The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

STAND Statement on the Refugee Resettlement Cap

Today, world displacement levels are at an all-time high, with at least one person displaced for every 112 people around the world. With this as the reality, STAND is dismayed at the Trump administration’s announcement recently that the U.S. will cap refugee admissions at only 30,000 next year — an all-time low for the United States’ refugee resettlement program. Over the past several years, STAND has opposed continued iterations of both the Muslim Ban and previous resettlement cutbacks, and now stands fervently opposed to this move to further lower the U.S. refugee resettlement ceiling. Now, more than ever, such a decision represents a complete abandonment of the nation’s moral responsibility to host and assist those who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict, atrocities, and natural disaster.

According to the United Nations, today there are more than 68.5 million displaced people, including more than 25 million refugees. We cannot turn our backs on these, as one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Facing the loss of their homes, families, and livelihoods, refugees look to the United States for a fighting chance at life. To restrict their entrance is to abandon the victims of global crises – crises that often the global community has failed to prevent.

We, the young people of STAND, continue to support the fight against anti-refugee actions taken by the United States. A country with such great wealth, potential impact,  and history of humanitarian assistance, has a moral obligation to do their part and accept refugees from around the globe.

As always, we stand #WithRefugees.

STAND Statement on Anniversary of Peak Violence Against Rohingya

One year ago today, the Burmese military intensified a systematic campaign of violence against the minority Rohingya population, killing 6,700 and causing over 723,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh.

We, the student leaders of STAND, recognize that the wide-scale violence being taken against the Rohingya is genocide as defined legally by the 1948 Genocide Convention. We call on the international community to hold the Burmese government and military accountable for their actions.

In addition to a recent increase in violence, the Rohingya have historically been a marginalized group within Burma. In 1962, the Muslim minority group were stripped of their citizenship and labeled “illegal immigrants” by the government who speculated that they had arrived from Bangladesh. However, independent reports have recognized their pre-British colonial presence in Northern Arakan. Thus, the Burmese government must recognize and respect the inalienable right of the Rohingya to live in their country.

Recently, in its campaign to ethnically cleanse Burma’s Rakhine State, the military has burned villages, tortured and killed civilians, and raped hundreds of women. Even when refugees make it out of Burma, they live in overcrowded camps that struggle to provide basic living necessities and where the spread of disease is inevitable.

As a student-led organization dedicated to ending genocide and mass atrocities wherever they may occur, STAND acknowledges the suffering of the Rohingya in Burma as genocide and urges the international community to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Rohingya— as well as other ethnic minorities in the country— are not persecuted based upon their ethnic or religious identity.

Soccer for Peace: The World Cup you haven’t heard of (yet!)

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” -Nelson Mandela

As the World Cup teams finished up group rounds, fans from across the world gathered in Russia in support of their respective home countries. From South Korea to Panama, these fans donned the colors of their national flags, bowed their heads at the sound of their national anthems, and sang loudly the chants of their national languages.

Simultaneously, 4,000 miles away in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, another soccer tournament was taking place. This match was not attended by thousands, the players may not have trained for years or had the same professional resources as those competing in Russia, and there were no national anthems to sing or national flags to wave.

Instead, their jerseys proudly display the letters RFC or RFM— Rohingya Football Club or Rohingya Football Malaysia. These teams are made up entirely of Rohingya, a Muslim minority group who are have been,and continue to be,persecuted and denied citizenship in the predominantly Buddhist country of Burma (Myanmar) and neighboring Bangladesh. Though these players, who are also refugees from Burma, have found respite in Malaysia, they are still formally considered stateless and, therefore, do not have the same rights as people with statehood – right that include the ability to legally work or travel outside of the country.

In spite of their harrowing journey out of Burma and the prejudice they continue to face, RFC and RFM players have found refuge in the game of soccer. “Since my birth, I haven’t known freedom,” said Farouque, one of RFC’s leaders. “We can openly play football here. In [Burma] we are not even allowed to go out of our houses. I had to leave my country to save my life.”

We can openly play football here. In [Burma] we are not even allowed to go out of our houses. I had to leave my country to save my life

RFC hopes to make a better life for future generations of Rohingya by bringing awareness to the crimes taking place in Burma as well as proving that the Rohingya can achieve greatness if only given the opportunity. “We want to tell Rohingya youngsters that they can be whatever they want in the world. We want to promote the social development of our people,” said RFC co-founder Muhammad Noor.

The Rohingya are not the only peoples for whom soccer has been a haven. The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA), is an organization of 47 teams all comprised of minority ethnic groups, refugees, diaspora, stateless persons, and nations not recognized by FIFA. One of the most well-known teams that participates in the CONIFA World Cup each year is Darfur United, a team of refugees from Darfur, Sudan, who have been resettled in Östersund, Sweden.

Many non-Arab citizens of Sudan have faced years of government persecution due to their identity. About 15 years ago, the conflict in Darfur was recognized as a genocide by the United States government, but, despite continuing violence against Darfuris, it has since lost media attention. Coach Souliman states, “Football, to me, is everything. Football is support. Football is health. It means relationships and it means peace.”

For many years sports, and soccer in particular, have been used to heal individual pain and reconcile fractured communities. After the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, organizations such as Football for Hope, Peace and Unity were established to bring together Rwandan youth and ensure that violent conflict would not take place in the country again. Similar tactics have been employed in the post-conflict countries of South Africa, Colombia, Bosnia, Liberia, and countless others.

Soccer brings people together— it’s an activity in which to find a community, to gain confidence, and, for many, to escape the harsh realities of life. It’s a chance for individuals to shed their victim status and focus on personal improvement. For generations, soccer has been used as a healing program to foster peace, unity, and reconciliation in post-conflict countries. From post-genocide Rwanda and Bosnia to contemporary conflicts in Burma and Sudan, soccer has proved beneficial in empowering traumatized individuals and bringing together devastated communities. So, if you’re enjoying watching this year’s World Cup, check out one of the many inspirational teams not recognized by FIFA!

casey head shotCasey Bush is one of STAND USA’s Student Directors. She is a senior at Clark University, where she studies History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She has previously served in several roles with STAND, including as a summer intern and as Campaigns Coordinator, and she has also served as the chapter president of Clark’s STAND chapter. Casey is currently interning at the Buchenwald Memorial, a former concentration camp in Weimar, Germany.

The Legacy of the Holocaust in Preventing Genocide in the Modern World

On December 1, 1938, The Arizona Daily Star ran the story, “Nazis Order Secrecy as to Number Killed by their Policies.” In the matter of four short years, large-scale persecution escalated to complete annihilation, as the American people were made aware that “Nazis Seek to Slay All Jews in Europe Now.” These articles represent only a small fraction of the thousands of media reports that came out during World War II. Still, Americans today look back on the events of the Holocaust and wonder how we could have missed the warning signs that violence in Europe was imminent. Additionally, we question why we did not take the necessary steps to mitigate and end the atrocities once they became obvious.

“Wherever men and women are

persecuted because of their race, religion,

or political views, that place must – at

that moment – become the center of the universe.”

– Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate, Political Activist, and Holocaust Survivor

Today, we are seeing similar warning signs of mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in countries such as South Sudan and Burma. How can we work to ensure that we do not make the same mistake that past generations have made by ignoring the warning signs? How can the average person take action to prevent another genocide?

In addition to supporting on-the-ground actors, the most important step that Americans can take to prevent and respond to atrocities in the modern era is to support legislation that ensures our government does not ignore its commitment to human rights. One such policy is the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocity Prevention Act (S. 1158, H.R. 3030). Named after Nobel laureate, Holocaust survivor, activist, and author Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928 in Sighet, Romania. In 1940, when Hungary was annexed by Nazi Germany, Wiesel’s family was forced into a ghetto and four years later, with the consent of the Hungarian government, Romanian Jews, including Wiesel and his family, were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. After three weeks of forced labor in the camp, Wiesel and his father were taken on a 620-mile death march to Buchenwald, another concentration camp, where his father was beaten to death. Wiesel was liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, at the age of 17. After liberation, Wiesel went on to write a memoir entitled Night about his experiences as a teenager. In 1955, he moved to New York, where he continued to write and teach and was eventually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, being called a “messenger to mankind.” Before his death in 2016, Wiesel founded the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity with his wife Marion to “combat indifference, intolerance and injustice.”

The Congressional bill that bears his name seeks to do just that. By creating a Mass Atrocities Task Force, improving Foreign Service Officer training, and institutionalizing the Complex Crises Fund to provide timely funding for rapidly emerging atrocity issues, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (GAPA) will bolster the ability of the U.S. to contribute to ending and preventing genocide and mass atrocities wherever they occur. The Mass Atrocities Task Force, modeled after today’s Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), would meet regularly to strategically determine a whole-of-government strategy to prevent and respond to emerging atrocities in at-risk countries.

