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Worried about family, Bow woman speaking out against atrocities in native Ethiopia

  • Bow resident and activist Samrawit Silva is unable to communicate with her family. BENJAMIN DOMAINGUE—Monitor staff

  • Bow resident and activist Samrawit Silva speaks at a rally earlier this year. Silva is unable to communicate with her family. Courtesy

  • Displaced Amharas from different villages now controlled by Tigrayan forces in the North Gondar zone, shelter under an awning in the rain at a kindergarten school housing the internally-displaced, in Debark, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. As they bring war to other parts of Ethiopia such as the Amhara region, resurgent Tigray fighters face growing allegations that they are retaliating for the abuses their people suffered back home, sending hundreds of thousands of people fleeing in the past two months. (AP Photo)

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    The dead body of an unidentified person wearing a military uniform lies on the ground next to trees near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

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    The dead body of an unidentified man lies on the ground near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

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    The dead body of an unidentified man wearing a military uniform lies on the ground amongst trees near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

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    The dead bodies of unidentified people wearing military uniforms lie on the ground near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

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    Villagers carry wood on a path near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

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    Spent bullet casings lie scattered on the ground near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia's 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces "once and for all." (AP Photo)

  • Senait Ambaw, left, who said her home had been destroyed by artillery, leaves by foot along a path near the village of Chenna Teklehaymanot, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia on Thursday. At the scene of one of the deadliest battles of Ethiopia’s 10-month Tigray conflict, witness accounts reflected the blurring line between combatant and civilian after the federal government urged all capable citizens to stop Tigray forces “once and for all.” AP

Monitor staff
Published: 9/12/2021 8:00:32 PM

As the world focuses on the Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan, Bow resident and activist Samrawit Silva wants to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis and informational blackout in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Silva was born there and left when she was six years old. Tigray remains under a complete information blackout, with little information entering or leaving the region. As a result, Silva has had little contact with her family.

“I mean, I don’t know their status,” said Silva. “My mother had three children, they’re all younger than me. They’re all still there with my mother, assuming that they’re still alive.”

War began 10 months ago in the region located near the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia and both sides have been accused of atrocities, which often emerged long after they occurred: Tigrayans described gang-rapes, massacres and forced starvation.

Thousands of people have died, though the opaque nature of the war – most communications and transport links have been severed – means no one knows the real toll.

Since the conflict began in late November of last year, more than 46,000 individuals have sought refuge in neighboring Sudan, with an additional 1.7 million displaced from their homes, according to data from the United Nations. More than 5.5 million people are threatened by hunger.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken referred to the human rights abuses within Tigray as “ethnic cleansing,” citing “very credible reports of human rights abuses and atrocities that are ongoing,” during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in March.

Silva has been following the events in her home country as closely as she can with increasing alarm.

“From November to February, I was trying to advocate for people, not realizing the true extent of the conflict,” said Silva. “February came and I’m like ‘this is genocide, this is not war.’ ”

Silva recently helped lead a protest in Concord with over 100 demonstrators alongside her.

“It was nice because not a lot of people are familiar with Tigray,” said Silva.

Silva urges community members to speak out and amplify the voices of those affected by the conflict.

“We need more support from non-Tigraian communities,” said Silva. “The number one thing to do is inform yourself and get educated about what’s happening.”

Silva was previously an employee of 350 New Hampshire, an organization advocating for more renewable energy, according to their website.

“I have always been very active in terms of justice,” said Silva.

She became involved with Stand With Tigray and has taken to social media to get others to pay greater attention to what’s happening in Ethiopia.

“I think we’ve done a great job raising awareness with international leaders, but I think we need to do more with the public,” Silva said.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)




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