Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: Fears of ethnic profiling stalk conflict


Some Tigrayans in Ethiopia have described how they have been harassed, detained or discriminated against since fighting began in their home region on 4 November.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has emphasised that the conflict in the northern Tigray region is against a “criminal clique” within the dominant party there, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), but reports from elsewhere in the country suggest there is an ethnic dimension to the crisis.

Tigrayans make up around 6% of Ethiopian’s 110 million people and many live outside their regional state.

The government have, however, denied that there has been ethnic profiling and said any action carried out against individuals was for justified security reasons.

Some in the security forces said that they have been disarmed and ordered to stay at home.

Since coming into power in 2018, the prime minister has tried to emphasise national unity while also respecting the identities and rights of the different groups which govern the country’s 10 ethnically based federal states.

But the fallout from this conflict has exposed the difficulties of maintaining that position.

A federal soldier alleged he and others were singled out because they were Tigrayan in what he described as “shocking” treatment.

He said he was detained in a warehouse by his fellow soldiers with nearly 90 other Tigrayan members of the armed forces. They had their phones confiscated and were “treated as prisoners of war”, he alleged.

“It was only the Tigrayans who were disarmed and detained together. So, it’s obviously based on our ethnicity,” added the soldier.

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