On November 4, 2020, a war broke out in Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia, where Tigrayan civilians have suffered immensely from the deliberate and harrowing crimes perpetrated by the Ethiopian army, Amhara forces and the Eritrean army. Even though the figures are expected to be higher, more than 150,000 civilians, mainly Tigrayans, are believed to have been killed in Ethiopia. Moreover, more than 250 massacres and 52,500 weaponized sexual and gender based violence victims are reported. As of now, above 5.2 million people are facing man-made famine while 100,000 children are at the risk of death from acute malnutrition. Additionally, more than 2.2 million people are internally displaced, and more than one million civilians are ethnically cleansed from different parts of Tigray, mainly from western Tigray. In western Tigray, Amhara militias are killing Tigrayans and throwing dead bodies in the Tekeze River. As a result, more than 50 dead bodies are found floating on the river banks in Sudan.
The intent of the Ethiopian authorities on systematically eliminating Tigrayans has become clearer as they openly admitted it to the European Union special envoy to Ethiopia and Finland’s foreign minister H.E. Pekka Haavisto. Mr. Haavisto said: “when I met the Ethiopian leadership in February, they really used this kind of language, that they are going to destroy the Tigrayans, they are going to wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years and so forth.”
The Ethiopian prime minister uses derogatory terms, such as “cancer”, “disease”, “invasive weeds”, “Daytime hyenas”, “aliens”, “traitors”, “terrorists”, etc, in addition to other officials that use the term “Satans” to refer to Tigrayans. Most of the terms are widely used by the general public to harass Tigrayans. Most worryingly, as these terms are extensively used in the state media, the general public has become desensitized to the daily genocidal atrocities, the use of starvation and rape as weapons, the massacres and suffering of innocent Tigrayans. Moreover, social media activists, including journalists, have advocated for the mass arrest of Tigrayan all over Ethiopia citing Japanese detention in Internment camps by the USA during World War II as a model example, which the government immediately implemented by arresting tens of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans. The government showed some of the mass arrested Tigrayans, including underages, as POWs on all state media. State media also reported that some of the more than 17,000 Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) that were imprisoned on an ethnic-basis just prior to the attack on Tigray, are being sentenced to death and life imprisonment.
Since June 28, 2021, after the federal army was ousted from major parts of Tigray, the federal government authorities have kept Tigray under total siege and blanket communication blackout. The federal authorities closed Tigray’s borders, banned flights and land transports, destroyed bridges and road infrastructures, cut telecommunications and electricity, stopped distributing fuel, withheld salaries of civil servants, halted banking and commercial activities, denied access to medication and medical supplies, and systematically blocked and hindered the entry of aid convoys through any means to starve the people of Tigray to submission.
After receiving UAVs from multiple countries, notably from Turkey, Iran and UAE, the Ethiopia government has used drones to attack civilians and civilian infrastructures in the Tigray region. Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed as the UN’s emergency-response agency said. Notably, the Ethiopian government used drones to destroy the distribution line of Tekeze Hydro Power,which was the only power station providing power to Millions of Tigrayans, Mesfin industrial engineering located in Mekelle and Almeda textile factory located in the city of Adwa.
A Brief Overview of Crimes On Tigrayans
The reported humanitarian crisis, international humanitarian law and human rights violations, perpetrated by the Ethiopian army, Amhara regional forces and Eritrean army on Tigrayan civilians in the ongoing genocidal war are briefly summarized below.
Siege on Tigray: Man-made Famine
“There is famine now in Tigray,” the UN aid chief, Mark Lowcock, said on June 10, 2021. He added “food is definitely being used as a weapon of war” in Tigray. More than 900,000 people are in famine. On May 20, 2021, USAID had warned the world that their early warning system detected a category 5 of food emergency (the last phase also called Catastrophe), in which more than 5.2 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian aid. UNICEF also stated that more than 100,000 children are at the risk of death from acute malnutrition. Samantha Power, Administrator of USAID, said “the Government of Ethiopia’s military allies have burned and looted seeds and farm equipment and slaughtered oxen to ensure the fields lay fallow.” Therefore, the famine is man-made and it is being premeditatedly implemented by both Ethiopian and Eritrean forces as life-saving food aid is also blocked and looted by the military. It is heart wrenching that this systematic man-made famine is happening while the world is waiting for approval from the genocidal governments to save millions of people.
