Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa are facing increasing difficulty in routine daily activities of urban life. Restrictions on civilians of Tigrayan ethnicity
are blocked from travel, moving about in the city, and even making simple purchases while facing a constant risk of detention.
The government of Ethiopia has openly called for “extermination of the weed” of the Tigrayans. Now more than 50,000 Tigrayans have been imprisoned with many being sent to detention camps in the the southern and eastern regional states. Even for those Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia just walking on the street and obtaining necessities is becoming impossible. I have heard from several Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa that police are coming to their home insisting on an immediate donation of at least 50% of cash assets to pay for war costs. They are further told to cease all business activities. Properties have been confiscated including motor vehicles and buildings without any type of legal proceeding or charges.
Now in an even greater restriction has been placed on several Tigrayans when trying to withdrawal money from the bank or even buy groceries from a store when they have been asked for identification. Upon seeing that they are Tigrayan they were informed that the store has been told not to perform any purchases from Tigrayans. Ethiopian banks such as Ethiopian Commerce Bank are freezing accounts of Tigrayans all over Ethiopia. Whereas before this activity was more limited to those with accounts or businesses in Tigray it is now becoming commonplace for those who have lived and worked in Addis Ababa.
It has become routine in many neighborhoods for Tigrayans driving a motor vehicle to be stopped by police who upon discovery that the driver is of Tigrayan ethnicity to be told he or she is not allowed to drive permanently. Almost no Tigrayans are allowed to leave the country by airline.
Modified from a report by Martin Plaut
This is a story of a woman – I will call her ‘Hewa’, a Tigrayan Ethiopian Airlines Stewardess who has been deprived not only of her job, but of the country she loves. She reports ethnic profiling started as soon the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Even though she had senior status for long term routes the Tigrayans regardless of status were only “allowed short-haul destinations in Africa or the Middle East. They are more tiring as there is a rapid turn-around. And the pay is worse. There are no stop-overs or per-diem payments.”
When she inquired as to why no answer was ever forthcoming. Her union was not giving answers or help to Tigrayans.
In October last year Hewa took leave and went to see friends in America. When she was scheduled to return her leave was extended. Then she was put on indefinite, unpaid leave. The airline had, in effect, abandoned her. Hewan asked repeatedly why this was. Her bosses were evasive, or refused to reply.
Now she is staying with a friend of her brothers. They are back in Mekelle with arrest warrants out for them. She says “I feel so oppressed. My friends call, but I can’t say anything to them. I am almost crying on the phone.”
A mother, in her early thirties, Hewa is now seeking refugee status in the USA. She has left behind her little son and a mother in her sixties. “I feel very sad. I had a life in Addis; I had my son and my family. I never thought of leaving,” Hewa says. Separated from family and the life she loved in Ethiopia, with security officers monitoring her house in Addis, there seem few options for Hewa.
Many respected news media organizations including the The Telegraph (UK), BBC, New York Times, and Martin Plaut have been reporting this type of behavior for many Tigrayan employees over the past year which Ethiopian Airlines denies. The United Nations has expressed concern that discrimination against pilots, stewardesses, and security guards among others is concerning.