Can Letebirhan of 2021 Tigray Genocide Move the World like Birhan of the 1984 Ethiopian Famine?

Birhan and her family were walking from their village to Mekelle hoping to find food when her sister Azmera died from exhaustion and hunger and Birhan and her mother both became very ill. Once in Mekelle, her father was told that Birhan was that Birhan was dying, and her father, Woldu Menameno wrapped Birhan in a burial cloth and began digging a grave. But then he saw a sign of life and he brought her back to the nurses who were able to restore her to health. This image of Birhan Woldu – near to death from starvation – was captured by a CBC documentary crew led by Brian Stewart and Tony Burman and shared across the world. This was in 1984.

Birhan became an iconic symbol that rallied the world to address the 1984/1985 Ethiopian Famine. Bob Geldof organized Band Aid and released, along with other world-famous artists, the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the image of her face “changed his life.” Birhan survived the Great Famine and grew up to be a nurse. She has since been paraded as a success of the international community to address the Ethiopian famine, appearing in the music video of the re-recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” for Band Aid 20, the Live 8 concert in London, and Madonna‘s performance of “Like a Prayer“.

In a 2004 The New Humanitarian (then IRIN) article titled “Face of famine’ has evolved to hope 20 years on“, Birhan said, “Sometimes I can’t believe I survived because hundreds of thousands of children like me lost their lives”.

Birhan adds, “I pray this never happens again and I am thankful for all the help we have received, … But what we need is schools to educate ourselves, dams for farmers so they are not dependent on the rains. We need health centres and industries for people to have jobs. We need to be able to stand on our own and not always be reliant on aid.”

In 2021 – 37 years after the Great Famine – another Tigrayan child Letebirhan has emerged as the new face of famine. Letebirhan’s image was captured by CNN crew led by Nima Bader. Leterbirhan’s father, Girmay, had to carry her and walk a “dangerous and costly” 60 km from Chila to Aksum to save her life. “There is no help, no food, nothing. I didn’t have a choice though — look at her,” Girmay said. Letebirhan’s hunger-weakened legs cannot carry her body. “The medical team were doing their best to keep her alive, but they had run out of a therapeutic feeding agent due to the blockade, the only way to help her gain weight without disturbing her delicate system.

In 2021, the things Birhan said were needed – health centers, schools, dams for farmers, industries – have been deliberately destroyed. A far worse catastrophe, a genocide, has visited Birhan Woldu’s homeland of Tigray. The number, the intent, and the capacity of the enemies together with international apathy mean that the current catastrophe is actually much worse than what we saw almost four decades ago.

Will the world show the same compassion and heart that it demonstrated in 1984? Are there Tony Blair’s whose lives will be changed by seeing Letebirhan’s image? Are there Bob Geldof’s still in the 21st century? Are there world-famous artists that can be moved into action?

Gebrekirstos Gebremeskel

Gebrekirstos Gebremeskel is a researcher, runs http://mermru.com (NLP resources & tools), and manages Tghat. He is interested in science, history of ideas and the politics of the Horn.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Bring diaspora - masterminds of war crime

    “Worqu Belayneh May 13, 2021

    Might is what thugs understand and practice; deal with them likewise. “Human Rights, Rule of Law, etc” do not work in the context of unruly people. Practice Mengistu Hailemariam’ style of ‘justice’ by eliminating the thugs on the sport and without mercy.” people like Worqu Belayneh, soccaled diaspora living in US , should be arrested wherever they live . they are inciting violence and killings of innocent Tegaru and Oromos !

    Although there is no clear indication of religious war, personally believe extremeists are acting privately and in group(2-6 soldiers of ENDF , EDF wand somalian soldiers )

    and massacred our people out of their own religious conviction to take revenge against Christian Tegrau. We see them taking pleasure by killing our people mercilessly and taking selfie! That is not in a way to execute the order they receive from their commander or other chief military staff , but it looks they have a personal motive and something beyond that-religious extreimisme. many people find it uncomfortable to say there is a religious motive since we have people, fellow Tegaru, from various religious background!

    To put it in simple terms, there is a religious element or motivation in this ongoing war Against Tegaru even if it appears to have a lesser magnitude and extent.

    Regarding those prosperity party supporters and mahibrekidusan members who find themselves in an inevitable danger ahead, they keep on telling us irrespective of ethnic bacground, Orthodox church members should unite at this time so that we should protect our church from anti-Orthodox tewahedo church.

    Our people, children , women, monks priests and nuns , were massacred by ENDF and EDF soldiers who claim to be Christians . fanos and amhara militia who massacred our people in southeren Tigray, (Humera, Mai-kadra, and other towns and cities)are predominantly known to practice Christianity, more precisely they are members of EOTC.

    How come you tell us to unite with you , amhara elites, in the guise Orthodox Christianity ??

    To be honest, as a member of Orthodox church I donot want to see any one to undergo suffering let alone unimaginble war crime that was and is still going on my sacred soil of Tigray!

    However, We cannot unite with you when you burn our churches, monasteries and massacre our people mercilessly with the cooperation of extremists within Ethiopia , Eritrea and UAE.

    I also heard them saying” Amhara is not your enemy and it is Abiy Amhed who waged war on Tigray ! Ye men , we donot suffer from short memory and we know 360 , EOTC , Ethio 360 and many more individuals and organizations were and still in favor of the war on Tigray until we disappear like Dinosaur and vanish from the global map , as long as you were crying out your slogan for several months !.

    For us now, Tigrianism is most important for us , we donot divide among us on the account of the religious standing we have : Tegaru from different religious views are struggling toegther and working like a hand and glove for their own common goal- liberating Tigray and Tegaru and reconstructing Great Republic of Tigray once gain by pouring their own blood, toil, tears and sweat!

    አቢይ ሆን ብሎ የኦርቶዶክስ ቤተክርስቲያንን ለማጥፋት ከሚሰሩ ሀይላት ጋር እየሰራ ነው እያላቹ አዲስ ምክንያት በመፍጠር ኦርቶዶክሳዊያን የሆናቹ ሁሉ ጎሳ ብሄር ጎጥ መንደር ከተማ ሳይገድባቹ ከኛ ጋር ሆናቹ እንታገል ድምፅ እናሰማ እያላቹ እኛን ለመሸንገል የምትደክሙ ካላቹ ጊዜ አታባክኑ ስል ምክሬን እለግሣለሁ፥፥እንደ ክርስቲያን የማንንም ፍጅት አልመኝም፥እየገደሉን ያሉ ወታደሮች እንኳ በፍርድ እንዲዳኙ ነው የምፈልገው፥፥ሕዝባችንን ምህረት በሌለው ከባለሥልጣናት የተላለፈ ትዕዛዝ ብቻ ሳይሆን በፅንፈኝነትና በጭፍን የብሔር ጥላቻ የጨፈጨፈና በመጨፍጨፍ ላይ ያለው አብዛኛው የአማራ ፋኖ ና የአማራ ሚሊሻ እኮ የኦርቶዶክስ ቤተክርስቲያን አማኝ ስለመሆኑ እንደሁላቹሁም እኔ በግሌ የማውቀው ሀቅ ነው፥፥ብልፅግና ነው አቢይ አሕመድ ነው ጦር ያዘመተባቹ አማራ ከተጋሩ ጋር ናቸው ለምትሉ የማስታወስ ችግር ቢኖርባቹ እንኳ የናንተን ከአቢይ ጎን ስለመቆም የሚመሰክሩ ተንቀሳቃሽ ምስሎች መጣጥፎች ምን አደከማቹ ኢንተርቴቱ ሳይቀር ያሳብቅባቹኋል፦፦የሚያዋጣቹ ነገር እኛ ኮ በሥስት ቀን ውሥጥ ጦርነቱን እንጨርሰዋለን ብለን ነው የጀመርነው ብትሉ ምህረት ታገኛላቹ፥፥ማጠፊያው ቢያጥራቹ ኦርቶዶክስ ተነሣ ፥ለሀገር ደህንነት ብሔርተኝነቱን ወደ ጎን ትተን አንድ እንሁን ወዘተ ጭንቀታቹህን መደበቅ የማትችሉበት ደረጃ ላይ እንደደረሳቹ ና የልብ ትርታቹ ከተለመደው ተፈጥሯዊው ሥጉምታ እንዳለፈ ተረዳን ፥ንፁሓንን ብቻ ዘር ጎሣ የማይለይ አምላክ ነፃ ያውጣልን እናንተ ደግሞ ልሂቃኑና ጦር የሰበቃቹሁብንን ለፍርድ የምትቀርቡበትን መንገድ ይፍጠርልን፥፥ትግራይ በሀይለ አምላክ ትሥዕር አሜን፦፦(corrected -delete previous one)

