Why Magi Tareke Is Speaking Out Against the Tigray Conflict in Her Native Ethiopia
When Magi Tareke began her journey on “The Bachelor” Season 25, she never imagined that she would leave the competition for Matt James’ final rose with a platform to speak out against the current conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
In a new interview with Marie Claire, published Tuesday, the standout contestant explained why the discord in her native country stopped her from being able to relish in her time on the show upon returning home to Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2020. (The entirety of the latest “Bachelor” season was filmed inside of a coronavirus-free bubble at Pennsylvania’s Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.)
“All the connections were cut off. I didn’t even get to talk to [my mom] about what happened,” Magi told the magazine, revealing that she knew something was wrong in Tigray, where her loved ones live, when her calls wouldn’t go through.
“Now I was freaking out about her safety, my entire family’s safety,” she added.
Ethiopia’s federal army ousted the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the capital Mekele in November, after what it said was a surprise assault on its forces in the region bordering Eritrea.
Reports have since emerged of rape and massacres of Tigrayan civilians at the hands of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, including hundreds killed on November 28 at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, which — as Marie Claire’s Emily H. Johnson noted — is about 15 miles from Magi’s hometown of Adwa.
For context, the TPLF overthrew the Mengistu dictatorship 30 years ago. Many believe the current conflict is the result of the TPLF’s refusal to be part of a 2019 merger of ethnic parties into the countrywide Prosperity Party.
Though Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has denied acts of brutality, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently used the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the violence against Tigrayans, an estimated 7 million people with a distinct culture and language.
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“I couldn’t celebrate [being on ‘The Bachelor’] because I’m crying inside,” Magi said of finding fame during the most difficult time of her life. “I couldn’t laugh knowing my family’s lives are in danger, with all this killing, all this looting, everything going on. I don’t know how I survived the last three months.”
Because journalists and activists aren’t allowed unrestricted access to Tigray, the conflict has received a major boost in exposure thanks to Magi and her fellow Bachelor Nation members. (The United Nations announced in February the Ethiopian government’s approval to allow humanitarian aid in the Tigray region.)
After Magi shared a video to spread awareness about the issue, such Season 25 contestants as Rachael Kirkconnell, Abigail Heringer, and Serena Pitt shared her post — and a link to donate to a relief fund — to help amplify the message.
“She’s an inspiration to all of us,” teen activist Zeima Sebhatu told Marie Claire, lauding Magi for her efforts. “We’re glad that we met her today because it’s really rare to meet a famous Habesha [Ethiopian], especially one from Tigray.”
Magi — who came to the United States 10 years ago after winning the green card lottery, better known as the U.S. Department of State Diversity Visa Program — eventually heard from her mother, who told the stunning pharmacist that their family was safe amid the chaos.
“The first time hearing my mom’s voice was… I just cried,” she recalled.
Elsewhere, Magi — who protested outside New York City’s United Nations on February 11 to mark 100 days since the start of the conflict — explained that she has received online harassment from anti-TPLF Ethiopians, who seek to discredit the reports of war crimes.
However, the franchise favorite told Marie Claire that she will not be forced into silence. “I am not political; I stand for humanity,” she said. “I had never been to a protest ever before. The one thing that pushed me was my family: They can’t speak. We are their only voice.”