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The untold massacre of Semema



By Guanshe Hadgu Asfiha

My visit to my hometown of Semema (located at 14.198673,  38.342127) for Ethiopia’s New Year last September was supposed to be a time for celebration. I knew that Eritrean troops had massacred people in the area in 2020 but, two years down the line, I had thought that massacre was a relatively distant memory. It was only after I arrived there on New Year’s Eve that I learned there was another massacre in Semema by Eritrean troops in 18 October 2022. It was a massacre that claimed the lives of people I closely knew.

This latter massacre has never been reported on sufficiently enough. Tigray television had covered some aspects it, but it under-reported both the number of people killed and the damage wrought to civilian properties. Here I have made an attempt to report it more comprehensively based on information that I was able to gather during my stay. I should note that my report is still not detailed enough, and a more thorough reporting is still needed.

Semema (14.198673,  38.342127)

Although I was unable to establish the total number of people killed during the massacre, I have managed to collect the names of 26 people who were killed, 15 of whom I knew, including close relatives of mine. Please see the list below: 

Here is a list of civilian’s identified by name who were residents of Tabia Semema killed by Eritrean troops on October 18, 2022.

1Mekonen Tsegay TafereMale35
2Tesfu Shifer Male37
3Priest. Negassi Leake WeldegiorgisMale47
4Shishay Mekonen Welay.Male34
5Haile Berhe KahsayMale63
6Miesho Welekidan TeferiMale70
7Adane kidane TesemaMale68
8Tesfay DawitMale35
9Gezaei Tekleweyni FisahaMale32
10Kidane Mebrahtu TelaMale58
11Abrhaley Tadesse GebremedhinMale52
12Yibrah Gerilase GezeheyMale50
13Priest Yohanns Gebreharyat BeyeneMale33
14Kahsay Beyene WeluMale36
15Beyn Brhane GebremedhnMale36
16Priest Adane Tafere HailemariamMale45
17Priest Araya Tesfay GebruMale73
18Haleka Fissaha Welay BerheMale43
19Andu Berhe GoremseMale71
20Tareke Weleabzgi GebrezgiMale69
21Goitom Tareke ZewedeMale55
22Berhom Negash TesfayMale32
23Kahsay Fiseha WeledegergsMale38
24Abebesh  Werede AriadomFemale48
25Zeray Werede Ariadom (brother of abebesh)Male51
26Aregay AsmelashMale39
Note: List originally taken from the office of the mayor of the town. Included names only I was able to verify in the short time I had. Regarding ages, there might be slight errors because I had to rely on testimonies since people in the town, and generally in Tigray, do not have birth certificates.


Photograph showing some of the victims. Clockwise starting from the left: Araya Tesfay, Yibrah Gerlase, Adane Kidane, Kidane Mebrahtu, Meusho Welekidan, Tesfay Dawit, Fesseha Welday.

Houses destroyed

In addition to massaring people, the Eritrea troops destroyed households and schools. In some cases, they looted the properties – clothes, cooking utensils, television sets, beds, refrigerators, medication, etc – inside the houses before they burned the houses. 

A private pharmacy owned by a man called Tefera Gebrehiwot was broken into and looted. Some properties like flat-screen Televisions, hundreds of kilograms of Teff, furniture such as couches, school chairs, plasmas were also taken by trucks and lorries. Precious metal jewelries such as silver and gold are also among the goods looted. Some people thought that they would evade the Eritreans by hiding their gold under earth in the backyard of their houses. But Eritreas foiled their tricks because they came with gold detectors. 

Some residents fled their homes to avoid execution. Helen Gebremariam, then a 24-year-old and pregnant, was one of them. She gave birth on her way to Axum. 

C:\Users\user\Desktop\sememaa data\Houses\Roof of the house fell down.jpg

Picture showing a burnt whose floor had collapsed

The following footages are examples of the destruction of houses.

The following is a partial list of houses that the Eritrean troops destroyed (as is typical in Tigray, a house is named by the household leader, typically the man.)

