Destruction of the Thracian BulgariansThough somewhat obscure today, the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians refers to the systematic expulsion of the native Christians (Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians) in Eastern Thrace. These atrocities occurred during and after the Second Balkan War of 1913. Additionally, it involves some of the figures later complicit in the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Historians increasingly view the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians as a prototype for subsequent Ottoman campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Today, the descendants of Thracian Bulgarian refugees remain attached to their Thracian heritage. Amazingly, this is despite gradual assimilation into the dominant culture of Bulgaria. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians remains a point of contention between the governments of Turkey and Bulgaria.

9 Facts About the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians

  1. Although the Ottoman census of 1906-1907 indicated a Muslim majority in five of Eastern Thrace’s counties, non-Muslims possessed numerical and cultural significance. Moreover, both Muslims and non-Muslims occupied positions across the empire’s social strata from peasant farmers to imperial administrators. Therefore, despite Ottoman claims to the contrary, Eastern Thrace’s character transcended a single religion and ethnicity.
  2. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians consists of mass deportations and atrocities against Thracian Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians. This arose from the late Ottoman Empire’s suspicion of non-Muslim minorities. The transformation of Eastern Thrace from a core to a peripheral territory occurred following the Balkan wars of independence. Ottoman officials saw ethnic minorities as a liability to the cohesion and security of the state. In place of deported or massacred Thracian Christians, the Ottoman state settled Muslim refugees from the western Balkans.
  3. With the expulsion of Bulgarian forces and the Ottoman reoccupation of Eastern Thrace during the Second Balkan War, non-Muslims faced accusations of disloyalty and subversion. Locals and officers alike singled out Thracian Armenians in particular as untrustworthy. These assumptions played on ethnic prejudices that precipitated the 1906 Adana massacre. They would reach a fever pitch during the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Thus, in Malgara, occupying Ottoman forces accused the local Armenians of appropriating property from Muslims, which incited a mob to murder 12 Armenians and raze 87 houses.
  4. On July 14, 1913, the recapture of Rodosto (present-day Tekirdag) from Bulgaria by Ottoman volunteer forces occurred. Local Christians and Jews were told they must surrender “government” property. In framing local non-Muslims as unjust appropriators of property, this stirred volunteers arriving by an Ottoman battleship. Further, they despoiled the town’s unarmed non-Muslim inhabitants, killing 19 people in the process and displaced others. This constitutes one of the most serious massacres of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  5. Mass expulsions of Thracian Bulgarians and Greeks, punctuated by intermittent killings, characterized Ottoman policy in Eastern Thrace. This occurred even after the September 29, 1913 peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Where voluntary deportation proved unfeasible, the Interior Ministry resorted to tax and labor levies to coerce emigration. The government signed three population exchange agreements between 1913 and 1914. These agreements were biased in favor of Muslim refugees from Balkan countries and against Christian refugees from Ottoman Thrace. This granted de facto legitimacy to a long-established reality arising from the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  6. Enver Pasha played a role in fomenting violence against the Bulgarians and Greeks of Western Thrace across the Ottoman-Bulgarian border. Later, Enver Pasha became one of the architects of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides. Led by Enver Pasha, a coterie of fighters forded the Maritza river and razed 22 Bulgarian villages to the west of the Maritza river. Reportedly, these forces killed thousands of Bulgarians. However, the Ottomans did not regain Western Thrace.
  7. The process of resettling refugees in the wake of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians placed a strain on the Bulgarian state and people. The experience of property expropriation without compensation left the refugees initially reliant on the assistance of the Bulgarian government and people. Substantial aid only arrived in the 1920s when the League of Nations provided loans to permanently house the refugees (incidentally, the first methodical policy of its kind).
  8. Attempts to preserve the cultural uniqueness of the Thracian Bulgarians spurred the formation of the Thracian organization. This organization protested the 1925 Agreement of Friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey. The agreement essentially validated the uncompensated appropriation of Thracian Bulgarian territory by the newly-established Turkish Republic. Though the post-World War Two communist regime suppressed Thracian associations, the fall of communism promoted their resurgence. Today, the associations seek to maintain the Thracian culture within Bulgaria and Turkey without advocating for an explicit right of return.
  9. In 2011, the Bulgarian Parliament voted for a proposal urging Bulgaria and Turkey to negotiate compensation for property expropriated during the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan displayed a willingness to negotiate over the matter in October 2010. The issue of compensation remains unresolved.

Although it transpired over a century ago, the legacy of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians persists. Descendants of those directly affected especially recognize the importance of this history. The role as the prototype for the genocides of the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians during World War One is also key. Further, this confirms that the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians is anything but peripheral to an understanding of the twentieth century’s upheavals.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Five Facts about the Ethiopian Genocide
Genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, and in a particular, an ethnic group. It is a barbaric tactic people sometimes use in an attempt to solve problems of unrest in a region. Unfortunately, human society has still committed this deplorable act in the 21st century. Here are five facts about the Ethiopian Genocide.

