Women from an occupied town in Ethiopia’s Amhara region are accusing Tigrayan fighters of raping them at gunpoint and robbing them.
A new report by Amnesty International details the horrific attacks alleged to have taken place in Nifas Mewcha, located in northern Ethiopia’s Amhara region, in mid-August.
Through interviews with 16 women, the London-based rights group detailed a pattern of gang rape, robbery, physical and verbal assault. The report also says fighters with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, or the TPLF, looted and destroyed medical facilities in the town. Some of the survivors who spoke to the advocacy group recounted use of ethnic slurs and brutal attacks. In some instances, the women said they were raped in the presence of their children.
Amnesty called for TPLF commanders to investigate the charges and remove all perpetrators from the force.
“The testimonies we heard from survivors describe despicable acts by TPLF fighters that amount to war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “They defy morality or any iota of humanity.”
TPLF leadership, however, rejected the report. Spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted Tuesday before the release of the report saying that it was “aimed at establishing impartiality by apportioning guilt” between fighters on both sides of the conflict.
Survivors told Amnesty that the attacks began soon after the TPLF took control of the town on August 12. Local and federal officials say between 71 and 73 women were raped.
VOA Amharic Service also interviewed victims of the attacks. A mother in her 50’s who lives in Nefas Mewcha said a fighter entered her home armed and threatening violence.
“He had bombs, a knife, a Kalashnikov and he said if I moved, he would cut my legs and then he raped me,” the survivor told VOA Amharic Service. “No one came to help. There was no one coming and it was dead silence.”
A mother of three in her 30’s is another survivor who spoke to VOA Amharic Service on the condition of anonymity. She said the fighters who came to her home to attack her accused her of being married to authorities and she said she was raped while her children were watching.
“There were three or four of them. And then when they came in, one of my children started crying and he said [a fighter] said ‘I will hit you. I will kill you.’” she said. “Three to four men raped me at gunpoint,” she added, saying that the fighters hurt her 8-year-old child. Her neighbor, a mother of two children, who came in to help after hearing screams was also raped by the men, the survivor said.
VOA Horn of Africa’s Amharic Service reporter Aster Misganaw contributed to the report.