  1. Haleka Ayele Kasahun
  2. Alem Hadush Berhe
  3. Seble Tadesse
  4. Seyoum Werede Ariadom
  5. Afewerki Adane?
  6. Shibeshi Gebremikieal
  7. Tsiwa Weldemariam
  8. Gebre Welday
  9. Gezaei  Abrahaley Haile
  10. Tikue Zeray Weldearegay
  11.  Miesho Tadesse Gebresamuel
  12.  Beyene Gebrehilase
  13.  Mulu Kiros Reda
  14.  Werkinesh Gebru Desta
  15.  Birhin kahsu
  16.  Tsaeday Mebrahtom 
  17.  Teklay Tadesse Zemu (teacher)
  18.  Fetahi  Kasahun
  19.  Zafu Gebremedhin 
  20.  Tekleweyni Nigusse Tadesse
  21.  Mulu Tareke Gebremikael
  22.  Kewani Hadgu Asfiha 
  23.  Yirga Tareke
  24.  Hilaf Gidey
  25.  Tesfay Welenchial
  26.  Fisahtsion  Birhane (teacher)
  27.  Alem Kidane Tewele
  28.  Hadush Shishay Gebremariam 
  29.  Gidey Mehari Birhane 
  30.  Abadit Tesfay
  31.  Mulu Beyene Mesfin
  32.  Haleka Mehari Tareke
  33.  Beyenesh Miesho
  34.  Yemane Gebresenbet
  35.  Mulu Goshu Gebretensay
  36.  Hayelom Tafere (teacher)
  37.  Mikieale Weldesilassie (teacher)
  38.  Meselle Teklay Hagos
  39.  Gebrehiwet Tadesse Berhe
  40.  Yalem Abrha
  41.  Tekle Beyene Haile
  42.  Mekonen Tadesse Gebrewahid
  43.  Seare Gebrekidan Tewele
  44.  Goitom Tesfay
  45.  Mulu Abebe Seyoum
  46.  Yehdego Gebrihet
  47.  Kahsay Gomera
  48.  Ambachew Nigus
  49.  Haleka Afewerki Belay
  50.  Tsehaynesh Tekle
  51.  Alem Tsehaye Eyasu
  52.  Amaz Tsehaye Negash
  53.  Abrehet Abrha Berhe
  54.  TesfayTekle Asegehey
  55.  Askale Kahsay Gebremariam 
  56.  Lemelem Gebrehiwet Tekie
  57.  Ataklti Kinfe Yohannis
  58.  Tadesse Hafte
  59.  Letebrihan Araya
  60.  Mitslal Nigus
  61.  Abrha Teklu  (teacher)
  62.  Rahwa Fisseha Gebriye
  63.  Hadas Yemane Abay
  64. Tsegabirhan Tesfay (teacher)
  65.  Tirhas Niguse Tadesse
  66.  Yemane seyoum werede
  67.  Priest Leake weldegiorgis (whose son priest Negassi leake was among those killed)
  68.  Shewit berhe Asfiha
  69.  Meaza Birhnae Gebremikael
  70.  Selomon Gebreyesus
  71.  Dirar Welday Gebremedhin
  72.  Firey Alem Seged
  73.  Baraki Gebrezgabiher
  74.  Priest Abrahley Birhane
  75. Teklit Meresa
  76. Wele Abrahaley
  77. Priest Mebrahtom leake (Son of Priest leake )

The pain

I visited three families of the deceased to comfort them. It was very disheartening to see widowed mothers shouldering all the responsibility of raising children. On New Year’s eve, a three-year-old child whose father was among the victims said to his mom: “when will our father come?  Will he bring us new clothes?” The mother cried. It was a painful experience to witness for me. The killing has taken the lives of those who have departed but the family members who survived now carry the responsibility and pain. Children are left without fathers who were the backbone of their families and mothers left without husbands. 

Let me recount the story of Abebesh Werede Ariadom. Abebesh is the only female the Eritreans killed (please see list). Initially, she fled her house with her husband and children during an artillery shelling on October 17, when an infantry unit arrived at Semema. The day after, she returned to make Injera and take food to her children who were hiding in the mountains nearby. On the morning of October 18, the soldiers were conducting a house-to-house search. While cooking, Abebesh heard the sound of gunfire. She dashed out of her kitchen to see what was happening. She saw her neighbor, a priest named Negassi Leake Weldegiorgis, lying on the ground. He was dead from a gunshot. She ululated and cried so loud that the soldiers heard her. Angered by her cry, a soldier shot her dead. She was a mother of seven children, her first born son had been imprisoned in Jijiga, Ethiopia for two years for being ethnic Tigrayan. Before imprisonment, he was a member of the Ethiopian National Defense fForce. This is the tragic irony of the genocidal war on Tigray: a mother was brutally murdered by the very soldiers that her son had defended Ethiopia against.


Guanshe is a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Mekelle Institute of Technology, Mekelle, Tigray. He has a Masters degree in Chemical and Process Engineering from the University of Bologna, Italy.

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  1. Hailish T

    November 2, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you Guanshe for documenting a part of the impact of the genocidal war waged against us. Many of us know the tragedy, but only few people like you dare to do the painstaking task of documenting it.
    Kudos to you.

  2. Aron

    October 30, 2023 at 1:13 pm

    This is a commendable job. The scourge our people has gone through is insufferable. I hope they will recuperate soon although I do not know how. The least we can do is to chronicle every horrific things those savages have done to our people and make sure we never forgive and forget.

  3. Weldegebriel Kidanu

    October 30, 2023 at 8:26 am

    Very disheartening. I thank Tghat for the continuous invaluable records of atrocities on Tigray.

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