What's happening in Tigray?
600K+civilians killed (estimated)
70K+refugees in Sudan
99%of ambulances stolen, taken to eritrea, or destroyed
75%of State and Private Universities Looted and Damaged Beyond Repair
80%of Health facilities looted, vandalized, or destroyed
On November 4, 2020, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed mobilized the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), and the Amhara Special Forces to launch a war against the over 7 million people of the region of Tigray, the northernmost region of the Ethiopian federation. Despite the Ethiopian regime’s initial assertions that this is a “domestic law-and-order” operation directed against a Tigrayan political entity, the ongoing brutal involvement of Eritrean government and troops, the reported use of armed drones, the atrocious human rights abuses, and escalating humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray clearly show that this is an all-out war being waged against the people of Tigray.
The war has unleashed innumerable atrocities that have devastated Tigray, becoming the world’s deadliest war, destabilizing Ethiopia, and undermining peace and security in the Horn of Africa. There have been verified reports of widespread civilian massacres, extra-judicial executions, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), man-made famine, looting, destruction of health care facilities, and forced displacement of millions of Tigrayans. The picture emerging since the beginning of the war—albeit incomplete due to a telecommunications blockade affecting large swaths of the region—provides a glimpse into the level of devastation in Tigray.
According to the latest figures, over 500,000 civilians have been killed in Tigray, while 70,000 have been forced to seek refuge in Sudan, and 2.2 million more people have been internally displaced. Of the region’s more than 7 million residents, over 5.5 million people are in dire need of emergency food assistance - 2.3 million of them are children. Approximately, 900,000 are living in famine conditions. In addition to attacks against the safety and security of Tigrayan civilians, the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces have also undertaken the wholesale destruction of essential infrastructure and services in the region. Over 80% of healthcare facilities and over 99% of ambulances have been looted, vandalized, or destroyed, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian conditions. Moreover, 75% of state and private universities have been destroyed while countless sacred and religious institutions have been desecrated.
Further, since the beginning of the war, Tigrayans have been denied essential services such as electricity, telecommunication, and bank services. Transportation in and out of the region has also mostly been banned. This has made it nearly impossible to obtain up-to-date information on the true extent of destruction in the region. Despite urgent calls by the international community, the Ethiopian government has refused to provide unhindered access to aid organizations or international journalists. As such, the figures mentioned above do not reflect the true magnitude of the destruction caused by the genocidal war in Tigray. These facts and figures available paint a vivid picture of the reality on the ground: this is far from being a “domestic law-and-order” operation, this is a genocidal war waged by the Ethiopian and Eritrean regimes to annihilate the history and culture, political existence, and future of the people of Tigray.
Since June 2021, when the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) pushed invading forces out of most parts of Tigray, the Ethiopian government has enacted a deadly siege prohibiting the flow of humanitarian aid and supplies into Tigray. Only a tiny fraction of the aid required to avert the starvation and death of hundreds of thousands has made it into the region because of the Ethiopian government’s blockade. While the Ethiopian government declared what is claimed to be a humanitarian truce in March 2022, to date, a minuscule percentage of the required aid has made it into Tigray. Unless the unhindered and consistent flow of aid into Tigray is immediately guaranteed, hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans perish from the man-made famine and lack of basic medical supplies.Learn More
History of Violence Against Tigrayans
For as long as the Ethiopian empire has existed, Tigrayans have been perceived to be a threat to centralized rulers, as they are known to resist suppression or subjugation. Thus, all of Ethiopia’s authoritarian rulers who have sought centralized control employed policies aimed at weakening Tigrayan social, economic, and political structures; as well as resorting to committing atrocities to subjugate the people of Tigray.
In fact, violence against Tigrayans dates back to the establishment and consolidation of the Ethiopian empire. It is an integral part of that history. In consolidating his territory in Tigray after taking over from Emperor Yohannes, Menelik II (ruling from 1889 to 1913) subjected the people of Tigray to brutality. His forces cut off the genitalia of Tigrayan men and women in an effort to terrorize and make sure no resistance to his rule emerged. In addition to committing such atrocities, Menelik strategically used part of Tigray as a bargaining tool with the Italians, signing the Treaties of Wuchale and Feres Mai in 1889, which gave Italy northern Tigrayan territories, including Hamasien, Sheketi, Segeneyti, and eventually up to Mereb.To further reduce the power of and threat posed by Tigrayans, Menelik II gave parts of western Tigrayan territories to Begemeder (Gonder, Amhara).
Violence against Tigrayans and annexation of Tigrayan territories continued under Emperor Haile Selassie (ruling from 1930 to 1974). As a result of annexing parts of Tigray to other regions and breaking apart Tigray administratively, Tigrayans started the first Woyane rebellion in 1943. To subdue the region as Haile Selassie and his British allies were losing ground, Haile Selassie used the British Royal Forces to suppress the Tigray region by dropping 116 bombs over the span of two weeks in October 1943. Once the Woyane was defeated, Haile Selassie initiated a pacification campaign, which included instating high taxation and banning modern education in Tigray, only allowing church education. Tigrayans were also not provided scholarship opportunities, which were mainly reserved for those of Amhara ethnicity. Later on in his reign, Haile Selassie also ignored droughts in Tigray in 1958 and 1964, and even blocked aid, resulting in famines that killed thousands.
Upon Haile Selassie’s overthrow, the next regime, the Derg military regime, employed some of these same tactics against Tigrayans. Most significantly, the Derg’s Mengistu blocked humanitarian aid to Tigray during the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia, targeting civilians in hopes of eliminating any political opposition from Tigrayans. Around 1.2 million people died in the country, most of them in Tigray, as a result of this man-made famine. Additionally, during Mengistu’s war against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), as a last resort to win the war, he indiscriminately bombed civilians targeting a market in Hawzien, Tigray. As per a 1991 Human Rights Watch report “the pattern of attacks [from the Derg] suggests that there is a specific aim of killing civilians believed to be sympathetic to rebel movements, disrupting their economic life, preventing food relief from reaching them, wreaking revenge for defeats by the rebel armies, and instilling fear.’’
Today, with the genocidal war waged in November 2020, Tigray is facing another extreme form of violence that has targeted its social fabric, rich history, infrastructure, and environment. Unlike prior rulers of Ethiopia, Abiy and Eritrea’s dictator Isaias Afewerki have not only attempted to weaken Tigray, but to erase Tigrayan history and exterminate the population through various means of barbaric violence, man-made famine, and weaponized destruction.Learn More
Context to the war on Tigray
On November 4, 2020, Prime Abiy Ahmed claimed that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) located in Tigray. Abiy launched a “law enforcement operation" that was supposed to last 3 to 5 days. The TPLF claims the strike was carried out in “self-defense.” Political analysts and diplomats in the region have confirmed that there were evident signs of preparations to attack the TPLF prior to November 2020 and to the defensive disarming of the Northern Command. An Ethiopian general was also recorded admitting that they were preparing for war before the TPLF neutralization of the Northern Command in November.
