I just learned that my cousin was injured in a drone strike. I was told he was inside a bajaj (three-wheeled public conveyance) and the driver was killed in the strike. My cousin survived but there is no medication in Tigray, so I am left to wonder how they will treat his injuries? I just don’t know whether to be thankful that he survived the attack or to worry that the medication he will no doubt need is not available.
My family has done everything for me, literally everything. They are kind people. Let alone imagining the violence of war, simple insults were not allowed when I was growing up. My brother would make me write out all the bad words I used and make me apologize to the person I said them to. It was hard at the time but it served me well in life.
On religious holidays, my family would decorate our house and we would all go to church together. Later we would gather again at home, make coffee, eat derho. My sisters would make Siwa. We changed clothes and put on our festive dresses. The entire mood was one of joy and excitement. During these holidays and at weekends, my cousins would join us too. We have a very close relationship with my cousins. It could be because we lost our parents – their dad (my uncle) and his sister (my mom) early. We comforted and supported each other.
It is within this close family matrix that I was raised and nurtured. All of my life I have only been able to think about how to make our life better, Not just how to grow as a person but also how I can grow to be someone who can make a meaningful contribution to my family, community, and my county. They gave my life a beautiful meaning and spiritual center.
Our coffee times together, the recreation that we shared, the joy we had in each other’s company, the wise counsel from them, are what have made me a happy and secure person. The feeling I have about them is quite similar to the feeling I have when I see the ark of the covenant, mostly during the epiphany, which was supposed to be celebrated today.
Now things are different, I and millions of Tigrayans are not able to hear from our families.
Tigray is under a total blackout, there is no communication whatsoever. I can’t hear from them and they can’t hear from me. We are cut off in the most brutal manner at the most uncertain of times when I can’t even be sure of their safety and security. For weeks and months, I had prayed and hoped to hear from them.
And today I heard from a family friend that my cousin had been injured in a deadly drone attack. I don’t know how to process this in my head. The people we love the most in the world, those who inspire and motivate our every move are in existential danger and it seems there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it.
Our families and loved ones in Tigray are under siege, with no food, and no essential medical supplies. Our families are being haunted by drones. Regular, kind, loving, and innocent humans are being murdered and terrorized. Every day I have to remind the world that my brothers and sisters are not safe. They are being targeted by drones even as they try to live their everyday lives from under a brutal siege. People I know and love are dying and suffering terrible injuries, simply for going to the market or to work. They are being hurt for simply living their lives.
The people we love, the people who did everything for us, are under a massive humanitarian crisis, at great risk and we are not able to do anything for them. We dare not even pause to consider, or ask anyone to consider, what is happening to the Tigrayan diaspora. We do not have the luxury to think of the depression, the trauma, the agony, the grief, the confusion, of our worlds turned upside down, the everyday pain thinking of what our families are going through. Forget all of that because it is nothing in the grand scheme of what is happening to our people in Tigray. Innocent people are being killed with airstrikes and bullets while those that remain are being systematically starved. Children are literally starving to death in the 21st century because a man, a single man in power, decided their lives were nothing but a pawn in a merciless quest to exert power and subjugate a minority people. How can one begin to even understand the logic of that? It is impossible to fathom. And even more difficult to consider this is happening in full sight of the world.
For more than a year, we have asked the international community to act and save lives from, bullets drones, mass sexual assault, and STARVATION but the international community choose inaction.
When I first started campaigning on social media I honestly believed the world would care. That our impassioned calls and alerting international figures and organizations would mean something. I had faith in international human rights and humanitarian principles and I was sure policymakers would do anything to save a starving kid, or put an end to a helpless woman who is exposed to gang rape and extrajudicial killings (deliberately targeting boys and men). How could the world not say no to the deliberate destruction of health facilities, universities, and civilian infrastructures in the 21st century? How could our neighbors – fellow Ethiopians – condone ethnically targeted mass arrests? It seemed impossible that someone would not stop the forcible transfer of population by intimidation, looting, and burning of livelihood and assets necessary for survival. I was particularly confident of this after I learned about the UNSC and R2P, that they will surely stand against all potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, and put an end to the genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing that is happening in Tigray based on their responsibility to protect populations from all those harms.
But it didn’t happen.
Instead, this has become our everyday life. Words like mass atrocities, extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, weaponized hunger, weaponized sexual violence, genocide, which were never part of our everyday vocabularies, have become normalized. The killing, rape, starvation, and suffering of Tigrayans is the new normal that would is willing to accept.
Can you imagine how that feels? If you are reading this, when was the last time you were hungry? And when was the last time you were not able to get something to eat or drink? How does it feel? How long do you think you can survive? Can you imagine? Not being able to drink water? Or food for months? And eat leaves or grass instead? Because that is the only thing around? So many times, I would want to say so much but I end the conversation in my head knowing that the world is not willing to do anything about it, I feel helpless.
What kind of people have we become to let people starve and be okay with it? What kind of people are we putting in power? When will humanity serve us? What are we doing as an individual to say no to this?
Why can’t the world come together to stop this brutal war? What can I, you, each one of us, do to stop this? Why is the world willing to tolerate a single man using power to torment and terrorize millions of people? Were our hopes and dreams all false? Are there really no values that are sacrosanct to us collectively, as humans? Have we really built a world that is not able to save the most vulnerable of us?
If taking life is what they want they can take mine. Take mine, and leave my family alone.