By Lillie Benowitz, NFTY-Northern Social Action Vice-President
What is genocide?
“The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines and of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
(e) Forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.”
Within genocide, there are eight stages; classification, symbolism, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. These stages are not necessarily linear; though earlier stages tend to precede later stages.
- Classification is when different cultures are pressured into an “us and them” situation where the country becomes divided by characteristics or belief systems. This builds tension and is more likely to result in conflict.
- When these different groups are defined by names or symbols, such as a Jewish Star or a recognizable way of dressing, symbolism occurs.
- Dehumanization is when one group denies the humanity of the other group and members are often compared to animals or diseases.
- Organization is always involved with genocide. A state achieves this stage by creating a military force that targets a group of people; ranging from very formal to very informal in terms of organization.
- At this next stage, polarization, extremists drive the groups apart.
- When victims are identified and spread out because of polarization, preparation begins. In this stage, members of victim groups are forced to wear symbols, are exploited of their possessions, and confined in their living spaces. This is the point where a Genocide Emergency is declared. In that event, if the government of the specific country will allow it, the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized but if not then humanitarian assistance is only allowed to refugees and to aid the aftermath of the conflict.
- When extermination begins, the conflict fits the legal definition of genocide.
- Finally, denial always follows genocide. The perpetrators of genocide attempt to cover up the evidence and deny that they committed any crimes. This denial can go to such extremes that they may blame the victims for the mass murder.
(For more information on the eight stages of genocide visit; http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/8stagesofgenocide.html.)
Genocides such as the Armenian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Holocaust, and the Rwandan Genocide(more information at http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/past-genocides/) are all examples of extreme crimes against humanity. Some were more severe than others but they are all occasions at which we swore that this horrible act would never happen again. However, there are genocides taking place right now. Below are a summary of five current conflicts in our world today:
- Cote Divoire (Ivory Coast): In 2010, after Alasane Ourarra won the presidential election against former president Laurent Nbagbo, Nbagbo refused to give up his office until May 2011. This standoff resulted in violence throughout the country. This fighting and political stand-off was spurred from a civil war that split the country into northerners and southerners, Muslims against Christians years earlier. Another sizable conflict in this region is the trafficking or women and children. (World Without Genocide)
- Burma: The military regime in Burma has been said to be of the world’s most oppressive and abusive. This government is currently involved in a military campaign against the largest indigenous ethnic group, the Karen. The Karen practice Christianity while the majority of Burma practices Buddism. Aid agencies estimate that more than 200,000 Karen have been driven from their homes due to this conflict. Because of this conflict, Western nations have places bans on new investments, an import ban, and an arms embargo on the country. (World Without Genocide)
- Durfur: This genocide is known as the first genocide of the twenty-first century. The mass slaughter and rape of Darfuri men, women and children in Western Sudan began in 2003 and continues today. “The genocide is being carried out by a group of government-armed and funded Arab militias known as the Janjaweed (which loosely translates to ‘devils on horseback’). The Janjaweed systematically destroy Darfurians by burning villages, looting economic resources, polluting water sources, and murdering, raping, and torturing civilians… As of today, over 480,000 people have been killed, and over 2.8 million people are displaced.” (World Without Genocide)
- Democratic Republic of Congo: Beginning in 1996, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been full of violence that has resulted in the death of up to 5.4 million people. The conflict has been the world’s bloodiest since World War II and has involved multiple foreign armies. Fighting continues in the eastern parts of the country, destroying infrastructure, causing physical and psychological damage to civilians, and creating human rights violations on a mass scale. “Today, most of the fighting is taking place in North and South Kivu, on the DRC/Rwanda border… DRC has large quantities of gold, copper, diamonds, and coltan (a mineral used in cell phones), which many parties desire to control for monetary reasons. However, money from the sales of these resources has not reached average citizens.” (World Without Genocide) The United Nations’ current aid mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, called MONUC, is entering its twelfth year. MONUC is the UN’s largest and longest-lasting mission to date.
- Somalia: “Since 1991, clan warfare has besieged Somalia. The United Nations has called the current situation in Somalia the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster.” At the end of January 2009, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was elected President of Somalia with the hope that his administration will bring stability to Somalia and implement the Djibouti Peace Process of 2000. However, violence has continued unabated. At the end of 2009, nearly 700,000 Somalis were under the responsibility of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, constituting the third largest refugee group in the world after war-afflicted Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.” (World Without Genocide) There have been many foreign attempts to resolve the conflict but the violence continues.
For more information on all of these conflicts go to http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/current-conflicts.
Why does genocide go unnoticed? Think about it. Furthermore, once people know that genocide happened do they not prevent it from happening again? Lastly, when genocide is going on; why doesn’t the global community do everything in their power to stop it?
During World War II, Adolf Hitler rallied the Nazi party in Germany to commit mass murder to all people who were not of the Arian race. Millions of people were systematically killed; around 6 million of those people were Jews. If the global community had stepped in sooner, that number of victims would have been smaller. We cannot stand idly by as people, human beings just like us; slaughter others because they are different from them.
What can I do?
- Pledge Against Genocide at http://www.genocidewatch.org/getinvolved/pledgeagainstgenocide.html.
- Stay informed! Find further information about past and current genocides at www.genocidewatch.org and www.worldwithoutgenocide.org on their “Current Conflicts” and “Past Genocide” pages.
- Plan a film showing about genocide with your school friends, youth group, NFTY event, or at a neighborhood get together.
- Call 1-800-GENOCIDE. This is an anti-genocide hotline that will connect you to your elected official for free.
- Tell 3 friends about Genocide and/or link this blog post to them via Facebook.
- Follow on TWITTER: @WorldatMitchell to get updates about what World Without Genocide is doing as well as Genocide Alerts. More general Genocide updates can be found from these users; @hrw (Human Rights Watch), @jworldwatch (Jewish World Watch), and @endgenocide (United to End Genocide). You can also follow @TheRAC for general social justice updates.
May 6th is Mitzvah Day! The Social Action Vice Presidents of NFTY-Northern have selected Homelessness as the theme for that day. On May 6th, you will have an event addressing this topic with both an educational and action based aspect to it. Ask your TYG’s SAVP for more information! There is also a national site, visit http://www.nfty.org/resources/socialaction/nmd/ for more resources!