Luwam Gebrekirstos* used her savings as a maid abroad to open a small coffee shop in Addis Ababa. The business of the Tigray resident in the Ethiopian capital has been going well until early July when some police officers in uniforms and plainclothes came to her shop and suddenly closed the shop.
“The closed sign of my coffee shop says that I hosted an unspecified meeting, although it can only accommodate three people at a time,” said Luwam, who was briefly arrested before being released that night.
A few days after the incident, the Tigray fighters took back control of Meckler, the capital of northern Tigray, from the federal government in an astonishing turn.
The Ethiopian army and its Eritrean allies and fighters from the Amhara region of Ethiopia and forces loyal to the former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) clashed in Tigray for eight months, which severely violated human rights. Including massacres and rapes, hundreds of thousands of people face famine.
Outside of Tigray, there are also reports that Appeared Since the beginning of the fighting in November 2020, some Tigray businesses have been closed, dismissed from work in the civil or security sector, and arbitrarily arrested. The Ethiopian government previously rejected reports of racial profiling, telling Al Jazeera that they were “a complete lie.”
But the Tigray people of Addis Ababa say the situation has escalated after the recent battlefield reversal.Among the people swept by the new wave of arrests, at least 15 employees Two independent media outlets, and Tsegazab Kidanu, the humanitarian aid coordinator of the Finote Yared Philanthropic local charity.
Al Jazeera saw a recent letter from a Tigrayian lawyer to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) appointed by the state, saying, “An unknown number of Tigrayans, but it is believed that thousands of people have been removed from their workplaces. Round up, from entertainment venues, from their homes and on the streets, and were taken to the police station before their whereabouts disappeared.”
It said this has happened in various cities in Ethiopia, especially in Addis Ababa, where “hundreds of commercial establishments frequented by the Tigray people, including restaurants, bars, cafes and other businesses, Unwritten informality is an excuse to shut down for no reason. They are a security threat.”
In a statement commenting on the situation in Tigray issued on July 3, EHRC also stated that it is monitoring reports of arrests of media personnel and residents of the Tigray ethnic group who “suspect related to the current situation in the area”.
“Such measures have increased public concern about the risk of racial profiling,” it said, while EHRC head Daniel Becquer added, “it is imperative to ensure due process for all current detainees.”
Attorney Mebrahtom Alula*, who is following the situation closely, said that he has confirmed the enforced disappearance of at least 41 Tigray people in Addis Ababa, including one of his relatives. His restaurant was closed more than a week ago and his whereabouts are currently unknown. . He said that the arrested person will not be sent to court within 48 hours of being arrested, which violates their right to due process.
“The general nature of the arrests of people who were arrested for speaking Tigrinya on the street or holding a Tigray ID tells me that this kind of repression is unprecedented, at least in the time I have worked for more than ten years. Yes,” he told Al Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera contacted the spokesperson of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed for comments, but had not received a response as of press time.Government and security officials have not publicly acknowledged the arrests and business closures, and the spokesperson of the Federal Police Commission tell In the Addis Standards publication on July 5, they did not arrest “citizens based on status”.
The Tigrayans account for approximately 6% of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, but they have played a huge role in the country’s military, economic, and civil service for the past 30 years.
The battle-tested TPLF led a long-term military operation that overthrew the Marxist government of Mengistuhail Mariam in 1991, and then continued to become the dominant force in the Ethiopian ruling coalition until Abiy took office in 2018.
A few hours after the Ethiopian army withdrew from Merkel on June 29, the Abi government announced a unilateral ceasefire, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons. TPLF slammed the statement as a “joke” and later listed a series of conditions for ceasefire negotiations-but some of its requirements, including the federal government’s recognition of TPLF’s rule over Tigray, will almost certainly be rejected.
In a speech after Mekelle’s withdrawal, Abiy accused Tigrayan civilians of supporting troops loyal to the TPLF, which had been designated by the Ethiopian Parliament as a “terrorist” organization. In a recent interview, Abiy assistant Dagnachew Assefa hinted at the registration and possible deportation of Tigrayans, comparing it with the events of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war of 1998-2000.
“My concern is that there may be terrorist activities and assassinations in Addis Ababa. It does not require a huge network,” he told a pro-government media. “They can send them a list (from Mekelle), or they can send an assault team from there to coordinate the assassination here.”
The upgrade made many Tigray people outside of Tigray worry about the worst.
“As a Tigray man trying to help the most disadvantaged group, I have my own concerns about my safety, but I convinced myself because I did nothing wrong. If I get arrested, I can be free,” Mebrahtom said.
“I think the repression will continue until the Tigray war ceases, and the international community puts real pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop suppressing the civilians in Tigray living outside of Tigray,” another lawyer added that his terms were He declined to be named for fear of retaliation.
At the same time, Luwam stated that she is still expecting officials to change their decision and allow her to welcome customers in her cafe.
She said: “I wait at the door of my closed cafe every day, hoping that the authorities will find that I have done nothing wrong and then reopen the shop.”
*Change of name for security reasons