Mother asks for help after son’s arrest by government forces as war escalates in Ethiopia

The mother of an Australian man stranded in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is pleading with the federal government to help get him out of the war-torn nation.

Hannah * told ABC that her 40-year-old son was swept up in mass arrests in the city on Saturday and is now being held by government forces.

She said he is one of many Tigrayans detained as the nation enters civil war.

“I’m scared, totally scared. I could lose my son,” she said.

“He can die, they can kill him, you never know, because there are so many people, they are detained and they kill them.”

Hannah called on the Australian Government to help bring her son, who has lived in Addis Ababa for the past three years, home to Queensland.

“My son, we need the Australian Government to bring him here. I want him here in his home. We are Australians. We are citizens,” she said.

a woman watching people fight on television
The 40-year-old Queensland man has lived in Addis Ababa for the past three years.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Earlier this month, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency as violence between government forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front moved toward the capital.

The years-long war has escalated in recent weeks with reports of mass arrests targeting the Tigrayan ethnic group.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’s Office said on Tuesday it believed at least 1,000 people had been detained by police officers in the previous week on suspicion of being linked to the TPLF.

But government officials deny the arrests are ethnically motivated.

a group of men with weapons in truck
Violence is intensifying between government forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front.(AP: Ben Curtis, file image)

The Australian Tigray Alliance (ATA) said it had confirmed to the Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa that Hannah’s son was currently detained.

Saron Berhane of ATA said he is one of about 20 Australian citizens at risk as violence against ethnic Tigrayans intensifies in the capital.

“Many people here have family members, dear ones, whom they have not been able to contact for over a year,” Ms Berhane said.

“The telecommunications blackout, as well as the media blackout, have made it really difficult to understand and know if they are safe and what their well-being is.”

She has called on the Australian Government to step up its efforts to stop the violence.

“The Australian Government has a major role to play in working with like-minded allies and countries such as the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom to put an end to the conflict and also in providing greater humanitarian action and support.”

a woman looking
Mrs Berhane says the man is one of around 20 Australian nationals in danger.(ABC News: Lydia Feng )

Elaine Pearson, Australia’s director of Human Rights Watch, said families in Ethiopia were living in fear and were worried they would also be arrested if they tried to intervene.

“In the last few days, we’ve been talking to relatives whose loved ones have been detained. They have been denied access to them or are too scared to try to find them for fear of being detained themselves,” Pearson said.

For Hannah, she only wants her son home for Christmas.

“I’m absolutely desperate to see my son and hear his voice. I want to hug him.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been contacted for comment.

* ABC has agreed not to identify the woman and her son for their safety.


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