Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and 2020 Booker Award nominee and Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga are among the signatories of two separate letters calling for international action after shocking reports of sexual violence in Tigray.
In one, more than 50 Afro-descendant women call for an immediate ceasefire and express your horror at reports that African women and girls are “once again the victims” of violence and rape in war.
Other lyrics signed by Clark, as well as former UK Development Secretary Hilary Benn, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and more than 60 activists, calls on the UN Security Council to establish a tribunal to investigate allegations of sexual violence in the northern region of Ethiopia “as a war, crime, crime against humanity or constitutive act of genocide”.
“Lack of action by the international community would undo the progress made so far in eliminating sexual violence in conflict,” reads the open letter, whose signatories include more than 30 organizations from Tigray and the diaspora. “It would give the green light to regimes that deploy this barbaric weapon of war. And it would be a betrayal of the women of Tigray, whose courage we salute. “
War broke out in Tigray on November 4 last year when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent troops to overthrow the regional government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Heartbreaking reports of sexual violence have emerged from large numbers of women and girls, in what are seen as targeted attacks by Ethiopian soldiers and their Eritrean allies.
“The language used by the attackers makes it clear that these are not random attacks. They are aimed at women because of their ethnic origin, because they are Tigrayan, with the aim of making them infertile. The attacks are an integral part of the conflict ”, reads one of the two letters published on the occasion of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on Saturday.
“But so far, those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and resolutions outlaw the use of sexual violence in conflict. There has been no justice for the women of Tigray, ”they write.
The letter signed by Dangarembga also bears the names of the activist against female genital mutilation Nimco Ali, Chineke! The founder of the orchestra, Chi-chi Nwanoku, and more than 30 Afro-descendant women. Calls for a ceasefire and greater humanitarian assistance in Tigray and an independent justice mechanism.
“We are dismayed that African women and girls are again victims of conflict-related sexual violence, which in this case is being permitted and committed by government forces apparently charged with enforcing the law,” the letter reads.
“The fact that such serious human violations are taking place in the nation where the African Union is headquartered, and amid the profound silence of African leaders, challenges the aspiration of ‘African solutions to African problems.’
This weekend, activists will launch a social media campaign using the hashtags #endsexualviolenceintigray #endrapeinwar and #believeblackwomen, and host an online conference on wartime sexual violence around the world.
“We called the conference ‘solutions for women by women.’ I think we have to work on this ourselves. I’m tired of waiting for someone at a higher level to start taking this issue seriously, ”said Danait Tafere, a conflict analyst who lived in Tigray before the Covid pandemic.
She blamed the lack of action on racism. “Not much is happening [to address] sexual violence, and the reason people don’t act quickly is because they are black women. Black women are not protected. “
Last week, the UN said 350,000 people were suffering from famine conditions in Tigray.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism