Translated by SIYANNE MEKONNEN @SIYAANNE
A report published by DW Amharic suggested that the number of women who have been subjected to sexual violence during the conflict in Tigray regional state is unknown. The interim administration of the region stated that more than 500 women have been raped in the region’s capital, Mekelle, Adigrat and its environs between November and February alone. Up to three women come to Ayder hospital in Mekelle each day. It is said that the number doesn’t give the full picture as most victims do not make it to the hospital.
Atsede, a 19 years old who owned a small business in Mekelle, Sirahot area, left for her family’s home at Maymekrem, a small town not very far from Mekelle last November for fears for her safety as well as a decline in income. On her way, she encountered an event that changed her life. She was walking from Maymmekrem to Agulay when she was met by two soldiers, who she said had an Eritrean accent. She stayed at Agulay at a relative house for a couple of days then went to her family. She didn’t tell her family about the incident and after returning to Mekelle, she found out at Ayder hospital that she is 12 weeks pregnant. “I will get an abortion” Atsede said.
Many other women who like Atsede survived sexual assault can be seen in Ayder hospital and other health centers in Mekelle. Sexual assault is often coupled with physical violence. According to the Tigray Region Women’s affairs bureau, 524 cases have been reported between November 2020 and February 2021, the data was gathered from Mekelle, Adigrat and surrounding areas only. The bureau explained that assaults that occurred outside of these areas have gone unreported due to multiple factors, it also stated that assaults of sexual nature are carried out by both Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and indicated that the bureau received reports of cases where women were killed after the occurance sexual assault.
Rigibay Giday, a nurse who has worked in Ayder hospital for the past ten years said, “I have never been faced with such a challenge in my professional experience.” She explains how multiple women who were raped by soldiers come to the hospital everyday. She believes that sexual assaults are committed by Ethiopian or Eritrean soldiers, she spoke of a woman who was raped by soldiers of both armies. “Sexual violence is worse in Adigrat and its surroundings”, Rigibay said, adding , “A woman who was raped by 15 soldiers came to the hospital. She was unable to walk and she suffered trauma as well.”
The interim administration of Tigray region expressed its concerns about the rampant sexual violence in the region. The head of communications bureau of the interim administration, Etenesh Niguse said, “Staying silent about the issue means encouraging violence,” she added “The interim administration strongly condemns such acts and we expect women around the world to do the same.” She explained that the interim administration’s position on the issue is to stop sexual violence and bring perprtrators to justice. AS