Tigrayan refugees speak of rape, murder and ethnic cleansing

Eritrea Ethiopia Tigray

(Source: Republic World and AP) –

Tigrayan refugees spoke of murder, rape and administrative efforts to suppress their ethnic group by their government and its Eritrean allies during the recent conflict in the Tigray region of their country.

Tigrayan refugees spoke of murder, rape and administrative efforts to suppress their ethnic group by their government and its Eritrean allies during the recent conflict in the Tigray region of their country.

The refugees, who spoke to Associated Press reporters, recalled fighters raping women for speaking the wrong language, dozens of bodies strewn on riverbanks, a child left behind during their flight.

Some of their bodies still carried the signs of violence.

What started as a political dispute between the central government and the Tigray regional administration turned into a campaign of what the United States government has called “ethnic cleansing” against minority Tigrayans.

The Ethiopian government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed, is accused of teaming up with his ethnic group, the Amhara, and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, long an enemy of Tigray’s elected regional governemnt, to punish some 6 million people.

Tigrayan refugees claim that thousands, even tens of thousands, of people have been killed and thousands raped. The United States recently warned of “ethnic cleansing” in western Tigray, where refugees said Amhara authorities and allied forces have taken over whole communities, ordering Tigrayans out or rounding them up and trucking them away.

The Ethiopian government says it rejects “any and all notions and practices of ethnic cleansing” and will never tolerate such practices “nor will it turn a blind eye to such crimes.”

However, almost everyone the AP interviewed said they had watched fellow Tigrayans being killed, or seen bodies strewn on the ground, sometimes rotting while loved ones agonized.

One woman, whom the AP will not name to protect her privacy, recalled how she was raped by soldiers. Another woman, who didn’t want to speak on camera, described how Eritrean soldiers ordered her father to rape her, then shot and killed him when he refused. The soldiers raped her instead.

The United Nations has said more than 500 rapes in Tigray have been reported to health care workers, but health care workers also say that many women do not speak about their abuse and therefore the number could be much higher.

The refugees also brought proof of an official attempt at erasing their ethnicity in the form of new identity cards that eliminate traces of Tigray, as confirmed to the AP by nine refugees from different communities.

Written in a language not their own, issued by authorities from another ethnic group, the cards are seen as the latest evidence of a drive by Ethiopia and its allies to destroy the Tigrayan people.

 

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