‘Don’t betray women of Tigray’: calls grow for international action against rape in war

‘Don’t betray women of Tigray’: calls grow for international action against rape in war

Politicians among signatories of two open letters urging investigation into reports of sexual violence in Ethiopian conflict

Tigrayan women who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region pray at a church near Um Rakuba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan. Photograph: Nariman El-Mofty/AP

(Theguardian)—The former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, and Zimbabwean author and 2020 Booker prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga are among the signatories of two separate letters demanding international action after shocking reports of sexual violence in Tigray.

In one, more than 50 women of African descent call for an immediate ceasefire and express horror at reports that African women and girls are “once again the victims” of violence and rape in war.

Another letter signed by Clark, as well as former UK development secretary Hilary Benn, Green party MP Caroline Lucas and more than 60 campaigners, calls on the UN security council to set up a tribunal to investigate allegations of sexual violence in Ethiopia’s northern region “as a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act of genocide”.

“Failure by the international community to act would undo the progress made so far in eliminating sexual violence in conflict,” reads the open letter, whose signatories include more than 30 organisations from Tigray and the diaspora. “It would give a 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 4 November last year when Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace prize laureate, sent in troops to oust the regional government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Harrowing reports of sexual violence have emerged from large numbers of women and girls, in what are being seen as targeted attacks by Ethiopian soldiers and their Eritrean allies.

“Language used by the assailants makes clear that these are not random attacks. They are targeted at the women because of their ethnicity, because they are Tigrayan, with the aim of rendering them infertile. The attacks are integral to the conflict,” reads one of the two letters published to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on Saturday.