Since its inception in 2012, the APB has repeatedly proven its importance in the genocide prevention field. For example, through careful risk assessment and broad diplomatic engagement, the APB successfully helped limit violence in Burundi. In this instance, as well as in the Central African Republic and Jordan, APB processes have shown to be strategic and efficient in ensuring that genocide will no longer be ignored by the U.S. government.

“We must always take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor,

never the victim. Silence encourages

the tormentor, never the tormented.”

-Elie Wiesel

As an activist and champion of human rights advocacy, Elie Wiesel worked his entire adult life to combat violence against civilians. You can support this landmark legislation today: Sign and share our petition.

Ready to take the next step? From calling Congress to writing an op-ed, you can make a difference. For more ways to get involved and make your voice heard, check out our website!

Casey Bush is the Fundraising and Development Coordinator on the Managing Committee of STAND. As a senior studying History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, Casey is writing her undergraduate thesis on individual forgiveness and its effects on a post-Holocaust world.

Burma Criticized by Annual Human Trafficking Report

Less than one hundred days after Burma’s democratically elected government took office, the US State Department declared that it would put the country on its list of worst human trafficking offenders. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report downgraded Burma to the lowest tier, Tier 3, where it joins the rank of countries such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Rationalizing the demotion, the report explains that “the Government of Burma does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.”

Many view this ranking as a US criticism of the Burmese government’s treatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority population within the country. The military junta that formerly held complete control over Burma firmly asserts that the Rohingya are external immigrants, referring to them as “Bengalis” because of the belief that the Rohingya originated from Bangladesh. Through government policies, such as revoking the citizenship of the Rohingya and passing discriminatory race laws, the country has taken significant measures to isolate and expel the population. Additionally, Buddhist nationalism has led many in the general population to discriminate against the Rohingya, forcing entire families and communities into government-run camps where they are denied basic human rights.

The persecution of the Rohingya has driven many to flee from the country, and, in their desperation, fall into the hands of human traffickers. According to the International Organization for Migration, in the first three months of 2015, an estimated 25,000 Southeast Asian migrantsprimarily Rohingyapiled into rickety boats and paid smugglers inordinate fees to bring them to neighboring countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. When the boats are not stranded at sea and rejected by neighboring countries, they become an easy target for human traffickers. Once captured and taken to countries like Thailand, the Rohingya are thrown in camps in the middle of the jungle where they are held until relatives pay thousands of dollars to release them. In 2015, a joint military-police task force discovered mass graves at these trafficking camps, holding the bodies of dozens of Rohingya. At the time of the discovery, Thailand was also a Tier 3 human trafficking offender, but it has since made the leap to the Tier 2 “watchlist” due to its increased prosecutions of traffickers in the seafood industry.

Today, the government of Burma is no longer completely controlled by the military. In November 2015, The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the majority of seats in Parliament. While the foreign citizenship of Suu Kyi’s children constitutionally bars her from serving as president, she still wields primary control over the government. Many hoped that Suu Kyi would reverse the discriminatory policies that marginalize the Rohingya, but instead, Suu Kyi has faced heavy criticism for her silence on the issue. Recently, she even asked the US not refer to the minority as ‘Rohingya’ due to the fact that they are not recognized in Burma.

While mass migration by boat has become less common over the last few months, local communities continue to harbor a deep-rooted hatred for the Rohingya and force the minority into camps. Thus, many still face forced labor and the exploitation of human traffickers. “The chronic, chronic abuse of the Rohingya has not been dealt with at all,” a U.S. congressional aide said when asked about the TIP report. Changes must be made in Suu Kyi’s approach to the Rohingya situation if Burma is to improve its standing in the international community next year. 

101Casey Bush is a rising sophomore at Clark University, where she leads the Clark STAND chapter. She is a summer intern for STAND in Washington, DC, and is STAND’s incoming Campaigns Coordinator. Casey can be reached at cbush@standnow.org.

As Burundi Crisis Worsens, African Union Must Act to Prevent Genocide

In January, a leaked United Nations (UN) memo revealed that there is no UN plan to prevent genocide in Burundi. Since then, the crisis has only worsened. The UN and African Union (AU) have faltered on responses, and peace talks remain at a standstill.

