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Grey Definitions of Genocide

Grey Definitions of Genocide

2015 memorial to the Armenian Genocide

Naming genocide something else often does not make a difference to the victims. Indeed, it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to re-label a crime against humanity as anything else.

This past week, Romeo Dallaire, the former Canadian head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda made a public statement that what is occurring in Syria right now mirrors what had happened in Rwanda. Retired General Dallaire witnessed the breakout of the Rwandan massacres and received very little help from the international community and his own government after reporting mass atrocities taking place between rival groups in Rwanda at the time.

His experience in Rwanda is a direct reflection of how the international community and Canada have failed to take steps to prevent another genocide. His opinion on Syria resonates as he is seen as a canary in a coal mine for such atrocities, but often he is still not listened to even after his experience in Rwanda.

While the international community is slowly acknowledging the genocide of other minorities in the Middle East, often local politics still take precedence over the mass murder of entire ethnocultural groups. Please refer to minute 22:30 of the video (link).

This week also produced a major rift between Germany and Turkey as a vote in the German Parliament to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide  angered Turkish officials. With the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq there is an underlying narrative to be considered as well. Because of the restive Kurdish minority in Turkey and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS on its borders, there is a debate over who should be supported by the West and Russia.

As a large minority in Turkey, there are tensions that mirror some aspects of how the Armenian community was viewed before World War I with how Kurds are seen today by Turkey’s government. Despite NATO allies working with Kurdish forces in Iraq, Turkey has bombed Kurdish forces beyond its borders in response to attacks inside Turkey by Kurdish rebel groups that targeted civilians. Finally, Kurdish forces are also credited with helping save many minority communities from ISIS, notably rescuing the Yazidi community on Sinjar mountain from an impending massacre.

While Kurdish forces have fought and saved some groups of minorities, often it is with minimal assistance from NATO who have only recently acknowledged the genocide of many of those same minority groups in Syria and Iraq. There is an acknowledgement of genocide, but like in Rwanda, little help is coming for those smaller communities.

The Kurdish question seems to dominate politics in Turkey, and European and German acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide seems to create more strain on Turko-German relations than the actual genocide being conducted presently. Acknowledgement by the international community of past genocides is important, but applying lessons from the past so that mass killings never happens again is imperative.



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