There has also been increasing evidence that the war on the Tigray was being planned since Ethiopia normalized relations with Eritrea in 2018. The TPLF was a common adversary of Abiy and Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki. Abiy viewed the TPLF as a challenge to his plans to consolidate and centralize power and dismantle Ethiopia’s federal system by dissolving the party that brought him to power - the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In December 2019, Abiy formed the Prosperity Party (PP). Tigray’s regional government questioned the constitutionality of the party, and Abiy saw this as a threat to his authority. For dictator Isaias, his feud with the TPLF is deeply personal. It is a story of grievances, bad blood, and ideological disputes that stretches back to the 1970s when Eritrea was fighting for independence from Ethiopia and continues through the 1998 border war with Ethiopia.
Prior to officially waging war on Tigray, Abiy had taken steps to weaken Tigray. He allowed road blockades restricting access to Tigray, reduced Tigray’s budget, and hindered the fight against locust infestation. Moreover, between 2018 and 2020, there were a series of assassinations of prominent political figures, which fueled the growing instability and rising ethnic tensions in Ethiopia. All of the assassinations had two common factors: 1) the victims privately and publicly criticized PM Abiy Ahmed and 2) results of the investigations into their deaths yielded unclear results as to who the perpetrators were.
As tensions rose between the TPLF and Abiy’s Prosperity Party, the TPLF decided to hold regional elections in September 2020. During a speech to parliament, Abiy publicly warned that the repercussions of holding elections would involve “mothers crying, youth dying, and buildings falling.” Abiy called the elections unconstitutional and TPLF illegitimate, eventually labeling them as terrorists in May 2021. In response to the elections, Abiy withheld social welfare funds, refused to release a budget, and confiscated locust-fighting machinery during the worst locust outbreak in decades.
Two weeks after waging the war on Tigray, on November 21, 2020, the Ethiopian military warned civilians that there would be “no mercy” if residents of Mekelle did not “save themselves” during a final offensive to capture the capital city. There is evidence that the United Arab Emirates supplied the Ethiopian government with weapons and drones. Both governments have denied it. That said, a video of an ENDF general admitting to the utilization of UAE drones in Tigray was leaked.
The Ethiopian government seized Mekelle on November 28, 2020. Soon after capturing Mekelle, Abiy claimed that the Ethiopian government had “completed and ceased the military operations.” He also claimed that it was a swift, bloodless campaign. However, both claims have been far from reality. Although Ethiopian federal forces seized control of Tigray’s main towns, sporadic and intense fighting between Ethiopian forces and the TPLF has continued across Tigray. As of June 28, 2021, the Tigray Defense Forces have taken back control of Mekelle, as well as other towns and cities across Tigray. The elected Tigrayan government has been reinstated. In their retreat, the ENDF looted and destroyed public and private property and further damaged infrastructure. ENDF, Eritrean forces, Amhara forces remain in Western Tigray, and Eritrean forces are still occupying parts of northern Tigray, including Irob. Because of shifting military dynamics, the Ethiopian government has shifted its strategy to a siege, which includes blocking of humanitarian aid, a complete telecommunication and transport blockade, restriction of fuel entering Tigray, and collapsing Tigray’s already debilitated health system.
Extrajudicial Killings & Massacres
Throughout Tigray, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces and militias have subjected civilians to extrajudicial killings and massacres from Humera and Mai Kadra in Western Tigray to Aksum in central Tigray, Mekelle in the south, and Irob in northeast Tigray. The murder of civilians has been rampant, vicious, and victimized the most vulnerable in Tigrayan society, including the elderly, women, and children. Churches, mountain tops, public buses, and the private homes of civilians have all been sites of massacre.
During the Maryam Dengelat massacre Eritrean forces opened fire on hundreds of congregants during mass. In November 2020, men and boys in Axum were made targets as Eritrean military forces fired indiscriminately in the streets, conducted door-to-door raids, and carried out mass killings across the city. The Mahbere Dego massacre is documented, video footage shows Ethiopian armed forces executing young men and throwing their bodies over a cliff. In April 2021, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces committed a massacre in Abi Addi, in the Tembien region of Central Tigray, killing 182 civilians.
Other reported massacres by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces include: 86 people killed in Zalambessa, 200 people killed in Shire, 80 to 150 people killed in Maryam Dengelat church, over 300 people killed in Wukro Maray, and 180 people killed in Cheli. In Tanqua Abergele in Yechila, Eritrean and Ethiopian forces went door-to-door, massacring priests, deacons, and visually impaired persons.
The Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA) reported that Eritrean forces killed 20 civilians, mostly farmers, in Edaga Hibret in Asgede Woreda (district). In the early morning of May 8, 2021, Eritrean troops conducted door-to-door raids throughout a village near Abune Y’ma’eta Guh, a world-renowned rock-hewn church. The military forces shot 21 people, 19 of whom died. Of the 19 civilians massacred, seven were children under the age of 10, while one was a one-month-old infant. Two brothers from the village, Gebrehiwet Gebreananya and Abraha Gebreananeya lost 8 members of their households, including their father, both of their wives, and six of their children.
In many instances, families and community members were forbidden from retrieving the bodies of their loved ones or holding funeral services, imposing severe psychological distress on the survivors. Beyond denying people the most fundamental right to life, these public and gruesome massacres were designed to terrorize and subjugate the Tigrayan population. These accounts are only a handful of the known massacres committed and are likely a significant underestimation, as the communications blackout has limited the reporting and documentation of atrocities and casualties. While the full scale of the human cost of the war has not been accounted for, journalists, researchers, and activists have used mapping technologies, video footage, photos, and first hand narratives of survivors to determine that the number of unarmed Tigrayan civilians deliberately and systematically killed by militarized forces exceeds five hundred thousand. Massacres have also taken place through aerial bombardments with hundred of deaths and even more casualties.
Massacres and indiscriminate attacks against civilians have continued unabated since the start of the genocidal war. The Ethiopian government’s dehumanization and incitement of hate speech against Tigrayans have fueled attacks and massacres against civilian populations in Tigray and across Ethiopia. In recent news, the BBC reports that in advance of an independent UN investigation into crimes committed in Tigray and against Tigrayans, there has been a deliberate campaign to destroy evidence of massacres against Tigrayan civilians. According to eyewitnesses in Western Tigray, security forces from the Amhara region “have been identified as digging up fresh mass graves, exhuming hundreds of bodies, burning them and then transporting what remains out of the region.” These are deliberate efforts to undermine and delegitimize the targeted violence against Tigrayans that has taken place since November 2020. Despite these challenges, news reports, humanitarian investigations, and the first hand narratives of survivors provide substantial evidence of the deliberate massacre of Tigrayan civilians. Tigrayan civilians have been made targets in this genocidal war, and it is now with urgency that we call for justice for Tigrayan victims of war—both those whose lives have been lost and for those who have lost loved ones.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Since November 4, 2020, there have been countless reports of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, as well as Amhara militias raping and perpetrating sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls. The use of weaponized SGBV has been confirmed by survivors, family members of survivors, aid workers, and doctors treating women both in Tigray and in refugee camps in Sudan. Hospitals and aid agencies estimate that thousands of women have been raped, but the real number is unknown. This is due to the Ethiopian government completely blocking international media coverage during the first months of the war, imposed telecommunication blackouts, and the government’s attempts to impede independent UN-led investigations of these crimes.
