There are calls to boycott Ethiopian Airlines, considered the jewel in Ethiopia’s economy, because of the airline’s alleged involvement in an ongoing and violent conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Government forces have been fighting Tigrayan separatists for nine months over control for the contested region with reports of human rights abuses being committed by both sides. On June 28, Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital, Mekelle, taking thousands of Ethiopian soldiers prisoner.
The Ethiopian National Defense Force declared a unilateral ceasefire on the same day but according to Human Rights Watch, the Tigray region remains cut off from the outside world with aid and essential supplies quickly running out.
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes says there are fears of reprisal attacks against civilians in Tigray by all sides following the recapture of Mekelle by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
“Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about the safety of civilians in Tigray, who have endured months of fighting and serious human rights abuses, including war crimes, by all sides,” Jackson commented.
The Ethiopian government declared an all-out war against the Tigray opposition after an attack on Ethiopian forces last November. Early on in the conflict, Tigray “suffered indiscriminate bombing” by Ethiopian government forces. By early June, there were 350,000 people facing starvation in Tigray
Last November, Amnesty International published a report that claimed scores, “likely hundreds”, of civilians had been stabbed or hacked to death in just one attack. The massacre appears to have been perpetrated by the Tigray Special Police Force and other TPLF members according to witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International.
But despite claims of horrendous human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict, there are mounting calls to boycott Ethiopian Airlines over its involvement in allegedly transporting weapons and soldiers from the Ethiopian defence forces to the Tigray region.
Late last year, the airline was also accused of sacking or putting on administrative leave staff from the ethnic Tigrayan minority. According to The Telegraph (paywall), Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most prominent companies discriminating against Tigrayan’s.
Campaigners say Ethiopian Airlines should be temporarily thrown out of the Star Alliance group of airlines which include members like United Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.
On Saturday, Scandanavian carrier SAS asked Twitter for help after its account was repeatedly spammed by campaigners who flooded the airline’s Twitter handle with #BoycottEthiopianAirlines and #DefundTigrayGenocide messages.
The airline quickly deleted the message. Ethiopian Airlines never responded to The Telegraph when asked about the alleged discrimination against Tigrayan workers but the airline “strongly refutes” what it calls the “baseless and unfounded allegations by some individuals regarding the airline’s involvement in transporting war armament”.
“Ethiopian Airlines has never carried any war armament either in its international or domestic network. Some irresponsible and reckless individuals have used social media to tarnish the high reputation of the airline and defame its brand,” the airline said in a recent statement.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.