AWASA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – The Ethiopian baby adopted by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie was conceived after her mother was raped, the woman said this week.
Mentwabe Dawit, mother of two-year-old Zahara, described how she was attacked one evening in 2004 after a day’s work at a construction site in the southern Ethiopian town of Awasa.
As she walked home in the darkness, a man approached.
“He pulled a dagger, put one hand on my mouth, so that I could not scream. He then raped me and disappeared,” Mentwabe told Reuters in an interview, tears streaming down her face.
The 24-year-old decided to keep the assault a secret.
“I feared the consequences of being raped in a community where rape is considered a taboo, even if what happened happened forcibly,” she said.
As her belly swelled, Mentwabe could no longer hide her pregnancy and confided in her mother.
“It was not as I feared. I found my mother understanding and consoling. She urged me not to do anything rash, which might endanger my life.”
Mentwabe gave birth in the family’s earth-floored house and she named the little girl Yemsrach which means good news in the Amharic language.
However, she soon found she was unable to feed the baby.
“My baby was on the verge of death. She became malnourished and was even unable to cry,” Mentwabe said. “I was desperate and decided to run away, rather than see my child dying.”
Mentwabe’s distraught mother searched for her for months around Awasa, 270 kms (170 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa. She eventually put Yemsrach up for adoption, in the belief her own daughter had died.
Mentwabe said her mother did what she thought was best, and denied newspaper reports in the United States and Europe that she wanted Yemsrach, renamed Zahara, back.
“My mother was not misled by anyone, as was alleged by some media outlets. Her motive was to save the child from dying which I fully understand.
“I have never disputed the adoption of my baby by Angelina Jolie.
“I think my daughter is a very fortunate human being to be adopted by a world famous lady. I wish them both all the success they deserve,” she said.