5 Facts About the 2003 Ethiopian Genocide

  1. The Persecuted: The Anuak people are a minority ethnic group that occupies south-west Ethiopia and parts of South Sudan. The majority of the Ethiopian Anuak live in the Gambella forest region where they have hunted and cultivated agriculture for centuries. Contemporary Anuaks are evangelical Christians that still practice some tribal traditions within their tight-knit villages.

  2. When the Genocide Happened: The Ethiopian Genocide happened on December 13, 2003. It is important to notice that this was not an isolated incident but a continuation of decades of racial discrimination. In 1979, the government seized Anuak land in order to have access to fertile grounds for farming in the name of economic expansion. The Ethiopian government then relocated peasants into the land over the next decade. Many Anuak fled the country throughout the 1990s in order to avoid further civil unrest. Over 2,000 of the Anuak settled in the United States and most settled in Minnesota through a refugee program. The 2003 Genocide was neither the beginning nor the end of their suffering. Raids that destroyed many villages drove 10,000 Anuak people out of their homes throughout the following year.

  3. What Happened During the Genocide: Ethiopian soldiers carried out the massacre in conjunction with members from other local tribes. Ethiopian government absolved the military of any blame for the genocide, but eyewitnesses say that it was a coordinated attack. Eyewitness accounts said that soldiers raided Anuak homes, dragged out their residents and shot them. Meanwhile, members of other tribes were attacking the Anuak with machetes. The soldiers then burned down the houses. A survivor reported that they had collected 403 bodies by the end of the genocide. Anuak refugees in the United States received phone calls from their relatives reporting such events. The Ethiopian Federal Minister of the Gambella region tried to suppress the accusations, calling them fabrications. However, the World Organization Against Torture and Genocide Watch (WOATGW) has corroborated the reports in order to keep others from pushing them into obscurity.

  4. The Reasons for the Genocide: There are no justifications for ethnic cleansing, but a vicious cycle of retribution killings can trigger catastrophic events. Tensions in the Gambella region were high. The Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) displaced over 100,000 refugees onto Anuak land. Outbreaks of violence began to occur between the Anuak and these refugees, many of which were members of a rival tribe, the Nuer. The genocide commenced as a counter-attack against the Anuak people after Anuak gunmen allegedly ambushed a car containing eight government administrators.

  5. The Anuak People Now: Ethiopia is making progress in the right direction to ensure that large scale violence and genocide will not be in its future. Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, elected in April 2018, has since recognized that there have been abuses of power by Ethiopian security forces. In December 2018, the Anuaks of Ethiopia could publicly recognize the anniversary of the genocide for the first time.

Genocide is not an experience that many modern Americans can relate to. It appears as a relic of nearly a century ago. These five facts about the Ethiopian Genocide recognize and keep the memory of past violence alive in order to keep the violence from repeating again.

– Nicholas Pirhalla
Photo: Flickr

Genocide in Ethiopia
Over 3 million people have had to move due to ethnically motivated attacks. Some people have burned churches and there have been many recent deaths in ethnic-based conflicts. If these conflicts do not stop soon, a horrific genocide in Ethiopia could ensue. Here are some facts about the rising genocide in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About the Rising Genocide in Ethiopia

