These Projects Aim to Predict Genocide
Thu, April 22, 2021

These Projects Aim to Predict Genocide

Genocide is a truly traumatic and horrifying event. When xenophobia and racism are continuously supported to their worst extremes, millions of innocent people can die for merely who they are. Millions have perished in mass killings and violence. At the same time, millions have also been tortured, raped, or forced to move away from their homes.

The most recent issue is how the Myanmar military and government have been persecuting and torturing Rohingya Muslims for the past few decades. Reports show that more than 730,000 Rohingya have fled outside the country to neighboring Bangladesh since 2017. The Human Rights Watch called the systemic discrimination of the Rohingya by Myanmar authorities a “dehumanizing system of apartheid.”

Recently, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a UN fact-finding mission, released court documents proving that the Rohingya in Myanmar had been subjected to “mass killings, widespread rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as beatings, the destruction of villages and homes, and denial of access to food, shelter and other essentials of life.”

According to Business Insider, a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals, the release of ICJ’s documents came hours after Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, admitted that war crimes “may have been committed” in the military’s 2017 crackdown. Thus, the ICJ ordered the Myanmar government to “take all measures within its power” to stop the persecution of the country’s minority group.

“The Myanmar government and military must follow [the ICJ’s] order or face consequences from the international community and possibly the United Nations Security Council. [This ruling] will change the narrative of the genocide and have a big impact on the government,” Ro Nay San Lwin, a 42-year-old Rohingya Muslim activist, said.

Genocide, an internationally recognized crime wherein acts are committed to destroy or kill a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, or religion, dates back to the 1930s. CNN, an American news-based pay television channel owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, reported that in 1932, Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union inflicted a famine upon Ukraine, killing an overall six million to 10 million people. Since then, history has become familiar with genocide, causing millions of deaths and the destruction of people’s lives.

Genocide in Numbers

A 2017 report from Statista showed that 6,700 Rohingya Muslims including at least 730 children under five were killed in Myanmar's Rakhine state between August and September 2017. Reports showed that 64.4% of people were shot, 8.8% were burned to death, 5% were beaten to death, and 2.6% were victims of sexual harassment. But, the deadliest and most infamous genocide of the 20th Century was the Nazi Holocaust which happened between 1933 to 1945.

Reports showed that the Nazi Holocaust killed over five million to 17 million people. About six million Jews were massacred during that time, headed by Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Holocaust is just one of the many examples of genocide. Others include the Khmer Rouge Cambodian Genocide (1975 to 1979) with 1.3 to 3 million killed; Kazakh Genocide (1931 to 1933) causing 1.3 million to 1.75 million deaths; Armenian Genocide (1915-1922) with 700,000 to 1.5 million ​​killed; Rwandan Genocide (1994) with 500,000 to 1 million deaths, and many more. 

Predicting Genocide

As history became more and more familiar with genocide, researchers determined the main theories why these have happened. One of these theories involves fractionalization, grievance, and dehumanization, which argue that genocide can be predicted by higher ethnolinguistic or religious fractionalization within a country combined with grievances between groups. This is also triggered by several factors such as catastrophic events such as war, economic depression or revolution.

The government’s power also has something to do with genocide. As Rudolph Rummel argues: “The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects. The more constrained the power of governments, the less it will aggress on others.”

To address genocide, researchers have been finding ways to know if the act can be predictable. Fortunately, it can. The 10 Stages of Genocide and the Holocaust Museum’s Early Warning Project aimed to know the factors that could precede genocide. Jill Savitt, acting director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., acknowledged the fact that genocides are not spontaneous. There could be several indicators that could tell if a country has the capacity to kill millions of people based on their religion, race, or ethnicity.

According to NPR, an online site that delivers breaking national and world news, the researchers created a computer model to analyze which nations currently are at greatest risk using a database of every mass killing since World War II. After that, they went back and looked at the conditions in the countries where the killings occurred just before the attacks. The model analyzes several factors which include fluctuations in per capita gross domestic product, infant mortality rates, overall population. The researchers believe that these are enough indicators of inequality, poverty and economic instability.

"We're not forecasting with precision. That's not the intention of the tool. What we're doing is trying to alert policymakers that here's a situation that is ripe for horrors to happen and give them a heads up that there are actions that can be taken to avert it,” Savitt said. 

The findings showed that the countries that are most likely to have targeted killing of more than 1,000 people include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (31%). Afghanistan (24%), Egypt (24%), South Sudan (18%), Pakistan (17%), Yemen (16%), Angola (12%), and more. Lawrence Woocher, the research director at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, stated that the most dangerous governments are those that appear to be a regime that's not a full dictatorship but also not a full democracy.

"The prevailing view about why mass atrocities occur is that they tend to be decisions by political elites when they feel under threat and in a condition of instability. And there's lots of analysis that suggests that these middle regime types are less stable than full democracies or full autocracies,” Woocher said. 

These projects show that the mass killings of minorities involve many causes, and that if these are addressed, genocide can be prevented.