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‘Tigrayan’s womb was never born’: Tigray rape | News about sexual assault


Akberet * knows she is no longer safe.

The Amhara warriors in charge of her hometown of Humera and other disputed areas west of Tigray have just ordered all the Tigray people in her neighborhood to leave their homes within 24 hours.

“The militiamen have persecuted us for months,” said the 34-year-old mother of three, “told us we were not allowed to live there anymore, because we were Tigray. They ordered us to leave empty-handed. They say that all the property we own belongs to Amharas, not ours ”.

Amhara forces moved west of Tigray from the Amhara neighborhood to support the Ethiopian federal force last November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an attack against Tigray’s then ruling party, the League Front. People reporter Tigray (TPLF). Since then, the Amharans, the second largest ethnic group of Ethiopia, have taken control of some of the area – they claim that historically, the land belongs to them.

Akberet wasted no time after the ultimatum.

The next morning, March 8, she walked away from home, her 6-month-old son tied to her back, and her two other sons – 4 and 7 years old – and her 14-year-old brother with them.

About seven hours later, when they reached a bridge on the Tekeze River used by the Amhara forces as an informal border between what they were now saying were Amhara and Tigray, four Amhara militiamen blocked them. The Amhara men separated Akberet from her children and brother and took her into an abandoned farmer’s house, just a few meters away.

Four men took turns raping her. Once done, the soldiers inserted a hot metal rod into her genitals to burn her uterus.

“I beg them to stop,” Akberet told Al Jazeera. “I cried, asking them, why are they doing this to me. What did I do wrong with you?

“You didn’t do anything bad to us,” she said they told her. “Our problem is with your uterus. Your womb gives birth to Woyane [derogative term used to refer to the TPLF]. A Tigrayan womb was never born. “

After the militiamen left, Akberet was left there in a state of unconsciousness. Her brother came to take her, and with the help of other evacuees took her to a town in the east. “The sexual assault left her infertile,” a doctor treating her there confirmed to Al Jazeera. Right now her bleeding has stopped, but Akberet, currently nursing at a relative’s home, is unable to walk and has to spread her legs. Sleeping at night is difficult.

Hundreds of women have reported gruesome accounts of being raped and gang-raped since the start of the conflict in Tigray nearly six months ago. Medical scientists have reported the removal of nails, stones and plastic fragments from the inside of rape victims’ bodies, while the United Nations to speak Last week, women and girls in remote mountainous areas were experiencing sexual violence “with a level of cruelty beyond understanding”.

According to Pramila Patten, the top UN official on sexual violence in conflict, medical staff at several Tigray operating clinics document new cases daily, despite fear of retaliation. and attack. Cases reported joined Ethiopian soldiers and Eritrean’s allies, as well as Amhara militants and other members of anomalous armed groups or associated militia.

In the region’s capital Mekelle, doctors at Ayder Referral Hospital said the number of rape cases on April 1 was 272. Within a week, the number had risen to 330 cases.

“Overall, 829 women reported sexual assault at Tigray’s major hospitals. The number was 518 on April 1, ”said Hayelom Kebede, executive director of Ayder Referral Hospital.

Doctors fear, however, that the actual number is much higher, suspecting that there are many unreported cases such as fighting continues and much of the Tigray is still inaccessible.

The doctors said that since December three other women from the disputed areas west of Tigray said they had suffered the same fate as Akberet. In the north of Tigray, the army from neighboring Eritrea was also accused of carrying out similar acts of rape and collective torture.

Hayelom, who is currently in Ethiopia, said: “On February 22, our hospital received an emergency call that a 21-year-old girl had been gang-raped and had her body dumped in Edaga Hamus.” “Reportedly, Eritrean soldiers burned her internal and external genitals using hot matchsticks and metal rods. We cannot send an ambulance immediately because of security issues. After that, contact was lost. Maybe the girl is dead, ”he added.
Abiy ordered federal forces to enter Tigray on 4 November after accusing the leaders of the TPLF of launching an attack aimed at capturing the Ethiopian Army’s North Command. A senior official of the TPLF, who dominated Ethiopian politics until Abiy took power in 2018, accused the federal government and its longtime enemy Eritrea launched a “coordinated attack” against it.