  1. Ethnic and Religious-Based Conflicts: Multiple ethnic groups, including Oromo extremists who want to take back the power others have historically denied them, have been starting ethnic and religious-based conflicts. There has been a long history of ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia. These conflicts include opposition between the Oromo people and Amarah people and the Oromo and the Gedeo people. Additionally, the Tigrean people have had more control over the government resulting in a long and complex history. The Oromo extremists’ acts of violence attempt to eradicate anything resembling the Ethiopian Empire including Christianity (a religion that has a long history in Ethiopia). People are burning Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches to the ground due to these conflicts. The Crisis Group, an organization that seeks to reduce conflicts worldwide, urges the Ethiopian prime minister (Abiy Ahamed Ali) to, “govern more inclusively, working to collaboratively with state institutions on reforms and involving civil society in reconciliation efforts.”
  2. Violence from the Conflicts: Recently, there has been a rise in ethnic and religious clashes in Ethiopia. On October 23, 2019, during a protest, ethnic and religious-based violence broke out and killed up to 78 people in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Authorities arrested 409 people who were in connection with the attacks.  
  3. The Role of Fake News: The BBC reported that fake news has aided in spurring these attacks. The entire protest emerged from a false claim that security forces were detaining Jawar Mohammed, the founder of the Oromia Media Network and a renowned anti-government activist with a Facebook following of 1.75 million people. These claims were not true. The Ethiopian Prime Minister has responded to this spreading of fake news by warning of forthcoming tough measures against media organizations fueling conflict. Here is a petition from the Genocide Prevention Department to help prevent more violence. This organization is fighting to hold OMN Media, which is a network that is currently broadcasting the hate propaganda accountable for instigating violence.
  4. Ethiopia’s Efforts to Prevent Violence: The new governmental changes that have been making strides to peace have intensified ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia. The Tigrean and Oromo people seek to break away from the government because they oppose its recent efforts to bring peace to Ethiopia. These strides towards peace include the Eritrea peace deal which ended a 20-year stalemate following the 1998-2000 border war, freeing thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowing exiled dissidents to return home.
  5. German Bernhanu and Ignorance: Small disputes become fatal skirmishes due to the absence of a culture of constructive dialogue and the alarming rise of intolerance. During an interview with The Borgen Project, Germa Bernhanu discussed how propaganda fuels a lot of these conflicts because people ignorantly follow. An example of ignorance causing violence is the October 23, 2019 skirmishes that resulted from falses claims.
  6. The Role of Education: Only 41 percent of girls are literate in Ethiopia while 34 percent of school-aged children do not attend school. If more Ethiopian children could gain an education, the ignorant following of propaganda may not be an issue. Organizations like Save the Children and the World Bank are working towards educating children around the world. In the U.S., the Keeping Girls in Schools Act seeks to solve this issue as well by empowering young girls, but the U.S. has not passed this bill yet. Contacting Senators and House Representatives is a great way to urge congress to pass this bill.
  7. Potential for Genocide: Many Ethiopians have a great fear that genocide will break out in Ethiopia. Ethiopians such as Elijah Wallace, Ethiopian native and scholar, and Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian running legend, also say the potential for a genocide to emerge in Ethiopia soon is great. Many believe that the situation is very fragile due to political protests against the Ethiopian government’s attempts to unify Ethiopia as well as ethnic and religious-based feuds that have broken out in Ethiopia recently. Since very bloody ethnic-based clashes continue to happen in Ethiopia, the beliefs that genocide in Ethiopia is a very likely possibility in the near future are strong.

While a full-blown genocide has thankfully not occurred in Ethiopia yet, genocide in Ethiopia is certainly a looming possibility. If the Ethiopian government is able to defuse the conflicts and figure out how to handle them, these conflicts might be able to resolve without outside interference. 

– Emily Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Mein Horrendous Facts about Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler, one of the most notorious figures in human history, became the leader (Führer), of the German Nazi Party in 1921 and the Chancellor in 1933. His fascist and lawless power led to the onset of World War II and the death of at least 11 million people. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler and his rule.

10 Horrendous Facts About Adolf Hitler

  1.  As the leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler gave numerous politically charged speeches during which he blamed Germany’s Jewish population for the nation’s turmoil following World War I. He asserted that German Jews sought to control the Weimar Republic, the post-war government. He also claimed that they had influenced the Weimar Republic to accept the Treaty of Versailles which significantly limited the nation’s military power and demanded $33 billion in reparations for World War I. During a 1922 speech in Munich, Hitler proclaimed “There are only two possibilities, either victory of the Aryan or annihilation of the Aryan and the victory of the Jew.”
  2. While in prison for the failed coup d’état of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf. Democrats, communists and internationalists are all targets in this narrative, but it targeted the Jews most bitterly. He declared that the highest racial purity was that of the German people, making them the master race and thus responsible for the elimination of all Jewish people. In this book, Hitler’s proclamations about Jews overtly shifted from those of deportation to murder. Further, he wrote extensively in support of the dismantling of democracy. Before the start of World War II, people purchased more than five million copies.
  3. In 1933, the same year that Hitler assumed total power, concentration camps arose in Germany. Suspected enemies of the Nazi Party faced imprisonment at the camps, the first of which was Dachau. Political opponents, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals comprised the initial target population. Following 1938, Hitler’s forces filled the camps with Jewish prisoners, simply because they were Jews.
  4. Hitler outlawed youth groups like the Boy Scouts and required all non-Jewish boys in Germany to join his Hitler Youth Organization. Through this group, the Nazi Party held the power to condition over 90 percent of Germany’s young men. The boys faced military-like training in weaponry and survival while fostering an almost religious devotion to Hitler. Following years of indoctrination, boys at the age of 17 had to serve in the military.
  5. In 1935, Hitler enacted the Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jewish populations in Germany of their citizenship and banned marriage between Jews and Germans. Many consider these laws the foundation on which Hitler built the ensuing internment and murder of the German Jews. The passing of the Nuremberg Laws legalized the persecution of Jewish people as a part of Hitler’s Final Solution.
  6. On the nights of November 9 and 10 in 1938, German mobs took to the streets to attack Jews, destroying their homes and workplaces as well as burning synagogues. This event, called Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, led to the murder of 96 Jews and the burning of between 1,000 and 2,000 places of worship. Hitler and his administration both introduced the propaganda leading to this riot and offered encouragement for the mobs to continue their harassment. The administration later held Jews financially responsible for the damages incurred during these events.
  7. In early 1939, the Nazi Party secretly began the Child Euthanasia Program under which it murdered disabled children by lethal drug overdoses and starvation. Later that year, the program, shifting to the name Operation T4, extended to target disabled adults who faced murder by gas chamber. Hitler authorized all phases of the Nazi Party’s euthanasia efforts in order to “cleanse” Germany’s Aryan race, leading to the deaths of at least 250,000 physically and mentally disabled people. The infamous use of gas chambers at Hitler’s extermination camps originates from this program.
  8. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler began a campaign of anti-Jewish propaganda in order to concentrate Poland’s Jewish populations into areas called ghettos. Nazis propagated the idea that Jews carried diseases like typhus and thus required isolation. Ghettos suffered overcrowding and were cold, unsanitary and largely lacked in terms of food.
  9. To facilitate the Final Solution, Hitler authorized the implementation of Jewish extermination camps in 1941. Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau comprised the six camps intended only for the sole purpose of murder. Between 1942 and 1943, Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted to destroy these camps in order to conceal its abhorrent actions from Allied forces.
  10. With the loss inevitable to the Allied forces, Hitler and his frenzied party began recruiting thousands of young men, even those below the 17-year-old age requirement, to fight losing battles. Recruiters offered the children chocolates and candy in exchange for their lives. Thousands died in combat from lack of experience and training while others’ States executed them for refusing to fight.

