On 17 April 2023, I saw a government press release concerning a half million women from Amhara region recruited for domestic work in Saudi Arabia. The news on Aljazeera mentions the age of these recruits to be 18-40 years and they were taking housekeeping and other job skill trainings for twenty days in their nearest coordination center. (e, n). Some questions sneaked over my thoughts whilst watching the news. Why now? Why only from Amhara region/Amharas? Why only young women are recruited for working abroad?
Domestic Workers in Middle East Countries
Ten years ago, I studied the challenges of social reintegration for the 2013 Saudi Arabian returnees in Ethiopia and I know that the government of Saudi Arabia was extremely hostile for Ethiopian workers in the country. There was a vicious crackdown that forced the return of more than 150,000 Ethiopians. Those returnees of 2013 are still struggling to reintegrate to their places of origin for various reasons (b). Ethiopians in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar suffered tremendously. The International labor organization (ILO) states that domestic work is predominately female-dominated sector that is poorly regulated and often unprotected by labour law (q). There are reports of horrible domestic violence, murder, arbitrary imprisonment, detention, beating, mutilating body parts, starving, unpaid/over work, confinement, deprivation of medicine, rape, organ trafficking and enslavement (a, c, d, h, I, j, l, o, p). More than 400,000 Ethiopians are estimated to be trapped in slavery (f); and the government had no endeavors to emancipate those citizens who are already in slavery.
Such experiences abroad in addition to the multiple factors at places of origin which most of the time are interwoven to the migration experience, resulted in difficulties of reintegration up on forced return (b). There have been no improved conditions regarding the protection of human rights and rights of the labor in these middle east countries, yet. There are thousands of immigrants detained in concentration camps across the Arabian Peninsula and gulf countries. Particularly, the Saudi government routinely imprisons Ethiopian migrants in inhumane detention facilities and later deports the surviving destitute migrants back to Ethiopia (o). It is this status of the region that ascended my questions.
Promises and Realities of Domestic Work
Aljazeera interviewed the recruited girls who have been through conditioning trainings. Respondents stated that they were told that that was an opportunity of a lifetime. One recruit from the northern Amhara region who was interviewed while attending a session responded, “I was told that this was a quicker path to success in life than school” (m). They are promised by the government of Ethiopia to earn their foreign currency salaries exchanged on the “black market” value back home (0). Previous study reveals ‘women are pushed by poverty and allied factors and further hauled by the stories of attractive job opportunities and salary, pertaining to the false promises of the traffickers (b, R).
Human Trafficking by a State cannot be seen as a single social problem. It is a complex multidimensional and multivariate operation intended to achieve fundamental ideological goals that are beyond economic challenges such as unemployment. The Ethiopian government is sending these youth job seekers abroad primarily to remove them from the country. Removing a section of the population has been orchestrated since recently. The Abiy government waged war on Amhara (v). The regime undertook a shocking operation to remove Amharas from the Sheger city that surrounds Addis Ababa (s, t, u). The same plan cleansed ethnic Amhara citizens from Oromia, especially from Welega (g, w).
The Oromuma dictated regime via the OLF spokesperson, and an ardent Oromo politics architect shielded in religious missionary, claimed almost every square inch of the country including the lands in the state of Eritrea, to be ancestral lands of Oromo (x). It is not merely claiming over such lands; but associated campaign by ultranationalist Oromo activists and politicians have indoctrinated the youth that they organized to abandon non-Oromo Ethiopians in the claimed lands and hate speeches against Amhara have been widely dispatched, brutal atrocities have been committed (y). The antisemitic sentiment of OLF – Oromo Liberation Front prompted raids on Amharas (z). Thus, the dots magnetically connect to configure the salient Removal of non-Oromo citizens in the country, predominantly, Amharas. Accordingly, the recruitment of 500,000 Amhara women for domestic worker in Saudi Arabia is perhaps a long time prepared and preplanned operation to remove Amharas from their country. It is part and parcel of the already orchestrated Amhara genocide in Oromia (k).
