Calling for retraction of the BMJ Global Health article on the impact of war in Tigray

Calling for retraction of the BMJ Global Health article on the impact of war in Tigray

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Petition to
British Medical Journal publisher and

Why this petition matters

Started by Abi Johnny

Greetings to everyone,

With a great deal of interest, I read the recent article on the impact of war on the health systems in Tigray by Gesesew et. al. Probably you also read it. If you didn't, I recommend you to read it.  The article is methodologically highly flawed and highly biased. The language they have used to write the article is highly inflammatory which in fact complicates the situation on the ground. Below, I justify why I am calling for a retraction and I hope you will join me by signing the petition.

  1. Authors emotional conflict of interest in the ongoing war in Ethiopia: All of the authors are Tigrian by origin. The authors mentioned they were brought together by the Global Society of Tigray Scholars and Professionals. They didn't report their conflict of interest in the topic. The article clearly shows their emotional connection to the war and their lack of independence to the matter. In fact, on numerous occasions, they have taken a clear side and supprts the TPLF rebels. They referred to the Tigray rebel forces as "Tigray Defence Forces" while the other fighting group as "allied invaders". The data they present and the way they interpret is mainly on blaming the group which fights against the "Tigray Defence Forces". They haven't mentioned anything that the Tigray rebel forces have done. For instance, there are multiple reports indicating the atrocities "Tigrian Defence Forces" committed in Afar and Amhara regions such as the maikadra and chilla massacre which were reported by the Amnesty international and the Ethiopian Human rights commission. I believe all the blame can't go to one side. As Hiram Johnson described it "Truth is the first casualty in wars". The authors sacrificed the truth to publish a false narrative in the name of science. For the past few months, TPLF rebels expanded to Amhara and Afar regions and they have committed gruesome war crimes such as massacres which have been evidenced by mass grave locations, as well as lotted and vandalized numerous health and education facilities. Hundreds of hospitals and health centres were damaged and have been reported by Amnesty international. None of this data is part of the article written by the author. That is a deliberate misrepresentation of the matter. 
  2. The authors have used highly sensational and inflammatory language in the write-up. They have repeatedly used phrases such as "coordinated attack on Tigray", "use of hunger and rape as a weapon of war", "deliberate destruction", "invading forces" etc without adequate references. These words show their emotional attachment and question their neutrality in evaluating the impact. They have ignored the relevant data sources to present one side of the story, used highly inflammatory words in the publication. This paper could further exacerbate the conflict and will encourage more false narratives to appear in journal articles. This should not be allowed. 
  3. The methodology is based on reports, opinion pieces, and press releases of organizations that have been allegedly supporting TPLF. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health reports indicated most of the health services were resumed after the first phase of the war and during the period of the Tigray region interim government was in power and the healthcare facilities were functional until the interim regional government left the region. The authors didn't include these and other data sources. Besides that, the interpretation of the data they present is again based on their emotional attachment to the war. Just to give one example from the many, the authors wrote the following quoted text. "A total of 2000 healthcare workers were reportedly registered in internally displaced people camps in the capital city, Mekelle, as of May 2021. The intentional damage of healthcare facilities in Tigray as a potential weapon of war with deliberate destruction and looting has led to the displacement of thousands of healthcare workers including the death of more than ten workers.” Firstly, we don't know whether the damage is intentional or collateral. Secondly, they didn't present convincing data about the damage. At least they could have supported their claim with photographic evidence or reference that reported any damage to healthcare facilities.
  4. They reported, "an estimated 10 000 girls and women were raped in the first 5 months of the war". In the article, I tried to find out how they estimate this number. They haven't described any methods on how they estimated the 10,000 cases. In the gender-based violence and rape section of the article, they reported 142 rape cases and 1288 cases of gender-based violence. But, nowhere we can read the estimated 10,000 rape cases mentioned in the abstract. While they fraudulently reported rape cases, they have ignored all the rape and sexual violence attacks that the TPLF rebels have committed in ethnic Amharas and Afars. This article adds salt to the wounds of Afar and Amhara women who were targeted by TPLF rebels. 

While I call for the retraction of this article, I would like to invite foreign investigators, and scholars from conflict regions including Amhara, Tigray, and Afar to independently evaluate the impact of this war on the health systems in the Amhara, Tigray, and Afar regions. The use of sensational languages would not solve the problem rather complicate it and it should not have a place in scientific publications. Finally, I sincerely wish for peace and truth to be the winner of this unfortunate war.

9 have signed. Let’s get to 10!