Hitler’s Holocaust enabled the mass murder of at least 6 million European Jews. Another 5 million targeted groups perished alongside in concentration camps’ gas chambers or at the hands of Hitler’s barbaric forces. As demonstrated by the 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler, people should never forget Nazi Germany’s actions so that they may never be repeated.

 – Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide
The grave human rights abuses and mass slaughter in Darfur, West Sudan between 2003-2008 was the first genocide of the 21st century. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed (government-funded and armed Arab militias) targeted civilians, burned villages and committed many more atrocities. Below are 10 facts about the Sudan genocide.

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide

  1. The long term causes of the Sudan genocide stem from the two prolonged civil wars between the North, that promoted Arabisation and a Middle-Eastern culture, and the South, that preferred an African identity and culture. The First Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 and ended in 1972 with a peace treaty. Eventually, unsettled issues reignited into the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 and lasted until 2005, however. Both civil wars occurred due to the southern Sudanese rebels’ demands for regional autonomy and the northern Sudanese government’s refusal to grant it.
  2. The direct cause of the genocide during the Second Sudanese Civil War revolves around allegations that the government armed and funded the Janjaweed against non-Arabs. This supposedly led to the southern rebel groups, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacking a Sudanese Air Force base in Darfur in 2003. The government countered with widespread violent campaigns targeting non-Arabs and southern Sudanese civilians, which turned into genocidal campaigns.
  3. The United Nations estimated that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. Of that number, 200,000 fled and found refuge in Chad, which neighbors Sudan to the west. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) settled in the Darfur region, which counts 66 camps. According to a UN report, the lack of law enforcement and judicial institutions in these areas generated human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and criminal acts of vulnerable IDPs.
  4. The government and militia conducted “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, committing massive atrocities. They targeted women and girls, deliberately using rape and sexual violence to terrorize the population, perpetuate its displacement and increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS. The government and militia conducted ‘scorched-earth campaigns’ where they burned hundreds of villages and destroyed infrastructures such as water sources and crops, resulting in the dramatic famine. These acts are all war crimes that still prevent IDPs from returning to their homes.
  5. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened investigations regarding the alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, which produced several cases that are still under investigation due to the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. The ICC dealt with the genocide in Darfur, the first genocide it worked on and the first time the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to the ICC.
  6. A military coup in April 2019 overthrew the former President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, allowing the country to secure justice and address the wrongs committed between 2003-2008. Indeed, the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, urges the UN Security Council to extend the UNAMID’s peacekeeping mission to 12 months and the new government of Sudan to transfer Omar Al Bashir and two other war criminals to the ICC.
  7. Omar Al Bashir was the first sitting President that the ICC wanted (it issued the first arrest warrant in March 2009 and the second in July 2010) and the first example of the ICC incriminating a person for the crime of genocide. However, the ICC still cannot move forward with the trial until Omar Al Bashir receives arrest and becomes present at the ICC (in The Hague).
  8. The UNSC created and sent the peacekeeping force UNAMID (composed of the United Nations and the African Union) to Darfur in 2007, which operates to this day. The mission deployed almost 4,000 military personnel to protect civilians threatened by violence, especially in displacement areas and on the border with Chad. In addition, UNAMID facilitated humanitarian assistance by protecting and helping in the transportation of aid to isolated areas and providing security for humanitarian workers. The UN decided to extend the mandate of the UNAMID until October 31, 2019.
  9. Although the fighting stopped, there is still a crisis in Sudan; the UN estimates that 5.7 million people in Sudan require humanitarian support and can barely meet their basic food needs. There are many NGOs actively working to provide aid, such as Water for South Sudan, that works to ensure access to clean water to rural and remote areas, and the Red Cross, that provides medical care across the country due to its collapsed public health care system. Despite these efforts, there is still an unmet funding requirement of 46 percent in humanitarian aid as of 2018.
  10. In September 2019, a new government established with a power-sharing agreement between the military, civilian representatives and protest groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s new government should ensure justice and accountability for past abuses. Moreover, the constitutional charter (signed in Aug. 2019) entails major legal and institutional reforms, focused on holding the perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed under al-Bashir’s rule, as well as eliminating government repression and ongoing gender discrimination.