Discussion: Removing half-million Amharas
Fathoming the predicament of Ethiopian women in the middle eastern countries who work as maids, sending more of them, instead of returning the ones already in distresses, is intentionally removing more of them. Thus, it is a policy decision to recruit and abandon citizens. The removal of such a huge mass of population from a war-torn region implies further preparation for more destructive interventions. A multifold attack on Amharas is underway.
- As the government’s operations of destroying the houses of ethnic Amharas in and around Addis Ababa, relating to the emerging Sheger City; and the cleansing of ethnic Amharas from Oromia region as well as Amhara and Oromo mixed settlements in north Shoa and South Wello areas, illustrated the commitment to exterminate Amhara. If any popular force such as Fano stands to resist, the youth women will be highly instrumental to support Fano in preparing food and supplying logistics. Particularly, the role of young women during war is crucial as they give emotional support behind the fronts. Hence, sending them away, weakens the regime’s opponent. The necro-politicsas Prof Girma explained, is mastered by Oromuma, and fully applied on Amhara. The regime applies all methods that can weaken Fano and wants to invade the region effortlessly.
- Removing half million Amhara women from the region is a strategy to permanently reduce the population and reengineer the demography. In the softest version, it is an attempt to keep these young women away from men in their fertile age so that the population growth stagnates. There is also a desire to maneuver the demography in some places where Oromuma plans to resettle proffered clans in parts of Amhara lands. Meaning other people will be settled in places of the pulled half million Amharas. It has been a contentious issue between Oromo and Amhara concerning the majority population in the country. Thus, sending the youth is depriving their fertile age from reproduction. They stay away from a context they could have a chance to marry and give births in their most effective age. Technically, it is systemic deprivation of fertility. Perhaps these half million women after four years could become 2 million population. Oromumma is preventing that Amhara population growth.
- Oromuma designed an alternative invasion to Amhara in a slow demographic maneuver. Because the aggression as they attempted in Atayearea has an immense backfire, Amhara became aware of the invasion and started to fight back. If the fight can no longer go the way they wanted, they still have plan B. that is opening opportunities to Amhara youth to exode abroad – removing Amhara silently. The intention is to install Oromo in the places and numbers that Amhara have been removed. This is practiced in the so called Sheger city. Houses of Amharas were destroyed and Amharas abandoned, so that Oromos can be settled in anew. The programs stretch northward up to Raya Zebo, as the Oromuma map depicts, and their manifesto narrates. Therefore, these Amhara women are selectively recruited and sent to abroad considering the long-term intervention in their places.
- The regime is in an acute need of foreign exchange. The dollar and euro reserve has been emptied in the two years’ war with TPLF. It was used to purchase drones and arms. Thus, sending out the young women to work abroad is a direct means of earning foreign currency. It is made clear by the government that salary of these half million women will be deposited in the Ethiopian government’s bank account. When these youth stay working abroad, they keep on making money that directly falls in the regime’s account, which is needed to buy drones and long-range rifles to abolish Amhara. Thus, the women can be classified as first round removed Amharas and those massacred by the support of their remuneration as second round removal – the workers own families.
- Oromuma has no sense of shame to claim any area in the world. It dares to quest any place and wages war unwittingly. The purpose is to push involvement of third parties and seek negotiation. They invade some area randomly and will be able to negotiate on ownership of lands and resources out of the blue. Earlier demographic maneuvers are usually implemented to rationalize their ultimate negotiations. This is how they for many centuries have been expanding by Oromizing non-Oromo communities. After all, the interest of Oromuma is to Oromize everyone in the country and call the country Oromia. Therefore, the women from Amhara are removed today, so that after some years Oromuma will be able to provide a proof of demographic compositions that supports an area to be administered by Oromos and belonged to Oromos, which finally, enables them to annex it to the Oromia region administration.
- The workers cannot get or even bargain on their own remuneration. They are entirely alienated. There is no guarantee whether they will be paid after their years of exploitation as domestic workers abroad. It is unpredictable now that who stays on power next year or after two years. No one knows. If the current rulers leave power, they leave the government accounts empty as their predecessors did. There is no properly functioning check and balance between bodies of the government. Nothing is institutional today. If the leaders leave, the succeeding leader will have to establish a government from scratch. Thus, salary of these half million poor women is highly risked. One official can take it and run away. No one can guarantee or insure that to them. They cannot charge anyone then. Because it is the government doing it now; and the government is highly probable to dismantle and vanish. Then, whom can they ask about their salary up on return? There will be no one.
