Amnesty: Widespread violence against women in Tigray conflict

Ethiopian Tigray
Ethiopian Tigray

Systematic violence against women and children has been widespread in the conflict in Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, according to human rights organization Amnesty International.

Members of the Ethiopian armed forces, the Eritrean military, the paramilitary special police of the Amhara region and the Amharic militia Fano made cruel use of sexualized violence as a weapon of war, according to an Amnesty report published on Wednesday.

Women and girls were victims of rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, genital mutilation and other forms of torture.

“Given the context, scale, and gravity of the sexual violence committed against women and girls in Tigray, the violations amount to war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said.

The victims had been repeatedly humiliated and in some cases raped in front of their family members; there had often been discriminatory insults with ethnic connotations and death threats.

Amnesty spoke to 63 survivors of rape and other sexual violence and to health facilities in Tigray between March and June.

According to the report, they registered 1,288 such cases from February to April 2021 alone, but the number of unreported cases is likely to be higher.

In November, the central government in Addis Ababa launched an eight-month military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had been in power in the Tigray region until then.

The background was years of tension between the TPLF and the central government. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia for more than 25 years until Abiy Ahmed took over as as prime minister in 2018.

In June, the central government then surprisingly announced a unilateral ceasefire, but this did not stop the fighting.

The conflict has driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

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