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Heightened Risk Of Genocide Against Tigrayans In Ethiopia

Berhan (not her real name) 30, originally from Edaga Hamus, sits at her bed in a hospital in Mekele, [AFP via Getty Images]

On October 25, 2022, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a warning of a heightened risk of genocide in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. According to the statement, “the situation has deteriorated exponentially as Ethiopian security forces, supported by Eritrean forces and Amhara special forces, have seized key towns and cities imperiling vulnerable Tigrayan civilians.”

As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum added, “ethnic-based targeting and the commission of mass atrocities have been an intentional strategy of parties to the conflict between the Ethiopian and regional Tigrayan governments and their allies that began November 2020. In the past two years crimes against humanity and war crimes have been perpetrated with impunity. These crimes include murder, rape, sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts. There is growing evidence of sexual slavery and forced pregnancy.”

This is not the first such warning concerning the situation in Ethiopia and the risk of genocide. Indeed, in December 2021, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum identified several warnings signs of potential genocide against the Tigray people including, “reports of massacres and other targeted killings of Tigrayan civilians, dehumanization and hate speech—amplified on social media—encouraging violence against members of the group, mass arrests and arbitrary detention, and possible collective punishment in the form of a human-made famine in the Tigray region.”

The warning comes also after, on October 17, 2022, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that, “the situation in Ethiopia is spiraling out of control. Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels. The social fabric is being ripped apart. (...) Civilians are paying a horrific price. Indiscriminate attacks — including in residential areas — are killing more innocent people every day, damaging critical infrastructure and limiting access to vital services. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes since hostilities resumed in August, many of them for the second time. We are also hearing disturbing accounts of sexual violence and other acts of brutality against women, children and men.”

These reports are not new. Among others, in August 2021, Amnesty International, published a report concluding that sexual violence in the context of the conflict “has been accompanied by shocking levels of brutality, including beatings, death threats, and ethnic slurs. (...) It is often accompanied by threats and by additional acts of physical and psychological torture aimed at causing lasting fear, and physical and psychological damage.” The majority of the interviewed women and girls were gang raped. The victims included children and pregnant women. Some of the abused women and girls were held in sexual slavery for several weeks. As Amnesty International concluded: “The patterns of sexual violence emerging from survivors’ accounts indicate that the violations have been part of a strategy to terrorize, degrade, and humiliate both the victims and their ethnic group.” In December 2021, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published a detailed account of the situation in Tigray, indicating that “Amhara security forces are responsible for a surge of mass detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in the Western Tigray territory of northern Ethiopia.”


(c) Forbes 2022


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