Tigrayan women have been kidnaped, drugged, tortured, and raped by military forces. Many women are being held in camps where they are gang-raped and tortured by multiple Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers over many days. In addition, military elements have been reported to force family members to rape one another or to force family members to watch as they rape women. Tigrayan women have also been purposefully infected with HIV. The women who try to fight their assaulters are severely brutalized and left to die.
Weaponized SGBV is being used as a way to instigate terror and punish not only the women of Tigray but the entire population. The weaponized SGBV is being used as a mechanism to ethnically cleanse women of their Tigrayan identity. SGBV survivors have reported that Amhara forces would rape women and tell them that they were raping them to “Amharize” them and cleanse the bloodline. Armed forces have also targeted and tortured Tigrayan women to prevent them from giving birth to future Tigrayan children and destroy their reproductive capabilities.
According to the Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA) Special Briefing No.3 from March 8, 2021, the conservative estimated number of victims of rape in Tigray is 10,000. That same report stated that in Mekelle 750 rape survivors were admitted to Ayder hospital, and in Adigrat 174 rape survivors were admitted to the public hospital. On March 12, 2021, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) confirmed there have been at least 516 self-reported cases of SGBV in Tigray. The ECC also noted that these reports are only “the tip of the iceberg.” Dr. Fasika Amdeselassie, a public health official for the government-appointed interim administration in Tigray, reported that there were at least 829 sexual assault cases that have been reported in five hospitals since the beginning of the war. However, Dr. Amdeselassie also emphasized that this number does not represent the true number of women who have been assaulted.
The numbers have only increased since EEPA’s and ECC’s reports in March. On April 1, 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ethiopia reported that 22,500 individuals are expected to seek care for SGBV in Tigray. The UNFPA Ethiopia also emphasized that there is a severe lack of healthcare services in Tigray. They reported that only 1 percent of the healthcare facilities in Tigray are offering Clinical Management of Rape (CMR) services and they estimated that 156 social workers are needed to provide support to these Safe Spaces and One-Stop Centers. In addition, they also reported that in Mekelle there is only one One-Stop Center and one Safe Space Center that are able to provide comprehensive treatment and care for GBV in Tigray. These reports from the UNFPA Ethiopia confirm that many women in Tigray cannot access SGBV services.
SGBV survivors ranged from young, underaged girls to grandmothers. In CNN’s report on March 22, 2021, a doctor at a gender-based violence crisis center in Tigray told CNN that the youngest girl she treated was 8 years old and the oldest woman was 60 years old. However, the oldest woman so far that has been reported to be raped and assaulted was an 89-year-old woman by Sky News. A coordinator at the gender-based violence crisis center in Tigray also reported to CNN that since the war began, up to 22 women and girls seek treatment for rape every day.
The most recent SGBV number estimate is from the Tigray government. It estimated that there are 120,000 survivors of SGBV in liberated parts of Tigray. This number of course would not include the thousands of SGBV survivors in Western Tigray, or women and girls in Western Tigray who are currently sexually enslaved and facing weaponized SGBV. These survivors have still not received the care they need because of the ongoing siege on Tigray.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of the genocidal war on Tigray, which has significantly contributed to the volume and intensity of the brutal violations of human rights across Tigray, is the involvement of the Eritrean state. Both the political leadership and the military infrastructure of the Eritrean state have been deeply involved in the genocidal war since before the official declaration of war by Abiy Ahmed on November 4, 2020. Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki held numerous high-level meetings with Abiy and members of the Ethiopian military leadership in the months leading up to the war.
At the start of the genocidal war, Eritrean forces invaded and occupied large swaths of Tigrayan territory and unleashed a campaign of terror, massacres, looting, and destruction of private and public property. Eritrean forces have been implicated in some of the most egregious attacks against civilians and public infrastructure in Tigray.
Although Abiy originally repeatedly asserted that his government is engaged in an internal “law enforcement operation,” the involvement of the Eritrean army is now well established.
A February 2021 Amnesty International report revealed that Eritrean troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in the city of Axum between November 28 and 29, 2020. Despite overwhelming evidence - including international reporting, photographs, and video footage from the region - Abiy, as well as his counterpart in Eritrea, Isaias Afeworki, denied the presence of Eritrean soldiers inside Tigray for months. It was only amid mounting international pressure that PM Abiy finally acknowledged - in a March 23, 2021, address to parliament- the presence of Eritrean soldiers on Ethiopian territory.
In a letter to the UN Security Council on April 16, 2021, Eritrea finally confirmed its presence in Tigray and expressed it had “agreed - at the highest levels - to embark on the withdrawal of the Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary” after months of repeated denial by President Isaias Afewerki and Prime Minister Abiy. This was largely due to mounting pressure from the European Union and the U.S.’ Biden Administration.
The announcement of the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray read as political theater, considering that Abiy justified Eritrea’s crossing of the border into Ethiopia as a response to TPLF’s provocations and to the suddenly weakened Ethiopian military, which could not ensure security guarantees to Eritrea. He assured parliament that once Ethiopia rebuilds its pre-war military capacity it would be able to guard its own borders and the issue of Eritrean troop presence in Tigray would be resolved.
Furthermore, despite such assertions, the Eritreans never followed through on their words. Following this statement, there were even claims that brigades were returning to Eritrea with the purpose of replenishing their personnel and reorganizing their military units. Credible concerns that Eritrean forces were embedding themselves further within the intelligence and military of the Ethiopian government, were proven true in Eritrean troops continued heavy presence in Tigray and reports of them being in other regions of Ethiopia and even Addis Ababa. In May 2021, CNN released a damning video and written report from inside Tigray of the extent of Eritrea’s military control in Tigray. In traveling to Axum from Mekelle, the CNN team, led by Nima Elbagir, described what they saw as the following:
“A CNN team traveling through Tigray's central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, roaming the halls of one of the region's few operating hospitals and threatening medical staff.”
This reporting was crucial in exposing the heavy presence Eritrean forces maintained on Tigrayan soil for as long as they could. This heavy presence was maintained until June 2021, when the TDF launched their offensive, Operation Alula. As a response, Eritrean troops were forced to retreat to northern Tigray and Eritrea, but still remained in parts of Tigray.
