5 LESSONS WE SHOULD LEARN FROM THE HISTORY OF GENOCIDE
Genocide wasn’t left in the history books, it’s alive and kicking.
The question is: why have we not learnt from our mistakes?
Genocide and Mass Atrocities. When we hear those words, we think of Nazi Germany, Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990’s. These events shook the world, however there were lessons to be learned from such horrific points in time, is it time we learnt them?
IDENTIFY GENOCIDE IN ITS EARLY STAGES
It is evident when we look at the history of genocide that it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it is the result of a process that takes time to develop. What is important is that we look at history and apply what we find to current political and social crises.
Perhaps the most visceral and remembered genocide in human history is the Rwandan Genocide in the 1990s. This crisis led to an estimated 800,000 Rwandans dying in 100 days; one of the worst mass atrocities in human history. However, it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the warning signs for this human crisis started decades before. Two of the early stages of genocide are classification and discrimination, and these, as in most cases of genocide, are undoubtedly present in the Rwandan crisis of 1994. The definition of classification is: the action or process of categorising something. Essentially a process which begins to separate society into groups of people, which can easily become US vs. THEM. Such a process happened in Rwanda and classification led to two predominant social groups; Hutu and Tutsi. The Tutsi were labelled a ‘superior ethnicity’ and this led to inevitable tensions in Rwandan society. This is a lesson to be learnt; classification within society led to subsequent discrimination and tensions bubbled over into some of the worst violence the world has ever seen. When we categorise society based on race, it does nothing but create tension, discrimination and is an early sign that genocide and ethnic cleansing can stain the history of a nation. German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi, Bosnian Serb and Muslim. These classifications have paved the wave for discrimination and ethnic cleansing campaigns; we should learn from this.
Example of classification in Rwanda. Nose length and eye colour was used to distinguish between social groups.
Is it not time we paid attention to warning signs in our modern times? In Myanmar currently there is blatant classification, discrimination and violence. It cannot continue to be ignored. Myanmar Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim is yet another classification that is wreaking havoc. The Rohingya people have been subjected to incredible levels of violence, torture and displacement as a result of such classification. If the international community had sought to rectify the tensions that the classifications in Myanmar have caused would there be 120 000 Rohingya people in internment camps? Would there be examples of whole Rohingya villages being exterminated? Would Rohingya children be decapitated merely because they belong to a social group? Whilst it is impossible to be certain, the likely answer is NO. If classification in society ended, tensions between social groups would be reduced, and hopefully ethnic cleansing would become a thing left truly in the past.
Muslims protesting violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya people.
It is time to stand against, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Surely, we need to look back at history and understand how crises appear, only then can we look at modern crises such as Myanmar and prevent them. Never again can we let divides between social groups lead to discrimination and genocide. It is time we learnt from history.
Lesson 2 will cover passiveness and appeasement. Paying particular attention to the Holocaust. If you like to learn more about genocide and Myanmar please visit https://uk.standnow.org/.
This blog post was written by Finlay Turner-Berry, a STAND UK Communications Task Force member who studies Politics and Social Policy at the University of Bristol.