  2. Bring diaspora - masterminds of war crime

    “Worqu Belayneh May 13, 2021
    Might is what thugs understand and practice; deal with them likewise. “Human Rights, Rule of Law, etc” do not work in the context of unruly people. Practice Mengistu Hailemariam’ style of ‘justice’ by eliminating the thugs on the sport and without mercy.” people like Worqu Belayneh, soccaled diaspora living in US , should be arrested wherever they live . they are inciting violence and killings of innocent Tegaru and Oromos !

    Although there is no clear indication of religious war, personally believe extremeists are acting privately and in group(2-6 soldiers of ENDF , EDF wand somalian soldiers )
    and massacred our people out of their own religious conviction to take revenge against Christian Tegrau. We see them taking pleasure by killing our people mercilessly and taking selfie! That is not in a way to execute the order they receive from their commander or other chief military staff , but it looks they have a personal motive and something beyond that-religious extreimisme. many people find it uncomfortable to say there is a religious motive since we have people, fellow Tegaru, from various religious background!
    የኦርቶዶክስ ቤተክርስቲያንን ሆነ ክርስትናን ለማጥፋት የተነሱ ሀይሎች ስላሉ በሌላ አገላለፅ አቢይ ሆን ብሎ የኦርቶዶክስ ቤተክርስቲያንን ለማጥፋት ከሚሰሩ ሀይላት ጋር እየሰራ ነው እያላቹ አዲስ ምክንያት በመፍጠር ኦርቶዶክሳዊያን የሆናቹ ሁሉ ጎሳ ብሄር ጎጥ መንደር ከተማ ሳይገድባቹ ከኛ ጋር ሆናቹ እንታገል ድምፅ እናሰማ እያላቹ እኛን ለመሸንገል የምትደክሙ ካላቹ ጊዜ አታባክኑ ስል ምክሬን እለግሣለሁ፥፥እንደ ክርስቲያን የማንንም ፍጅት አልመኝም፥እየገደሉን ያሉ ወታደሮች እንኳ በፍርድ እንዲዳኙ ነው የምፈልገው፥፥ሕዝባችንን ምህረት በሌለው ከባለሥልጣናት የተላለፈ ትዕዛዝ ብቻ ሳይሆን በፅንፈኝነትና በጭፍን የብሔር ጥላቻ የጨፈጨፈና በመጨፍጨፍ ላይ ያለው አብዛኛው የአማራ ፋኖ ና የአማራ ሚሊሻ እኮ የኦርቶዶክስ ቤተክርስቲያን አማኝ ስለመሆኑ እንደሁላቹሁም እኔ በግሌ የማውቀው ሀቅ ነው፥፥ብልፅግና ነው አቢይ አሕመድ ነው ጦር ያዘመተባቹ አማራ ከተጋሩ ጋር ናቸው ለምትሉ የማስታወስ ችግር ቢኖርባቹ እንኳ የናንተን ከአቢይ ጎን ስለመቆም የሚመሰክሩ ተንቀሳቃሽ ምስሎች መጣጥፎች ምን አደከማቹ ኢንተርቴቱ ሳይቀር ያሳብቅባቹኋል፦፦የሚዋጣቹ ነገር እኛ ኮ በሥስት ቀንውሥጥ ጦርነቱን እንጨርሰዋለን ብለን ነው የጀመርነው ብትሉ ምህረት ታገኛላቹ፥፥ማጠፊያው ቢያጥራቹ ኦርቶዶክስ ተነሣ ፥ለሀገር ደህንነት ብሔርተኝነቱን ወደ ጎን ትተን አንድ እንሁን ወዘተ ጭንቀታቹህን መደበቅ የማትችሉበት ደረጃ ላይ እንደደረሳቹ ና የልብ ትርታቹ ከተለመደው ተፈጥሯዊው ሥጉምታ እንዳለፈ ተረዳን ፥ንፁሓንን ብቻ ዘር ጎሣ የማይለይ አምላክ ነፃ ያውጣልን እናንተ ደግሞ ልሂቃኑና ጦር የሰበቃቹሁብንን ለፍርድ የምትቀርቡበትን መንገድ ይፍጠርልን፥፥ትግራይ በሀይለ አምላክ ትሥዕር አሜን፦፦

