The Ethiopian “Red Terror” or Qey Shibir occurred between 1977 and 1978. It was a violent period of bloodshed, torture and mass murders of Ethiopians from all walks of life, language groups, genders, ages and professions. The Red Terror took place at the hands of the Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military junta known as the Derg. While the capture and killing began in 1974 shortly after the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie, the official campaign of killing was launched with his inhumane speech in Meskel Square, then known as Revolution Square, where he declared, “Death to counter revolutionaries…” and threw three bottles filled with red liquid, signifying the blood he vowed to spill of his “enemies”.
Though the recounting of the history of the “Red Terror” is filled with controversy and disagreement on many details, what is undeniable are the thousands of men, women and youth who were brutalized, murdered and mutilated under the guise of building a better Ethiopia. Amnesty International reported half a million people killed while Save the Children reports over 1,000 children between the ages of 11 and 13, whose remains were abandoned on the streets of Addis Ababa. The Red Terror was a modern day holocaust.
Mengistu Haile Mariam was found guilty of genocide in absentia in January 2007 and sentenced to life in prison. Unfortunately, the sentence has not been realized as Mengistu remains in exile in Zimbabwe. In 2008 the Ethiopian Supreme Court sentenced him in absentia to death and handed down guilty verdicts to approximately 30 of Mengistu’s associates and accomplices to heavy prison terms or death. The Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum documents this history and continues to research, collect and present information on this heart breaking page of Ethiopian and world history. Please read “The Day of the Marytrs” complied by Gedion Wolde Amanuel for more information. The book is available at the Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum.