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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-18-07 05:41 PM
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25. Is Iraq Headed for Genocide?

Is Iraq Headed for Genocide?


President George W. Bush has continued to reject assertions that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. But in the wake of his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, to discuss the country's continuing sectarian violence, some human rights experts are worrying about a different, worse fate for Iraq: genocide.

Juan Mendez, Kofi Annan's special advisor on the prevention of genocide, told TIME that the targeting of minorities based solely on religion in Iraq, the extent of the violence there, the lack of central control, and the fact that Iraq has already experienced genocide, "constitute warning signs that we take very seriously." He stressed that those warning signs can be present in conflicts and never rise to the level of genocide, but that his office is watching the situation closely. If the situation in Iraq did deteriorate, Mendez said, "I would not hesitate to request armed troops to protect people" but, he added, it would have to be in a "different configuration" than what is there now.

Gregory Stanton, a professor of human rights at Virginia's University of Mary Washington, sees in Iraq the same troubling signs of preparation and execution of genocidal aims that he saw in the 1990s in Rwanda when he worked at the State Department. Sunni and Shiite militias are "trying to polarize the country, they're systematically trying to assassinate moderates, and they're trying to divide the population into homogenous religious sectors," Stanton says. All of those undertakings, he says, are "characteristics of genocide," and his organization, Genocide Watch, is preparing to declare the country in a "genocide emergency."

Though the term conjures up thoughts of enormous numbers of civilian dead, the quantity of victims is not the warning sign experts look for when considering the danger of genocide. Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, says with Shi'ite and Sunni sub-groups already identifying and killing victims solely on the basis of their religious identity, "genocidal intent" is already present in Iraq. "When you drive up to a checkpoint and you're stopped and somebody pulls out your ID and determines whether you're a Sunni or a Shiite and takes you away and kills you because of that, there is a genocidal mentality afoot." The question, Power says, is how broadly that mentality will spread. Iraq has already seen one genocide in recent decades: Saddam Hussein stands accused of attempting to exterminate Kurds, the third largest group in the country.

While Power and Stanton both see a mounting danger of widespread genocide in Iraq, there is certainly not consensus on the threat. Other human rights organizations, like the Committee on Conscience at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the International Crisis Group, do not see the conditions for genocide developing. Human Rights Watch, which is particularly restrictive in what it calls genocide, says it believes Iraq is not headed in that direction. Joost Hiltermann, who covers Iraq for the International Crisis Group, says that the biggest impediment to full-blown genocide is the fact that there are divisions between Shi'ite factions, which prevent them from uniting in a nationwide persecution of Sunnis.

Much of the debate over the possibility of widespread genocide in Iraq stems from differing interpretations of the 1948 United Nations convention on genocide. There, genocide is defined rather broadly as killing, seriously harming, restricting birth or attempting to destroy in whole or in part, "a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Says University of Mary Washington's Stanton, "Anyone who says that's not happening in Iraq is burying their head in the sand." But others say the number of people in Iraq operating with the intention of eradicating people solely on the basis of their membership in a ethnic or religious group is too small to constitute genocidal intent.


Iraq: A New Age Of Genocide?

Bill Weinberg
May 15, 2007

Bill Weinberg, editor of the online journal . This piece originally appeared in New America Media.

Amid daily media body counts and analyses of whether the surge is working, there is an even more horrific reality in Iraq, almost universally overlooked. The latest annual report by the London-based Minority Rights Group International, released earlier this year, places Iraq second as the country where minorities are most under threatafter Somalia. Sudan is third. More people may be dying in Darfur than Iraq, but Iraq's multiple micro-ethnicitiesTurcomans, Assyrians, Mandeans, Yazidisplace it at the top of the list.

While the mutual slaughter of Shiite and Sunni makes world headlines, Iraq is home to numerous smaller faiths and peoplesnow faced with actual extinction. Turcomans are the Turkic people of northern Iraq, caught in the middle of the Arab-Kurdish struggle over Kirkuk and its critical oilfields. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, now targeted for attack, trace their origins in Mesopotamia to before the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century. So do the Mandeans, followers of the worlds last surviving indigenous Gnostic faithnow also facing a campaign of threats, violence and kidnapping. The situation has recently escalated to outright massacre.

In late April, a grim story appeared on the wire services about another such small ethnic group in northern Iraq. Twenty-three textile factory workers from the Yazidi community were taken from a mini-bus in Mosul by unknown gunmen, placed against a wall and shot down execution-style. Three who survived were critically injured.

Yazidis, although linguistic Kurds, are followers of a pre-Islamic faith which holds that earth is ruled by a fallen angel. For this, they have been assailed by their Muslim neighbors as "devil-worshippers" and are often subject to persecution.


Genocide Watch

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