A group of 28 Amhara youth in Calgary are working to raise awareness and funds for displaced Amhara citizens in Ethiopia through the establishment of a youth-led organization – Amhara Youth in YYC.
Three regions in northern Ethiopia – Amhara, Tigray and Afar – have been in conflict since a civil war began in November 2020. The Amharas are Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group and have become targets of Tigrayan forces, with which they have a long-standing dispute.
Although no official government figures exist, it is estimated that thousands of Amharas were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Yohannes Nirayo, president of Amhara Youth at YYC, says the massacre at his home is not only affecting Amharas in Ethiopia, but also impacting the diaspora community in Calgary.
“The only reason I’m not dead is because I’m in another country,” said Nirayo, who moved to Egypt from Ethiopia when he was two years old, before retiring. moved to Canada around the age of 12.
He says many people are unaware of the ongoing tragedy in Ethiopia, which is why he co-founded the youth-led organization in November 2020.
The organization’s mission is to raise awareness in Calgary and beyond about how the Amhara people are being harmed by the “ongoing ethnic cleansing” in various parts of Ethiopia.
“People need to be informed about what is happening,” Nirayo said. “We are creating this organization to help people understand.”
Nirayo thinks the Ethiopian government is not doing enough to address the crisis, so raising public awareness is particularly important.
“We just want the government to do its duty, to be able to take care of the people and not to ignore the massacre that has happened.”
Amhara families affected around the world
Lulseged Yimam, president of the Calgary Ethiopian Community Association, says every Amhara family is affected by war and every family knows at least one person who died as a result of the conflict.
This includes her nephew, who died a few weeks ago because he was unable to get the medical treatment he needed.
“We knew this was coming – that’s why we are screaming,” Yimam said. “We’re just trying to let people know that things like this happen.”
Yimam says the loss of his nephew is something he can handle, but he worries about other families who have lost several loved ones during the fighting.
He also said he was worried about Amhara women and children in the region, who had been victims of sexual violence. The use of gender-based violence as a weapon of war has been widely reported in all three northern regions of Ethiopia since the start of the conflict.
“We need help. We need to speak with one voice and that’s what we are trying to do,” Yimam said.
Yimam is currently in Ethiopia and hopes to observe the situation first-hand, to ensure the crisis “is not kept secret” and “for history”.
Over $5,000 raised for Amharas in Wollo
Amhara youth from YYC recently raised over $5,000 for Amhara civilians in the Wollo region of Ethiopia.
The funds, distributed by representatives in Wollo, will go towards food, housing, medical and financial support for Amhara victims.
“Amhara civilians in Wollo have been gang-raped, massacred, their livestock killed and their homes burnt down,” says the GoFundMe created by the youth group.
Nirayo says the main reason they launched the emergency fund is because of the displacement the Amhara are currently experiencing – many have been forced to flee their homes unexpectedly.
“[It] mainly goes to vulnerable families who have lost everything,” Nirayo said.
Amhara Youth in YYC contributed $3,000 to the fund through their subscription plans and products sold on their website.
Amhara Uplifting Calgarians
Besides raising awareness and raising funds, the youth-led group aims to uplift and strengthen the youth of Amhara.
Nirayo says that young people in the community do not have the opportunity to make decisions on youth-related issues and participate in non-governmental associations.
“Many young Amharas have been forced to give up their dreams and hopes. This is one of the main causes of extreme poverty,” he said.
Nirayo says Amhara Youth in YYC is already planning other forms of youth engagement, including tutoring for children, soccer clubs and cultural dances.
They also want to create services for Amhara adults, such as resources to help with immigration work and taxes.