DENGOLAT, 4 March 2021 – Church officials in Ethiopia’s Tigray region say 164 civilians were slaughtered in Dengolat, with most of them killed last November 30.
“I’ would rather die than have lived to see this,” Beyenesh told AFP, tears rolling down her face as she described how the annual festival of Saint Mary last November 29 turned into a bloodbath.
Most of the victims were shot dead the day aftger the festival.
The soldiers who perpetrated the massacre had the hands of their victims tied with belts and ropes and then the soldiers shot them in the head, survivors and eyewitnesses told journalists.
Rights activists have called the massacres some of the worst known atrocities in the ongoing conflict in Tigray.
A reporter for the French News Agency (AFP) did not get to Dengolat until last week and details of the massacres are only now coming to light.
The AFP says its reporters on the ground are interviewing survivors and viewing mass graves that now dot the village, a collection of stone houses surrounded by Tigray’s signature steep rock escarpments.
AFP cites human rights groups as expressing fear that instead of an extreme example of the violence in Tigray, what happened in Dengolat could turn out to be disturbingly typical.
“There are so many spots of violence and massacres in Tigray. The full scale is yet to be known,” said Fisseha Tekle, Ethiopia researcher for Amnesty International..
“That’s why we are asking for a United Nations-led investigation. The details of the atrocities need to come out, and accountability should follow”.
Last week Amnesty published a report detailing how Eritrean troops “systematically killed hundreds of unarmed civilians” in the Tigrayan city of Aksum, also in November 2020.
Dengolat survivor Tamrat Kidanu, 66, told AFP he was walking to his maize fields the morning the Eritreans arrived, and was shot in the right thigh.
Unable to move, he lay on the ground and listened as the soldiers mowed down other men, including his recently married 26-year-old son.
Gebremariam, 30, who requested his name be changed for fear of reprisals, was among the few who turned himself over to the Eritreans.
He was tasked with helping to bury the dead, transporting the bodies — their heads blasted open by bullets — on a makeshift stretcher to mass grave sites.