The Las Vegas Ethiopian community is speaking out after the prime minister of Ethiopia declared war on Tigray, the country’s northernmost region, on Nov. 4.
“It’s looking like an ethnic cleansing and a genocide of our people,” said Jerusalem Girmay, youth coordinator of the Las Vegas chapter of Security and Justice for Tigreans in Ethiopia. “We have to be the voice for the voiceless. They are completely limited in how they can communicate with us right now.”
In front of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, protesters held signs that read “The U.S. Government Should Stop This War” and “Stop Bombing Our People.” SJTE leaders spoke to the crowd, with many protesters holding Tigray and American flags and women dressed in red and yellow traditional dresses.
A protester, Genet Amare, said she hadn’t spoken to her sister, who’s stuck in Tigray, for three weeks.
“My sister is pregnant, and I haven’t heard anything from her,” Amare said. “Everyone’s families are being bombed by its people. Can you imagine if the government in D.C. did that to Las Vegas?”
Girmay said most of the protesters were first-generation Americans or immigrants, most of whom have family and friends in Tigray. Several protesters stated that they haven’t spoken to their family members and friends since the beginning of November. Girmay said the last time she spoke to her cousin, her cousin believed that there was “war coming.” The next day, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war.
Ahmed launched the military offensive after accusing Tigray of a deadly attack on a military base, according to The Associated Press. Internet, phone lines and electricity in Tigray have since been cut off. Banks also were closed for days, which cut off humanitarian cash transfers to around 1 million people.
Nearly 30,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Sudan, the AP reported. The Tigray regional government said more than 100,000 civilians have been displaced.