Allegations of abuse are growing amidst Ethiopia’s war and the escalating tensions in the nation’s Tigray region. Multiple reports are emerging of sexual violence at the hands of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.
A young woman told Reuters that she was forced to make a disturbing decision as her attacker, an Ethiopian soldier, told her: “Choose, either I kill you or I rape you.”
Sadly, similar attacks have plagued the ongoing armed conflict. Women and girls in refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to these assaults, leaving medical centres overwhelmed with the growing pressure to provide tests for sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraception.
Tewadrous Tefera Limeuh, the refugee camp doctor, described an instance where one woman was assaulted after she refused entry to three soldiers belonging to the Amhara special forces.
One medical worker treated six women who were raped by a group of soldiers; no medicine was available to treat them.
An aid worker was told of a husband who was forced to watch his wife be assaulted by Eritrean soldiers.
The U.N. Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflicts released a statement on Thursday in which they detailed disturbing reports of people being forced to rape relatives or have sex to access basic supplies.
As a result of these assaults, U.N. special representative, Geraldine Boezio, has called “on all parties involved in the hostilities in the Tigray region to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.”
However, Ethiopian authorities have denied human rights abuses, placing blame on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
It is important that all forces involved in the conflict prioritize the safety of civilians. Communications have been down for weeks, aid organizations have limited access, and media has been banned from Tigray. It is crucial that the Ethiopian government be transparent in light of the flagrant human rights violations occurring in the Tigray region.
With the assistance of international organizations and governments, efforts should be made to investigate the participation of soldiers in these abuse allegations in order to bring them to justice. Additionally, the survivors of assault should be paid restitution.
An increase in medical aid would also benefit people staying in refugee camps as many woman and girls are in need of emergency contraception, tests for sexually transmitted infections, and other medicine following these attacks.
Violence in Ethiopia has been escalating since November after tensions between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and leaders from the country’s Tigray region grew into open conflict. Prime Minister Abiy accused Tigrayans of an attack on a national military base. In response, he sent troops to the region and bombed Tigray.
In the days after, hundreds of people may have been killed in an attack in the town of Mai-Kadra, according to Amnesty International.
Civilian lives have been condemned to violence as a result of this continued conflict. If this blatant disregard for human rights continues to go unchecked, many more innocent lives will fall prey to senseless suffering. Sexual violence is a cruel, inhumane weapon of war and there should be no tolerance for it.
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