Re: Plea to Antony Blinken
Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.
This quote from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is one of the strongest warnings about the perils of indifference.
We at the Women Of Tigray are writing to you to appeal to you to push for accountability and justice for the horrific rape and sexual violence committed against women and girls during the Tigray war.
Your Excellency, we are mindful of the work that you have done during the last two years to promote peace and human rights protection in Tigray and Ethiopia in general. We recall your consistent calls for the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray. We also note that the United States has committed and reaffirmed its historical commitment on promoting accountability for violence of all forms and rape and sexual violence in particular.
For the past 28 months, hell has rained on the people of Tigray. We have witnessed atrocities that make one question humanity itself. As is always the case, women and girls carried the brunt of the suffering. The most horrific atrocities known to humanity have befallen the women and girls of Tigray. It is safe to conclude that the war on Tigray was waged on the bodies of the women and girls of Tigray. Women, girls and children of Tigray were brutally sexually abused with the intention of making them infertile, to cleanse their bloodline, and erase their identity as confirmed by credible reports by international rights bodies and independent media. Children as young as 8 years old were raped, gang raped, and were forced to watch their mothers being raped as well as killed infront of them. Women and girls of Tigray were kept as sexual slaves, were humiliated, dehumanized and physically and verbally abused by the armed forces involved in the campaign. This continues to this day in areas in Tigray that remain under occupation by Amhara and Eritrean forces. Much of the stories of the suffering of the women and girls of Tigray are yet to be told either because there has been no ear to listen to them or because they have been denied the opportunity to share their stories as the region was put under a complete communication shutdown for over two years. Lately, we feel like the United States government has preferred to listen to perpetrators who committed worst forms of crimes against humanity instead of engaging with the very victims of what we certainly believe is a genocide.
While we are pleased and relieved by the signing of the peace agreement, which we believe could not have happened without the United States’s concerted effort, progress towards the full implementation of the terms of the agreement remains slow. It is particularly concerning that vital social services such as health, banking and others, which are critical for the recovery of survivors of the violence of the last two years are yet to be restored. The millions of children, women and men who were forced of their homes from different parts of Tigray that remain under occupation by Amhara and Eritrean forced continue to live under inhumane conditions in displacement camps across Tigray and Sudan.
A more concerning development lately has been the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments’ concerted efforts to evade independent investigation into what transpired in Tigray and impede justice and accountability for gross violations of human rights and crimes committed during the war. It is also concerning that many pro-human rights governments are entrusting in the Ethiopian government to establish domestic transitional justice and accountability mechanisms to replace independent international mechanisms. We believe this is deeply problematic as the same regime and allied actors that oversaw the systematic campaign of violence on Tigrayans cannot be trusted to lead such an important task. It is also impossible to imagine how the government can hold itself accountable for crimes that itself committed. As the Tigrayan women interviewed by Washington Post rightly said; “The government invited the Eritreans in to rape me, […] How can I trust the government to be a fair judge?”
No one deserves such treatment, no one deserves the silence and indifference that Tigrayan women and girls have seen from the international community. The world agreed on this basic tenent as far back as the founding charter of the United Nations. Time after time, the commitment Never Again has been affirmed and world leaders have promised to learn from past mass atrocities to prevent the next one from happening. The ongoing carnage in Tigray, however, betrays just how hollow these commitments are. We believe, the United States is in a position to and has the responsibility to support survivors of rape and sexual violence by invoking all tools available, including legal, policy, diplomatic, and financial tools, to deter such violence, break the vicious cycle of impunity..
Furthermore, minority populations that live in border areas such as Irob and the Kunama are in particular higher risk of extinction. Satellite imagery documenting aerial attacks and destruction has also corroborated the testimonies. The Eritrean regime has taken advantage of the silence and inaction of the International Community (IC) on its earlier mass atrocities in Tigray, to continue to abuse minorities in areas under its occupation. Besides, the Eritrean regime, emboldened by the silence of the international community, continues in its intransigence and meddling in Ethiopia and neighboring countries.
We at Women of Tigray, are writing to you at this critical time to appeal to Your Excellency to call for a UNSC session to address the human rigths and humanitarian situation in Tigray to facilitate unified UNSC action to:
- Ensure access to the International Commission of Human Rights Experts to Tigray and other areas of the country to investigate crimes committed by all parties, and establish international mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable and to serve justice to victims and survivors.
- Urgently ensure the protection of civilians including in areas already under the control of Eritrean and Amhara Forces including the minority groups such as Irob and Kunama communities who are still under the invasion of Eritrean forces
- Ensure that survivors of the industrial-scale rape and sexual violence in Tigray and elsewhere in the country receive the necessary medical care to recover. Women and girls of Tigray in particular that continue to be denied of the basic life saving services deserve your special attention.
- The millions of children in Tigray who have not been to school in over three years and are going through so much separation, hunger and trauma need immediate attention. ,
Women of Tigray is dedicated to amplifying the voices of women & girls of Tigray, advocate for the end of rape in war & to expand responses to violence against women & children. They can be reached at https://twitter.com/womenoftigray and by email or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org