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Remember Rwanda when Discussing Syria and Iraq

Remember Rwanda when Discussing Syria and Iraq

Yazidi militia on Sinjar Mountain – Al Jazeera

Rwanda will always be remembered as a genocide that came from the failure of the international community to act. While there was information coming from a Canadian representative to the international community at the time of a severe sectarian conflict brewing in the nation of Rwanda, neither the international community nor former Canadian Prime Minister Chretien responded to their cries for help. The result was that two million people lost their lives, and the international community failed to hold up the standards of justice they committed to at the end of the Second World War.

This week’s discussions at the UN between the Obama Administration and Vladimir Putin are a response to Russia’s decision to put aircraft and soldiers into Syria. Coalition airstrikes have been able to quell some of the pressure on the Kurdish forces facing ISIS and help save some members of the Yazidi community and other minorities in the region from extinction. The reality however is that more help is needed. The lack of a further commitment by the coalition has left the fight in the region at a stalemate without support on the ground and heavy weapons. Russian forces will likely commit to a heavy assault against ISIS, leaving the US as sidekick as opposed to an equal partner in Syria. Russia is seeking to gain the trust of US allies in the region, as the minimal help given to minorities trying to survive has not been able to keep them out of danger.

There have been many theories in Western countries on why there has been a flood of refugees coming to Europe. Some politicians with various political parties have refused to accept the need for proper military support in the refugee’s home countries, as humanitarian aid without protection would be a fruitless endeavor. Without a firm commitment from parties from all political stripes in acknowledging the source and solution to the refugee crisis, the politics of Western elites threatens to ignore another crisis on a mass scale. The lessons learned from ignoring the Rwandan genocide should be paramount. In order to save innocent people, sectarian issues must be understood on many different levels and approached with humanitarian assistance and the use of force when necessary to protect innocent communities. Putting politics before threatened minorities in the Middle East is tantamount to turning a blind eye to the extermination of a whole community so one can win a job in Washington, Brussels or Ottawa. Communities that have existed for thousands of years are being directly threatened and will be wiped out without a serious commitment to preventing another Rwanda.

An example of a group that has been created by minorities from the Middle East in order to help save innocent people in the region is C.Y.C.I. – The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq. They assist victims of torture and sex slavery by purchasing them back from their captors and bringing them to freedom. This group, based out of Quebec, Canada has recently gained some assistance from the Canadian government after a lot of grassroots support. They have shown that countries like the US and Russia can do more to help, as these individuals have stood firm in not accepting another Rwandan genocide. Their focus is on saving children, young girls and families from some of the most brutal treatment of individuals in human history. Despite a lot of political backlash from opponents, they push on because there is no excuse for another Rwanda. Now with the international community discussing Syria and Iraq, Russia, the US and their allies have an opportunity to not repeat another Rwanda.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration