Foreign Policy Blogs

When we Ignore Human Rights Atrocities…

Iraqi Yazidi women mourned during the exhumation process of a mass grave in Iraq’s northwestern region of Sinjar.(FARID ABDULWAHED/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2019)

The recent episode of Amanpour & Co. was interesting on many levels, but below the surface of the discussions it seemed that two separate topics on the show should likely have more connections than what would be observed at face value. The initial discussion between Amanpour and Isha Sesay focused around Sesay’s new book on the internationally forgotten kidnapped girls in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Much of the book’s content came from Sesay’s in-depth discussions with the families and many of the freed girls about their experience being captured by Boko Haram. The truly brave account of how these young girls persevered in a situation where they were taken prisoner is remarkable. The girls were able to avoid being the victims of a mass murder because of a last minute decision taken by the invading troops to not burn them alive while locked in a building. While that decision gave them the opportunity to survive in bondage, many did not allow the situation of their slavery and abuse to make them weak or obedient.

Sesay pointed out that while these girls and the local governments have been facing grave threats from local and international terror groups, there has been limited attention paid to the girls since the initial push to have them released. The impression the viewer gets is that while their cause is just in the initial push to have them freed, there is no follow-up or international pressure to effectively achieve their freedom nor attention given to them after the first month of publicity. While assistance is needed, it must go beyond an initial push that fades after a few short weeks.

This Western response to modern human rights atrocities is something that runs contrary to the decisions at Nuremberg and subsequent Genocide trials since the Second World War. Being able to outlast a campaign to help those in need is crucial, as if it is known that attention will surely fade it will become a tactic in responding to accusations of human rights atrocities by regimes controlling such governments. Such a tactic can already be seen in Venezuela, where stories of government abuse fade quickly only to be picked up when another large abuse takes place. Even in cases of weather crisis management, situations like the natural disaster in Haiti from years ago has been long forgotten, but people still live in camps due to lack of assistance many years later.

Heavy initial responses with no follow up or consideration even when mass murder has taken place seems to be the norm since 2015. Mass graves are found in Northern Iraq with little attention to the cause or the victims of human rights atrocities in international media. For those still in refugee camps, a Yazidi girl who has the same determination to survive as the captured girls in Nigeria is not considered a survivor who needs immediate help, but a topic to discuss occasionally in Western media. When human rights of girls in faraway lands is seen as an election issue, often the election is given more care and attention than the individuals themselves.

So it can be argued that modern culture and politics in Western countries can be self-centered, even though Western culture has helped many people from around the world for generations. Are these responses to atrocities a recent development perhaps? Political divisions as discussed in the same program with Urban Development expert Richard Florida notes that there seems to be a divide between two different classes of Americans and Canadians. These divisions are numerous, but generally it is based on those with recent economic wealth and those that drive it in many urban centres clashing and making it unaffordable for those that feel they are left behind in these new economic hubs.

With those divisions and views of the future also comes divided politics. Florida acknowledges that diverse cultures thrive in some of these environments, but it seems that the analysis shows the economic, geographical and political divisions without focusing on how such a modern society would handle another global clash or the end results of a mass exodus to those cities as the result of another grand atrocity. While a city planner rightly deals with a tactical approach to improve urban environments as opposed to other external issues, the question should be posed whether or not that new culture that has taken shape since the year 2000 has the capability, power and wealth to stop a real Second World War type Holocaust beyond an initial care campaign? It is not Richard Florida’s onus of course to handle such a consequential issue, but with local politics dividing families in varying urban and suburban environments, it could be the case that some people will get the political attention and help from one group while others may get none. It is surely the case however that any attention in modern times will be limited and mostly ineffective. The reality in 2019 is that the victims in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and many other places have been the victims of human rights atrocities tantamount to those detailed in the Nuremberg Trials while modern urban and rural residents battle over terms and wages while ignoring what will be known in the future as the atrocities of the 2015 era. It is already the case that many of the oldest communities in the Middle East are facing complete extinction. They have been ignored for years, and not simply because it was 2015.

 

Author

Richard Basas
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

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