“They raped and starved us”: Surviving details

Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have raped hundreds of women and girls during the Tigray War and subjected some to sexual slavery and mutilation, Amnesty International said in a report on Wednesday.

Based on interviews with 63 survivors, the report sheds new light on a scourge already being investigated by Ethiopian law enforcement officials, with at least three soldiers convicted and 25 others charged.

Some survivors said they had been raped while held captive for weeks on end. Others described being raped in front of their family members. Some reported that objects, including nails and gravel, were inserted into their vaginas, “causing permanent and possibly irreparable damage,” Amnesty said.

“It is clear that rape and sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war to inflict lasting physical and psychological harm on women and girls in Tigray,” said Amnesty Secretary General Agnes Callamard. “Hundreds have been subjected to brutal treatment aimed at humiliating and dehumanizing them.”

“The seriousness and extent of the sexual crimes committed are particularly shocking, amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.”

“We were all raped”

Northern Ethiopia has been plagued by violence since November after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent troops to Tigray to overthrow his regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

As the conflict has deepened, humanitarian tolls have risen, with aid workers struggling to reach cut-off populations and 400,000 people facing starvation conditions in Tigray, according to UN suspected perpetrators, including government soldiers, troops from neighboring Eritrea – who have backed Abiy – as well as security forces and militia fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, Amnesty said.

More than two dozen survivors told Amnesty International that they were raped by Eritreans alone, while others said Eritreans and Ethiopians had worked together.

“They raped us and starved us. There were too many who raped us in rounds,” said a 21-year-old survivor who reported being detained for 40 days. “We were around 30 women they took … We were all raped.”

“Given the context, extent and seriousness of the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls in Tigray, the violations amount to war crimes and can amount to crimes against humanity,” said Amnesty, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

Investigations are ongoing

Amnesty said on Wednesday that health care facilities in Tigray had “registered 1,288 cases of gender-based violence from February to April 2021”, although doctors note that many survivors do not show up.

In February, Ethiopia’s Minister for Women, Children and Youth Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed said rape had taken place “without a doubt” in Tigray. A working group she set up has since sent a report to the Office of Justice.

On Tuesday, Filsan told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that it was up to law enforcement agencies to decide the extent of the problem and who was responsible.

“I think they’re doing their best … They need to go and really study thoroughly before identifying who committed the crimes.” But she added: “I would prefer that they move at a faster pace so that I can say that justice has been done, and I hope we will see justice.”

In May, the Justice Department said that three soldiers had been convicted and convicted of rape and that another 25 had been charged with “committing sexual violence and rape”. The investigations continued, it is said.


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