Tigray’s grandchildren shall not wait for a century to even get recognition of what their forefathers went through, like what happened to the generations of Armenian survivors.
I am writing this appreciating Your Excellency’s historic decision to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and with hopes in appealing to your administration to stop the ongoing genocide in Tigray, Ethiopia -a conflict with distinctively similar features to the Armenian Genocide.
Last year you promised Americans and the world that you would make human rights a central guidepost of your foreign policy. You said that you would pursue a values-based foreign policy. You also said that ‘failing to call the atrocities against the Armenian people a genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities. Calling the atrocities on Armenians “Genocide” in the first 100 days in your office shows your commitment to human rights.
I salute you for this historic declaration and your principled position, with hopes that it will right the wrong done to all those Armenians who perished in the state-sponsored genocide 106 years back by the Ottoman Turks, which exterminated an estimated 1-1.5 million Armenians(more than 90% of the Armenian population, by then). I also hope this extends to all parts of the world. In fact, your action cannot be more timely than now when it comes to the ongoing genocide in Tigray, in the Horn of Africa.
As the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “History teaches us that if we ignore its darkest chapters, we are destined to witness the horrors of the past be repeated”; so, your declaration was an important milestone in history and instilled the hope that similar crimes will be prevented before being repeated.
Unfortunately, the world has repeatedly failed to learn from its mistakes in the past and has repeated them time and time again over the years, as the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide showed.
In 1994, the world acted as a ‘bystander’, very much reluctant to act on time and stop the Genocide before its devastation plagued the nation. March 25, 1998, President Bill Clinton expressed “a deep regret” for failing to act on time and stop it.
After the tragic Rwanda Genocide, the international community, in one voice, echoed “Never Again.” Many of us hoped such horrors wouldn’t happen again – ‘Never Ever, again!’
Tragically, 27 years after the Rwandan Genocide, similar atrocities are being committed under Your Excellency’s watch in Tigray.
The Genocide in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, a genoicide that I have witnessed with my own eyes, could even be at a scale worse than that of the Armenian’s and Rwandan’s.
For more than 6 months now, Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, Amhara forces (Amhara Special forces, Amhara militias, Amhara Fano-an armed youth squad) have been committing a well-planned, deliberate, well-executed act of ethnic cleansing against the Tigrayan people. The international community once again appears to be embracing a spectator role, reluctant to act decisively and stop the genocide in Tigray which is unfolding before your very eyes. Many, including your senior officials, are issuing statements of concern, yet to this point there is a total absence of concrete action on the ground that can put a stop to this atrocious genocide against the Tigrayan people.
Between November 2020 and March 2021, more than 150 mass massacre sites have been identified by a team at the University of Ghent in Belgium. There have been numerous additional massacres since this study was conducted. Between 70,000-150,000 innocent Tigrayans are estimated to have been exterminated in these mass murders. The most notable massacres are as follows:
- The Mai-Kadra massacre which according to a report by Amnesty International, took more than 600 lives
- Axum massacre tallying more than 800 civilian deaths, according to AP’s Feb 18 report of witness accounts
- Dengelet Massacre (a March 22nd report by the CNN put the figure at more than 100 casualties; Europe External Programme with Africa put the figure at 150; my witnesses put the figure to be 165)
- Mahbere-Dego (a leaked graphic Video and witness accounts collected by CNN and BBC Africa suggest 39-73 young men to have been killed between Jan 15 and 16; my witnesses estimated 193 civilians to have been killed, including on the subsequent days)
- Abi Adi- an April 7th report by The Telegraph shows that 182 civilians were killed on February 10 alone]
- Bora (more than 160 civilian deaths occurred, according to a March 19th witnesses report by Los Angeles Times)
- The Zelambessa massacre, killing 56-72 civilians, according to reports by Tigray Television, and eepa.
In addition, there are multiple cases of massacres in Sheraro, Humera Dansha, Maykinetal, Selekleka, Irob, Debre-Abay, Idaga-hamus, Adwa, Shire, Humera, Idaga-Arbi, Adigrat, Hawzen, Edaga-Berhe, Miriena, Seglamen, Hagere-selam, Hitsats, Samre, Gijjet, Hiwane, Nebelet, Wukro,Workamba, Killele, Azeba e.t.c. These are just a few of the more than 150 massacre sites where Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amhara armies systematically slaughtered civilians of all age groups (as young as 2 years of age, up to 93 years old).
