Personal Account

An Eyewitness Account of the First Days of the Tigray War

I have families and friends there. My parents depend on me. But I don’t know in what situation they are now. This is due to the total siege on Tigray by the Ethiopian government and the Eritrean government. Tigray is isolated from the rest of the world. I can’t not know whether they are alive or not due to the total blockade and siege. I sometimes receive a voice message from my wife once a month or so. I have missed my  son. Now he is one-year-and-two-months-old. It is hard to imagine that you have a kid and you don’t see him for one year and two months. I ask myself what life means. Life is nothing without family, friends, neighbors, and the community as a whole.

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 I came to  Chemnitz, Germany  on April 1, 2021, to continue  my PhD study at TU- Chemnitz. I had already started my Ph.D. study in October 2018 from Mekelle, Tigray.

Then war broke out.

My first reaction

I was in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, when the war started on November 4, 2020. 

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmded, declared the war at midnight and Tigray was immediately converted into darkness due to blackout. There was no electricity; there was no internet connection; there was no banking service; and there was no air or ground transportation. Every basic service was cut off. I was working on my research remotely. so, I became disconnected totally from my  advisors.

My first reaction to the war was very terrible as the attack targeted civilians and public infrastructures. I had never experienced such a dangerous situation in my life . I had no money in my hand.  I didn’t have enough groceries at home. I got confused and stressed. I did not expect the whole situation to change as dramatically. 

How did the enemies clean our people when they entered cities?

A couple of other people and I left Mekelle on 22 November 2020  along the  Wukr–Gerealta–Nebelet–edega humus (Tsedia)–Feresmay way. There was heavy fighting in front of us in Tsedia, just a kilometer distance away. We continued our journey heading to Feresmay. None of us had military experience and when I  think of it now, we were in a dangerous zone. Anyhow, we escaped at high speed on a gravel roadway. Normally, the road is not made for trucks but rather for ambulance and field patrols. On day one, we spent the night on the field because my parents’ home was full of internally displaced relatives who had come from different towns of Tigray. People fled from towns to rural areas, seeking relatives to host them. I observed the dire situation of displaced people on the first day. On the third day, heavy gunfire was heard around Feresmay,  then a  distressful sound of artillery was coming close.

Feresmay and its surrounding in December 26, 2020. One of the enemy soldiers said to a woman called Alem Tsegay who was looking for her lost child that the mountains and the chain of rocks create fear

When Eritrean troops entered cities the first thing they did  was fire artillery to empty the city. Along the way crops were burned because it was harvesting time, and houses were also burned. They killed anyone they met outside of the home. As a result, many people fled to the villages. Armed forces went house-to-house to check if there was someone who stayed home. Then, they killed and let the bodies lay on the streets of the city. After they emptied the city, they forced underage people to guide them to where the banks and micro and financial institutions are located. The next targeted business was jewelry and electronic shops. Vehicles, factories, medical centers, schools, hotels, and grain storage were also among the target pillaged, and the things that were not able to loot had been destroyed.

I also saw Eritrean troops looting grain stores. I went to Feres May and saw  five dead bodies. I heard that men had been killed and women raped. I was also fired at but hid behind a tree. In our village, people were starved. All they had was some grain they might have hid at home. Grinding mills had been destroyed. I have lost 15 kilograms within Two  months. The troops also stole sheep, goats, and chickens. After three months, Ethiopian troops came but they did the same things. The  Government was not allowing humanitarian access to the central zone as a whole. Many more people were starved – some  had already died in my village.

My family and friends in Tigray

I have families and friends there. My parents depend on me. But I don’t know in what situation they are now. This is due to the total siege on Tigray by the Ethiopian government and the Eritrean government. Tigray is isolated from the rest of the world. I can’t know whether they are alive or not due to the total blockade and siege. I sometimes receive a voice message from my wife once a month or so. I have missed my  son. Now he is one-year-and-two-months-old. It is hard to imagine that you have a kid and you don’t see him for one year and two months. I ask myself what life means. Life is nothing without family, friends, neighbors, and the community as a whole.

My opinion on the conflict

If world leaders are honest, Tigrayan lives must matter to them. I don’t doubt that the world has been short of evidence regarding what has been happening in Tigray for the last 515 days. So, instead of the periodic statement of concern, they have to take meaningful action to end the conflict. I would like to say: please make a decision. Multiple armed actors have been involved in the conflict to commit the systematic ethnic cleansing. World leaders must put pressure on the dictators to save the lives of Tigrayans.

World leaders: please Keep your promises that said, “we have to learn from the Rwanda genocide in 1994, it won’t happen again”. We Tigrayans have a right to live. Everyone should condemn the extrajudicial killings of  Tigrayans all over Ethiopia. Tigray needs food and an end to the siege, and  a humanitarian corridor. Electricity, communications, Internet, and bank services must be restored. The hidden arrest and disappearance of Tigrayans all over Ethiopia including Addis Ababa should be stopped. Those who have already been arrested en masse and placed in concentration camps in Afar and Amhara regional states without reason must be released. 

My hopes for Tigray

First and foremost, I demand the full operation of humanitarian workers and flow of humanitarian aid to save the lives of millions of Tigrayans suffering. I would also like the war to come to the table to an end by dialogue. Moreover, I would like to see those who designed the genocidal war and committed murder, extrajudicial executions, gang rape, sexual assaults, deliberate military attacks, the bombing of civilians and residential areas, destruction and robbery of private and public property, and destruction of health facilities held accountable. In particular, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afeworki, who weaponized starvation and rape,  must be brought in front of justice in order victims to heal. 

I wish Tigray will be a free and independent state, having the power and right to govern itself through a referendum.

My advice to the Ethiopian people is please condemn the war, stop the hate speech on Tigrayans, stop the madness, speak loud out in your voices for peace, and stand with the truth.

If you  do not want to live with respect together, at least we should try be good friends and neighbors.  

I would like this terrible day to pass quickly.

Author

2 Comments

  1. MUEZ

    May 26, 2022 at 2:13 am

    Since the war in Tivray started,
    Tighat have been fighting face to face with this genociders and suporters of the régime as well as digging and exposing the atrocities committed by eretrian armies,ENDF, Amhara special forces and militants to the world. Thank you

  2. Teklebirhan

    May 25, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    My appreciation goes to Tghat, they are working hard to become the voice of our people. At same time they are documenting what is happening in Tigray during the Genocidal war.
    I wish to see Tghat a big publishing institution for the future.
    I would like to thank Tghat Editorial for their time to edit my manuscript!

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