HAMDAYET, Sudan (AP) — The atrocities have been seared into the skin and the minds of Tigrayans, who take shelter by the thousands within sight of the homeland they fled in northern Ethiopia.
They arrive in heat that soars above 38 C (100 F), carrying the pain of gunshot wounds, torn vaginas, welts on beaten backs. Less visible are the horrors that jolt them awake at night: Memories of dozens of bodies strewn on riverbanks. Fighters raping a woman one by one for speaking her own language. A child, weakened by hunger, left behind.
Now, for the first time, they also bring proof of an official attempt at what is being called ethnic cleansing in the form of a new identity card that eliminates all traces of Tigray, as confirmed to The Associated Press by nine refugees from different communities. Written in a language not their own, issued by authorities from another ethnic group, the ID cards are the latest evidence of a systematic drive by the Ethiopian government and its allies to destroy the Tigrayan people.
The Amhara authorities now in charge of the nearby city of Humera took Seid Mussa Omar’s original ID card displaying his Tigrayan identity and burned it, the soft-spoken nurse said. On his new card examined by the AP, issued in January with the Amharic language, an Amhara stamp and a border of tiny hearts, even the word Tigray had vanished.
“I kept it to show the world,” Seid said. He added that only 10 Tigrayans remained of the roughly 400 who worked at the hospital where he had been employed, the rest killed or fleeing. “This is genocide … Their aim is to erase Tigray.”
What started as a political dispute in one of Africa’s most powerful and populous countries has turned into a campaign of ethnic cleansing against minority Tigrayans, according to AP interviews with 30 refugees in Sudan and dozens more by phone, along with international experts. The Ethiopian government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed is accused of teaming up with his ethnic group — his mother was Amhara — and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea to punish around 6 million people. Witnesses say they have split much of Tigray between them, with the Amhara in the west and Eritrean forces in the east.
Ethiopia claims that life in Tigray is returning to normal, and Abiy has called the conflict “tiresome.” But the refugees the AP spoke with, including some who arrived just hours before, said abuses were still occurring. Almost all described killings, often of multiple people, rapes and the looting and burning of crops that without massive food aid could tip the region into starvation.
Article written by: Cara Anna
Photo credit: AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty