The Other End of the Line
I received a phone call from my uncle sobbing uncontrollably, everything stopped. I was told my cousin had been raped by Eritrean forces and her husband was forced to watch.
Eritrean forces entered their home in Wukro, central Tigray, took hold of my cousin while another soldier tied her husband and forced him to watch as they took turns raping her. I felt sick. I couldn’t come to grips with what I was hearing. This wasn’t the headline of an article, this was my family.
So many thoughts ran through my mind upon hearing this. My heart broke for my cousin and her husband. Their marriage was violated – something so sacred to their marriage was stripped away. She will carry the mental, emotional, and physical pains of this experience forever. She could be at risk of carrying an infection or pregnancy, which may then lead her to battle her beliefs should she decide not to continue the pregnancy. Her husband will have to live with the immense guilt and trauma of seeing what happened to his wife for the rest of his life.
I’ve since learned that she was able to get to a hospital to get treatment, although I have no idea how she is doing or what treatment she received.
I received the news four days after hearing a cousin of mine in Adwa, northern Tigray, had been killed by Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). I remember watching a video of Eritrean soldiers captured by Tigray Defense Forces weeks beforehand – my assumption was that the ENDF took hold of the town and killed civilians in retribution. Hearing about the loss of my cousin’s life in the most gruesome and unnatural manner drove me to the depths of despair.
I am heartbroken – hearing deeply distressing stories about your family takes an immense toll on you. Thoughts of my cousins in Wukro occupy every waking second. My existence has become engulfed by images of their faces, imagining what they’re going through.
There are moments during the day where I find myself unable to navigate life and my seemingly ‘normal’ obligations. My profession involves tending to patients. The irony of life isn’t lost on me, knowing that I am unable to extend acts of compassion and care to my loved ones is a predicament I battle with on a daily basis.
The sight of a plate of food leaves me overwhelmed with guilt. This idea of rest feels foreign and fundamentally undeserving. I long for the day I am able to pour my love into my home and my family.
Omna Tigray Contributor 03/22/2021