The voices of silence amid Tigray Genocide
Never in my life have I heard silence speak so loud. Somehow, I assumed everyone gets outraged at a slight sight of injustice. At a slight sight of rape, executions, deliberate starvation, rain of bombs, .. all the cruelty of this world you can think of.
I don’t know if it’s my naivety or my love for the belief that we humans are good. How wrong I was to believe either of those things.
There were signs around. I never chose to see them. I never paid attention to them. How loud they speak of hate now. How loud they shout at us now. I never thought human beings could be so capable of ignoring the horror of another human being. To celebrate their milestones as if nothing is happening to their fellow brothers and sisters. At least we thought we were their brothers and sisters. It turns out, we were not.
I looked for someone to blame. Someone to pin this on. But where could I start? What could I pin on who? So much cruelty, hate, betrayal, so much pain I feel in my heart can’t be pinned to one thing. It has too many moving parts. It’s too fluid to pin it to one thing.
I still remember the horror I felt as I learnt about Rwanda genocide. I thought how someone could be so cruel to kill so many people. Little did I know that was pending to be unleashed on my people, the people of Tigray and I was to watch it from afar. I was to feel absolutely helpless. Absolutely helpless. I was to spend a whole year checking on my phone what kind of horror my people witnessed that night. If it wasn’t an airstrike, it was a massacre. If it wasn’t a massacre, it was rape. If it wasn’t rape, it was hunger. Any method designed to exterminate them, it was used.
I felt scared, heartbroken but the people I thought were my brothers and sisters questioned my pain. Asked if I was sure such a thing was happening. Some said I was exaggerating. Some said it was made up. Some even justified it. Some completely ignored it.
I never used to use social media to air my emotions. But this time, I was screaming over the top of my lungs on social media. I thought maybe some of them don’t know about the massacres, the rape, the airstrikes, the hate speech, the arbitrary arrest of Tigrians. But they weren’t even invested enough to show some sort of solidarity. Solidarity I thought would come with basic outrage in the face of a genocide.
We were witnessing a genocide happen. But my fellow brothers and sisters watched it happen. Even cheered for it.
“Kemey hadira adey” was a Tigrinya song I kept listening to. It asks Tigray how her night went. How she is doing. I had the same question day after day of the past year. A horror was unfolding in front of me but there was nothing I could do. No way to share the pain of my people. So I watched the horrible, cruel videos of the executions of my people. I kept watching them because at least for a minute, I could see what they saw. I could feel a fraction of the horror they felt.
“aye gize” was another song that made me think a lot. It spoke of how time has changed. How cruel of a brother/sister to be celebrating while his fellow brother/sister was crying. I pondered if we were brothers and sisters to start with. How were we to continue? If my pain was a source of celebration to my fellow brothers and sisters, what was left for us? What was to be salvaged from that relationship? Even scarier, did we even have something to be salvaged to begin with?
My thoughts are hard to process these days. Even as I write this, I am losing the plot. So much horror happened and continues to happen in such a short time that it’s hard to know what to process when.
The outrageous sound of silence was so hurtful. Yes, those who openly supported the genocidal war were cruel. But at least, they were honest about their stand. They were open about the fact that they wanted the war to keep going despite the horror it unleashed on my people. Despite the executions, the rape, the hunger, airstrikes… Despite all that, they came out and showed support to the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments. What I wasn’t ready for was for the pain I was to feel due to the silence of the majority of people in my life. Due to the no reaction to the posts we were posting. Initially, I thought, maybe it’s because they don’t know. So, I kept posting on the massacres, on the rape, on the hunger. On everything. But I got nothing. I could see they were okay to post about other things but not the children of Tigray who were starving.
The paradox of all of these is the fact that forgiveness is the way out of my head. The way out of my anger. The way out of my outrage in the silence of these voices. It feels very hard to do but it sure feels very unfair. It feels so unfair that I should feel such pain and simply let it go. It sure feels paradoxical that I should let it go to get my peace of mind back. I am still working on that and I will continue to work on that. After all, me becoming them is the ultimate win for them. People of Tigray taught me so much. That’s an essay to write for another day (a book might be appropriate if I was capable of such a thing). But they taught me how to not let the enemy change you. How to not let the enemy change you into their monstrous character that I never thought was possible. They taught me that life will be hard but no matter the pain you face, don’t let it change you into a monster. The least I can do is try to emulate that from my people. I can only pray that I be half as courageous, as loving and as brave as my people, the people of Tigray.
One thing is for sure. We will always remember those we lost, those who suffered. We will always value and treasure them. But we will also remember the character of the people of Tigray. Their defiance to stay humane in the face of extreme inhumanity.