After the reinstatement of the Tigray regional government in June 2021, Eritrean forces have continued to occupy Tigrayan territory, particularly the homelands of the Irob and Kunama peoples in Tigray’s Northern Zone. Moreover, Eritrean forces have worked hand in hand with Amhara regional forces to commit ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide in occupied Western Tigray. At the same time, Eritrean security and intelligence officers have operated in the Ethiopian government infrastructure, spearheading campaigns of ethnic cleansing targeting Tigrayans in the capital Addis Ababa and across Ethiopia. Despite both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments repeatedly asserting that Eritrean forces would withdraw from Ethiopian territory, Eritrean forces continue to occupy Tigrayan territory and are training irregular militias from the neighboring Amhara region. Until this deeply destabilizing influence of the Eritrean state in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa more broadly is curbed, the prospects for peace remain bleak.
Western Tigray, Amhara Special Forces and Amhara Militia
Since the November 4, 2020 declaration of war, Amhara regional forces have been among the most ardent supporters of Abiy’s genocidal war on Tigray, supplying thousands of troops to support his war efforts. While Abiy had at the time declared this war a “domestic law-and-order” operation, in a flagrant disregard for the lawful and constitutional order of the country, the Amhara regional forces illegally annexed most parts of Western Tigray. This annexation was accomplished through exceedingly violent and terror-inspiring means, including massacres, extrajudicial executions, and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of Tigrayans from their homes.
Abiy enlisted the Amhara Special Forces and militias from the beginning because of their common interest in dismantling Tigray. They had been preparing for war for a long time, at least since Abiy came to power in April 2018. For the Amhara elites and forces, it is about taking their opportunity to seek revenge on the Tigrayan people and expand Amhara territory into highly contested Tigrayan land. According to Amhara regional government’s spokesman, Gizachew Muluneh, “There is no space called Western Tigray, because this area is part of Amhara region.” Such motivation was of strategic interest to Abiy who was more than happy to allow the Amhara to expand and occupy Western Tigray to gain the support of Amhara nationalists during the genocidal war on Tigray.
The crimes being committed by the Amhara militias and special forces were recognized by the United States. In early March 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the occurrence of acts of ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray in his briefing to the U.S. Congress. No consequential action has followed such a strong statement, as the international community has yet to officially recognize the ethnic cleansing.
On April 6, 2022, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a joint report titled “We will erase you from this Land,” detailing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans in the region’s Western Tigray zone. This 245-page report, based on hundreds of interviews Amnesty and HRW researchers conducted with survivors, families, and representatives of international organizations provides the most comprehensive look into the campaign of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing undertaken in Western Tigray since the onset of the genocidal war on Tigray. The joint report provides detailed accounts of atrocities that the Amhara regional government, its armed forces, and militias have committed since their illegal annexation and forceful occupation of Western Tigray began in November 2020.
While the roster of atrocities is exceptionally long and graphic, what connects all the acts of brutality detailed in the report is that the Amhara forces and militias, with the backing of the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, sought to eliminate an entire ethnic group. Some of the most egregious crimes committed with this genocidal intent include indiscriminate attacks against civilians, illegal imprisonment and torture, weaponized sexual and gender-based violence, deprivation of means of survival, and forced displacement. In addition to the killing, Amhara militias have prevented families from burying the bodies of their loved ones because they are Tigrayan.
Tigrayan women and girls have faced the brunt of the occupation of Western Tigray. Amhara forces and milita have raped Tigrayan women in order to “Amharize” them and change their Tigrayan identity. Survivors have reported that soldiers would tell the women to denounce their Tigrayan identity otherwise they would be raped. Amhara militiamen have also tortured Tigrayan women to prevent these women from giving birth to Tigrayan children. One of the survivors of this sexual violence and sterilization recounted her rapist saying: “Your womb gives birth to Woyane [a derogative term used to refer to the TPLF]. A Tigrayan womb should never give birth.”
Amhara militias have also looted and burned Tigrayan homes, farms, and livestock. Towns in Western Tigray, such as Humera, have been indiscriminately shelled by Ethiopian forces. Such actions have been confirmed by the analysis of satellite images. In removing ethnic Tigrayans from Western Tigray through violence or threat of violence forcing civilians to flee or even by forcibly putting Tigrayans into buses that took them across the Tekeze river, the intent is to completely annex Western Tigray to the Amhara region and create an Amhara only zone, and so far they have succeeded. Western Tigray is now illegally under the control of the Amhara regional government. Amhara authorities have burned Tigrayan ID cards and reissued citizens with Amhara identity cards. Authorities have also told Tigrayans that they could only speak Amharic.
Furthermore, Amhara settlers also have been transported in minibusses with their household goods to occupy Western Tigray. Amhara representatives plan to resettle half a million Amharas in Western Tigray. The regional government went even further in inviting investors to lease farms in Western Tigray. In the published list of names, almost all 288 farms were owned by Tigrayans. The Amhara government also allowed investors to purchase the land with only proof of identification to quickly give away Tigrayan land.
What’s more, is that Amhara militia leaders have been outspoken about their goals and their actions in Western Tigray. Months after the start of the war, a video interview of Amhara militia leaders was released. In this video, these leaders proudly admit to acts of ethnic cleansing to “take back the land.” Their admissions include planting an Amhara flag, incorporating the area under the governance of the Amhara regional administration, handing out Amhara IDs to the local communities in Western Tigray, and “eliminating anybody who resisted.”
Since waging the war on Tigray, the Ethiopian and Eritrean government has actively used hunger as a weapon of war to starve, punish, and control the population. Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean forces, and Amhara militias have impeded food aid, destroyed farmland, and stolen food, crops, and livestock. In occupied areas, the Ethiopian government and its allies have also enforced an anti-farming campaign, telling farmers not to farm. The Ethiopian government is also blocking seeds from reaching besieged Tigray. As around 80 percent of the population are subsistence farmers, by actively impeding farming, the Ethiopian government is aware that they can very effectively decimate the livelihood of Tigrayans and starve Tigray. The Ethiopian government also cut aid funding to Tigray before the war began and the closure of banks and microfinance institutions throughout Tigray has prevented individuals from being able to purchase food.
Currently, in Tigray, the World Food Programme estimates that 5.8 million individuals are in need of food aid. According to the United Nations, more than 400,000 Tigrayans are suffering famine conditions. Doctors Without Borders have indicated an increase in moderate acute malnutrition across Tigray with people in some areas already suffering from severe acute malnutrition. According to Unicef at least 33,000 children in inaccessible parts of Tigray are severely malnourished and face imminent death without immediate health. These numbers, however, are likely underestimates. In June 2022, Mark Lowcock, the former UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stated that the Ethiopian government prevented a famine declaration. “At the end of my time in the U.N., it was clear to me that there was famine in Tigray, and the only reason it wasn’t declared was because the Ethiopian authorities were quite effective in slowing down the whole declaration system.”
As of April 2022, an estimated 2,000 trucks of food per week must enter Tigray to meet the region’s needs, as per a United Nations official who spoke at a meeting in Nairobi. Tigray is not receiving the food aid it needs nor the fuel to distribute the aid available in Tigray.