Thousands of women and underage girls (as young as 6 years old) in Tigray have been gang-raped, in an intentional use of rape as a weapon of war; in some cases the rapists burn the victims genitaliaand uterus with hot iron rods, and insert foreign objectsto make them infertile. Various media outlets, UN bodies, including the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, in addition to other humanitarian organizations, have talked extensively about such acts of crimes on humanity. Ethiopia’s government has even verified these claims.
Tens of thousands of Tigrayan members of Ethiopian Defense forces are disarmed and detained arbitrarily in various unknown concentration camps. Many among them are feared to have been executed. Likewise, Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia are profiled and indiscriminately arrested for months; Tigrayan civil servants in Federal government bureaus have been fired from their jobs; Tigrayan businesses have been shut. Tigrayans in Ethiopia are enduring all kinds of humiliation and harassment for who they are. On April 29th, the Associated Press released a report detailing this ethnic profiling, arbitrary detention, and purging of Tigrayans.
To induce mass starvation and destitution of Tigray, Ethiopian, Eritrean armies, and Amhara forces are burning crops, seeds, cutting trees, destroying agricultural tools, burning grasses (food for the cattle), killing livestock, especially targeting oxen and donkeys, as well as destroying small dams and irrigation canals in a systematic campaign of crippling the agricultural sector. The World Peace Foundation produced a 58-page comprehensive report about such targeted attacks. According to reports by UN agencies and Tigray’s interim government, currently, more than 2.3 people in Tigray are internally displaced and 4.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. 50-100 people have already died of hunger. Like the Turks, the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean Army, and Amhara forces have tried everything they can to block humanitarian aid from reaching the people that they have systematically starved, with the intent of decimating the entire Tigrayan population. Like the Turks, the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies as well as the Amhara forces are utilizing starvation as a weapon of war, and they want the effects to sustain for years to come if in case the international community steps up and provides life-sustaining humanitarian aid.
In addition, like in the Armenian Genocide, Ethiopia’s government and Eritrean and Amhara allies have enabled rape, sexual slavery, starvation, and the destruction of civilian livelihood as a weapon of war.
Ethiopian, Eritrean armies, and Amhara forces are destroying health facilities, clean water infrastructure, and water pumps so greater numbers of Tigrayans will die of water-borne illnesses and other communicable diseases, gun inflicted injuries, and non-communicable diseases; this is a damage maximization strategy to decimate the Tigrayan Civilian Population. For months, Tigray was left in the dark, with electricity and telecommunication services cut; banking services stopped; business transactions placed on hold; roads blocked; with much of these grave atrocities on humanity hidden from the world. By blocking access to the media and to rights organizations, these horrific crimes have been successfully committed in the dark.
Ethiopia’s government and its allies are destroying schools, roads, a variety of civilian infrastructures, heritages [including AlNejashi Mosque, Debredamo monastery, Dengolat St Mary monastery e.t.c], private houses, and factories for the sake of destroying Tigray, including its history and identity, and leaving it in indefinite destitution and humiliation. In order to erase Tigray, entire villages and small towns are indiscriminately shelled with heavy artillery, and bombarded with missiles from drones; private houses ransacked, systematically burnt, and destroyed; Some Villages and small towns are completely turned to ashes, erased.
Amhara militia, Fano, Amhara special forces are also committing ethnic cleansing and Genocide in Western Tigray. There is an estimated 1 million (A study by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health puts it at 1.2 million) Tigrayans who used to live in Western Tigray that are no longer there. They are either killed, forcibly displaced or kept in concentration camps. Some 700,000 Tigrayans accounted for so far have been forcibly evicted from their lands and homes empty-handed, now sheltered in many towns in Tigray and in Sudan. Tens of thousands are feared to be dying in concentration camps there. Their prosperities, their lands, their houses are confiscated by the Amhara regional forces.
