March 26, 2023

U.S. Ambassador to UN says ‘widespread sexual violence’ being used in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as a weapon of war

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-Greenfield

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Friday, said “widespread sexual violence” was being used in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as a weapon of war.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerkii is welcomed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene)

Thomas-Greenfield described the tactic as “reprehensible”, adding that it was being used even in refugee camps where women are extremely vulnerable.

“The reprehensible tactic of sexual and gender-based violence continues to be used in areas like Ethiopia’s Tigray region where deeply disturbing reports of widespread sexual violence have surfaced, including reports of women being sexually exploited by military elements in exchange for basic commodities and reports of sexual violence against women and girls in refugee camps,” she said in a statement on the International Day for the elimination of Sexual violence in conflict. 

Thomas-Greenfield argued that around the world, sexual violence is used as a deliberate tactic in armed conflict – whether to terrorize, destabilize, or break bonds within communities.

“On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we honor the victims and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and urge the swift implementation of prevention strategies that are inclusive, intersectional, and gender-informed,” she wrote.

In 2008, the United States wrote and sponsored the first United Nations Security Council resolution to specifically address sexual violence as a tactic of war.

“The United States remains strongly committed to preventing sexual violence in conflict, holding perpetrators accountable, and supporting survivors,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We are proud of our longstanding support for the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict. We must work diligently to safely identify and provide necessary services for survivors of sexual violence, including critical medical care and psycho-social support. It’s time to treat conflict-related sexual violence like a true emergency and address it with the urgency it demands.”

Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia, has been on the brink of chaos since a conflict exploded there in November of 2020. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union and others have said millions of people in the region are at risk of unprecedented famine and that many need other forms of humanitarian assistance, but Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, has repeatedly rejected access to humanitarian assistance.

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