In June 2021 the Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire after a military defeat resulting in the removal of most Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in Tigray. Despite declaring a ceasefire, the Ethiopian government has since enacted a brutal siege that has had devastating effects throughout Tigray. In addition to cutting off essential services, such as electricity, banking, internet, the siege has prevented the transportation of food, cash, and fuel into Tigray. The transportation blockade has severely impacted the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid into Tigray, exacerbating the man-made famine and leaving Tigrayans without a functioning health system.
While the deliberate destruction of Tigray’s healthcare infrastructure had already severely limited the healthcare services Tigrayans could access, the siege has stopped the delivery of essential medical supplies and resources into the region, and has exacerbated the crisis. This medical emergency has meant that survivors of weaponized SGBV, including women who have suffered physical and psychological trauma, pregnant women, and new mothers, are unable to get the help they desperately need. Moreover, people with chronic medical conditions, sudden illnesses, and those requiring medical care are unlikely to receive it because of the lack of essential supplies.
Ayder Referral Hospital, the region’s flagship healthcare facility located in Mekelle, has recently closed its doors, stopping routine services as it has run out of medical supplies and equipment while facing fuel and medical supply shortages due to the siege.
In addition to the immediate humanitarian healthcare catastrophe the siege is exacerbating, it also produces conditions that will have severe, long-term agricultural consequences. For instance, because of the siege, farmers in Tigray, who make up more than 80 percent of the total population, are unable to acquire essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds. These farmers, who have already missed one farming season because of the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces’ occupation and prohibition of farming, will be forced to miss another year unless they acquire the necessary supplies immediately. The failure to obtain these supplies will deepen the starvation crisis and have long-term ramifications for food security.
Further, the fundamental lack of supplies in Tigray due to the siege has impacted the education of youths. There are no funds available to pay teachers or administrators, and basic educational supplies are not available. As a result, over 1.39 million children in Tigray are missing their third consecutive school year because of the war and blockade. Children in Tigray are unable to attend school as they and their families face the brunt of the siege and famine. Not only have children in Tigray had to witness and experience the brutalities of the war, but their futures are now being disrupted because of this years-long forced pause in their education. Such disruptions will have ramifications that will affect the children of Tigray for the rest of their lives.Ethiopian government’s Tigray siege Omna Tigray Reports
Agricultural and Environmental Destruction
In Tigray, invading forces have strategically targeted Tigray’s agricultural production to weaken Tigray’s social, political, and economic structure. With more than 80 percent of the region’s population relying on labor-intensive, rain-fed agriculture for subsistence, agricultural life in Tigray has been severely disrupted since the beginning of the genocidal war, leaving millions without access to food.
During the military occupation of Tigray by Eritrean and Ethiopian national forces, seeds, farming equipment and supplies were deliberately stolen and/or destroyed. Further, crops and land were intentionally set aflame by military forces. Satellite images have confirmed that armed forces have burned crop fields, farm plots, and warehouses. Reports have also documented the theft of livestock, ranging from cattle, sheep, camels, donkeys, and oxen. The killing of livestock has been highly detrimental to Tigrayans due to the high cost of livestock and the agricultural importance of these animals for plowing and fertilizing farmland. Together, these acts of agricultural destruction have prevented farmers from cultivating their land for the 2021 harvest season, debilitating food production for a year and contributing to the creation of famine conditions in Tigray. The extreme food insecurity caused by the deliberate acts of agricultural destruction has been exacerbated by the Ethiopian government’s siege on Tigray.
The militarized violence of invading Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces is one of the major reasons the environmental consequences of the genocidal war are so devastating. The heavy artillery fire, indiscriminate shelling, and bombing of Tigray have severely degraded environmental conditions, affecting the region’s air, water, and soil quality. Numerous verified reports have also confirmed the destruction and burning of homes, farms, entire villages, and public infrastructure, which has undoubtedly compromised the environmental conditions. In addition to destroying private and public farms, the invading forces targeted fruit gardens and plantations across Tigray. These forces cut down and destroyed hundreds of hectares of fruit trees that Tigrayans cultivated. Additionally, they deliberately destroyed an estimated 90 percent of the irrigation infrastructure set up to mitigate water insecurity in the region.
Furthermore, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces worked to deliberately target environmental rehabilitation efforts in Tigray. Numerous reports implicate Eritrean soldiers in deliberately targeting environmentally protected areas, including forests and national parks. In addition to burning forests and environmentally protected areas, invading forces destroyed all of the newly-built eco-lodges that employed hundreds and were an important source of income. Eritrean forces even occupied national parks, such as the Kafta Sheraro park in North Tigray. Similarly, Eritrean and Ethiopian forces looted and destroyed regional offices responsible for environmental planning and rehabilitation. Such destructive efforts have completely stopped all environmental efforts in the region, as these offices do not have any resources to undertake the projects they were engaged in before the war.
Health System Destruction
Upon the Ethiopian government declaring war against Tigray’s regional government in November 2020, what ensued was a genocidal war with the intent to destroy Tigray, its people, and all it had built. Tigray’s health infrastructure was no exception. Tigray’s health facilities were targeted for eight months when Ethiopian and Eritrean troops and Amhara and Afar regional forces brutally occupied all of Tigray. Among the first to report on the destruction of Tigray’s health system was MSF. Between December 2020 and early March 2021, MSF visited 106 health facilities. Nearly 70% of them had been looted, more than 30% had been damaged, and only 13% were functioning normally. Adwa hospital’s medical equipment, including ultrasound machines and machines, had been deliberately smashed. MSF described health facilities occupied by soldiers and ambulances seized by armed groups. Eritrean forces took looted materials and even ambulances across the border to Eritrea.
A study conducted by Gesesew et al. evaluated the status of health facilities between November 2020 and June 2021. Of the 40 hospitals assessed, 14 were non-functional, nine were partially functional though severely limited, 11 were fully functional, and the status of the remaining 6 was unknown, as they were in areas occupied by Amhara forces and militias. Additionally, none of the 712 health posts remained, the aforementioned health financing system collapsed, and only 11% of ambulances were functional. Furthermore, the genocidal war on Tigray has displaced over 2 million people, among them healthcare professionals. Doctors and nurses have found themselves in internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee camps, trying to provide care to those who have also been displaced. Health care professionals who have not been displaced remain in understaffed and under-resourced health facilities without salaries.
What was left of the healthcare system in Tigray after invading forces pulled out of Tigray at the end of June 2021 has been destroyed by an Ethiopian-government-imposed siege. Unfettered humanitarian access has been blocked since July 2021. Not only has this resulted in worsening a man-made famine, but medical supplies, medicines, and equipment to replace what was looted or destroyed cannot enter Tigray. Hospitals were forced to use old cotton fabric to replace gauze and give patients expired medicine. There is also no food for patients at hospitals, forcing them to turn patients away. Healthcare workers themselves are going hungry, only having access to one piece of bread to sustain them all day. They also continue to go without salaries and access to their bank accounts, as is the case for everyone in Tigray. The result of the targeted attacks between November 2020 and June 2021 and the total siege and humanitarian blockade since is the complete collapse of the health system.