UN OCHA report on 29.07.2021 estimates that between 500 and 600 trucks with relief items are required every week to meet current needs in Tigray. However, the last humanitarian convoy to enter Tigray with 50 trucks reached Tigray on 12 July. As the region is effectively sealed off from telecommunications, the consequences of the siege are not reported but the number of people dying is expected to skyrocket.
Sexual and Gender Based Violence
Rape is being used as a weapon of war on thousands of innocent Tigrayan women and girls. with the intent of inflicting unimaginable physical and mental trauma to survivors in particular and humiliation and subjugation of the Tigrayan ethnic group in general. UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that there are about 52,500 Tigrayan sexual violence survivors. While addressing the horrendous sexual violences happening in Tigray, Robert Mardini, who closely followed the civil wars in Syria and Yemen as the head of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s Near and Middle East, said that he had never heard such terrible accounts of sexual violence for more than two decades in the humanitarian sector. Additionally, Nima Elbagir of CNN talked about a Tigrayan rape survivor as “when she was raped repeatedly by Ethiopian soldiers, she was told that her blood was being purified, she was beingAmharanized. This is about erasing Tigray, the Tigrayan identity and the Tigrayan bloodline which is one of the hallmarks of genocide“. Similarly, a doctor who treated many sexual violence survivors described the situation as “practically, this has been a genocide” of ethnic Tigrayans. Furthermore, Pramila Patten of the UN said that “there are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence”.
It has now become evident that the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have authorized the attack of civilians using internationally prohibited chemical weapons. Some of the handful identified victims include Kisanet Gebremicheal, a 13-year-old girl from the village of Adi’ayqoro in central Tigray who suffered agonising burns when her home came under attack on April 20. Children are being subjected to horrific full body burns caused by the use of white phosphorus which burns at more than 2,700 degrees Celsius.
More than 230 systematic massacres have been reported so far. Oftentimes, women and girls are mass raped, while men are massacred. In the Axum massacre, where more than 750 civilians are massacred, Amnesty International has identified more than 200 victims by name. Amnesty also reported that the Eritrean soldiers “carry out house-to-house raids, hunting down and killing adult men, as well as some teenage boys and a smaller number of women”. In the Mariam Dengelat massacre, more than 100 people including 20 Sunday school children were massacred in and around the church. “In early March, a series of five video clips surfaced on social media showing armed, uniformed men leading a group of unarmed men to the edge of a cliff, shooting some at point blank range, and pushing dead bodies over the cliff” BBC reported after geolocating the videos. The armed soldiers are in Ethiopian military uniform and one of the perpetrators says “”I wish we could pour gas over them and burn them,” and continued to say “This is the end of Woyane. We don’t show mercy.”
Tigrayans are being ethnically cleansed from Western, Central, Eastern, North Western and Southern areas. The severest of all is the Western Tigray, as Amhara militia and Fano (Amhara vigilante group) either massacre or force Tigrayans to flee, then later take over their houses and properties. Eritrean forces were doing it in its worst forms in Central and Eastern (still happening in some parts) zones of Tigray. The interim government of Tigray (nominated by PM Abiy Ahmed and currently ousted by the Tigray Defense Forces) announced that more than one million Tigrayans from Western Tigray are unaccounted, their whereabouts is unknown. Following the acknowledgement by the USA government that ethnic cleansing has been happening in Western Tigray by Amhara regional forces and militia, an immensely intensified cleansing campaign of killing, deportation and terrorizing of Tigrayans from the western and southern part of Tigray was underway. The perpetrators tell the victims “we’ll see if America will save you now!”. The Irob minority community in eastern Tigray, bordering Eritrea and are majority catholic followers, are on the brink of extinction by the Eritrean forces. The Kunama minority community also are victims of genocide and are on the brink of extinction.