After committing 100% Ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in Western Tigray, which Secretary Blinken also repeatedly stated, the Amhara have brought hundreds of thousands of ethnic Amhara from Gojjam and Gonder, transferring them in to the houses and places originally inhabited by ethnic Tigray for Generations, making Western Tigray a “homogeneously Amhara” land. Men are not spared no matter what; thousands of women and under 7 children are forced to take the Amhara identity in order to remain in their homes. The women must be willing to be a concubine to an Amhara militia, though. Tigrayan traces have been erased. Recently the Amhara Regional Government has started illegally (yet officially) leasing farmlands that belong to Western Tigray to Amhara investors.
These are the same methods employed by the Turks on the Armenians 106 years ago.
[N.B: The 1994 Housing and Population Census showed that 96.3-98.1% of people in the various districts in Western Tigray spoke Tigrinyaa, so were Tigrayans; the 1978’s ‘Nationalities in Northern Ethiopia’ map also show these areas to be “Tigrinya speakers”.]
Today’s genocide against Tigray is the same as the hundred-year-old genocide against Armenia.
Our kids and grandkids shouldn’t wait 106 years to get recognition of what their forefathers went through, like what generations of Armenian survivors endured.
With the cumbersome evidence on your hand, it must by now be clear to you and the international community that Ethiopia’s government and allies are on a campaign of completely destroying the Tigrayan population, erasing Tigray altogether, just like what the Turks did against the Armenians.
The international community has repeatedly witnessed the untrustworthiness and the Genocidal appetite of Ethiopian and Eritrean governments and allies.
Unfortunately, what we have witnessed over the past six months is an international mechanism failing to do anything tangible to avert the situation in Tigray.
While the courageous decision you took to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide is to be commended on its own, what is the use of acknowledging historical genocide if it can not stop an ongoing genocide under your watch.
I urge you, Mr. President, to name an investigation commission composed of the experts that studied genocides including that of Armenia and Rwanda, and deploy these same experts to Tigray. I urge your administration and the Western world to name the Ethiopian and Eritrean states-sponsored Campaign of decimating Tigrayan population in Ethiopia with the proper descriptive name “genocide”. In the meanwhile, Your Excellency needs to do everything in your capacity to stop the ongoing Genocide in Tigray before it is too late. The United States of America is more than equipped to stop it. What it needs is your attention and your strong leadership.
Now that the war is in its seventh month, Tigrayans do not think a solution will come from the UN Security Council given China’s transactional politics and Russia’s soft heart for dictators. Over 6 million people in Tigray are in imminent danger of extinction due to a paralyzed international mechanism of dealing with grave situations. They Rather look into you, the free world you lead, and the institutions of the free world for a decisive action to stop it.
Therefore, I appeal to you, your Excellency,
- America and the Western world shall be bold enough to categorize the atrocities as “Genocide” and “famine” with regards to the crisis in Tigray.
- America shall mobilize the Western world to use all the leverage and the existing diplomatic, economic, and military machineries at its disposal to put palpable necessary pressure on Ethiopian and Eritrean governments to put a stop to the ongoing Genocide on Tigray.
- The United States government, and western allies includingEuropean Union, the UK government, the governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, shall sanction the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea for the continued Civilian massacres, use of Sexual violence, induced hunger, and destruction of civilian infrastructures and livelihood as weapons of war;
- A USA commission should be put in place to determine the genocide committed against Tigrayans.
- It is time for AFRICOM and NATO to militarily intervene (by triggering Art 5) in Tigray
- To provide rapid, unconditional, unfettered, and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and items essential to survival, including establishing a “lifeline humanitarian corridor” from Sudan to Tigray under a demilitarized route designated for safe passage of humanitarian supplies.
- To ensure the immediate and verifiable cessation of all forms of hostilities;
- Ensure total withdrawal of all internal and external forces, including Eritrean armed forces and Amhara Special Forces and militia from all Tigray parts to their deployment lines before 4th November, 2020.
- Enforce “No fly zone” across the skies of Tigray.
- An immediate joint UN-USA-EU independent investigation in the war crimes and grave crimes against humanity in Tigray; and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
- America and other great powers need to scale up the humanitarian aid to a point that is necessary to avert the impending humanitarian catastrophe.
- America and other western powers shall press on the United Nations with all the leverage they have to put Tigray under a UN-mandated international interim civil and security administration (Using the Kosovo model).
I thank you, Mr President
Goitom Aregawi (Ztseat) is a medical doctor in Mekelle University Hospital, chairman of Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray and writes in local media outlets.