The implications of the complete collapse of the health system have been preventable deaths from bombings, malnutrition, diabetes, hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence without medical and psychosocial support, thousands of patients with chronic illnesses left without treatment, children without vaccinations, and much more.
Since the beginning of the genocidal war on Tigray, the Ethiopian government and its allies have employed numerous lines of attack to brutalize and subjugate Tigrayans, from massacres and bombings to the denial of food and medical aid. One of the most devastating tools that the genocidal forces have employed are aerial attacks, which the Ethiopian government has widely used to kill, traumatize, and terrorize Tigrayans since the start of the war. These aerial bombardments have killed hundreds of innocent civilians and injured countless more. The Ethiopian government has not only indiscriminately bombed civilian populations, but it has also targetted essential public infrastructures, including public markets and power stations, while claiming to target military assets.
The occurrence of aerial bombardments has ebbed and flowed since the start of the war with changes in strategies. The beginning of the genocidal war saw a military offensive reliant on aerial bombardments. Sporadic and intermittent indiscriminate bombing followed between January and September 2021. One of the most deadly attacks during this period was on June 22, 2021 when the Ethiopian government bombed a market in Togoga in central Tigray, near Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle. At least 64 people were killed with casualties in the hundreds.
The Ethiopian government then intensified its aerial attacks between October and December 2021. On December 17, 2021, the town of Alamata in southern Tigray was subjected to airstrikes. A marketplace was hit, resulting in the death of at least 28 civilians. An airstrike was also reported on Christmas day in Chercher Tigray, among the victims was an 8 year old boy. On December 24, 2021, a UNHCR staff member named Hiluf Michael was killed by an Ethiopian government drone attack.
In January 2022, the Ethiopian government used drones to attack a flour mill in the Tigrayan town of Mai Tsebri, killing dozens of people and injuring dozens more. The fatalities were overwhelmingly women and children who were at the flour mill at the time of the attack. Just as egregiously, the Ethiopian government launched an aerial attack on an IDP camp in the town of Dedebit, killing over 60 IDPs and injuring hundreds. Aid workers have shared that the camp that was attacked hosts many vulnerable populations, including the elderly, women, and children, many of whom were wounded in the attack.
It has long been reported that the Abiy regime had been reaching out to manufacturers of armed drones, including China, Turkey, and Iran, to obtain armaments to carry out the genocidal war on Tigray. Verified reporting has now shown that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, Turkey, and Iran have all supplied the Abiy regime with armed drones. Most notably, following Abiy’s visit to Turkey in August 2021, Turkey’s defense and aerospace exports to Ethiopia grew by millions of dollars. Turkey has supplied the Ethiopian government with Bayraktar TB2 drones that have also been used in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia. Witnesses on the ground and the Government of Tigray have been reporting on the presence and heavy involvement of foreign drones since the onset of the war. These drones have been used in a manner that contravenes all international laws, attacking civilians and civilian settlements in Tigray in full view of the international community.
Despite the Ethiopian government’s half-hearted denials of attacking civilians, the aim of the aerial campaigns is clear: to inflict as much damage as possible on Tigray and bomb Tigrayans into submission. These attacks are also designed to deter humanitarian workers from providing much-needed aid to Tigrayans. Though Ethiopian bombardments of Tigrayan civilians have leveled off since the start of 2022, the Ethiopian government could resume its military offensive at any point, showcasing its drones at a graduation ceremony for military pilots in June 2022.
Ethiopian government lies and disinformation
Since the beginning of the genocidal war on Tigray, the Ethiopian government has deceived the international community by making public declarations of peace while pursuing policies that have directly led to the deaths of tens of thousands in Tigray.
For instance, the Ethiopian government’s March 24, 2022, declaration of an “indefinite truce” and the Tigray Regional Government’s acceptance of a truce to facilitate humanitarian assistance received widespread and enthusiastic support from numerous members of the international community. Indeed, any attempts to remove the Ethiopian government’s deadly siege that jeopardizes millions of lives in Tigray must be encouraged and supported by all actors. However, the Ethiopian government’s declaration and the international community’s uncritical response were received with caution by well-seasoned analysts and Tigrayan advocacy organizations, who continue to express their doubts about the Abiy regime’s willingness and capacity to deliver on its promises.
Another major deceit was the Abiy administration's claim regarding Eritrean involvement in the war on Tigray. Soon after the onset of the genocidal war on Tigray, survivors, eyewitnesses, human rights organizations, and journalists began to report on the heavy involvement of Eritrean forces across Tigray. These reports indicated that Eritrean forces were operating with complete impunity deep inside Tigrayan territory and committing innumerable atrocities against the civilian population. Yet, for months after the start of the war on Tigray, Abiy denied the involvement of Eritrean forces. In March 2021, four months after declaring war on Tigray, Abiy finally admitted that Eritrea had sent its soldiers into Tigray. This was followed by another lie: Abiy claimed these forces had moved to areas near the Eritrean border to maintain order. To the contrary, Eritrean forces’ mobilization into Tigray was not an unplanned and sudden occurrence but had been planned months in advance.
Abiy also claimed that there was no famine in Tigray. In an exclusive interview with the BBC in June 2021, Abiy denied that there was famine in Tigray, telling the journalist: “There is no hunger in Tigray.” Despite Abiy’s assertion, the gravity of the hunger crisis in Tigray was already painfully evident in June 2021. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), between May and June 2021, 350,000 people in Tigray were in Catastrophe or IPC phase 5, the highest number of people in this phase since the 2011 Somalia famine. Not only was there a dire food insecurity in Tigray at the time of Abiy’s statement, international organizations had reported that this famine was a result of the loss of harvests and livelihood assets, disruption of markets, restrictions on mobility, and extremely restrained humanitarian access— all direct consequences of the government’s genocidal war on Tigray.
These are only a few of the many lies told to cover the authorities during the war on Tigray. To those who have been following the genocidal war on Tigray from the onset, it is evident that the Ethiopian government has employed a policy of deceit and obfuscation, making lofty promises to the international community it has not made any efforts to uphold. As such, the international community must not be fooled by empty rhetoric but use the Ethiopian government’s declaration to demand action and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who are in desperate need.
The Ethiopian government, state-sponsored media, religious institutions, social influencers, and ordinary citizens have participated in hate speech and genocidal rhetoric against Tigrayans for decades. However, hate towards Tigrayans has a long history and was widespread before the beginning of the genocidal war in November 2020. In a 1996 interview with Professor Tilahun Yilma, who frequently expressed his desire for the separation of Tigrinya-speaking people from Ethiopia, Tigrayans are blatantly described as “a malignant cancer that has been eating away at [Ethiopia’s] vital parts.” The professor then openly calls for the forcible removal of Tigrayans, stating, “If we don’t excise this cancer promptly, Ethiopia will cease to be a nation.”
