night I dream of them.… There were six sons. I asked the oldest one to be there, too, but thank God he refused.”

Kesanet Gebremichael wails as nurses try to change the bandages and clean the wounds on her charred flesh at Ayder Hospital in the regional capital Mekele. The 13-year-old was inside her home in the village of Ahferom, near Aksum, when it was hit by long-range artillery. “My house was destroyed in the fire,” says her mother, Genet Asmelash. “My child was inside.” The girl suffered burns on more than 40 percent of her body.

Senayit was raped by soldiers on two separate occasions—in her home in Edagahamus, and as she tried to flee to Mekele with her 12-year-old son. (The names of the rape victims mentioned in this story are pseudonyms.) The second time, she was pulled from a minibus, drugged, and brought to a military base, where she was tied to a tree and sexually assaulted repeatedly over the course of 10 days. She fell in and out of consciousness from the pain, exhaustion, and trauma. At one point, she awoke to a horrifying sight: Her son, along with a woman and her new baby, were all dead at her feet. “I saw my son with blood from his neck,” she says. “I saw only his neck was bleeding. He was dead.” Senayit crumpled into her tears, her fists clenched against her face, and howled a visceral cry of pain and sadness, unable to stop weeping. “I never buried him,” she screamed, between sobs. “I never buried him.”

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Tigray: Call it Genocide, Prosecute Its Leaders and End It

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

The Tigrayan people should not, must not, wait for one century, one year or even one more day for the world to acknowledge their plight and rescue them from obliteration.

On 26 May 2021, US President Joe Biden issued a bold statement on the raging crisis in Ethiopia, warning of escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions, including the “large-scale human rights abuses” and “widespread sexual violence” taking place in Tigray. But he stopped short of calling the appalling atrocities in Tigray by their true name: genocide.

Just one month earlier, Biden had righted an historic wrong by pronouncing the attempted extermination of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 to have been a “genocide.” The Armenians had waited 106 years for this rhetorical symbol of justice. The Nazis’ attempt to eradicate the Jewish people was not recognised until it was too late to do anything about it. Rwandans had to wait four full years to hear President Bill Clinton express “deep regret” that he had not declared the massacre in 1994 of a million of their compatriots a genocide. Biden’s condemnation sends a message of solidarity to Ethiopians everywhere and to the people of Tigray in particular. But it also risks igniting false hopes that the international community will now take decisive action to prevent the erasure of an entire nation.

For almost seven months now, the armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea, aided and abetted by extremist militias from the neighbouring Amhara ethnic group, have been engaged in a well-planned, deliberate and systematic genocide of the Tigrayan people. The government in Addis Ababa claims that the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) started the fighting with a surprise attack on a military garrison and that they must be brought to justice. The TPLF claims that a pre-emptive strike was necessary to disrupt the government’s pre-meditated war plans. But it no longer matters who fired the first shot or whether the ossified TPLF leadership should have anticipated that armed conflict could be used to justify their people’s extermination. Between November 2020 and March 2021, the University of Ghent, in Belgium, documented more than 150 massacres across Tigray, including victims as young as two years old and as old as 93; the killing has continued unabated.

Despite systematic government attempts to restrict humanitarian access and impose a media blackout, some courageous journalists, aid workers and activists have succeeded in reporting these atrocities. But most of Tigray remains inaccessible to outsiders and communications are severely restricted, so the vast majority of these crimes remain unknown and undocumented. As a medical doctor from Tigray who served in the regional capital of Mekelle during the first four months of the genocide before fleeing my country one month ago, I have watched this violence unfolding with my own eyes and I bear both personal and professional witness.

Mass murder is not enough for the masterminds of the atrocities in Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Their armed forces and allied militias seek to exterminate the Tigrayan people by inducing mass starvation; they are burning crops and seeds, cutting trees, destroying agricultural implements, killing animals, and destroying small dams and irrigation canals, to cripple the agricultural sector. The troops grind any remaining foodstuff they find into the dirt or manure with their boots to make it inedible. In late May, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock estimated that “over 90% of the harvest was lost due to looting, burning, or other destruction, and that 80% of the livestock in the region were looted or slaughtered.”

I have watched this violence unfolding with my own eyes and I bear both personal and professional witness.

Reports by UN agencies and Tigray’s interim administration assert that more than 2.3 million people in the region are internally displaced, and 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. According to UNICEF, the number of severely malnourished children in Tigray has gone up nearly 90 per cent in the past week. Uncounted numbers of people have already died of hunger. But the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean Army, and Amhara forces are determined to block humanitarian efforts, impeding and obstructing access by aid agencies. At least eight aid workers have been killed in the last six months.

