“They killed them just like that”: residents of Teraf, Ethiopia, mourn their dead

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Several times a day, the relatives of Sheikh Hussein cry out their pain while singing. This Friday December 10 marks for them the last day of the lexo, a week-long Ethiopian funeral rite. In Teraf, around twenty households simultaneously mourn their dead. For more than a month, this rural commune of a few thousand inhabitants, located in the Amhara region, in the north of Ethiopia, was occupied by the rebels of the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), until their withdrawal. started in early December after a government counter-offensive. During this occupation, twenty-five residents – all men – were executed.

In early December, Sheikh Hussein, 65, and his 14-year-old son returned from the fields, as they do every day, with their camel. “They killed them just like that, on the way, for no reason; they did not have a weapon “, says Zeiba Getaneh, the farmer’s widow. The bodies covered with stones and branches are found at the top of the hill overlooking Teraf, surrounded by twenty-three other burials.

Two residents of Teraf, Ethiopia, whose husbands were killed during the occupation of the town by the Tigrayan rebels, in November and December 2021. On the left, Aisha Ali at her home. On the right, Zeiba Getaneh with two of her children, in front of their house; she also lost a 14 year old son.

To seize the locality, the Tigrayan insurgents, supported by their allies of the Oromo Liberation Army, had to face resistance from this community of farmers. Like other farmers in Teraf, Mohammed Siraj Ibrahim, 31, became a militiaman when the rebels arrived in early November. “We tried to stop them, but there were too many of them, and we quickly ran out of ammunition., he recalls. Finally, we fled. “

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A permanent suspicion then hung over the young men who remained there. Mohammed Ahmed, 30, was approached by a Tigrayan patrol at the end of November, while he was looking for his wife and two children, who were hidden in a nearby forest when the rebels arrived. “They asked him for his identity card and said: “THEn know you, you are part of the militia », says Aisha Ali, now his widow. Mohammed Ahmed was shot dead in the middle of the street.

Reprisals

Elders of this town with scattered dwellings want to believe in the identity dimension of these crimes. “We are targeted, because we are Amhara, that’s for sure! “, indignant Mohammed Siraj Ibrahim. Teraf is a predominantly Amhara commune located in the Oromo Special Zone, a predominantly Oromo district, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. Land and territorial conflicts are frequent there.

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“They killed them just like that”: residents of Teraf, Ethiopia, mourn their dead

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