Since the beginning of the genocidal war on Tigray, the Ethiopian government and other actors have utilized hate speech, dehumanizing metaphors, and calls for the eradication of Tigrayans to gain support for the genocidal war on Tigray and widespread ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia. “To catch the fish, you must drain the sea,” is an example of a widely known phrase used by Ethiopian state-sponsored media against Tigrayans. Consistent dehumanization of a group of people, especially by government officials who are trusted and in the position to protect their citizens, can be a catalyst in making people feel justified in their violent hate and actions towards that group of people. In addition to dangerous rhetoric from state-sponsored media, religious leaders in Ethiopia have played a role in disseminating hate speech against Tigrayans, as seen in this video where Tigrayans are slyly referred to as “hyenas” who must be “baptized with fire.” Religious institutions have allowed and enabled the demonization of Tigrayans in their televised church services, using religion as a tool for hate speech and propaganda. Some Ethiopian religious leaders refuse to support peaceful negotiations that could end the Tigray genocide.
After enough exposure and belief in the dehumanizing language, people are likely to feel a sense of justification in any violent or hateful act they take towards the dehumanized group. Such dangerous language is eerily reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust, where millions of people were subjected to the deadly outcome of dehumanizing rhetoric and hate speech — genocide. Hate speech must be taken seriously, especially when disseminated by official state actors obligated to protect their citizens. In June 2021, a European Union special envoy revealed that Ethiopian leaders vowed to “wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years,” a clear indication of the Ethiopian government’s intentions.
As military forces encircled Tigray and brutally invaded the region on November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government promptly shut down telecommunication and internet services. Since then, connectivity in Tigray has been sporadic and intermittent at best and nonexistent at worst, most rural areas having remained silenced since the start of the war. The Ethiopian government even bombed power stations, making access to electricity even more limited.
The impact of the telecommunications and internet blackout has been catastrophic. Tigrayans in the diaspora has not been able to talk to their families in months. The Ethiopian government has “switched off” an entire region to hide the atrocities their forces and allies continue to commit in Tigray. At the outset, the Ethiopian government successfully controlled the narrative; however, the nature of war became clear as refugees who poured out of Tigray into Sudan shared their stories of extrajudicial killings, massacres, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Reports that trickled out of the region eventually corroborated their accounts. There is undeniable evidence of looting, wholesale destruction, agricultural destruction, extrajudicial killings, massacres, weaponized SGBV, mass arrests, and detention in concentration camps where Tigrayans are tortured and executed.
The international community has a record of these atrocities despite the extremely limited access to the region and the deliberate and persistent telecommunication blackout. Such documentation is possible mainly because of brave reporters and humanitarian workers who have for the most part been barred from Tigray and have worked under difficult circumstances to shed light on the suffering of the Tigrayans. Despite all that is known, there is much left unknown. The telecommunications and internet blackout have made it incredibly difficult for journalists, non-governmental organizations, and humanitarian organizations to confirm human rights violations and conduct methodologically sound investigations into the atrocities. Lack of connectivity has also hindered the humanitarian response heavily dependent on communication. Despite repeated calls for peace by the Tigray government, a ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian government at the end of March 2022, and a consistent appeal from the international community to reconnect Tigray, there are no signs of restored connectivity.
It has been since the night of November 3, 200 that Tigray has been in the dark; yet, despite the evidence that has emerged, the Ethiopian government achieved its objective in cutting off the region: the international community has not acted to stop the genocide in any meaningful way. Therefore, we call on the international community to facilitate the immediate restoration of full internet access and communication services in Tigray.Telecommunications and Internet Blackout Internet Shutdown in Tigray - Tghat
Among the over 7 million Tigrayans in Tigray, there are two minorities within a minority: the Irob and Kunama. The Irob are between 30,000 to 40,000 Irob, while there are approximately 10,000 Tigrayan-Kunamas. These minorities face an existential threat.
Because of their proximity to the Eritrean border, the Irob and Kumana were among the first to be affected by the invasion of Eritrean forces at the beginning of November 2020. As of June 2022, about 50% of Irob remains occupied, while many Kunama and Irob reside in internally displaced camps in Tigray. While all of Tigray is isolated and cut off from the rest of the world as a telecommunication blockade has persisted, these minority communities risk being forgotten as humanitarian organizations or journalists have been able to access Irob, and little coverage has been given to the Kunama.
Since the start of the genocidal war, there has been minimal information as to the plight of Tigrayan-Kunama, who live perilously close to the Eritrean border and are vulnerable to attack from Eritrean forces. That said, reports from the Kunama diaspora indicate that starvation, looting, massacres, and displacement occurred. Eritrean troops reportedly burned down Kunama settlements, destroyed their property, and looted their livestock, forcing many Kunama to become internally displaced. The Kunama who were forced to flee their homes faced starvation early in the genocidal war and are reliant on their host communities or have survived only on leaves. Much like what happened between 1998 to 2000 in the Ethio-Eritrean war, Irob lands are occupied by the brutal Eritrean forces.
This time, however, for months, all of Irob was occupied; and until the end of June 2021, there was nowhere to escape to as invading forces occupied all of Tigray. Under occupation, the Irob have been bombed, evicted from their homes, their property looted, their livestock stolen or killed, Irob women and girls raped, and young and old alike brutalized and massacred. Children of those killed during the 1998 to 2000 war were among those massacred. Public infrastructure, including health facilities and schools, has been looted and destroyed. Much like other inaccessible areas of Tigray, the extent of the atrocities and human suffering is not known, but can be imagined. Irob, who have managed to escape and travel to Adigrat, have told of the immense suffering.
“In one Irob village called Gamada, Eritrean forces killed countless young students and threw their bodies in the river. They then told the parents of those killed not to remove the bodies from the river so that people couldn’t drink the water from the river. There are many stories of bodies being thrown into villages’ only water wells to make the water undrinkable. In cities, the Eritrean forces destroyed water pumps.” — 62 Year Old Tigrayan-Irob who managed to flee to Canada.
Ethiopian Emperor Haileselaisse initiates bombs on Tigray
In 1943, the British Royal Airforce attacked Tigray in a series of bombings at the request of Emperor Haileselaisse. This was an attempt to subdue the First Woyane and destroy the Tigray people.
The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is founded
Tens of thousands of young people are murdered in a brutal political repression campaign known as Ethiopia's "Red Terror" derg military junta and their supporters. To fight back and destabilize the junta, eleven men establish the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
Famine in Tigray
The 1984-85 famine is deemed one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters, where an estimated 1 million people died. There were several long-term effects of this famine, including lasting biological impacts among children who were present during the crisis. Like the present, the Ethiopian federal government withheld life-saving aid from the Tigray region.
Bombing campaign by the Ethiopian government on Tigray
The Ethiopian government launched a series of bombing raids on Tigray throughout 1988. The most fatal of these attacks was the bombing of the market in Hawzien, which resulted in an estimated 1,800 civilian casualties. Several homes and humanitarian aid convoys were destroyed.
