Tigray has reached a ceasefire with the government of Ethiopia, but my family isn’t safe yet


The phone lines were open for a few short hours after Tigrayan freedom fighters liberated Mekelle on June 28. My aunt, my mom’s baby sister, cried tears of joy: “We are free! Everyone is outside. We can finally breathe.”

For the past eight months, Tigray has been center stage for a theater of war crimes perpetrated by the Ethiopian government. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed invited several external actors to help attack his own people. The crimes, reported by Tigrayans, aid workers and countless human rights organizations, include gang rape of children, gang rape of elderly women, destruction of reproductive organs, execution of civilians, more than a dozen massacres, killing of 12 aid workers, weaponized starvation and ethnic cleansing.

After months of worldwide protests led by Tigrayan youth and political activists, the United States sent an envoy to Ethiopia and eventually sanctioned members of the government. Congressional leaders have been outspoken about the atrocities. U.S. Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said: “War crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide have been carried out against Tigrayan people, and according to the U.N., systematic rape and sexual violence is rampant.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, whose family is from the repressive country of Eritrea and fled decades ago due to similar atrocities, has been radio silent. The Eritrean soldiers are accused of looting factories, homes and have committed the most atrocious crimes in Tigray. My step-father’s cousin was decapitated in front of his mother by Eritrean soldiers.

Much of the world was shocked when Ahmed waved a white flag last week and called for a unilateral ceasefire after Tigrayan Defense Forces claimed to kill 28,000 soldiers in ten days and released photos of thousands of prisoners of war. Crowds of jubilant Tigrayans filled the streets cheering and crying in support of the federal soldiers’ retreat.

Ethiopian government spokespeople gave contradictory messaging about the defeat and the Economist wrote: “Once the history of Ethiopia’s latest civil war is written, the battles of June could well be recounted as one of the great rebel victories of recent years. For it will explain how a group of insurgents in the mountains of Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray routed two of Africa’s largest armies, Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s, to reclaim Mekelle, their capital.”

History will also reflect on how a Nobel Peace Prize winner invited a foreign government into Ethiopia to rape and pillage his own people. History will also reflect on how Ethiopians in the diaspora, including Colorado deacons and so-called community leaders, turned their backs on Tigrayans and even raised money to lobby on behalf of a genocidal regime.

The war on Tigray is not over. Public services have again been shut off by the Ethiopian government, including phone lines, electricity and internet. More than 2 million Tigrayans are internally displaced. The state is still in man-made famine conditions and Amhara militias destroyed at least one bridge over the Tekeze river after retreating, which blocks a critical aid route into Tigray and would amount to a “siege,” UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The reality is that the infrastructure in Tigray has been completely destroyed. Women and girls will have generational trauma as this war played out on their bodies. The amputee children who lost limbs because of bombs or because they fought their rapists back will be a constant reminder to Tigrayans of a government that turned on them.

Tigrayans have unfortunately fought for survival before. My grandmother has been attacked by the government three times in her lifetime alone — by Emperor Haile Selassie, Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam and now Abiy Ahmed. Ahmed told the Ethiopian press that he retreated because the people of Tigray rejected his military and puppet administration. It cost him $2.3 billion USD — nearly 20% of the annual budget — and countless lives to learn what history easily reflects.

Freedom comes at a high cost, and it is one Tigrayans have paid for with their lives time and again.

Millete Birhanemaskel has spent more than two decades fighting for social justice as a trained journalist and business owner of Denver’s only activist and social justice café, Whittier Café. She traveled to Sudan to interview Tigrayan refugees and has met with dozens of senators and representatives to advocate for an end to the war. She has lost seven family members in the Tigray Genocide.

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Source link : https://www.denverpost.com/2021/07/08/tigray-family-war-famine-ethiopia-ceasefire/

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Publish date : 2021-07-08 18:16:41

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