Widespread rape and sexual violence of women and young girls being used as weapon of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

As a raging conflict continues to spread throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, women have not been spared from the violence. Instead, they have been victimized by federal forces who have weaponized the raping and sexual abuse of Tigrayan women.

In an article published by CNN Friday, numerous Ethiopian doctors report a dramatic increase in sexual assault and rape cases in Tigray over the past few months.

One doctor at a hospital in Mekelle reported that over 200 women had been admitted for sexual violence in recent months. Even more cases have been reported in villages, other hospitals, and centers for the internally displaced.

Survivors of these attacks have recounted being gang-raped by both Ethiopian and Eritrean federal forces, in some cases being tied up, drugged, and both physically and verbally abused.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf-lKRFDMzg

One coordinator at a Tigrayan gender-based violence crisis center told CNN that they used to hear of cases once every few days or so, but since the conflict broke out in November, up to 22 women and girls seek treatment for rape every single day.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said in February, “The war and the dismantling of the regional administration have led to a rise in gender-based violence in the region.”

Many of the facilities and services where these crimes could typically be reported have been destroyed or made inactive, meaning that the actual number of instances of rape is likely much greater than is documented.

The violence that has been going on in Tigray since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed first launched the military offensive in November has caused widespread damage to the entire region.

Despite what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed may insist, the military operations being carried out in Tigray are a despicable campaign of ethnic cleansing and violence. The crisis is a breach of human rights and a grave humanitarian violation that has targeted men, women, and children alike.

The campaign has rendered the majority of medical facilities in the region nonfunctional and has targeted hospitals, schools, and markets. The destruction and damage caused by the actions of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces has left countless civilians traumatized and fearful for their lives, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Speaking on the use of rape as a weapon in ethnic-based violence, Dr. Tedros Tefera, who works at a refugee camp in Hamdayet, told CNN, “The women that have been raped say that the things that they say to them when they were raping them is that they need to change their identity — to either Amharize them or at least leave their Tigrinya status … and that they’ve come there to cleanse them … to cleanse the blood line.”

This campaign of ethnic cleansing is not only reprehensible, but also indicative of cowardice, targeting the most vulnerable civilians and using sexual violence as a weapon of war.

The actions taken by federal forces in the Tigray region show no regard for international law and a lack of respect for the sanctity of human life. As more and more injustices and human rights violations come to light, their perpetrators must be held accountable.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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