These are just 10 facts about the Sudan Genocide which are essential to understanding the current events happening in Sudan. Despite the peak of violence in Sudan in 2019 which killed hundreds of protestors, the country finally has a new government and it seems willing to right the wrongs committed during the genocide. The new prime minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok expressed in front of the UN in September 2019: “The ‘great revolution’ of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare.”

– Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Reconciliation in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia
In August 2019, Nuon Chea, one of the leaders responsible for the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, passed away at the age of 93. His death resurfaced reports of the atrocities experienced in Cambodia between 1975-79, under the rule of the infamous dictator Pol Pot. Yet, Nuon Chea did not undergo prosecution for his crimes until 2018 — 40 years after he committed them.

Due to its scale and recency, one cannot write off the Khmer Rouge as an atrocity of the past. The pursuit of peace and justice for over 2 million victims of the Khmer Rouge continues today. Friends of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Cambodia is a group that has continued to push for peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia — despite a government, population and international community that wants to forget.

A Community Frozen in Time

In the Anlong Veng region of Cambodia, which housed regime leaders as late as 1998, others still venerate Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and other mass murderers as national heroes. The regime may have fallen 40 years ago, but families who enforced the regime’s brutality on their fellow Cambodians are still unaware of their wrongful actions. Some citizens simply have misinformation or claim to have supported the regime for the promise of security after decades of poverty. Other families followed strict orders on death threats and see themselves as victims — despite committing genocide.

Understanding the perspective of the citizens’ support to the regime is key to longterm peace. R2P member Pou Sovachana advocates for knowledge of the ex-cadre perspectives to yield reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Friends of R2P’s Dr. Bradley Murg, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), emphasized in an interview the need to break Anlong Veng members out of their bubble. For decades, “governments have left them to their own devices, afraid to open that box” of reconciliation, Dr. Murg shared. Most were “isolated and genuinely believe that their side was right.” Scarred from the Khmer Rouge’s inadequate leadership and raised with educational “curriculum centered on hatred, anger and revenge,” ex-cadre members need therapy — not prison.

Helping Cambodia Embrace its History

Besides working with ex-members of the Khmer Rouge, Friends of Responsibility to Protect is working to promote justice among Cambodians. Unable to understand their past, many Cambodians live in denial of their history. Tourists almost exclusively visit the Khmer Rouge history museum in Cambodia’s capital city, Dr. Murg noted.

The genocide directly impacted the nation’s population over the age of 40, many of whom still struggle with untreated PTSD. Parents began to raise their children in the shadow of atrocity without an explanation. Ultimately, continued ignorance is detrimental to Cambodia. Both Dr. Murg and his colleague, Professor Sovachana Pou — who works at the CICP and is a Khmer Rouge survivor himself — agree that work is still necessary to help the Cambodian population heal from the past. This is why R2P promotes education and acknowledgment about the atrocities among the younger generation. Its work includes field trips with students to Anlong Veng and stories of ex-Khmer Rouge perpetrators in local newspapers; an effort to encourage mutual understanding.

Finishing Justice

People must recognize Friends of R2P’s work for reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the context of delayed criminal justice. Dr. Murg explained how, due to the political dynamics of the U.S. and Cambodia, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders did not receive charges for their crimes. The sentencing of Nuon Chea by a U.N. court in 2018 – 40 years after the crimes – exemplifies the uneven justice delivered to the Khmer Rouge perpetrators. Even the head of the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot, never received a sentence – and died of natural causes in his home in 1998.

In an effort to fix its past mistakes, Cambodia established a court in the first part of the 21st century to bring justice to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pou reminded the Borgen Project that legal justice is only the first step to the real justice that needs to be felt in the hearts of Cambodians. The peace between mainstream Cambodians and ex-Khmer Rouge members, like those living in Anlong Veng, is the next step in the journey to justice. This is why the Anlong Veng Peace Center and Friends of R2P are promoting education, historic preservation and communication between ex-Khmer Rouge members and the families of victims.

While 2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s fall from power, reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia continues.

