The targeting of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy said group, in whole or in part, constitutes the atrocity of genocide. Today, 24 March 2018, the inaugural Edinburgh University Genocide Conference is taking place, attended by survivors of the Rwandan Genocide and the Holocaust, as well as the director of Restless Beings, an organisation currently working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh amid the Myanmar crisis. It is a free event bringing together a group of incredible individuals to discuss the global implications of genocides.
Reflecting on past events such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, it is harrowing to acknowledge that such horrific events occur even today. The Holocaust is infamous for the deaths and suffering of millions during World War II, with victims driven from their homes and torn away from their families before being forced into harsh labour camps or deadly gas chambers. Today, Auschwitz and many such concentration camps remain as reminders of what must not be allowed to happen again.
The 1994 Rwandan Genocide targeted Tutsi communities and led to the massacre of thousands by the majority Hutu group. The death of the then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana inflamed ethnic tensions between the two groups and within hours a campaign of violence spread throughout the country.
Today, Rohingya Muslims face extermination in the Buddhist majority country of Myanmar, leading to a range of human rights abuses and the displacement of Rohingya refugees worldwide, mainly into the neighbouring Bangladesh state. However, the Bangladeshi government insists on returning the Rohingya population to the Rakhine State in Myanmar.
The conference aims to encourage a dialogue around ethnic cleansing and it’s widespread implications within today’s society. Its role in the current refugee crisis and stagnation in third world countries requires immediate attention. Reading second-hand accounts is inadequate in truly understanding, which is why it is imperative for global citizens to be open to various perspectives on such issues. The opportunity to witness first-hand testimonies from survivors and hear from individuals who have witnessed the aftermath of such atrocities is not only a valuable experience, but an important reminder of past.
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