Day 39 of war on Tigray: Ethnic harassment, the tip of the iceberg

Day 39 of war on Tigray: Ethnic harassment, the tip of the iceberg

The following excerpt is from today’s article in the New York Times. These seemingly anecdotal stories barely scratch the surface of the ethnic harassment, discrimination, abuses (including physical abuse), arbitrary detention, extortion of money that Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia have been enduring for the last 39 days.

Today, if you are a Tigrayan

  • in Addis Ababa, a dozen police officers with no warrant but machine guns barge into your home. They pour goods from your kitchen onto the floor, empty your clothes drawers and even look inside your clay coffee pot, seemingly searching for something to incriminate you. You are treated like a criminal suspect and subjected to various forms of discrimination, harassment and abuse by government officials. You are detained without charges, put under house arrest, and barred from traveling outside the country. You have had your business shut down, home ransacked and money extorted by security officials.
  • in the Ethiopian military force, you may be held in any of the detention centers around the country. You might have traveled north to the border with Tigray with your unit, but just a week later you would text that your phone was being confiscated and that you were being imprisoned. Your family would not hear from you since.
  • your house is raided by security officers in plain clothes who tear open your mattress and couch and smash your washing machine. If you try to help your sister when her house, too, is raided, you go missing in a few days and your family does not hear from you since.
  • working in a condominium project, you get suspended. If you own a security firm, it gets suspended and you are arrested. Your family does not know your whereabouts for three weeks. The authorities say that your company accounts are being investigated to see whether you are aiding the TPLF.
  • working in Ethio Telecom, officers arrive at a branch where you work and detain you. If you are a Tigrayan and you want to leave Ethiopia on a work mission, for medical treatment or studies,  civil aviation authorities ask you to show your identity card and stop you. Even if you are the C.E.O. of the national carrier, you are barred from boarding.
  • or not but a reporter with a Tigrayan affiliated Media Center and you will be detained for over two weeks without being formally charged. The police may accuse you of having been in contact with some people while doing your very job.

According to Euronews, the UN calls ‘forced returns’ of Eritrean refugees fleeing the war in Tigray ‘disturbing.’ Ethiopia on Friday said it was returning thousands of refugees who ran from camps in its Tigray region as war swept through, putting them on buses back to the border area with Eritrea. Ethiopia had said the military offensive “was not a direct threat” to the 96,000 “misinformed” Eritrean refugees. Ethiopia said the refugees’ “unregulated movement” makes it difficult to ensure their security.

The recent trend has been that the UN agencies and others use the strongest terms possible saying they are ‘deeply concerned’, ‘alarmed’, ‘urge’, ‘call for immediate ceasefire, unhindered, unfettered humanitarian access.’ The Ethiopian government always denies all problems, shrugs off comments and requests, and brags about victory and being in control.

The Mai Kadra massacre still begs an independent investigation as contradicting narratives and survivors’ horrific stories continue to emerge. A few days after we read horrific stories of fleeing survivors in the New York Times, Aljazeera has published this article today. In yet another account, Maesho, 34, told npr that “[Militias] were slaughtering people with knives and machetes.”

From Sky News: First aid convoy of seven trucks belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross is reported to have arrived in Mekelle today, December 12, 2020.

Amare Teklay

Amare is an economist from Tigray. He is interested in behavioral economics, psychology, philosophy and politics.

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