During the first weeks of the joint invasion of Tigray in November 2020, the allied forces of Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), the Amhara Militia, and vigilante groups have massacred hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans in more than 150 massacre sites, displaced millions from their homes, destroyed, looted, burnt and vandalized several public and civilian infrastructures. According to a preliminary assessment of the damage of the war on the educational infrastructure of Tigray, 88% of the school classrooms and the associated facilities have been destroyed. Only in the district of Hawzen, 75 elementary and middle schools and 5 high schools, and 1 technical and vocational education college were completely destroyed and looted. The destruction has annulled the improvements in the education quality indicators Tigray made over the past 30 years. This was noticeably affirmed by the Ethiopian authorities that their ultimate goal was to wipe out Tigrayans and turn Tigray into where it was 100 years ago, the era of the stone age. The educational sector is not the only sector severely damaged by the war on Tigray. The health, agricultural, trade, and financial sectors of Tigray also suffered massive destruction.
The war on Tigray has caused devastating destruction and damage to the region’s historical and religious heritage. Ancient churches (1, 2 and 3), monasteries (Waldebba, Debris Damo), and mosques have been attacked; religious leaders and congregations have been summarily executed and precious ancient manuscripts and inscriptions are looted. Recently, several ancient manuscripts and artifacts looted from Tigray appeared for sale on websites including eBay. Only in Hawzen district, near the majestic Gheralta Mountains, home to more than 80 rock-hewn churches and monasteries including Abreha Atsbeha, Abune Abreham, Maryam Korkor, and Abune Yemata Guh, and many more, 31 ancient monasteries and rock-hewn churches have been damaged by heavy artillery bombing, looting and vandalism of their ancient artifacts.
All of the newly-built ecolodges in the vicinity, including the Gheralta lodge, Korkor lodge, Kuriftu Sabian lodge, and Mahbereseb lodge have been destroyed. The ecolodge and hotels in the areas used to employ hundreds of local people and generate income from tourists and hikers from all over the world. According to the districts’ tourism office expert, the tourist attractions in the district used to generate more than 10 million birr annually. Recently, pictures obtained from local residents of Gheralta showed the destruction of the newly-built Kurifutu Sabian Lodge.
The pictures clearly show the destructive intentions of the perpetrators. Portable properties and equipment of the lodge were first looted and taken to Eritrea and other parts of Ethiopia (see for context here).
Similar patterns of public infrastructure and private property destruction by Eritrean soldiers were seen in other parts of Tigray.
Currently, Tigray is completely sealed and cut off from the rest of the world and its entire population is facing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history of humanity. All the momentum and achievements in the socio-economic sectors, including education, health, and the tourism sectors seem to have disappeared, with little hope of revival in the near future. The campaign of such intentional destruction of historical and religious heritages of Tigray by both the ENDF and EDF was aimed at both degenerating the pride and values Tigrayans possess as an ancient and civilizational society and to economically impoverishment the people of Tigray by destroying and looting heritages and limiting the flow of tourists to the area.
On the front page of the webpage of one of the ecolodges around Gheralta mountains, the famous Korkor lodge, it reads “Due to the ongoing war, Tigray is unreachable from the 3rd of November 2020. Our Lodge is closed, waiting for better days’’…..indeed, Tigray is waiting for better days to come.