What is most hopeful, however, is the willingness for reconciliation among Khmer Rouge victims. People like Sovachana Pou, who narrowly escaped Cambodia and saw the deaths of their family, have offered forgiveness for the sake of rebuilding Cambodia. The key is to recognize that there are victims on both sides of the Khmer Rouge. Friends of Responsibility to Protect’s work is beautifully acknowledging the stories of all Cambodians to rebuild social trust.

Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Response to the Rohingya CrisisIn Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign. Raging on since August 2017, the military-led offensive has caused the displacement of almost a million people, the destruction of at least 392 Rohingya villages and the internment of some 125,000 Rohingya in detention camps. While international authorities have placed pressure on the government to stop its atrocities, a recent update from the U.N.’s special rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, makes it clear that the situation is still dire. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has been considerable, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done to ensure the safety of this vulnerable population.

A Coordinated Response in Bangladesh

Many Rohingya (745,000) have fled to the neighboring country of Bangladesh since the violence began. The Bangladesh government has cooperated with international bodies to ensure the reception and integration of these many refugees, but several challenges remain. For one, about 84 percent of the refugee population resides in a camp in the city of Cox’s Bazar; its location on the Bay of Bengal renders the area subject to monsoons and cyclones, which, combined with congested living conditions, increase the likelihood of death and disease. Additionally, many displaced women face sexual violence in both Myanmar and the refugee sites, and 12 percent of refugees experience acute malnutrition, creating an urgent need for adequate medical services.

In response to the Rohingya crisis, the United States has provided $450 million in aid to host communities in Bangladesh. The United States recently earmarked $105 million for the U.N.’s 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP). This aid is important, as the JRP works to:

  • Register and document all refugees, so as to provide them with the legal standing to engage in economic activity and receive further state services in Bangladesh.
  • Improve disaster preparedness among refugee holding sites, which also entails creating an improved population density distribution.
  • Create crucial health programs, such as food vouchers and mental health services. These programs have been particularly successful—the level of acute malnutrition, while still high, is seven points lower than it was in 2018 and women’s access to reproductive health services is on the rise.

Further Steps Needed

In contributing to the U.N.’s JRP, the United States mitigates the negative effects of the Rohingya crisis. However, the political conditions in Myanmar that caused so many to flee remain, largely because the government continues to carry out atrocities against the Rohingya people. The leader of the country’s military, General Min Aung Hlaing, has directly authorized the ethnic cleansing campaigns. According to Refugees International, this has essentially allowed Myanmar soldiers to impose a reign of terror on Rohingya villages. The group has documented “consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing, shooting, and raping the inhabitants, leaving the survivors to flee for their lives.”

Myanmar continues to block humanitarian relief organizations from entering the country, which is a roadblock preventing a thorough response to the Rohingya crisis. Moreover, the government continues to deny the existence of military campaigns, which allows perpetrators to avoid punishment.

The U.S. has worked to place pressure on the Myanmar government so as to create accountability checks and dissuade other leaders from taking similar adverse actions against the Rohingya. For example, on July 16, 2019, the Trump administration placed sanctions on a number of military officials, including General Min Aung Hlaing. Countries and organizations can do more to halt the violence, though. Both the special rapporteur and Refugees International have called upon the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up an independent tribunal, which could try those responsible for the Rohingya crisis. While the ICC prosecutor has already taken preliminary investigative steps, a U.N. Security Council referral or tribunal establishment would put even greater political pressure on Myanmar.

Moving Forward

While the Rohingya crisis was years in the making, its impact has been especially acute in the past two years. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has included successful collaboration with the U.N., and raised hopes of bringing the perpetrators to justice. In so doing, it will save countless lives and move the Rohingya community in Myanmar one step closer to protection.

– James Delegal
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

the lingering effects of genocide
The causes of genocide are vast but include dehumanization, national crises and government power. In countries where there are deep grievances between groups, it is probable one group will ultimately be victimized by the other. Moreover, groups may blame each other for tragedies within their country. Plus, some governments constrain their power, limiting the fair representation of its people.

Rwanda and Cambodia offer two case studies of genocide that occurred in the last 50 years. Additionally, both populations combated realities of poverty and inequity even before the atrocities. Halting any development these countries may have experienced, genocide left lingering effects in Rwanda and Cambodia. Currently, both countries face hardship. However, their peoples are busy rebuilding their environments to sustain a neutral state wherein cultural, political and economic growth can flourish.

Rwanda

Rwanda lost 800,00 people during the genocide in 1994. Since the genocide, Rwanda is trying to develop services and opportunities that were lost. The drive behind this redevelopment has come from tea and coffee exports, foreign aid and the tourism industry.

Rwanda has always depended heavily on agricultural production for family consumption and state revenues. But rural poverty and land issues created a dissatisfied climate before the genocide. This is still seen through rising land inequality and decreasing possibilities for income outside of the farm sector. And both are lingering effects of genocide and threaten economic stability. Subsequently, commodity prices have dropped rapidly, especially in 1989. Then, government revenues from coffee exports declined from $144 million in 1985 to $30 million in 1993.

