Selam Woldu is trying to draw attention to the conflict raging in Ethiopia, where many of her family members live. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Selam Woldu is trying to draw attention to the conflict raging in Ethiopia, where many of her family members live. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Ethiopian conflict leaves Victoria woman unsure if her family is alive

Selam Woldu hasn’t heard from her family since fighting broke out Nov. 4.

Selam Woldu doesn’t know if her family is alive or dead.

Fighting broke out in Woldu’s home country of Ethiopia on Nov. 4 after the government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region of the country, of holding an illegal election and attacking a federal army base. She hasn’t heard from her family since.

“That day I tried to call my family to see how they were doing, and there was no phone, no internet, there was nothing,” Woldu said.

There has been a communication blackout in the last two weeks as violence has escalated and military have marched toward Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said “the final act of law enforcement will be done.” The TPLF claims that the central government is illegitimate because it postponed national elections due to the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Changes needed to help Canada prosecute war criminals, Amnesty International says

Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported on Nov. 12 that “scores of civilians” have been massacred and 25,000 people have fled to neighbouring Sudan.

“Now the unknown is killing us. The unknown is killing me,” said Woldu, who lives in Victoria with her three children. She grew up in Ethiopia during a decades long civil war, and is no stranger to air raids and violence. Woldu said those memories haunt her at night as she imagines what may be happening to her family.

“I’ve never experienced the pain that I’m feeling right now,” she said. At night she tosses and turns, unable to sleep, but during the day she is fighting to get the attention of media, the government and the international community.

On Nov. 13 Woldu organized a rally at the legislature, calling on Canada to take action. “We can’t just sit and watch people die,” she said.

READ ALSO: Indigenous genocide finding hangs over Canada’s Myanmar court intervention

Ethiopians are also at risk of starvation. Not only are they facing war and COVID-19, but what the UN is calling the “worst locust swarm in 25 years.” Almost half a million acres of farmland have been destroyed since January.

“People need bread not bombs,” Woldu urged.

Seeing her homeland fall back into war makes her feel sick she said. “There was always unrest, but Ethiopia was booming. It was growing. Things were really good. For us to go back to where we were before 1991 just breaks my heart.”

For now, all she can do is wait and hope that her efforts make more people pay attention. “I just want the world to look at these civilians and save their lives,” she said. If it doesn’t, she added, the world will regret it.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

EthiopiaGreater VictoriaMilitarySudan

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

32228 Buffalo Drive, Mission
2020 Christmas light displays in Mission and Abbotsford

Local homes in both communities are all lit up for the holidays

Abbotsford Christian Middle School staff and students were asked in a Nov. 15 letter, to self-isolate until Nov. 24. (File photo)
Fraser Health lists 3 more Abbotsford schools with COVID-19 exposures from Nov. 18 to 23

ACS, MEI and Abbotsford Traditional Senior Secondary listed

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (File photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
Abbotsford care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism widespread

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Most Read