A campaign by the Tigrayan diaspora, supported by Ethiopians and Eritreans opposed to the current war, has taken off today.
Aimed at the Ethiopian rose export industry for Valentines Day, it has mobilised social media to raise public awareness of the issues involved.
Over 10,000 Tweets have had in excess of 3 million impressions.
Some have been in English, others in Dutch and German.
Many are generic, but others have called on supermarkets to think about where their flowers come from.
Rita is one of the organisers of the #BoycottEthiopianRoses campaign.
During the 100 days since the outbreak of war on November 3, she has had difficulty contacting her relatives in the region.
“Sitting and waiting for information was unbearable. If we got hold of relatives they could tell us who is alive and who has been killed,” Rita said in an interview with a Swedish newspaper.
The reports she heard are painful for her to describe.
These include stories about soldiers who went from village to village in search of people who opposed the Ethiopian government’s military operation, indiscriminately killing anyone they found.
Many were civilians. And about churches that have been attacked and children and women who have been killed and raped.
Rita says she recognised some of those who were featured in images on social media.
“I’m not an expert on these issue; none of us are. We have been forced to back this campaign out of desperation – from what we are hearing about what’s happening to our family members still in Tigray,” says Rita Kahsay.
The goal of the rose boycott campaign is to reduce the finances available to the Ethiopian government to fight this war.
Ethiopia exported $400 million worth of horticulture goods during the first nine months of the year beginning in July 2019. It aimed to earn $500 million in 2020.