Humanitarian situation in Tigray (03 November 2021)

Dear friend,

In these times when the Ethiopian “final offensive” against Tigray seems to have failed, there may be some hope for negotiations and lifting the siege on Tigray. People there live in famine conditions (section 2) and are far from recovering from the numerous massacres, many of which have even not been documented. We tried to contribute to this documentation effort by preparing an interactive database that can be freely consulted online (section 1). We bring sad news, again, from universities in Tigray and Amhara region (section 3). Finally, we reflect on “bothsidesism” – a worrisome tendency in some media and international organisations (section 4), dangerous rhetoric in social media (section 5), and publish a usual shortlist of interesting media articles (section 6) and opinion pieces (section 7).

UNHRC-EHRC joint investigation in contrast to ‘Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation’
  1. Online interactive database of the Tigray War massacres

Thanks to funding from “Every Casualty Counts”, we could bring the database of civilian victims of the Tigray war online. Follow this link:

In the online database, lists of massacres and victims can be consulted based on location or a description of the incident. We count on our readers to visit the site and share the link through email, social media, etc. It may be interesting to contrast this database with the findings of the joint EHRC-OHCHR investigation, bound to be made public on 3 November in the afternoon.

Further reading:

  1. Famine and inventive farming

I happened to come across this news item that was originally broadcast by Tigrai TV, in early July. It shows a farmer in Esret (woreda Saharti) ploughing with two donkeys. One can only do that in a sandy environment or on other soft soil. Not every farmer would be able to control his donkeys like this man is doing and have them walking in a regular way. Ploughing in July is so late and at this pace, the farmer cannot plough and sow his land timely… Many surrounding lands in the film were unploughed and will not give any yield this year. The journalist takes care not to interrupt the farmer’s activity and walks with him. The man tells that all oxen in their village have been killed by Eritrean soldiers, and the donkeys were stolen. In Esret, at least 37 civilians have been killed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers in February-March 2021 (massacres N° 292 and 359 in the online database). This farmer took his donkeys to the mountains to carry food while they were hiding for warfare, and, luckily, they have not been looted.

Further reading:

  1. The Ethiopian universities, as affected by the Tigray War

The Ethiopian Ministry of Education had already stopped transferring budgets to the four universities in Tigray (in Mekelle, Aksum, Adigrat and Raya), but now we learned that these institutions have been formally closed and that the students were instructed to report to other universities in Ethiopia.

On 21 October, two Wollo University lecturers of Tigrayan origin were killed in Dessie. They were lynched by a mob, mobilised by the Amhara fano militias. The reliable Tigrayan news site Tghat, mentions that several of their Wollo University colleagues participated in that lynching mob ☹ ( Numerous other Tigrayan colleagues who work in universities of the Amhara region were arrested and are kept in custody.

  1. “Bothsidesism”

See this article by Medhanie Gaim and Temesgen Kahsay, published on 27 October 2021: Whataboutism and Bothsidesism in the War on Tigray – In my view “bothsidesism” seems an easy trick, essentially avoiding to analyse what is going on, on the ground, and protecting the main perpetrators… Paraphrasing Samuel Gebru (, one wouldn’t “both sides” the Jewish, Bosnian, Native American, Armenian, Uyghur, Tutsi, and Rohingya genocides. Then why apply it to Tigray? Our database (see section 1) contains 262 massacres, including some attributed to the Tigray Defence Forces. One cannot exclude that some members of the Tigray forces may have committed war crimes, in revenge of what happened in their village for example. Yet, it certainly is in a different order of magnitude. Also, on the side of Ethiopian and Amhara authorities, the orders come from the top – think about years old dehumanisation (“daytime hyenas”, “gorillas”, “cancer”, “weeds”, …), the open calls for genocide and the greenlighting of rape, mentioned in our earlier newsletters. “Bothsidesism” is an abolition of judgement, which plays in favour of fanatised genociders, taken out of reality, and who try to win time and confuse the minds by any means.

  1. State of emergency and dangerous rhetoric

Yesterday evening I received this message from a colleague at Addis Ababa University: “Here it is state of emergency, and the government may forcibly recruit anyone for the army. Addis is completely deserted at 9:30 PM”. News is also coming in of massive arrestations of civilian Tigrayans throughout the country. Such ethnic targeting is sustained by spreading of rumours through social media. One of the latest: “the 3% Tigrayan residents of Dessie would have defeated the Ethiopian army and fano militias and opened the way for the TDF”.

Unfortunately, some international supporters of the war against Tigray participate in spreading this dangerous rhetoric, such as Prof. Jon Abbink (African Studies Centre Leiden, The Netherlands) – see

An interesting discussion has developed on such lies that lead to dangerous ethnic tensions – see Conclusion of one of the participants in that discussion: “So basically yet another stab in the back myth. Why bother coming to terms with the reality that the military force you support lost a fight when you can just blame a convenient scapegoat for that defeat.”

Further reading:

  1. Other articles
  1. Opinion pieces

Follow up communication compiled by Prof. Dr. Jan Nyssen.

Jan Nyssen is full professor of Geography at Ghent University (Belgium). Besides numerous scientific publications mostly related to Ethiopia, he published two books: “ካብ ሓረስቶት ደጉዓ ተምቤን እንታይ ንስምዕ”? “What do we hear from the farmers in Dogu’a Tembien”? [in Tigrinya] (2016), and “Geo Trekking in Ethiopia’s Tropical Mountains, the Dogu’a Tembien District”. Springer GeoGuide (2019).

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