    To put it in simple terms, there is a religious element or motivation in this ongoing war Against Tegaru even if it appears to have a lesser magnitude and extent.

    Regarding those prosperity party supporters and mahibrekidusan members who find themselves in an inevitable danger ahead, they keep on telling us irrespective of ethnic bacground, Orthodox church members should unite at this time so that we should protect our church from anti-Orthodox tewahedo church.

    Our people, children , women, monks priests and nuns , were massacred by ENDF and EDF soldiers who claim to be Christians . fanos and amhara militia who massacred our people in southeren Tigray, (Humera, Mai-kadra, and other towns and cities)are predominantly known to practice Christianity, more precisely they are members of EOTC.

    How come you tell us to unite with you , amhara elites, in the guise Orthodox Christianity ??

    To be honest, as a member of Orthodox church I donot want to see any one to undergo suffering let alone unimaginble war crime that was and is still going on my sacred soil of Tigray!

    However, We cannot unite with you when you burn our churches, monasteries and massacre our people mercilessly with the cooperation of extremists within Ethiopia , Eritrea and UAE.

    I also heard them saying” Amhara is not your enemy and it is Abiy Amhed who waged war on Tigray ! Ye men , we donot suffer from short memory and we know 360 , EOTC , Ethio 360 and many more individuals and organizations were and still in favor of the war on Tigray until we disappear like Dinosaur and vanish from the global map , as long as you were crying out your slogan for several months !.

    For us now, Tigrianism is most important for us , we donot divide among us on the account of the religious standing we have : Tegaru from different religious views are struggling toegther and working like a hand and glove for their own common goal- liberating Tigray and Tegaru and reconstructing Great Republic of Tigray once gain by pouring their own blood, toil, tears and sweat!

  3. UAE is the ring leader chaos in Tigray and entire

    ነገርን ነገር ያነሳዋል ይባሃል ዚ ኩሉ መስቃን ግፍን ዝመፀ በናይ ኢሜሬትን ብአራዊት ኤርትራ እዩ ፥፥በአረብ ኢመሬት ድሮን ድብደባ ባይታገዙ ኑሮ ጠላት ሕዝባችንን ለዚ ሲቃ ና ሰቆቃ ለመዳረግ ሰርጎ ለመግባትና ሰፊ መሬት ለመቆጣጠር አቅሙን ባላገኘ ነበር፥፥ይህ እንኳን በወገናችን በማንም የማንመኘው ነው፥፥አለም አፋጣኝ ምላሽ እንዲሰጥ እንጠይቃለን!! Hence, UAE is responsible for all the humanitarian chaos in the country! UAE authorities should be questioned by ICC!!
    No more press release , Help End the starvation and mass killings of innocent civilians!!

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