The coordinated ethnic cleansing by Ethiopia and Eritrean troops in collaboration with Amhara militias also involves erasing all traces of Tigrayan identity, a heritage that dates back to the Axumite kingdom of the 2nd Century CE. To this end, they have decreed the unrestricted use of mass rape, sexual slavery, and the traumatic sterilisation of Tigrayan women as instruments of war. As a doctor I have seen the unspeakable suffering of the victims of such sexual violence, including gratuitous mutilation and torture.

But these war crimes have a much broader and equally sinister strategic purpose: the total annihilation of Tigrayans as a people. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, some 1.2 million inhabitants of Western Tigray have been driven from their homes, many of them killed or incarcerated in concentration camps. The occupying authorities have officially annexed these territories and encouraged ethnic Amharas from Gojjam and Gonder regions to claim the lands, properties and assets abandoned by their rightful Tigrayan owners. While men are killed or interned, Tigrayan women and children under seven are forced to take Amhara identity if they wish to remain in their homes. Women are also forced to serve as concubines for Amhara militia so that they no longer bear children of Tigrayan descent. National census exercises in 1978 and 1994 indicated that the inhabitants of these zones were overwhelmingly Tigrigna speakers. If ethnic cleansing continues at this rate, Tigrayans could become a minority in their homeland before the end of this year.

The coordinated ethnic cleansing by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in collaboration with Amhara militias also involves erasing all traces of Tigrayan identity.

Tigray’s unique contribution to Ethiopia’s national heritage is also being methodically obliterated. The ancient monasteries of Debredamo, Dengolat St Mary, and the Al Nejashi Mosque – possibly the oldest in Africa – have all been vandalised. Aksum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been razed and pillaged by Eritrean and Ethiopian troops.

The progress of this genocidal campaign beyond Tigray is hard to assess, but – as the Associated Press reported on 29 April – there is no question that Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia, and even beyond its borders, have been subjected to profiling, arbitrary arrest and detention, travel restrictions, dismissal from government posts and transfer to concentration camps. Tens of thousands of Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force have also been disarmed and detained on the grounds that they might pose some undefined security threat. Some have refused orders to return to Ethiopia from peacekeeping missions abroad for fear of persecution.

In addition to President Biden’s statement, the United States government and the European Union have both called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray, and have announced plans to impose travel restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials responsible for these atrocities, with the possibility of further sanctions to follow.

These are welcome measures, but they are in no way commensurate with the scale of the crimes being committed against the people of Tigray, the depth of human suffering or the depravity of men who seek to exterminate a nation of more than 6 million people.

If ethnic cleansing continues at this rate, Tigrayans could become a minority in their homeland before the end of this year.

Genocides, like other core international crimes, do not simply “happen” or “unfold”: they are premeditated, prepared, and perpetrated by individual leaders and their followers. The killers seek to dehumanise and displace the blame onto their victims, not only to make it easier for their forces to kill, but also to confound the international community, create confusion and buy time for the long, laborious work of mass murder.

As a medical professional, as a witness, and as a husband, father, brother, and son, I cannot accept that the dead, the maimed and the destitute survivors in Tigray be stripped of their humanity. I have tended to their horrifying wounds, shared their suffering, and buried their dead. Some sympathetic observers have encouraged me to publicly describe their injuries in detail so as to elicit global revulsion, but I believe that to do so would be a second desecration of these victims. No people, whatever the alleged sins of their erstwhile political masters, should ever have to face extermination like vermin or pests at the hands of their own government.

The Tigrayan people should not, must not, wait for one century, one year or even one more day for the world to acknowledge their plight and rescue them from obliteration. President Biden and other world leaders have a moral and legal duty to call this evil in Tigray by its true name, genocide, and to identify and prosecute those ultimately responsible for this most heinous of crimes – Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki. And then to act with ruthless efficiency and determination to end the genocide.

Source

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Ethiopia-Tigray: Call for Referring Conflict-Related Sexual Violence to ICC

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

Although gender-based violence is largely underreported, at least 22,500 survivors of sexual violence in Tigray are estimated to seek clinical management of rape services. (UNFPA, 2021).

The perpetrators allegedly are Eritrean troops (33%), Ethiopian ENDF (44%), both Eritrean and ENDF (6%), and Amhara militia (6%). (Insecurity Insight, 30 March 2021)

This presentation was made at the Conference “Voices From Tigray: Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Against Women In Tigray”, organized by European External Programme With Africa (EEPA) on May 25th, 2021.

By Reinhard Jacobsen

The scale and brutality of crimes of conflict-related sexual violence against women committed in Tigray have drawn widespread condemnation from around the world.