New Growth

However, according to the World Bank, Rwanda is developing its private sector to ensure more economic growth and reduce the lingering effects of genocide. Since 2001, Rwanda’s economic growth was bordering an average of 8 percent. In 2010, the World Bank named the country as the top reformer for business. After two successful Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies from 2008 to 2018, Rwanda’s per capita gross domestic product annually grew around 5 percent.

The Rwanda Development Organization has ongoing projects that empower the Rwandan people to help improve socio-economic development in their communities. One project includes the Farm to Market Alliance. FtMA provides institutional support to 24,000 farmers among 80 cooperatives. The project has sustained many small farms and created support groups. So far, 20,000 farmers have been trained by other farmers to learn the best farming practices, like post-harvesting and handling.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge genocide period took place from 1975 to 1979. Now, the country is still grappling with the past. The Cambodian People’s Party took power at the end of the genocide, instilling conservative values. Currently, there is still a generation of political leaders making it difficult for communities to have open discussions about the Khmer Rouge genocide. As such, it is hard to create strategies for growth and healing.

Legacies of Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia remains widespread, largely due to the lingering effects of genocide and the unfair distribution of wealth. The genocide led to the death of much of Cambodia’s educated class. Additionally, the majority of surviving Cambodians were farmers, subsequently unable to sustain the services affected by the genocide.

In rural areas, poverty is still a lingering effect of genocide because of ongoing corruption and the lack of government help. Similar to Rwanda, Cambodia faces challenges in jump-starting modern agriculture and irrigation techniques. This has made it difficult for Cambodia to keep up with developed countries.

Nevertheless, the future does appear hopeful according to statistics. General poverty rates in Cambodia have decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. As a result, many provinces have seen improvements. Development strategies and nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to assist Cambodian communities.

Voluntary Service Overseas is one such NGO that has worked to restore developmental growth in Cambodia by improving the education system, quality of teaching and people’s livelihoods. It works alongside government entities to research inclusive education policies. In 2015, VSO supported the training of 540 senior education officials. This creates a sustainable opportunity for more cohesive management of schools and contributes to future economic development.

A Shared Experience

After the genocide in both Rwanda and Cambodia, a majority of the population was comprised of young people. A large part of the healing process has been to educate younger generations about the country’s history and why knowledge is so vital in making sure genocide never happens again.

Both countries have tried tackling the skills gap that could greatly affect the future of the country’s growth in economics, politics and education. Enrolling more children in school proves to be a successful strategy in combating poverty. However, these children must also attain employment opportunities as adults, too. Creating these foundations will reduce the lingering effects of genocide and give future leaders the resources to build better lives not only for themselves but for their country as a whole.

Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

TPO CambodiaThe Khmer Rouge was a genocide in Cambodia that resulted from a civil war, leaving 4 million dead and millions more traumatized. The destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge has greatly contributed to poverty levels in the country and the struggle to rebuild the country. Since the Khmer Rouge specifically targeted doctors and educated people (leaving the country devoid of healthcare professionals), it took decades for mental health treatment to be available. Thankfully, organizations like the Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia) have emerged to help combat the negative mental health impacts of the Khmer Rouge and poverty. Here are 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid.

4 Ways TPO Cambodia Provides Mental Health Aid

  1. Raising Awareness of Mental Health Among Locals: TPO Cambodia builds upon already established relationships to develop new mental health leaders in communities. It does this by training already established leaders in Cambodian communities in the basics of psychosocial education and how to refer those in need. This strategy is respectful of Cambodian social structures while, at the same time, raises awareness of mental health. TPO Cambodia conducts various mental health awareness programs in schools, pagodas and on the radio. These programs have been proven to increase understanding of psychosocial issues in families and leave people empowered to know how to take action to aid their mental health.Raising awareness of the importance of mental health also helps prevent mental health issues by increasing mental wellness practices. One story highlighted a man who was traumatized when attacked by robbers. The event left the man incredibly violent and, eventually, his family had to chain him up in fear of their own lives. Once the family learned of TPO Cambodia, they were able to provide him the treatment he needed, allowing him to heal and be free from chains.
  2. Building Communities: One positive impact TPO Cambodia sees from increased mental health awareness has been stronger communities. These two aspects build upon one another, the larger community raises more awareness and raised awareness strengthens the community. Trained individuals facilitate self-help groups, providing a community space for people to problem solve on shared struggles, share personal experiences and feel more socially connected. Some community programs currently available through TPO Cambodia are healing for victims of the Khmer Rouge, mental health for sexual assault victims, promoting gender equality and working for the protection of children.
  3. Providing Psychological Treatment Services: TPO Cambodia is staffed with experienced clinical professionals that offer a variety of mental health services for psychosocial, psychological and psychiatric conditions. Services available are decided based on an individual’s needs. Some of the services available at TPO Cambodia are trauma treatment, psychiatric assessment and treatment and counseling and therapy. It also provides help for issues such as insomnia, alcoholism and depression.
  4. Research Projects: All research projects TPO Cambodia conducts specifically focus on the cultural context of Cambodia. Through research projects, TPO Cambodia has developed a culturally aware version of “Testimonial Therapy” for traumatized victims of the Khmer Rouge. This therapy aids in helping victims find closure and to associate traumas with a more positive state of mind.  The various research projects TPO Cambodia is involved in aims to gain a better understanding of how traumatic events have impacted its people as well as understand better how this information can improve TPO Cambodia’s current therapeutic practices.

