East Africa correspondent Cara Anna and Cairo-based photographer Nariman El-Mofty teamed up to present the strongest case yet that Ethiopia has conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tigray minority.
For months the people of Ethiopia’s Tigray region have claimed that thousands are being killed, raped and starved by the Ethiopian government and its allies. Anna and El-Mofty conducted meticulous interviews with 30 refugees in Sudan who had fled their homeland, as well as aid workers and officials. They also documented hard evidence of the ethnic cleansing, in the form of an identity card that completely removes all references to the Tigray minority, written in a language not their own and issued by authorities from a different ethnic group. “I kept it to show the world,” one refugee said.
AP’s reporting contradicts the claims of the Ethiopian government that life in Tigray is returning to normal — the refugees, some of whom had arrived just hours earlier, spoke of how the violence continues. Person after person described multiple killings, including seeing dozens of bodies strewn by the riverside and lying in the streets. Several women and medical workers described mass rapes, including a woman who was raped by fighters one by one for speaking her own language. And many of the refugees warned that more was yet to come, with deliberate starvation already having started and likely to continue.
The photos by El-Mofty were stunning, and a freelancer joined the team to take video footage. The final package included an animated graphic of the identity cards by Peter Hamlin, and a presentation by Natalie Castañeda with satellite imagery showing how a field of crops had been burned.
The deeply reported story sparked immediate reaction. In an unusual comment, the spokesperson of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the accounts “harrowing” and said, “We are very concerned.” The Ethiopian government was provoked to reply to the AP story, criticizing “the rush to accuse the government” and calling Tigray forces “a criminal enterprise that has been armed to its teeth.” One researcher told Anna, “You just wrote the most harrowing report about Tigray to date.” Even the bureau chief of a major competitor commented, calling the story “beautifully written” and saying he was “super jealous.”