It was no surprise that the Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA) focussed on that theme in the Webinar organised on May 25. EEPA is a Belgium-based centre of expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications, and networks, specialised in issues of peacebuilding, refugee protection, and resilience in the Horn of Africa.

The importance of the Webinar also lies in the fact that there is massive underreporting of sexual violence against women. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated in April that 22,500 women would require support as a consequence of conflict-related sexual violence.

The shame and fear associated with the violence and perpetrators acting with impunity and the destruction of local administration and hospitals compound the problem of underreporting. In fact, whatever little is being reported is only the tip of the iceberg.

Many have described conflict-related sexual violence as a weapon of war used against the civilian population, and committed, in part, with genocidal intent.

The perpetrators are said to be the Eritrean troops with a heavy presence in Tigray under the so-called National Service, a form of nation-wide indefinite slavery, which the UN Special Commission of Inquiry has defined as crimes against humanity.

The Commission has recommended the practice to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The other perpetrators mentioned are the Amhara and Ethiopian National Defence.

After months of denial, Nobel laureate Prime Minister Abiy has meanwhile admitted that Eritrean troops as present and identified these as potential perpetrators of sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls.

The Webinar meeting was chaired by Julia Duncan-Cassell, former Minister of Gender in Liberia. In her concluding remarks, she asked all African women in leadership to step up their voice to stop the harrowing perpetration of rape as a weapon of war in Tigray.

Duncan-Cassell told the Tigray women who gave their testimony in the webinar that African women were sharing their pain and asked Africa and the world to end the violence against women.

She said that former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, now African Union Envoy to the Horn, is following the situation closely and closely working with US UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to address it.

Duncan-Cassell closed the webinar by stating that “The perpetration of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence has not diminished and is spreading across the Horn. There must be concerted and coordinated international pressure and targeted sanctions. These atrocities must come to an end, and soldiers and their commanders must be prosecuted.”

She called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Tigray, particularly those from Eritrea, the referral of the deployment by Eritrea of National Service in a foreign jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court, and all parties in Tigray to end with immediate effect the impunity of the use of Rape as a Weapon of War.

In an opening keynote address, a Member of the European Parliament said that girls and women being raped in the Tigray region are reportedly aged between 8 and 72. The rapes are being carried out in front of family, husbands, and children. The rapes can last for days, and often inflict life-threatening injuries.

She referred to Sir Mark Andrew Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, describing the attacks in Eritrea, “as a means to humiliate, terrorize, and traumatize an entire population today and into the next generation.”

“I have said many times, it is beyond comprehension that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has overseen such destruction, tyranny and deprivation,” she added.

Sometimes the world views war as the theatre of men. But it is often women that pay an equal or greater price behind the scenes: Loss of economic empowerment, rape, forced prostitution, starvation, backsteps in social equality, she added.

“Sexual violence against women and girls has been used as a weapon of war for centuries. The lasting damage clear to see. We saw it with the women of Rwanda, South Korea, Yugoslavia; and these are just the examples of the last century.

“But the inaction of the international community makes it seem as though we have learned nothing. President Biden, the G7, the UN, and the EU have all condemned and expressed concern over what is happening.

“But words are not enough to make the suffering of women stop. Condemnation is important, but it’s not enough to make families sleep soundly tonight in Tigray.

“There must be concerted and coordinated international pressure and targeted sanctions. These atrocities must come to an end, and soldiers and their commanders must be prosecuted.”

In the Webinar, women from Tigray presented their harrowing ordeal, a third of rapes executed as gang rapes, over multiple days, in public, in front of family members including their children, their genitals burned or filled with foreign objects including burning sticks and relatives forced to perpetrate rape on Tigray women. The testimonies said that witnesses of the crimes committed and the children including babies of the rape victims were killed in the violence.

Selam Kidane, an Eritrean human rights advocate, told the conference that Eritrea is committing troops in Tigray that have suffered under the plight of National Service, a form of slavery, which has been qualified as a Crime against Humanity and she begged the international community to refer Eritrea to the ICC for the crimes committed by Eritrea on foreign soil in Tigray.

Mariam Basajja presented the Africa Women for Peace in the Horn Initiative expressing those young women from the entire continent stood by the women in Tigray

Tigray Human Rights advocate, Meaza Gidey, called the rape against women in Tigray a genocide: “Women are raped because they are Tigrayan, to cleanse the bloodline. The world has all the facts. I call on all relevant actors to listen to the cries of the innocent women of Tigray. They are not only being raped but they are also starved to death.”

Malgorzata Tarasiewicz, Director from East-West Women Network based in Poland, said the international community had all the tools it needed to respond to the situation in Tigray where rape is used as a weapon of war and that it should respond without delay.

Source

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