‘Remember the forgotten:’ the potential for peace in Tigray sparks student interest
The conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray, which has reportedly killed hundreds of thousands of people, appears to be partially resolved, prompting cautious optimism for one Minnesota State student.
“I heard from the Ethiopian government before making these peaceful accusations against the Tigray government, but nothing changed and the fighting continued and the genocide continued,” said Kidus Asgedom, president of the Minnesota Tigray Student Association.
The government of Ethiopia and Tigray have agreed to a truce after two years of conflict that led to a war that has affected millions of people. According to the Associated Press, Ethiopia’s two warring sides have agreed to permanently end the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions during a two-year war.
Looting and destruction of hospitals, schools and businesses by Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces has been reported. There were also restrictions on humanitarian access. More than 2 million people have fled their homes, with thousands fleeing to Sudan, and at least 2.3 million people are in need of assistance.
“I’m hoping for the best, and they’ve been talking about humanitarian aid and serving people in Tigray, but I can’t talk about that until I see something change,” Asgedom said.
TSA members agree and say they hope for the best, but still aren’t sure the agreement will stick.
“It can bring a smile to most Tigreans, that’s a good thing,” Asgedom said.
The challenges ahead include getting all sides to lay down their arms or retreat. Eritrea, which was at war with Ethiopia, was not part of the peace talks. It is not yet clear whether they will stick with Ethiopia and honor the agreement. The draft agreement between Ethiopia and Tigray refers to “collusion with any external power hostile to either party”.
The night before the cease-fire agreement was announced, the TSA held a candlelight memorial for those still facing the crisis overseas. More than two dozen students gathered in the Viking Center of MSU. It was the group’s first official meeting as an RSO, where students came to show their support and light their candles for loved ones still living in Tigray.
TSA became an officially recognized student organization this semester and plans to continue educating people and celebrating their culture despite the hardships. One of their main goals as a new organization is to raise awareness of what is happening in Tigray.
“We wanted to share knowledge about what is happening in Tigray and what Tigray is. The situation is practically not covered in the media,” Asgedom said.
Having been in Tigray when the war broke out and now out of touch with his family for over a year, he found it important to find a community in the US
“Having found your people here, there is hope. They make me feel strong and keep fighting,” Asgedom said. “They made me realize that I’m not alone and I can do this.”
Asgedom was on the verge of deportation because his student visa requires him to be a full-time student and pay tuition and foreign student insurance.
“I was on the verge of not going to school, and being an international student you have to go to school full time. Once that’s gone, they deport you, which is not an option for me, from Tigray,” Asgedom said.
At that time, it was difficult to find peer support due to the lack of coverage during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
“We haven’t had a lot of support on campus because a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Rediet Gebretadik, TSA vice president. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about it. None of the students will understand unless it happens to them.”
Schools and other service buildings were closed during the war.
“At the moment, not a single school is working, and recently a children’s school was bombed. People are being resettled, and it’s really terrible,” Gebretzadik said.
Not only does TSA want to educate people about the war in Tigray, but it also wants to share and celebrate the culture.
“We are trying to share our culture and get some of the participants to perform again at the International Festival and share the culture through dance,” Asgedom said.
In the future, they plan to hold fundraisers for those who have been displaced in neighboring countries or abroad. TSA holds weekly meetings on Tuesdays at the library.
Header Photo: The Tiger Student Association held its first official meeting Tuesday night with a candlelight vigil. Students were asked to dedicate their candle to those still in Tigray. More than two dozen students came to the event at the Wiecking Center. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write Julia Barton at [email protected]