Editor’s note: The following message is written by a graduating student. He reflects about his situation, about the hollowness and pain he feels, and about the situation of his people. We publish it here by changing some identifying information in order not to expose him to attacks. The message helps us think about the thousands of Tigrayan university students who are not able to follow their studies across the many universities in Ethiopia.
My name is K. I am a 5th year student at one of Ethiopia’s universities. I was in Tigray when our university made the call for us to report at the university, after the Corona lockdown was eased.
It was very difficult to come to Addis Ababa from Tigray. I was so lucky I knew someone who arranged for me a flight to Addis with a military helicopter. But many of my friends could not come because there was no transportation. Travel was possible after three months, but it was too late for them to report and follow their studies.
After the opening of transport, many people came from Tigray to Addis Ababa to escape the war zone. But Addis Ababa is not a city of peace to Tigrayans. It has become a distressing city where Tigrayans are being held incommunicado, are afraid to speak Tigrinya, are fired for their identity and where more than 52,000 Tigrayan businesses are closed.
Attacks against Tigrayans have been escalating over time and are now worst. All this injustice and suffering is not because we are criminals or because we have a criminal behavior, but because we are Tigrayans. For example, refugees who have recently returned from Saudi Arabia have been picked up from their beds without allowing them to change their clothes. And why are all these refugees suffering? Isn’t Ethiopia a country for Tigrayans too?
Although there were many challenging times during my university studies, I have never seen such a distressing year. In addition to economic problems and my longing for my family (5 months without a phone call), imagine how difficult it is to learn with people who apparently enjoy your family’s starvation to death and your mother’s death!
Tigrayans who have lived in Addis Ababa for many years have been evicted from their homes and thrown out on the streets. Our bank accounts have been closed. We Tigrayans are in dire straits. The lives of Tigrayans who have returned from Saudi Arabia and graduated from universities are particularly worrying. There is no transportation to Tigray. In addition, they are being hunted by security and police.
Addis Ababa prisons speak Tigrinya. The 17,000 Tigrayan ENDF members who served Ethiopia for years have been imprisoned and tortured for 10 months. Their families are suffering more than anyone can imagine.
Is it a sin to be a Tigrayan? Is all this because of the war? No, the war is in Tigray, not Addis Ababa. What is the secret of Addis Ababa being a hell for Tigrayans and a free place for Syrian and Eritrean refugees?
Now, it is my graduation but it’s senseless. Graduation without friends, in this time of suffering and stress about families being in famine conditions is nothing. My only regret now is that I did not join the armed struggle.