What You Need To Know About the Mass Atrocities Occurring in the Northern Tigray Region of Ethiopia
The U.S. State Department estimates that 4.5 million people in the predominantly Christian region of northern Ethiopia, known as the Tigray Region, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and nearly 62,000 refugees have fled to Sudan.
Ethiopia is located in East Africa and is bordered to the north by Eritrea and the northeast by Sudan. The Tigray Region spans northern Ethiopia and borders Eritrea, although the ethnic group of Tigray people also live in Eritrea. In November 2020, Tigray’s regional government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, “launched a full-scale siege of a key Ethiopian military base . . . using tanks, heavy guns and mortars.” In response, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, “ordered a federal offensive against the region, setting off the conflict.”
The ongoing conflict is terrorizing civilians in the region, and witness reports of the atrocities are horrifying, to say the least. Artillery strikes have occurred on populated areas, and civilians are being deliberately targeted for extrajudicial killings and widespread looting.
One report found that the Ethiopian troops, in conjunction with Eritrean troops, “led an offensive to take control of [a] city amid the conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.” During that attack in November 2020, hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed. Reports also state that “soldiers went house to house, dragging people from their homes and slaughtering residents. The witnesses who spoke to CNN alleged that mothers were forced to tie up their sons in some cases.” Also according to reports, “[p]riests, old men, women, entire families and a group of more than 20 Sunday school children, some as young as 14, were among the thousands killed in the Tigray region by soldiers from Ethiopia and Eritrea . . . .”
U.N. reports also indicate that in addition to these mass killings, rape is being used as a weapon against the people of Tigray. According to the report, “individuals [are] allegedly forced to rape members of their own family under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.” In fact, “over 500 rape cases have been reported at five clinics in Tigray, although the actual number is likely far higher.”
Based on investigations, the “United Nations and human rights groups have blamed many of the worst violations on soldiers from Eritrea.” The Biden Administration has rightly condemned the violence and atrocities occurring in the Tigray Region and called for an end to the violence and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops. Near the end of March 2021, due to pressure from the United States and the international community, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “announced that the Eritrean soldiers [have] agreed to go home.”
It is unclear whether the withdrawal of Eritrean troops will completely deescalate the situation. And right now millions of people in Tigray are still cut off from humanitarian assistance. What is clear is that the people of Tigray desperately need that humanitarian assistance and protection from further atrocities.
The ACLJ is continuing to monitor the situation.