After the Ethiopian army is ousted from most parts of Tigray, unfortunately, barbaric atrocities continue to be committed in Tigray areas still occupied by these forces. We continue to get repeated disturbing reports (esp. from Western Tigray) of massacres, rapes, reports of bodies eyes gouged out, ethnic-based aid denial, looting and other forms of severe human rights violations committed on ethnic Tigrayans. The reports have been consistent about the massacres in areas in Western Tigray including in Humera (esp. in an area called Walka Sefer), Adebay, Dansha, and other towns. The bodies are said to be either left there unburied or thrown to the Tekeze river. A recent coverage by the Associated Press has corroborated some of these reports, highlighting that 50 bodies of, apparently people fleeing the war in Tigray, floating in the river between Sudan and Ethiopia over the past week, some with gunshot wounds or their hands bound. It is to be recalled that more than one million Tigrayans have been ethnically cleansed from Western Tigray.
Mass arrests, Forceful disappearance and Closure of business:
Random and rampant Tigrayan house searches, the ethnic-based mass arrest, torture, closure of business etc. that has been ongoing for many months has now been intensified all over Ethiopia. These have intensified especially after the Ethiopian army was ousted from most of Tigray and a hateful speech was released by PM Abiy Ahmed, which was broadcast on national television on which he called the people of Tigray backstabbers and he vowed to wipe out “weeds”, “cancer” and “disease” referring to Tigray government. The mass arrests include children who some of them are paraded on national TVs as child POWs. Human Rights Watch reported that Ethnic Tigrayans are forcefully disappeared. The authorities are portraying mass-arrested Tigrayans as Prisoners of War (POWs). Many people on social media are identifying their loved ones that were abducted by the authorities who are now forced to appear as POWs on national TV. Additionally, state media has reported that some of the more than 17,000 Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian defense forces that were imprisoned on ethnic-basis prior to the war are being sentenced to death and life imprisonment. We received credible yet unverified information that three members are already executed. Many are said to have committed suicide, died of hunger, harsh temperature conditions in the concentration camps and lack of access to medical treatment.
Derogatory and Dehumanization references to Tigrayans:
There have been several derogatory names used by the PM of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian media to refer to the Tigray Defences forces, Tigrayan leadership and the Tigrayan public in general. These words are directly used to intimidate, humiliate and insult Tigrayan civilians by the Ethiopian general public. These words evolve and change through time. The PM seems to create derogatory terms every now and then to create euphoria in his support base. His supporters openly use these words to intimidate, arrest, humiliate and search civilian Tigrayans all over Ethiopia. Some of them are listed below.
|No.||Derogatory Terms in Ahmaric||Meaning in English||Used by The PM||Public Usage|
|1||Nekersa||Cancer||These days.||Rampant these days|
|2||Emboch||Invasive weed (water-thirsty invasive weed found in Ethiopia )||Sometimes||Common|
|4||Yeken Juboch||Daytime-hyna||Mainly used Pre-war||Common|
|5||Tigrigna Tenagariwoch||Tigrigna Speaking||Pre-War||Not common|
|6||Tsegure Lewot||Stranger but with bad connotation||Pre-war||Common|
|10||Sgb-gb||Mean||Always with Junta as in “Sgb-bg Junta “||Common|
|11||Yemukucha lij||Spoiled Child||Sometimes||Common|
|13||Junta||Military clique||Always||Very common|
|14||Yenat tut Nekash||Mother’s breast biter.||Pre-war||Common|
Cultural, Arts and Heritage cleansing:
Many religious sites such as Al Nejashi mosque, the oldest mosque in Africa that symbolizes the Christian-Muslim mutual coexistence in Ethiopia, have been destroyed in what appears to be an attempt to cleanse cultural heritages, and destroy the historical identity of Tigrayans. Additionally, a renowned monastery established in the 6th century on the Debre Damo mountain by Abuna (Father) Aregawi, was attacked by Eritrean soldiers. Historical and religious manuscripts, monuments, archeological sites, etc. are being deliberately targeted and destroyed.
The intent of the Ethiopian authorities on systematically eliminating Tigrayans has become clearer as they openly admitted it to the European Union special envoy to Ethiopia and Finland’s foreign minister H.E. Pekka Haavisto. Mr. Haavisto said: “when I met the Ethiopian leadership in February, they really used this kind of language, that they are going to destroy the Tigrayans, they are going to wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years and so forth.” Mekelle’s hospital chief administrator, Mussie Tesfay Atsbaha, described the situation with the rape cases, committed by Ethopian and Eirtrean forces as “I never saw hell before but now I have”.