- The process and form of removing these youth is slavery. It is clearly stated by the government press release that the ministry of labor and social affairs on behalf of workers negotiates with the employer on the wages and terms. If the worker has no right to compete or negotiate on remuneration, or worse than that, if the worker has no right to receive wage from employer, worker is reified. Worker is no more considered as human being. That is much worse and beyond the concept of alienation. It is unembroidered slavery. The regime has expressed its envy on Amharas’ moral equilibrium and this barbaric practice on innocent lay women is by extension intended to create psychological extrapolations on the proud Amhara community.
- All these implications, intentions, and spinoffs of removing the Amhara women from their home country by the name of providing job opportunities is part and parcel of the ongoing genocide on Amhara people. The genocide is executed in both soft and intricated ways, and aggressive barbaric killings. All strategies achieve the extermination of Amhara and realization of greater Oromia.
- last but not least, sending the women abroad has cultural alterations as a precondition to be accepted as a domestic worker in the Saudi Arabian Kingdom. The workers are supposed to become Muslims as their employers are. They are persuaded and converted to be an entirely new person. This in turn breaks and erodes the cultural mosaic and indigenous values of the people and make them followers of a standardized uniform practice. Basically, the women are recruited only in Amhara regiontargeting the Christian population such as Gojjam and Christian dominating areas in wollo. (o) Eroding the values of orthodox Christianity is a crucial element in attacking Amhara. The Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been identified as the strongest institute of Amharas. Hence, attacking the church has been part of the campaign by Oromuma.
- The regime attempted to split the church in to two and antagonize the emerging divisions. It is still in a dissident process to reinstate the Oromo synod that rebel groups formed last January. However, the attempt to split the church was largely denounced by the faithful and it seems another option has still been there to destroy the Orthodox church as an institute. This time around, converting the orthodox faithful into other religions seems a nonviolent design to destroy the Church. Accordingly, converting half million Christians into Islam at once, in a smooth operation is a magnificent achievement for Oromuma. Oromuma has learnt more than enough times that Oromizing non-Oromos has been tough especially when they are Orthodox Christians. Thus, Islamizing half million Amharas at once just like that, has the same effect using aggressions for attacking the cultural values and breaking the social fabric of Amharas. Either way, it is genocide on Amhara.
The job opportunity for half million Amhara women to work as maids in Saudi Arabia is a ploy to remove them from their country. They are sold to Arab masters to serve according to the terms they agreed with the government for whom the slave buyers pay the slaves’ wage. Had it been a job opportunity the very regime’s first-class citizen, who still consist of the highest unemployed youth population in the country, would have been sent before anyone else. Because the deal is slavery, only enemized Amharas are recruited and sold. Perhaps, selling the enemy has been a policy choice instead of massacring, that the regime decided to plunge itself in the internationally condemned human trafficking delinquency.
Of course, ignorance of the Amhara people themselves is the undeniable contributing factor for the most part of their own plight. The regime has already expressed its dedication to break their social fabric and eliminate Amhara. Yet, the victims seem hardly understanding the undergoing against their own existence. The Amhara elite also seems to have nothing to provide for its people to withstand the annihilations. Most of them even proudly support the regime. However, it should matter to all humanity across the world now that slavery is officially undertaken by a government in the 21st century; and the same government has been committing genocide on ethnic Amhara citizens for the past consecutive years. Perception and response actions of the global society on these horrible acts in Ethiopia should be precise and immediate.
By Desalegn Birara
Sociologist & Curator of Cultural Heritage: Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Ethiopia
- Desalegn Birara(2017).Challenges of Social Reintegration for the 2013 Saudi Arabian Returnees in Ethiopia. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6000/2371-1655.2017.03.03
- Understanding the genocide on Amhara: Personal Account https://zehabesha.com/understanding-the-genocide-on-amhara-personal-account/