When the fighting began, Tigray, an area of ​​about six million people, lost power to nearly all communications. Journalists have also is forbidden from site visits, making it difficult to verify information. But that has now begun to change, with investigate by human rights groups and many trusted people report a record of alleged atrocities in Tigray.

After months of rejection, Abiy admit Last month that Eritrean army entered the congested area. In a lengthy speech in parliament, he also admit for the first time acts of atrocity including rape were committed, and perpetrators were promised to be held accountable. However, he said, there was a “propaganda” and “exaggeration” campaign, before adding: “Women [in Tigray] raped by men, but by our soldiers [in the Northern Command] has been violated by bayonet. No one posed this problem ”.

The Ethiopian government set up a task force to investigate reports of sexual violence in Tigray, asserting they take the allegations seriously. Particularly the human rights committee appointed by the state of Ethiopia and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced At the end of March, they agreed to a “joint investigation of human rights abuses and abuses that all sides allegedly committed” in Tigray.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while around 4.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

According to Tigray’s federal government-appointed interim government, 1.7 million people evacuated in the area, an estimated 60% of which came from the disputed areas west of Tigray.

But Etenesh Nigusse, the interim government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the relocation was in progress. “Every day, we receive strong new relocation cases from the disputed areas west of Tigray,” she said.

At the end of March, the interim head of government told The Tigray West was “occupied by Amhara militias and special forces, and they are forcing people to leave their homes,” Reuters news agency said. Mulu Nega also accused Amhara of using the precarious situation in Tigray to annex disputed territories, saying “those committing this crime must be held accountable.”

Medhin, 65, a restaurant owner in Humera, was among those forced to flee. She said five Amhara militiamen broke into her home on the night of February 27 and threatened to kill her if she did not leave the area.

But the men don’t stop there, according to Medhin. They raped her two daughters, 24 and 28, in front of her.

“They beat my daughters after the gang rape. They beat them on their genitals, ”she told Al Jazeera. “They ordered me to leave this place. They have taken everything I own. They threatened me to write them a money check.

It is not possible to independently verify the rape account, but other displaced persons staying at the same location confirmed with Al Jazeera that Medhin’s daughters had difficulty moving.

Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assertive that “ethnic cleansing” took place west of Tigray, and called for the withdrawal of the Eritrean and Amhara forces from the area. According to the United Nations Expert Committee, ethnic cleansing mention a purposeful policy designed to force the removal of civilians from certain geographic areas by means of violence and terrorism, including murder, torture, arrest, rape and torture. public sex.

Al Jazeera spoke to 11 people from western Tigray who described the different methods used by the Amhara militia and Fano – a group of young Amhara armed men – in the Tigray western regions they checked. control.

Sometimes, they had linked up with the Amhara militia to inform Tigrayans 24 hours in advance of their departure. In other cases, Tigrayans were ordered to accept a new ID that marked them as Amhara instead of the Tigrayans, or to leave. Some also reported being arbitrarily arrested and detained.

“On February 16, they arrived [to our house] and told us we should leave this place; that Humera is in the Amhara region and they don’t need the Tigrayans, ”said Negisti *, a 40-year-old woman who moved who used to live with her mother in Humera.

“They arrested my mother. She is 67 years old, has kidney disease. Before the arrest began, they had given Amhara IDs to a number of Tigray people. But then they said they stopped issuing identification, ”Negisti, who left Humera, said after her mother was released from her one-week detention.

Tsgay *, an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priest, was arrested twice before he decided to flee Humera on March 24 after learning of the illegal killing of four people he knew. including a slaughtered neighbor he said he saw.

“They robbed everything these dead people possessed,” the father of three told Al Jazeera. “I began to fear for my life. At night, they always come and fire. They don’t have a ruler. They kill, rape, loot and do whatever they like. I prefer to run away than to live in terror ”.

Al Jazeera contacted Amhara State President Agegnehu Teshager and predecessor Temesgen Tiruneh, now the director-general of the National Intelligence Service of Ethiopia, to comment on the allegations against the Amhara militia on the side. West Tigray. No reply.

Eritrea has denied the allegations of rape and other crimes against his soldiers as “outrageous” and “a cruel attack on the culture and history of our people”.

* Names have changed and their current whereabouts are not disclosed to protect their identity



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