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by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-10-02 07:57:43
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Gregoire Ndahimana, a former mayor in the city of Kivumu in Rwanda, is accused of the massacre of over 2,000 ethnic Tutsis sheltered in a church that was bulldozed to the ground, killing everybody. Naturally the ex-mayor has declared not guilty of the charges of genocide and he demands respect for his rights! More than 6,000 Tutsis were killed in Kivumu and nearly a million of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered during the genocide in Rwanda. And Mr. Gregoire Ndahimana says he’s not guilty!

I think the question here is not whether Gregoire Ndahimana is guilty or not, this is something the international court will have to decide based on evidence. But how guilty are we all and how much part do we have in the embarrassment of what happened in Rwanda and continues to happen in different places of the world? This is one question that always makes me a bit …uneasy, if that’s the right word to use. When do we call mass murder genocide? And does it need to be mass murder? The Holocaust was genocide beyond belief and acceptance; what happened to the Jews during World War II, what the Nazis did is beyond the darkest imagination. And that was genocide; most likely it wrote the blueprint of what we call genocide. What happened in Bosnia was genocide again and what happened in Rwanda was genocide.

Humans were targeted and literally exterminated because of their colour, beliefs, background, race, gender, even sexuality (remember that in certain countries they stone people for their sexuality) and unfortunately they are still targeted. So when is it genocide and when will the UN or any other international institution get involved and the mechanism of international courts start working? And by the way, another question rose while I wrote this; should genocides of the past be cleared? The Holocaust had millions of victims, Rwanda a million, and in Bosnia there were thousands of victims. The Lapi people are just a few dozens; so if one is killed, isn’t this genocide? Since I asked about the past, what happened with the native Americans - wasn’t this genocide? Let’s go a bit further, in Iran, the land of the forgiving ayatollahs, people are getting killed because of their sexuality and in some countries of the area it is a crime to belong to a different religion, punishable with death. So isn’t this genocide? And shouldn’t the Iranian Government for example stand accountable for crimes against humanity?

Because I might be misunderstood of being one-sided; what about the ally government and what happened in Iraq? The number of Iraqi dead, innocent Iraqi dead has climbed to hundreds of thousands. But in their case they are called something else; accidental casualties in the war field. Would they have got killed if they weren’t Iraqis and didn’t look Iraqi? A big number of them got killed just because they …looked suspicious – and what made them to look suspicious? Well, because hey looked like …Iraqis… like terrorists, and I don’t know what else.

So if the word genocide is connected with ethnic clearance, then what is going on in Iraq? Please don’t think I blame only the allies; the Iraqis hit and kill their own compatriots just because they belong to a different side of the same religion. In this case don’t we have a genocide against people with common believes? Aren’t all of these crimes against humanity that should be punishable? For years, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has kidnapped and killed everybody who opposed him or tried to do something about his murderous regime. What should we call him? Serial killer, mass murderer, responsible of genocide, what? How many dead people does it take to call something genocide and crime against humanity?

Most of the Native American tribes, from Chile and Peru to USA and Canada, were slaughtered by the Spaniards, Portuguese, English and other Europeans. Whole tribes in Africa were killed or sold as slaves for centuries and in the end traditions, customs and civilizations were lost. Today we are still finding signs of those civilizations and we don’t understand what they were about, they are covered in a lost mystery for ever, mysteries that the anthropologists would love to solve and they know that it will never happen – these are mysteries critical to understand human social evolution and yes, even physical evolution. This is why I’m saying that there is a guilt and embarrassment for all of us.

If the Holocaust is the blueprint of the guilt and embarrassment genocides bring, we must never forget that the biggest part of this guilt and embarrassment comes from the fact that we didn’t do anything to prevent it, and even when it started we didn’t do anything to stop it. It happened again and again we didn’t do anything, so how much genocide will it take until we start doing something?


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Emanuel Paparella2009-10-02 13:13:53
I suppose that vis a vis the issue of genocide and the genocides going on in the world right now (Darfur jumps to mind) we can all accuse ourselves, with various degrees of responsibility, of the crime of silence and indifference. One powerfully useful tool in overcoming this all too common inertia and apathy of the human mind going about its business is the by-weekly audio series and podcast service offered by the Committee on Conscience Project. It broadcasts the voices of human rights defenders and advocates and it is sponsored by the US Holocaust memorial museum. Open to the link below:


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