Thousands of civilians have been tortured, imprisoned, murdered, sexually assaulted, and expelled; their homes occupied and looted by an invading military that has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those left behind.
No, it’s not Ukraine. It’s the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, which has been under siege since November 2020 when a civil war broke out between the country’s once-dominant Tigrayan political party and the national government to the south. War crimes have been committed on both sides, but a report just issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch states that western Tigray, which has been inaccessible to journalists since the conflict began, has taken the worst of it.
While this disaster barely makes headlines relative to the war in Eastern Europe, Tigist Reda has been advocating for displaced Tigrayan women since the conflict began. Reda, who was born in Tigray, is the chef and owner of Uptown’s Demera Ethiopian Restaurant. Last January she visited two remote camps in eastern Sudan, Tenedba and Um Rakuba, housing tens of thousands of refugees in “the middle of nowhere.”
“They are not able to walk out of the camp,” she says. But “I was amazed at the things they created for themselves. There were juice bars, a barber shop; I had a dress made. Ten women started a coffee shop. I was encouraged by that. I want to support that. A lot of them were professionals, business owners, or farmers before the war. It’s their livelihood as well as for their mental health. They’re not sitting at home worrying. They’re actually working, creating things. I want to expand on that.”
Reda’s been hosting pop-ups around the city ever since, raising awareness and cold, hard cash—more than $100K—in support of women and girls who’ve suffered sexual violence in the conflict. She’s at it again this Monday, April 11, at the Kedzie Inn in Irving Park for Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s ongoing weekly guest chef pop-up.
Profits from your kind donations in exchange for Reda’s deep-fried stuffed dumplings (sambussas) and meaty or veggie injera-lined messob platters will go to the not-for profit Health Professionals for Tigray. That warm, fuzzy feeling in your belly can only magnify by whatever concoction Jon Pokorny’s mixing with Demera’s housemade honey wine, aka t’ej. Gaze upon these delights:
- Demera messob, $21: A combination platter 3 veggies and 3 meat. We will have our popular veggies Misir Wat (Red lentil), Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Pea), and Gomen (Collard Greens) for Veggie, and for meat dishes Siga Alicha (Beef), Ye- Asa Lebleb (Fish), and Ye-Beg Wot (Lamb)
- Vegetarian Messob, $18: A combination platter 6 Vegetarian Dishes. We will have our popular veggies Misir Wat (Spicy Red lentil), Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Pea), Gomen (Collard Greens), Tickle Gomen (Cabbage & Carrot), Kay Seer (Beets), and Shiro (Mixed Legumes)
- Sambussa sampler, $12: 5 Sambussa Combination of Beef, Chicken, Ayb (Farmer’s Cheese), Lentil and Spinach
- Sambussa sampler, $12: 3 Spinach and 2 Lentil Sambussa
Preorders for this late-breaking Foodball are on sale now, but as always, walk-ins will be welcomed until the food runs out. Starts at 5 PM, but in the meantime, check out the ongoing MNF schedule below. June chefs TBA soon.
- April 18: Ricky Hanft of The Wurst
- April 25: Roel Estanilla of @pigandfire