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Stranded, suffocated, and in pain: 15 stories from Tigray’s internet siege

Read this article in Tigrigna (ትግርኛ)

Content note: The following post contains references to war crimes, sexual assault, murder, and death.

It’s been two years — 20 months and counting — since Tigrayans were cut off from the internet. Ever since conflict broke out in November 2020, they have been plunged into digital darkness that puts their lives at risk, disconnects them from their families, hampers their access to emergency medical and humanitarian aid, and cuts them off from the rest of the world.

One thing is clear from the stories collected through our partners in Tigray for the Shutdown Stories project: the internet shutdown is hurting people. It is exacerbating violence, sowing fear and confusion, and shrouding heinous crimes against humanity. That includes murder, rape, and sexual assault.

The shutdown has a deep impact even on those who survive violence. People can’t get adequate access to healthcare in a broken, disconnected system. With routine and daily communications cut off, people inside and outside of Tigray cannot reach their loved ones and are suffering from psychological and emotional trauma. They can’t send money to help people because the blackout is freezing banking and financial transactions. That’s only the start.

Read on to learn about how shutdowns disrupt people’s lives and fundamental rights and ways you can join us in the fight against internet shutdowns in Ethiopia and around the world. Please note: the names of contributors have been modified for safety.

What you can do to help

A new report from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) calls out the impacts of internet shutdowns on people’s lives, stating that they “deserve much greater attention from States, international organizations, businesses, and civil society.” You can help. Here are some of the ways to amplify Tigrayan voices:

  1. Share this blog post and retweet us to raise awareness about the human cost of shutdowns.
  2. Share your internet shutdown impact stories using Shutdown Stories Form (available in English and Tigrinya). Documenting testimonies can reinforce the fight against internet shutdowns in court and international forums.
  3. Join the #KeepItOn coalition of over 280 organizations from 105 countries around the world.

Header image: @TghatMedia