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

Premier John Horgan with drawings of replacement bridge for the Pattullo during a February 2018 presser. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey city staff want to act on council’s behalf for ‘minor’ changes to new Pattullo

The old bridge’s replacement is expected to be open for traffic in the fall of 2023

Marchers in support of Indian farmers walk along King George Boulevard in Surrey on Sunday afternoon, March 7, from Bear Creek to Holland Park. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
‘It won’t end’: Protesters march for Indian Farmers at another Surrey rally, with more to come

Across Surrey, more and more vehicles are seen with ‘No Farmers, No Food’ stickers and flags

The emergency department at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, B.C., in July 2020. (Black Press Media)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation reaches $12 million goal

New operating suites to open this fall

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Most Read