Protestors who are trying to bring attention to war crimes and brutal atrocities committed in the Tigray region of Ethiopia have started to target Emirates Airline passengers at airports around the world because of the carrier’s connection with the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Ethiopian government forces have been fighting Tigrayan separatists in the North East of the country since 2020 and all the parties involved in the conflict have been accused of well-documented human rights abuses according to leading non-governmental organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The UAE has provided millions of dollars worth of humanitarian support to the region, but the country has also been accused of escalating the conflict by providing the Ethiopian government with arms to help fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
An Al Jazeera investigation claimed the UAE set up an air bridge with Ethiopia to help supply weapons and other support to the Ethiopian government. Satellite images suggested that the UAE had supplied Ethiopia’s military with Chinese-made military drones amongst other weapons systems.
Around 90 support flights arrived in Ethiopia from a UAE airfield in just two months, although there is no suggestion that Emirates has ever helped supply weapons to Ethiopian forces.
Nonetheless, for Tigray protestors, Emirates has come to symbolise the UAE’s involvement in the conflict.
On Saturday afternoon, around two hundred protestors took part in a demonstration outside Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 where Emirates is based to protest the UAE’s involvement in the ongoing conflict.
The demonstration passed off peacefully with minimal disruption, although a similar protest last month in Los Angeles shut down Emirates’ check-in desks after placard-waving demonstrators blocked access to the airline’s facilities.
Last year, Ethiopian Airlines denied allegations that it had transported troops and weapons to the front lines. Several months later, an in-depth investigation by CNN alleged that the Addis Ababa-based carrier had, in fact, transported weapons on at least six occasions in late 2020.
Amnesty International alleges that multiple air strikes in the Tigray region in August and September killed hundreds of civilians. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said there had been a “largely invisible campaign of ethnic cleansing” in the Tigray region but war crimes and abuses have been committed on all sides of the conflict.
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.