Ethiopian government forces and their allies are committing genocide in the country’s war-torn northern province of Tigray, the head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church has claimed in a videoed statement demanding urgent international intervention.
The appeal by Abuna [Patriarch] Mathias follows fresh allegations of ethnic cleansing, gang rapes, extrajudicial killings and other atrocities by soldiers loyal to Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who ordered an invasion of Tigray last November.
Tigrayan opposition sources meanwhile reported on Saturday that hundreds of civilians in the town of Hawzen, and the surrounding district of the same name, were under bombardment by heavy weapons.
In the statement recorded last month but only just released, Mathias, an ethnic Tigrayan who leads 36 million Orthodox believers, said his previous attempts to speak out had been stymied by state authorities.
“They want to destroy the people of Tigray,” he says. “I am not clear why they want to declare genocide on the people of Tigray.” His statement lists atrocities including massacres, the use of famine as a weapon of war, and the destruction of churches.
“It is not the fault of the Tigray people. The whole world should know it,” Mathias says. “Many barbarisms have been conducted [all over Ethiopia],” he says, but “what is happening in Tigray is of the highest brutality and cruelty.”
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