(Source: IAA Diaspora Secretariat Press Release, 21 December 2020) –
It has been almost two months since the Ethiopian Government declared war in Tigray. This war has been accompanied with the total communication blackout and closure of the region from the basic services like food, telephone, electricity, medicine, banks, internet, etc. The Irob district that is inhabited by the Irob people and located in the north east of the Tigray Regional State, bordering Eritrea, is believed to be one of the worst victims of the ongoing war.
In addition to being one of the remote areas of Tigray Regional State, the Irob was under siege due to the military standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea for more than two decades. And this year, before the current war, it has been already ravaged by locust and Coved-19 pandemic. Now Irob Advocacy Association (IAA) Diaspora Secretariat has credible information that the Irob people are displaced and starving to death in the mountains of the Irob district and there are reports that the district including the district local government administration offices is currently occupied by the Eritrean Forces with the Eritrean flag installed in the district areas.
There are also credible reports that a number of civilians were killed, the priests and other civilians were abducted, the public and private properties including schools and health centers looted, the stored grains from residential homes and the clergy stores were raided and taken away by the Eritrean Forces. It is to be recalled that Eritrean Forces abducted over 97 Irob civilians during Ethio-Eritrean war about two decades ago and their whereabouts is not known to-date. We are extremely alarmed by these reports and concerned that many people might have also been starved to death already as the people in the area were dependent on safety-net programs that were suspended by the Ethiopian Government a few months ahead of the ongoing war.
Still worse, the Irob district is little known and the current grave situation of the Irob people is not getting the attention the situation warrantees from the international community. The Irob people are a minority ethnic group in the region and don’t have a voice regardless of their dire situations. The Irob Advocacy Association (IAA) Diaspora Secretariat is gravely concerned that this trend is continuing during the ongoing war and the humanitarian disaster while the Ethiopian Government is trying to project a different picture regarding the current situation in Tigray Region and the scope of the crisis to the international community.
Just last week, three weeks after the Ethiopian Government announced that the war in Tigray was over, unconfirmed sources claimed that there was war going on in the Irob district, allegedly between the Tigray and the Eritrean Forces. As the international community may be already aware, neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea are admitting the Eritrea’s involvement in current war inside Tigray. However, Eritrean Forces being indeed inside all over Tigray and fighting alongside the Ethiopian Government Forces is acknowledged by the US State Department and reported by the international media such as Reuters, the Gradian, etc. These medias also reported, using diplomatic sources and eye witnesses, that the Eritrean Forces are engaged in frequent raids of civilian homes, mass lootings of the public and private properties, and the barbaric killings of the civilians in Tigray.
You can only imagine much worse situation in the remote areas of Tigray like the Irob district. The limited reliable reports we have and mentioned above attest to the grave concerns we have. What is the most alarming is that the occupation of the Irob district by Eritrean Forces may not be temporary as the Ethiopian Prime Minster admitted to the United Nations Secretary General that the Ethiopian Government allowed the Eritrean Forces to occupy some parts of Tigray that Eritrea claimed during the Ethio-Eritrean war. It is well known that Eritrea claims parts of the Irob district though baseless.
With the recent restoration of some communication in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray Region, the Ethiopian Government officials and media are claiming the return of the region to the normalcy. It is important to note that this claim is far from the truth. Tigray is not just Mekelle! The most parts of Tigray and millions are still in total darkness with no basic needs like food, water, electricity, health and bank services for almost two months. And this is happening with the complete communications blackout, and with no humanitarian aid and independent media access. We fear that the remote parts of Tigray like Irob will continue with the same situation for longer. We are gravely concerned that it will be too late by the time those services will be restored if they will be at all. And the occupation of the Irob district by the Eritrean Forces makes the Irob situation even more complicated within the Tigray context.
Our Urgent Plea
IAA Diaspora Secretariat:
- Calls upon the Ethiopian Government to allow unfettered humanitarian aid access to the Tigray region, to stop the total communication blackout, and open the region for independent media.
- Calls upon the International Humanitarian Organizations and all the concerned to immediately and directly reach out to the remote areas such as Irob with emergency aid for the basic needs like food and medical services.
- Condemns Eritrea’s involvement in this war and the invasion of Tigray and calls upon Eritrea to leave immediately. We also plea to the international community and the United Nations to hold Eritrea accountable and put pressure to leave Tigray.
- Calls upon Eritrea to release the abducted priests and civilians during the ongoing war and about two decades ago unconditionally. We also plea to the international community and the United Nations to hold Eritrea accountable and put pressure to release these abductees.
- Condemns the Ethiopian Government for allowing Eritrea (a foreign and neighboring country) to join the war in Tigray and occupy parts of the Tigray Region indefinitely.
- Calls upon the Ethiopian Government Forces to discharge its responsibility of protecting the civilian population and to stop the mass lootings of the public and private properties in Tigray ASAP.
- Calls upon the Ethiopian Government to allow independent investigation into the ongoing war in Tigray and assess the scope of the total damage, the root cause of the war, the conduct of the war, the human rights violations, the possible occurrences of war crimes, and the victims and culprits behind any such violations and crimes.