forbes The issue of genocide is not a topic that generates significant attention or public interest. It is one thing to support the general principle of “Never Again.” It is a different thing to take active steps to ensure that the slogan becomes a reality. Indeed, the majority (if not everyone) would agree that we should never again allow such atrocities as those perpetrated by the Nazis in the 20th century. Again, while we agree on the principle, after the Nazi atrocities, we saw similar atrocities in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and Libya, little was done to address the atrocities. In the last few years, we have witnessed mass atrocities that may be classified as genocide, including the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, the Burmese military’s atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, the CCP’s atrocities against the Uyghurs and atrocities against religious minorities in Nigeria. Most recently, we see early warning signs that the practices that targeted the communities over 100 years ago in the Ottoman Empire are being introduced yet again.
Indeed, the case of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenians is a case that should teach us about the cost of doing nothing. The Armenian genocide took place between 1915 and 1923 when 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were arrested, deported or murdered by the Ottoman Empire. Currently, some 32 countries recognize the events as meeting the legal definition of genocide. The official recognition of historic cases as genocide is not a matter of semantics. Such an official recognition is crucial for survivors and their families in their efforts to move on. It is crucial for reconciliation and discovery of the truth. It is also crucial to deter similar crimes in the future, to ensure that such atrocities do not happen again. As we witness some concerning signs that the atrocities may happen again, we see little political will to engage and prevent the atrocities from materializing.
The question is then, why there is no political will to prevent genocide and address it once it occurs?
For many of us, genocide happens far from home, and falls within the purview of “foreign policy.” As such, genocide is not a top priority for politicians. Ultimately, politicians rely on their electorate in their respective countries. If the people who choose politicians do not raise the issue, do not show that this is what they want their politicians to engage with, nothing will be done. The question is then how to engage the general public on the topic of genocide?
Media outlets report on genocide, but mostly when it has already occurred. Nothing makes the headlines more than bodies on the streets. Early warning signs and risk factors of genocide do not get the same attention. This is despite the fact that only a sharp focus on early earning signs of genocide can help to prevent the crime from occurring. When bodies lie on the streets it is too late as we have failed to prevent the genocide.
To address the general lack of interest in early warning signs and risk factors of genocide, some public figures have become more vocal on the issue, for example in the recent case of the atrocities in Nagorno-Karabkh. Artists and celebrities such as Cher and Kim Kardashian, with millions of fans and followers on social media, have been speaking out about the deteriorating situation. Others, such as the heavy metal band System Of A Down, turned their messages into music. Amid the deteriorating situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, System Of A Down released two singles, “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” to engage the public and to raise funds to help those affected. The two singles have raised over $600,000 for the Armenia Fund. Members of the band have also been using their social media presence to inform their followers about the situation in Nagorno-Karabkh and the concerning developments as the situation was deteriorating. Their engagement and important voice on the issue shows that raising awareness of genocide is not a matter to be left to legal experts, researcher and journalists only. In fact, in order to turn the slogan of “Never Again” into reality, everyone needs to play their part. Genocide prevention is not a job of a few, it is a job for the whole humanity.
Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate, author and co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response. Ochab works on the topic of genocide, with specific focus on