Opinion: What happened? What did ‘they’ do? What is Tigray asking everyone to know? What are we asking the international community to do?

About 106 years ago, estimated 1.5 million Armenians(more than 90% of the total Armenian population, by then) perished in the state-sponsored genocide by the Ottoman Turks.

Between 1941 and 1945, 6 million Jews were exterminated by Nazi Germany and its collaborators across German-occupied Europe in the Holocaust. Around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population were exterminated.

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In 1994, the world saw one of the most shocking human tragedies in Rwanda. Between April 7 and July 15, 1994 (100 days), members of the Tutsi ethnic group and some moderate Hutus were slaughtered by armed militias. 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.

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After the tragic Rwanda Genocide, the international community, in one voice, echoed “Never Again; many of us hoped that such horrors wouldn’t happened again; unfortunately, what we saw is contrary to our expectations.

Tigrayans from across the U.S. gathered in to New York to hold a protest calling for an end to the war and its war crimes, specifically addressing the Biden-Harris administration and the United Nations.
Tigrayans from across the U.S. gathered in to New York to hold a protest calling for an end to the war and its war crimes, specifically addressing the Biden-Harris administration and the United Nations.

This shouldn’t have happened; But the international community continue to fail again and again. 106 years after Armenian Genocide; 80 years after Jewish genocide; and 27 years after the Genocide on Rwanda, the world is witnessing another genocide- this time in Tigray; As we speak, civilians are being massacred; women raped, livelihood destroyed; rape and starvation used as weapons of war; and, the international community continues to fail.

The Genocide in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, a genocide that I have witnessed with my own eyes, could even be at a scale worse than that of the Armenian’s and Rwandan’s.

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For more than 7 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 ongoing genocide in Tigray.

How did we come to this- the metamorphosis;

–          Ethiopia and Amhara blocked roads to and from Tigray for almost three years, first;

–          Ethiopia blocked investment to Tigray;

–          Ethiopia made ethnic profiling of Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia; they fired, suspended Tigrayans from their jobs; they harassed Tigrayans for who they are; they confiscated Tigrayan properties;

–          Tigray conducted Regional election in defiance to the Federal government’s decision to postpone it; the tense situation then escalated;

–          Ethiopia cut Tigray’s share of the national budget; (AJE, Oct. 7, 2020 )

–         Ethiopia blocked supplies of essential drugs, food, industrial raw materials;

–          Then, Ethiopia cut Telecommunication services;

–          Ethiopia also cut electric services to Tigray;

Then the invasion, the overt state-sponsored genocide came. Ethiopia invited Eritrea’s soldiers in their hundreds of thousands (estimated 240,000-300,000); Ethiopia also invited Somali(Mogadishu) Soldiers, Amhara mercenaries, other Ethiopian Regional state special forces; UAE’s drones too were invited by Ethiopia’s government. By September 2020, Tigray was encircled in all directions; ENDF, EDF, Somali’s troops, Ethiopia’s regional militias and special forces were already on the gates to invade Tigray…and they did;

Together, they mercilessly massacred tens of thousands of innocent men, women, children and the elderly(more than 150,000 civilians thought to have been massacred, so far)

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( Amnesty International; 12 November 2020)

–    Axum massacre tallying more than 800 civilian deaths, according to AP’s Feb 17 report of witness accounts. (AP , Feb 17, 2020)     

–   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 Chellena- more than 160 civilians massacred; (read here )

–  The Zelambessa massacre, killing 56-72 civilians, according to reports by Tigray Television, Tghat.com, and Jan Naysen.

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 1 month of age, up to 93 years old).

Not only did they massacre more than 150,000 civilians, they threw bodies off the cliffs. They even threw bodies in to Tekeze river;

They used rape as a weapon of war. 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 genitalia and uterus with hot iron rods, and insert foreign objects in to thier genitals to make them infertile(Here )

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, the invaders 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 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. 50-100 people have already died of hunger. They 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. They clearly are utilizing starvation as a weapon of war. Due to these concerted efforts of starving Tigray, 350,000 people in Tigray already in famine, and 33,000 among them are children. UN has declared famine in Tigray; there is no doubt that this famine is states-sponsored.

The invaders 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(MSF, 15/03/2021).

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.

The criminal trio (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Amhara) looted everything in our houses; they burnt down our hidmos(traditional houses in Tigray) in our villages; they burnt down entire villages, residential districts in small towns; they erased villages and small towns; they destroyed our schools, universities, irrigation canals, micro dams; they took our machineries, household utensils; our medical equipments, our vehicles-everything that they could took; and burnt down to ashes what they couldn’t take; they destroyed every private and state owned factories, industrial installation, every micro enterprise Tigray had;

The trio destroyed Al-Nejashi, Debredamo and many other places of huge historical and spiritual significance; they looted 1200 churches in Tigray, overall. They even forced 900 monks from Waldiba monastery out, and killed many among them;

The trio have committed ethnic cleansing and Genocide in Western Tigray. Estimated 1 million (other studies putting the figure at 1.2 million) Tigrayans who used to live in Western Tigray are literally no more 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 Antony 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.

[N.B: The 1994 Housing and Population Census showed that 96.3-98.1 % of people in the various districts in Western Tigray spoke Tigrigna, so were Tigrayans; the 1978’s ‘Nationalities in Northern Ethiopia’ map also show these areas to be “Tigrigna speakers”.]

Today’s genocide against Tigray is the same as the hundred-year-old genocide against Armenia; 80 years ago against the Jews by the Nazis; and 27 years ago against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the radical Hutus. With the cumbersome evidence on hand, the international community shall be 100 % certain that Ethiopia’s government and allies are on a campaign of completely destroying the Tigrayan population, erasing Tigray altogether. 

The international community has also repeatedly seen the untrustworthiness and the Genocidal appetites of Ethiopian and Eritrean governments and allies. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed over the past more than 7 months is an international mechanism failing to do anything tangible to avert the situation in Tigray.

Now that the war is in its eighth 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.

What shall be done? What is that Tigray is asking?

The ongoing genocide has to stop. Abiy, Esayas, Amhara leaders shall be held accountable for all the crimes against humanity. he international community shall name an investigation commission composed of the experts that studied genocides including that of Armenia, Rwanda, Darfur and deploy them in Tigray.

1.  The International community shall be bold enough to categorize the atrocities in Tigray “Genocide”;

2.  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.

3.  The United States government, and western allies including European 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;

4.  It is time for AFRICOM and NATO to militarily intervene (by triggering Art 5) in Tigray

A.   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.

B.  To ensure the immediate and verifiable cessation of all forms of hostilities;

C.   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.

D.  Enforce “No fly zone” across the skies of Tigray.

5.  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. Party in the crime EHRC to be excluded! A corrupt and incompetent AHPRC too shall be excluded;

6.  ICC shall initiate criminal investigation in to the war crimes and crimes against humanity Ethiopia’s, Eritrea’s, and Amhara’s governments committed in Tigray;

7.  If ICC couldn’t do that due to UN Security Council’s paralysis, countries should start criminal investigations in to the grave war crimes and crimes against Humanity in their own courts.

8.  Countries and international organization shall put palpable measures, sanctions on Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s governments- Economic, military, Visa – all sorts of sanctions shall be placed top down.

9.  America and other great powers need to scale up the humanitarian aid to a point that is necessary to avert the impending humanitarian catastrophe.

10. 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).

The ongoing Genocide on Tigray by Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Amhara has to end now!

Written by Goitom Aregawi (Ztseat), a Medical Doctor in Mekelle University Hospital, Chairman of Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray, Writer in local media outlets, Social influencer/Activist

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