fruits of genocide



A war correspondent:
'Terror starts like this: in the city, at any hour day or night, anywhere, at home, waiting at a bus stop, a citizen can be seized by armed men (uniformed or not) tied up, blindfolded, bundled into a car and driven into police headquarters. The reason for arrest is suspicion of being "subversive"... After arrest, the victims fall into three categories: Disappeared, Captured, Assassinated. Disappeared? Witnesses - family, friends, passers-by - watch a person dragged off by armed security men. The frantic family searches. The security forces deny. He or she has disappeared, become a non-person, and is never found again.'

What are the ways of being made to feel a 'non-person'? Is it tempting to make other people feel like that? What examples are there in history of marginalising people like this, apart from genocides? How does war do it?

Poem by Erich Fried, an Austrian Jew:

'I must learn to hide
from my persecutors
and am thereby
in double danger

Perhaps still not well enough
hidden from them
and perhaps by now
hidden too well from myself

Think about the meaning of this poem.

Tutsi survivor, aged 17, of 1994 genocide:
'The genocide changed my personality and my way of thinking. It changed everything for me. I didn't trust people at all. In Rwanda before the genocide our neighbours were very friendly. But it's them who killed my family. It's them who made the genocide. As children we were confused. We knew that in school some teachers and kids were racist, but our parents wouldn't tell us why there was so much anger. When I asked, my father told me I would find out when I was older. War is mad, crazy. It makes you crazy as well, Imagine someone comes and kills your sisters and kills your mother and father behind you. You're afraid. All you can think about is whether in a minute it will be your turn to die. Now I don't think there is a future for us. In our culture even when you are hungry you don't tell anyone. You light a fire and put on a saucepan of water so no-one knows. You try to be smart, wear nice clothes and show people you are happy when inside you are dead already. So that's what I'm doing now.'

Do you agree that parents and teachers should explain what's going on, even if it's bad news? What ways are there to rebuild trust, or somehow manage without it for a while, after war and genocide have killed it?

A Palestinian doctor and psychiatrist:
'We simply became the slaves of our enemy. We build their houses in our villages, and we clean their streets. Do you know what it does to you when you have to be the slave of your enemy in order to survive? No: you will never know how painful it is unless your country is occupied by another force. Then you will learn to watch in silence, pretending not to see the torture of your friends and the humiliation of your father. Do you know what it means for a child to see his father spat at and beaten before his eyes by a soldier? Nobody knows what happens to our children. Except that we notice that they lose respect for their fathers and identify with the new symbol of power, a soldier with his gun. So our children began throwing stones and being killed.'

Gaining respect by using violence...what makes that possible? What sort of respect is it? Is it, or should it be, worth having?

A Romanian Roma writer and human rights activist:
'I loved the humility of my people, with which we had survived for thousands of years. Even though we were slaves, we kept our language and our culture. A humility which meant life and liberty. It was not the humility of a people which falls on its knees to seek pity, but the intelligence of a people that does not want to die. A people which has grown and lived on the land of others, being forced to humble itself in order to be accepted. Humility was its only chance of survival.'

It's true that the Roma have survived, with difficulty and hardship and many deaths. What's your view of this way, which is at least nonviolent?

A journalist:
In a Czech town, a wall is being built around housing for gypsies to construct a ghetto within which they must live. Despite this, Britain still thinks their claims for asylum must be rejected. The Czech government refuses to recognise the gypsies' legal right to travel in their search for work. This right is available to all Czech citizens, yet officials say "it wasn't meant to apply to gypsies". Presumably the British government agrees.'

Ghetto-building was one of the steps towards genocide taken by the Nazis. Do you know of any other examples of first steps being repeated like this?

A Bosnian refugee whose husband was lost in the war in 1992:
'The children were asking for their father, getting up at night and crying. Everyone was crying. I was living in a school room with 45 people - women, children, the wounded. My younger daughter kept wanting to open the door, saying that her dad was coming. The older one made drawings of him, bending her head over the paper, hiding it from me. I just cried and cried. The advice given to me by women who'd been through this didn't help. They seemed to bear it more easily, or that's how it looked to me. They told me that I must fight, I must be strong, that I wasn't the only one who'd had this experience. But in vain. They did not calm me down.'
A widow from Srebrenica:
'To my children I can only offer bare survival. They can only sleep and eat, and that is no way to live.'

These women could be talking after an earthquake; but they aren't: they are the victims of war. Does that make a difference? What do you think is the 'way to live'?



  P E A C E  P L E D G E  U N I O N  1 Peace Passage London N7 0BT, Britain.
  phone  +44 (0)20 7424 9444  fax: +44 (0)20 7482 6390     CONTACT US