TPLF overthrows the derg military junta government
In 1991, TPLF and coalition partners defeats the derg military junta government. A multinational federation was established.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi passes away
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, leader of the EPRDF coalition, passes away. Hailemariam Desalegn becomes prime minister.
February - April 2018
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigns and Abiy Ahmed is appointed to prime minister
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigns following unrest during a series of Oromo protests. Abiy Ahmed is appointed to Prime Minister, duration intended for the remainder of the term until the 2020 elections.
Abiy states he believes he is destined to be Ethiopia's "seventh king"
Abiy Ahmed publicly states he is destined to be Ethiopia's next king. This is an early sign of his desire to consolidate and maintain power in a one-man system.
Main road from Addis to Mekelle is blocked
Blocking the road from Addis to Tigray hinders movement that is vital to the economy of the region. Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael stated “Blocking roads and prohibiting grains from coming to Tigray is a grave crime.”
Several unexplained murders of government officials
Several assasinations of top officials have taken place under the Abiy Administration. Chief of Staff Se'are Mekonnen and Major General Gezae Abera, both of Tigray, are among those killed. Amhara regional governer Ambachew Mekonnen was also killed in a related event on the same night.
July 9th, 2018
Ethiopia and Eritrea sign peace agreement
Ethiopia and Eritrea sign a peace agreement, opening up the borders between the two countries. This action renewed relations between Eritrea and neighboring countries including Somalia.
Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel Peace Prize
Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018.
Establishment of the Prosperity Party
In a move to disband the EPRDF and consolidate power, Abiy established the Prosperity Party. The TPLF did not join.
Ethiopian federal government postpones elections
The Ethiopian federal government postponed elections indefinitely due to coronavirus. The country had 25 confirmed cases at the time.
Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa is killed, several Oromo leaders are illegally imprisoned
Prominent Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa is shot and killed in Addis Ababa. More than 80 people were killed in the unrest following the singer's death. Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba are among the several Oromo leaders imprisoned by the Ethiopian federal government.
Pro Ethiopian gov media ESAT calls for a joint Ethiopian & Eritrean action on Tigray's gov
"If necessary, all cooperation must be done with Eritrea to annihilate the TPLF. There is no such thing as sovereignity"
September 9th, 2020
Tigray holds regional elections
Tigray proceeds with the 2020 elections. The TPLF were democratically elected as Tigray's regional government. The TPLF deems Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian federal government as illegitimate.
October 7th, 2020
Ethiopian House of Federation (HoF) cuts funding to Tigray
Ethiopian lawmakers in parliament voted to cease budget aid to Tigray in response to the region's democratically-held elections. Tigray was due to receive 10.4 billion Ethiopian birr (around 281 million US dollars).
October 2020 (and various months)
Desert locusts invasion
High volumes of locusts swarmed Tigray, causing a brooding farming and food crisis. Locust control efforts such as tracking the insects' movements and spraying pesticide ceased because of the war. Local farmers expressed concerns as the Ethiopian federal government was hampering efforts to defeat the locusts.
October 14th, 2020
Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki visits Ethiopia
Isaias Afeworki and Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy visit the Ethiopian airforce base as well as the country's military engineering corp that produces military vehicles, small arms and tanks. Both sites requrie top clearance normally and very unusuall for a foreign leader to be given a tour.
November 1st, 2020
Large scale troop movement reported in southeastern Ethiopia.
As tensions stand between Tigray's regional gov and Ethiopia's Prime Minister, locals in the Somali region report of seeing 16 buses ferrying soldiers to an "unknown destination".
November 4th, 2020
Ethiopian federal government launches an attack on the TPLF
Ethiopian federal government launched a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). This was the beginning of the telecommunication blackout, closing of banks, and the shutting off of electricity and water supplies.
November 22nd, 2020
Ethiopian military threatens residents of Tigray's capital
A spokesman for the military threatens "no mercy" against civilians unless they "save themselves" as an offensive on the capital city, Mekelle begins.
November 29th, 2020
Ethiopia's Prime Minister announces an end to the military operation in Tigray
The prime minister says what is now left is for the federal police to pursue "criminals" and the reconstruction phase to begin.
December 6th, 2020
Ethiopian forces shoot at and detain UN staffers
Ethiopian forces shoot and detain UN staffers looking to deliver humanitarian aid in Tigray. This is not the first time aid workers have been endangered, as the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) say some of their staff members were killed in the violence in November.
December 11th, 2020
Alarm as Ethiopia returns refugees who fled Tigray fighting
Ethiopia announces it is returning thousands of refugees who ran from camps in Tigray when the war began, putting them on buses back to Eritrea
January 21st, 2021
UN releases statement on sexual violence against women in Tigray
The United Nations makes a press release expressing concern on the reports of sexual violence in Tigray including people forced to rape family members, "sex in exchange for basic commodities", and "increases in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections"
Ethiopian leaders say they are going to "wipe out Tigrayans for 100 years"
EU special envoy in June says Ethiopian leaders stated in February that they will wipe out Tigrayans for the next 100 years.
February 26th, 2021
Amnesty International publishes a 25-page report detailing the November 2020 massacres in Axum
Amnesty International published an extensive 25-page report detailing the series of deadly attacks that terrorized Axum civilians in late November 2020.
March 26th, 2021
Ethiopia states Eritrea will withdraw from Tigray
Abiy finally acknowledges the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray and states they have agreed to withdraw effective immediately. Eritrean troops still remain in Tigray committing attrocities at this time.
June 1st, 2021
UN warns 90% of Tigray in dire need of food aid
The UN's World Food Program alerts that 90% of Tigray needs emergency food assistance. UN officials warn that "over 90% of the harvest was lost due to looting, burning, or other destruction, and that 80% of the livestock in the region were looted or slaughtered."
June 10th, 2021
Senior UN Official Mark Lowcock declares famine in Tigray
Man-made famine affects millions in Tigray, which has reached a Phase 5 (catastrophe) food emergency. Food aid is being blocked and looted, and numerous civilians are dying or hospitalized due to starvation.
June 22nd, 2021
Ethiopian Airforce bombs market town west of Mekelle
The Ethiopian Airforce indiscriminately bombs Togoga during its busiest market day of the week, killing civilians. Those injured were denied access to ambulances and traveled long distances to get help at Ayder Hospital.
June 25th, 2021
Doctors Without Borders staff members are brutally murdered in Tigray
Maria Hernandez, Yohannes Halefom Reda, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, three employees of Doctors Without Borders, are extrajudicially killed in Tigray. Several other humanitarian aid workers have been killed since the conflict in Tigray began.
June 28th, 2021
Tigray Defense Force successfully recaptures Mekelle, the capital of Tigray
Tigray Defense Force successfully pushes out enemy forces and recaptures Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. The elected regional government leaders state they are back in control of the region's capital.