With a majority of mental health issues worldwide residing in impoverished communities, mental health issues need to be actively considered in the eradication of poverty. Living in poverty presents itself as a huge risk factor for many mental health struggles. TPO Cambodia’s method of incorporating the Cambodian cultural context into every part of their work has shown to positively impact communities while maintaining a crucial understanding and respect of cultural norms. These 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid show how organizations can work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health in their own communities.

Amy Dickens

Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid Helps Prevent Genocide
There is an ongoing discussion in the United States surrounding the efficacy of U.S. foreign aid directed toward the economic and social development of developing countries.

The proponents of this arm of U.S. diplomacy sight the advantages as numerous. U.S-centric arguments in support of foreign aid cite economic and national defense benefits such as the expansion of new economic markets abroad and reduction of poverty-linked terrorism.

From a humanitarian point of view, U.S. aid and human rights initiatives have improved and saved the lives of millions of people around the globe. To narrow in on one aspect of that, studies have shown that the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid.

Roots of Genocide

According to a report published in 2010 by the U.N. Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the root causes of genocide spur from societal identity-related conflicts. The report states that the differences in identity do not generate conflict, but the gross inequalities associated with those differences in terms of access to power and resources, social services, development opportunities and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. 

Within this explanation lays an analysis of genocide as being primarily caused by economic inequality, lack of development and unequal access to power within a state. Following this train of thought, U.S. helps prevent genocide trough foreign aid in that it enables access to tools of empowerment (security, capital, health care, etc.) for impoverished people. By narrowing socioeconomic gaps in potentially violent areas, foreign assistance plays a role in minimizing root causes of genocide.

Matthew C. Waxman, the author of the Council on Foreign Relations special report, Intervention to Stop Genocide and Mass Atrocities, weighed in on how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid and explained: “Once mass atrocities are unfolding, it is already too late, so early preventative action is key. Here is the human toll of waiting too long, but also practical reasons for early action, because once mass violence breaks out or human suffering reaches a certain point, there may be cascading effects.”

Rwandan Genocide as a Case Study

The Rwandan Genocide was a tragedy that occurred in 1994, in which over 800,000 Rwandans, primarily of ethnic group Tutsi, were killed by militia and government forces comprised primarily of the ethnic Hutu group. The conflict ignited between the Hutu majority group and the Tutsi minority group and lasted for 100 days. This conflict will be remembered as one of the darkest moments of the 20th century.

On the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, U.N. Security General Kofi Annan outlined a five-point action plan for preventing genocides in the future. The first strategy on the plan is to Prevent Armed Conflict. In an expanded explanation of this point, Annan states: “Addressing inequalities in access to resources constitute a critical prevention strategy” and that “economic and social development and alleviating poverty also make a substantial contribution to preventing conflict.”

Though, as Kofi Annan emphasizes in his five-point action plan, preventing armed conflict is first and foremost the responsibility of national governments, Annan also pledged for U.N.’s support to national efforts that seek to take preventative measures against genocide. In doing this, Annan implies that international and foreign institutions, like the U.N., can have a positive influence on individual nations by helping shape peaceful and equal relations within nations.

The U.S. and Its Role

As the former Security General pointed out and what has been proven to be true by the positive results of U.S. foreign assistance efforts in the past, foreign aid works in addressing inequalities between identity groups. In order to implement preventative action into potential conflict zones, Waxman suggests that development of effective early warning systems, engagement in active diplomacy to mitigate crises and usage of tools like foreign assistance and capacity- building programs to address causes of humanitarian emergencies are most important steps.

In 2011, in recognition of how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid, President Obama pushed for the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), a high-level interagency body responsible for coordinating a whole government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide.

Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development published the “Field Guide: Helping Prevent Mass Atrocities”, a 64-page government document that acknowledges that the U.S. should be helping prevent genocide and outlines strategies for how to do so.

Based on the research published about genocides in the past, the global community seems to have a fairly clear understanding of the origins of genocide and what the warning signs are. With the understanding of how such a terrible event comes to be, many humanitarian efforts have been launched to address the root causes of mass violence and among those the U.S. has played a pivotal role.

However, recent political moves that threaten the future of U.S. foreign assistance program have been made. In a world where mass violence is ever-looming, it would be prudent for the policy-makers to consider how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid and keeps that violence at bay.

– Clarke Hallum
Photo: Flickr