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Doctors describe campaign of sexual violence against women fleeing fighting in Ethiopia

Throughout much of the humanitarian crisis in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray over the last few months, access for journalists and aid agencies has been severely restricted, making it difficult to verify reports of what was happening on the ground. Now, that’s changing, and a clearer picture of the violence is coming into focus.

Nine doctors in Ethiopia and one in a Sudanese refugee camp told CNN that they’ve seen an alarming increase in sexual assault and rape cases since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in Tigray. A CNN team also spoke with several women who described being raped by Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers as they fled the fighting. One doctor at a hospital said more than 200 women had been admitted for sexual violence in recent months, while many more cases have been reported in rural villages and centers for internally displaced people, which have little or no access to medical care.

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“The women that have been raped say that the things that they say to them when they were raping them is that they need to change their identity — to either Amharize them or at least leave their Tigrinya status … and that they’ve come there to cleanse them … to cleanse the blood line,” Dr. Tedros Tefera, who works at a refugee camp in Hamdayet, Sudan, told CNN. “Practically this has been a genocide.”

BBC also provided a deeper look at what’s happening in Tigray, detailing a growing crisis in Shire, a city of 170,000 which has seen a huge influx of people seeking refuge from the fighting. Per BBC, aid agencies estimate that around 200,000 people are living in Shire’s makeshift camps. Read more at CNN and BBC.