Attorney Raped, Beaten for Standing Up to Her Government

Trouble began for Ms. M, an attorney and citizen of Ethiopia, when she began working in 2008 for the Oromo Regional State Administration’s Housing Development Office (HDA). When she was told to forge legal documents so that building materials would not be inspected or taxe, she refused and was reprimanded for insubordination.

In 2009, Ms. M decided that enough was enough. Asked to denounce, as a political dissident, the victim of her agency’s corrupt activities, she instead chose to speak out in open court against her employer. The judge screamed at her, and kicked her out of court. Two days later, security officers came to her hotel room and escorted her to a security office. They interrogated her for seven hours about involvement with the opposition party. They sent her to jail without charges.

Ms. M was imprisoned for two months without a chance to appear in court. She was assaulted by police officers, went without a bed, interrogated daily, and subjected to forced labor. A female officer forcibly removed her scarf and clothes.

When released in 2010, Ms. M was forced to attend a “political orientation” class to “learn” how to not interfere with the government. She was also forced to promise to promote government activities. She was transfered to a new post far
from her family. Security forces continued to watch her.

After her new supervisor attempted to sexually assault her, Ms. M requested a transfer. Instead, she was beaten by men sent by her supervisor, and then fired. She began working for a law firm, representing people imprisoned for opposing the government. Because of her work, Ms. M was beaten by about 10 men. They hit and shoved her, and dumped paint on her head.

While searching for her brother who had been abducted for opposing the government, Ms. M was jailed, interrogated, beaten, and raped. Her father gained her release after great effort. When an opportunity came her way to attend college in the United States, her father encouraged her to leave Ethiopia.

Thanks to the vigorous advocacy of volunteer attorneys Rhona Shwaid and Jamal Faleel, of Fredrikson & Byron, the United States granted asylum to Ms. M in 2013.