By Grace Harris, Mira Mehta, and Allison Weiner, members of the Managing Committee
As Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month comes to an end, it is important to continue to recognize ongoing genocides, the progress that has been made to oppose them, and the work that remains to be done. While many individuals have recognized genocides going on around the world, it is often a long and difficult process for the United States and other governments as well as international bodies like the United Nations to recognize something as a genocide. When they do so, however, they give greater attention to the situation and provide a pathway for greater action. There have been two notable declarations in the past year. Learn more about definitions for different atrocity crimes in STAND’s FAQ.
After many years of advocacy from Rohingya groups and other Burmese activists, the United States government formally declared on March 21, 2022, that the Myanmar military’s actions against the Rohingya people amounted to genocide. In 2017, Myanmar’s military began a crackdown against the Rohingya people, an ethnic and religious minority in the Rakhine state. In the first month alone, 6,000 people were killed. Since then, violence has only continued, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Many Rohingya refugees are living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh without access to adequate resources. Food, education, health care, and other crucial services are inaccessible to most of the Rohingya people still living in the Rakhine state, who continue to face violence from a military that has only been emboldened since they took power in a coup in February 2021. The genocide declaration is meant to put pressure on the military, but the U.S. cannot end its support for the Rohingya people there. Taking more concrete action through policies like the BURMA Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, can help build on this momentum and limit the power and resources the military has to continue to oppress the Rohingya and other Burmese people.
The atrocities committed against the Uyghurs by the Chinese government have gained a lot of attention in recent years. On January 19 of last year, the United States government officially declared that this crisis is a genocide and called upon the Chinese government to put an end to it. The Uyghurs have faced a history of brutal oppression where they have been labeled terrorists for their religion, faced mass surveillance programs, and been forced into camps for “re-education” and cultural destruction for so-called suspicious behavior. Forced sterilization, imprisonment, deportation, and labor are all ways in which the Chinese government has attempted to destroy the Uyghur population over the last few years, with a major crackdown beginning in 2017 that has its roots in historical oppression since the beginning of the People’s Republic of China itself. This crisis has received international condemnation, and within the U.S., policies have been passed such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021 and the Uyghur Human Rights Act of 2020. By rightfully labeling this what it is, a genocide, the U.S. has taken another important step forward in helping the Uyghur people and ending the injustice enacted upon them.
To advocate for continued action in these and other regions, join an Action Committee.