Protestors aiming to bring attention to war crimes and brutal atrocities committed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region have started targeting Emirates Airline passengers at airports around the world because of the carrier’s connection with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government.
Ethiopian government forces have been fighting Tigrayan separatists in the northeast part of the country since 2020. The parties involved in the conflict are to blame for well-documented human rights abuses according to leading non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
According to Paddle Your Own Kanoo, The UAE has provided millions of dollars toward humanitarian support for the region. However, accusations are swirling that the country is escalating the conflict by providing the Ethiopian government with arms to help fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
An Al Jazeera investigation claims 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 along with other weapons systems.
Around 90 support flights arrived in Ethiopia from a UAE airfield in just two months, although there is no confirmation that Emirates Airlines has ever helped supply weapons to Ethiopian forces.
Nonetheless, for Tigray protestors, Emirates now symbolizes the UAE’s involvement in the conflict.
Last month, around two hundred protestors participated in a demonstration outside Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3, where Emirates is based, to protest the UAE’s involvement in the ongoing conflict.
The peaceful demonstration went off with minimal disruption. A similar protest in Los Angeles shut down Emirates’ check-in desks after demonstrators blocked access to the airline’s facilities in September.
Protestors May See A Pattern
In 2021, Ethiopian Airlines denied allegations of transporting 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. Paddle Your Own Kanoo documented details of the investigation late last year.
Amnesty International alleges that multiple air strikes in August and September killed hundreds of civilians in the Tigray region. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said there has 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.