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.