Local Ethiopian group rallies for missing women

By: Carol Sanders (Winnpeg Free Press) – A Winnipeg group is raising awareness of young women recently kidnapped in Ethiopia, hoping to spur the East African nation’s government to do more to get them back.

The “Bring Back Our Sisters” event Sunday at 3 p.m. at the West End Cultural Centre is being organized by the Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners and Refugees.

“It’s like (terror group) Boko Haram attacking the women,” said organizer Ali Saeed, referring to the religious extremists in 2014 who kidnapped girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. That prompted the Bring Back Our Girls social media campaign that resulted in some of the young women returned.

In this case, at least a dozen university students and five other people are believed to have been kidnapped from a bus by masked men on Dec. 4, 2019.

The students, mostly women and members of the Amhara tribe, were studying at Dembi Dolo University in Oromia, a region populated by tribal Oromos, officials said. The two ethnic groups have clashed before, and make up nearly 60 per cent of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

The abduction of the students comes after a number of deadly clashes on Ethiopian campuses in recent months. In November, the government confirmed the death of three students — two students at Woldia University in Amhara region and one at Dembi Dolo University.

Saeed, who was political prisoner tortured in Ethiopia before finding refuge in Canada decades ago, said Bring Back Our Sisters is part of global efforts aiming to pressure the Ethiopian government to find the missing women.

“This is targeting only females from one tribe,” said Saeed, adding it’s going after the vulnerable and vital. “They’re the backbone of the family and the social structure.”

The campaign has allies among Indigenous women in Winnipeg, said Saeed, whose group has shown solidarity with efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“We advocate for them,” said Saeed, who wants action to protect women everywhere. “I have a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister. What would I do if it happened to them?”

With files from the New York Times