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News: Amnesty reports gang rape, looting, physical assaults committed by TPLF fighters in the Amhara region

Destruction of local infrastructure in Nefas Mewcha. Photo: Amhara Communication Bureau

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba, November 10,2021- Amnesty International has released a report on Movement 09 featuring troubling testimonies of women raped at gunpoint, robbed, physically and verbally assaulted at the hands of fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) when the group launched an attack on parts of the Amhara region in mid-August 2021. The report also included witnesses such as local and regional government officials with knowledge of the assault and its aftermath.

Amnesty spoke with 16 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Nifas Mewcha, a town in Gayint woreda of South Gondar zone in the Amhara region. The TPLF took control of Nifas Mewcha, for nine days between 12 and 21 August 2021, according to the report, “70 women reported to authorities that they were raped in Nifas Mewcha during this period.” TPLF fighters also destroyed and looted medical facilities in the town, Amnesty said.

“…Three of them raped me while my children were crying. My elder son is 10 and the other is nine years, they were crying when [the TPLF fighters] raped me.”

Gebeyanesh

“Survivors told Amnesty International that the attacks began as soon as the TPLF took control of the town on 12 August 2021. The women all identified the perpetrators as TPLF fighters based on their accents and the ethnic slurs they used against victims, as well as their overt announcements that they were TPLF,” the report read.   

Fourteen of the 16 women Amnesty International interviewed said they were gang raped. “It is not easy to tell you what they did to me. They raped me. Three of them raped me while my children were crying. My elder son is 10 and the other is nine years, they were crying when [the TPLF fighters] raped me,” the 30-year-old Gebeyanesh, told Amnesty International, adding,  [The fighters] did whatever they wanted and left. They also assaulted me physically and took shiro and berbere [local food items]. They slapped me [and] kicked me. They were cocking their guns as if they are going to shoot me.”

“They were insulting me, calling me ‘donkey Amhara, you are strong, you can carry much more than this’. I was unconscious for more than an hour.” 

Meskerem

Another survivor said, “I have children, 10- and two-year-old girls. I was scared they might kill my daughter. I said, ‘don’t kill my children, do whatever you want to me.’ The youngest was asleep, but the older [one] was awake and saw what happened. I don’t have the strength to tell you what she saw.” 

The assaults also came in the form of degrading ethnic slurs, such as ‘donkey Amhara’, and ‘greedy Amhara’, according to the report, in some cases, the TPLF forces told women they were raping them in revenge for the rape of Tigrayan women by Federal government forces. “The one who raped me first is their superior. He was saying ‘Amhara is a donkey, Amhara has massacred our people (Tigrayans), the Federal Defense forces have raped my wife, now we can rape you as we want’, a survivor told Amnesty.
Meskerem, age 30 was raped and beaten with the butts of guns , “They were insulting me, calling me ‘donkey Amhara, you are strong, you can carry much more than this’. I was unconscious for more than an hour.” 

“Four of the soldiers came to my restaurant and they ate and drank whatever was in the house. Then two of them raped me. They also took my ring and necklace.”

Meskerem

The abuse didn’t stop there. The report revealed that survivors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth by working in low-paid and informal jobs, running small businesses or engaging in sex work, after being raped, their food, jewelry, cash and mobile phones were stolen by TPLF fighters. “Four of the soldiers came to my restaurant and they ate and drank whatever was in the house. Then two of them raped me. They also took my ring and necklace,” Meskerem, told Amnesty International. “They took my property. After they drank the beer, they broke the beer bottles in four caskets. They also broke the two caskets of soft drink and took my gold necklace. They also took my beddings,” said Tigist, a business owner and a  sex worker who lost her business narrated her traumatizing experience, “I am also a sex worker. But it has become difficult for me to trust anyone after what they did to me.”

Fifteen of the 16 rape survivors Amnesty International interviewed described suffering physical and mental health problems as a result of the attacks. TPLF fighters also destroyed and looted medical facilities in the town as stated in the report, two of the women have sought basic private medical treatment since the rape. “None of the survivors interviewed has been able to access comprehensive post-rape care, including emergency contraception, post emergency prophylaxis for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, assessment and treatment of injuries, or focused therapy for mental health care,” the report read. Security concerns prompted by the government’s hostile public statements about international humanitarian organizations hindered NGOs from accessing the area, an NGO that normally provides such services told Amnesty International.

Selamawit, a 20-year-old domestic worker, told Amnesty International that three TPLF fighters raped her on 12 August. She said she is now pregnant due to the rape, but wasn’t able to access any medical services. Regional officlas told Amnesty that 54 rape survivors, had received livelihood support since the attack. They also said they are preparing to restock medical equipment and other supplies to looted hospitals and facilities in the region, and to provide counselling and psychosocial services for the survivors. 

“None of the survivors interviewed has been able to access comprehensive post-rape care, including emergency contraception, post emergency prophylaxis for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, assessment and treatment of injuries, or focused therapy for mental health care.”

Amnesty International

The report conlcuded by urging the Ethiopian government to speed up efforts to fully support the survivors of sexual violence and the conflict’s other victims. “The government must also ensure allegations of all sexual violence are promptly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated.” Amnesty said, furher recommending that perpepetrators should be brought to justice in open, accessible civilian courts in full compliance with international standards for fair trial without recourse to the death penalty and reparations for the survivors. AS

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