On June 29, 2021, the government forces were ousted from most part of Tigray by the Tigray Defense Forces, even though the government calls it a unilateral ceasefire. While preparing for another invasion of the Tigray region, hate speech, classification, symbolization, and dehumanization of ethnic Tigrayans has become the modus operandi of the authorities in Ethiopia. PM Abiy recently said that his country is “facing an enemy which is the cancer of Ethiopia.” He drew a chilling distinction between Tigrayan Ethiopians and others in the country, describing “the children of Ethiopia” as “wheat” and his Tigrayan opponents as “invasive weeds,” who “must be uprooted in a manner that will never grow again.” Taye Dendea, a higher official from the governing Prosperity Party, described the situation as “a fight between humans[Ethiopians minus Tigrayans] and Satan [Tigrayans]”.
Furthermore, On 24 July 2021, in a televised address to mobilize Amhara and other peoples of Ethiopia, Agegnehu Teshager, the President of the Regional State of Amhara openly said the people of Tigray are “enemies of Ethiopia ”. He said “we will not now rest until we have annihilated this enemy. These people (in reference to the people of Tigray) are enemies of the whole of Ethiopia. They are enemies of the Oromos; they are enemies of the Afars; they are enemies of the Gambellas; they are enemies of the Somalis”.
Therefore, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces as well as Amhara militias have been committing systematic atrocities mainly (but not limited to) targeting productive age group, massacres, indiscriminate shelling of populated cities and towns, ethinc cleansing, indescribable rape and gang rape of women and youg girls, massive looting and attacking on religious and precious cultural sites systematically and on a predicable pattern. Women are deliberately infected with HIV and their reproductive organs are damaged. Moreover, the methodical committed atrocities, the targeted age groups, the commited sexual violence patterns and manners, the destruction of hospitals, and food and water systems etc. are all similar all over Tigray, indicating that a very centrally commanded systemic genocide is undertaking. Often, young men are targeted for massacres. Furthermore, several religious sites such as Al Nejashi mosque, the oldest mosque in Africa, Debre Damo a 6th century monastery and many other churches have been destroyed in what appears to be an attempt to cleanse cultural heritages, and destroy the historical identity of Tigrayans. Historical and religious manuscripts, monuments, archeological sites, etc. are being deliberately targeted and destroyed from almost all churches. Religious leaders are systematically targeted and more than 350 priests and deacons are reportedly killed while in church services. Although, it remains to be proved by court order, however, we are clearly seeing all standard indicators of an ongoing genocide, systemic depopulation efforts on the people of Tigray, cleansing the Tigrayan bloodline, and historical and religious heritages.
Tigray is a state in Ethiopia with an ancient civilization, a place where Christianity and Musilm has deep roots and where the peaceful coexistence and symbiosis between Muslims, Christians and Jews goes back fourteen centuries. Recognizing and preserving this is the foundation stone for stability for Ethiopia, the neighbors in the Horn of Africa, and the world in general.
Tigray is an African nation. They have contributed to the birth of African civilization and they have contributed to the vision of an Africa that is stable, secure and independent from external powers, whether they be Europe, America, the Middle East or Asia. Tigrayans are proud of their contribution to Ethiopia’s diplomacy and peacekeeping which was a pillar of stability and development in the Horn of Africa region. They are proud of their contribution to regional economic integration including water, electricity and transport infrastructure joining neighboring countries.
The entire international community, Italia, Europe, Russia, China, America, and all the countries in the Middle East, have a responsibility to humanity that should override whatever policy differences they may have with America and Europe. That same common responsibility extends to protecting a cultural heritage, by halting the war against a people who have been the custodian of this unique intersection of faiths and cultures. The Horn of Africa is a region where the world’s great powers all have legitimate interests. The world needs maritime security, seeks to stamp out violent extremism, and wants to avert the specter of massive distress migration driven by conflict, famine and state collapse. The Tigray government recognize this. The world should not allow a repeat of Syria, Yemen or Libya in the Horn at the western flank of the Red Sea. This is not a zero-sum game. Ethiopia should be the place where these international and regional interests converge in a multilateral pact.