Ethiopia: I dont know if they realised I was a person – Women subject to sexual violence in Tigray

Women and girls in Tigray have been raped and have suffered sexual violence at the hands of forces aligned with the Ethiopian government, Amnesty International has said.

Amnesty is calling on the Ethiopian government to take immediate action to stop members of security forces and allied militia from these “brutal” war crimes, which “may amount to crimes against humanity”.

The organisation interviewed 63 survivors who had been subjected to gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation and other forms of torture.

Warning: This article contains descriptions of violent rape and other details some readers may find distressing

A report into the conflict revealed that almost half identified soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea as the perpetrators.

Eritrean soldiers have been supporting Ethiopia’s government forces in its protracted conflict, which began last November, against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – the regional ruling party.

Letay, 20, was attacked in her home in November last year.

She said: “Three men came into the room where I was. It was evening and already dark. I did not scream; they gestured to me not to make any noise or they would kill me. They raped me one after the other.

“I was four months pregnant.

“I don’t know if they realised I was pregnant. I don’t know if they realised I was a person.”

Nigist, a 35-year-old mother of two, said: “Three of them raped me in front of my child. There was an eight-month pregnant lady with us, they raped her too.

“They gathered like a hyena that saw something to eat.”

Health facilities in the area have registered 1,288 cases of gender-based violence from February to April this year, but Amnesty said the true figure is likely much higher.

Some tested positive for HIV after being raped, while others were held captive for days and weeks.

Two survivors had lasting damage caused by large nails, gravel, and other types of metal and plastic shrapnel.

Soldiers and militia repeatedly sought to humiliate their victims using ethnic slurs, insults, threats and degrading comments.

Tigray is self-governing and the TPLF dominated politics until Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. The TPLF says his sweeping reforms have left them marginalised.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said: “The severity and scale of the sexual crimes committed are particularly shocking, amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. It makes a mockery of the central tenets of humanity.

“It must stop.”

Names of the women have been changed.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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