‘Don’t betray women of Tigray’: calls grow for international action against rape in war

The former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, and Zimbabwean writer and 2020 Booker prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga are among the many signatories of two separate letters demanding international action after stunning stories of sexual violence in Tigray.

In one, greater than 50 women of African descent call for an instantaneous ceasefire and categorical horror at stories that African women and women are “once again the victims” of violence and rape in war.

Another letter signed by Clark, in addition to former UK growth secretary Hilary Benn, Green social gathering MP Caroline Lucas and greater than 60 campaigners, calls on the UN safety council to arrange a tribunal to research allegations of sexual violence in Ethiopia’s northern area “as a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act of genocide”.

“Failure by the international community to act would undo the progress made so far in eliminating sexual violence in conflict,” reads the open letter, whose signatories embrace greater than 30 organisations from Tigray and the diaspora. “It would give a green light to regimes that deploy this barbaric weapon of war. And it would be a betrayal of the women of Tigray, whose courage we salute.”

War broke out in Tigray on 4 November final yr when Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace prize laureate, despatched in troops to oust the regional authorities of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Harrowing reports of sexual violence have emerged from massive numbers of women and women, in what are being seen as focused assaults by Ethiopian troopers and their Eritrean allies.

“Language used by the assailants makes clear that these are not random attacks. They are targeted at the women because of their ethnicity, because they are Tigrayan, with the aim of rendering them infertile. The attacks are integral to the conflict,” reads one of the 2 letters printed to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on Saturday.

“But so far, those responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian laws and resolutions outlawing the use of sexual violence in conflict have not been brought to account. There’s been no justice for the women of Tigray,” they write.

The letter signed by Dangarembga additionally bears the names of anti-female genital mutilation campaigner Nimco Ali, Chineke! Orchestra founder Chi-chi Nwanoku and greater than 30 different women of African descent. It calls for a ceasefire and elevated humanitarian help in Tigray and an impartial justice mechanism.

“We are dismayed that African women and girls are once again the victims of conflict-related sexual violence, which in this instance is being permitted, and committed, by government forces charged, ostensibly, with enforcing the law,” reads the letter.

“The fact such gross human violations are under way in the nation where the African Union is based, and amid profound silence from African leaders, impugns the aspiration for ‘African solutions to African problems’.”

This weekend, activists are launching a social media marketing campaign utilizing the hashtags #endsexualviolenceintigray #endrapeinwar and #believeblackwomen, and internet hosting a web-based convention on wartime sexual violence all over the world.

“We named the conference ‘solutions for women by women’. I believe that we need to work on this ourselves. I am tired of waiting for somebody from higher up to start taking this issue seriously,” stated Danait Tafere, a battle analyst, who lived in Tigray earlier than the Covid pandemic.

She blamed a scarcity of action on racism. “There’s not much happening [to address] sexual violence, and the reason people are not acting quickly is because this is about black women. Black women are not protected.”

Last week, the UN stated 350,000 folks had been now suffering famine conditions in Tigray.

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