Men are being forced to rape their relatives and women are being gang-raped in front of their families in spate of horrific sexual violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray, UN warns

Women have been gang-raped at gunpoint and men forced to rape their own family members amid a wave of horrifying sexual violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United Nations has been told.  

Wafaa Said, aid coordinator in Ethiopia, told member states that more than 500 rape cases have been reported at five medical centers in the northern state – but that the true number is likely to be far higher. 

‘Women say they have been raped by armed actors, they also told stories of gang rape, rape in front of family members and men being forced to rape their own family members under the threat of violence,’ she said.

Women are being gang-raped in front of their families and men are being forced to rape their relatives amid violence in Ethiopia's Tigray region, UN warns (file image)

Women are being gang-raped in front of their families and men are being forced to rape their relatives amid violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, UN warns (file image)

It is just the latest tale of terror to emerge from Tigray since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a government offensive against regional leaders in November last year.

Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said the assault was aimed at the TPLF party which had ruled Ethiopia for three decades until 2012 and continued to control the Tigray region, defying his attempts to bring it under federal control.

But the attack, which also dragging in soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea, has unleashed a wave of ethnic violence that has seen civilians indiscriminately killed, with hundreds of thousands displaced and left without food.  

‘Most of the internally displaced people left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing,’ Said told the UN on Thursday. 

‘They are generally traumatized and tell stories of the difficult journey they took in search of safety. Some reported walking for two weeks and some as far as 300 miles,’ Said said on Thurday

Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have been waging a five-month war against regional leaders in Tigray, unleashing a wave of ethnic violence that has targeted civilians (file image)

Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have been waging a five-month war against regional leaders in Tigray, unleashing a wave of ethnic violence that has targeted civilians (

‘Of the people who traveled with them, some were reportedly killed particularly youngsters, people were reportedly beaten, women were subject to rape, some were pregnant and delivered on the way losing their babies.’

The United Nations has raised concerns about atrocities, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out as ethnic cleansing.

Ethiopia rejected Blinken’s allegation.

This week, Abiy acknowledged for the first time that atrocities such as rape had been committed and said any soldiers committing crimes would be punished.

But some of the worst atrocities have been blamed on soldiers from Eritrea, meaning Abiy’s ability to act against them is limited. 

The Ethiopian government attacked Tigray in November last year after accusing regional leaders of an assault on a military base, plunging the border region into chaos

The Ethiopian government attacked Tigray in November last year after accusing regional leaders of an assault on a military base, plunging the border region into chaos

Dozens of witnesses in Tigray have told Reuters that Eritrean soldiers routinely killed civilians, gang-raped and tortured women and looted households and crops. 

Eritrea has not responded to queries on reports of atrocities.

In a major announcement on Friday, Aiby said that Eritrean soldiers have agreed to leave the region – just five days after he acknowledged for the first time that they were even there.

‘Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border,’ Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement on Twitter the day after arriving in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, to meet President Isaias Afwerki.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force will take over guarding the border area effective immediately, Abiy said.

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