In the 1990s, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, shaken from African inaction during the Rwandan genocide, took the lead on ending the civil war in Burundi. As the West again failed to act, Nyerere pulled together a coalition of East African leaders to denounce the military coup and organize an oil embargo and wider sanctions on the country. These sanctions were carefully planned to bring the government to the negotiating table, but not to have a negative impact on Burundian civilians. As was their hope, the economic impact on the elite drove the government to the negotiating table, eventually leading to the 2005 Arusha Peace Agreement. In comparison to the 1990s, African leadership to resolve the current crisis has been sorely lacking. In January, the AU voted to send a 5,000 member peacekeeping mission to Burundi, but when Burundi, predictably, refused to consent to their deployment, the AU backed off, failing to come up with other options to protect civilians.

Burundi zoomSince gaining independence in 1962, Burundi has witnessed a number of armed conflicts, often between the Hutu and Tutsi groups. The discord between the groups can be traced to the Belgian colonial administration, which favored Tutsi over Hutu. In 1972, as a result of this division, and continued favoritism of Tutsi in post-colonial Burundi, Hutu began attacking Tutsi with a declared attempt at annihilation. In response, what has been termed a “selective genocide,” broke out against Hutu intellectuals in 1972. After the first democratically-elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated in 1993, civil war broke out between Hutu and Tutsi, finally concluding in 2005 with the Arusha Peace Agreement.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became president following the agreement. Since then, and even before the recent third term crisis, Nkurunziza faced accusations for his growing authoritarianism as well as his violent crackdown on opposition parties. The current crisis was sparked last spring when Nkurunziza declared his bid for a third term, which is prohibited by the Arusha Peace Agreement, and, arguably, the Burundi constitution. While Nkurunziza supporters argue that he was appointed rather than elected for his first term and, therefore, the choice is constitutional, those opposed to the third term insist that the decision violates the Arusha Peace Agreement. Additionally, while the constitutional court ruled in Nkurunziza’s favor, many believe that they were threatened to do so.

In light of the anti-third term protests, the government has shut down a number of the country’s most popular radio stations and newspapers, obstructing the movement of information within the country, and leaving citizens to rely on social media as their main source of information. The government has also arrested thousands of perceived political opponents, including journalists and over 500 students who were detained for doodling on images of Nkurunziza in their textbooks. In the past year, there have been at least 651 reported torture cases in all nine provinces of Burundi, including by electrical shock and use of acid. Testimonies show women forced to strip naked to see relatives in prison, and Human Rights Watch has reported gang-rape of women by youth militia members as part of attacks on perceived opponents. Perhaps most worryingly, hate speech is being used against political opponents – much as it was used against Tutsi during the genocide in Rwanda. UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra-ad al-Hussein stated in June that, “There are also deeply disturbing allegations of ethnic-based hate speech against Tutsis during a large public rally organised two weeks ago in the south of the country by the Imbonerakure militia. These allegations of speech amounting to incitement to violence must be urgently addressed.”

As the violence in Burundi escalates, moving towards what could be genocide, we must heed the lessons of Nyerere and his regional leadership on Burundi. That’s why we’re urging the African Union (AU) to prioritize Burundi and its people before the conflict worsens.

Specifically, we are calling on the AU to:

  1. Publicly condemn hate speech from all parties in Burundi;
  2. Urge the UN Security Council to support Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposal for a robust 3,000-member police protection mission in Burundi;
  3. Work with African Union member states, as well as the UN, to fulfill the agreed-upon 200 human rights and military monitors for Burundi;
  4. Urge the East African Community to support former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa as a peace talk facilitator by giving him more independence as lead facilitator; and
  5. Include non-governmental representatives from Burundi, including civil society in exile, refugees, women, youth, and other minority groups, in dialogue about next steps for peace in Burundi.

You can help us advocate for Burundian civilians by signing and sharing our petition to the AU. It’s now or never!

101

Casey Bush is a rising sophomore at Clark University, where she leads the Clark STAND chapter. She is a summer intern for STAND in Washington, DC, and is STAND’s incoming Campaigns Coordinator. Casey can be reached at cbush@standnow.org.

STAND MC: Finding Purpose in Passion

Ever since 5th grade, I have been passionate about genocide prevention. Admittedly an odd interest for a 10 year old, I always knew it was my calling to make a difference. I wasn’t exactly sure how my interests would translate in the real world as it seemed  there were only a limited number of jobs for a Holocaust and Genocide Studies major. However, joining STAND changed all of that.

At the very first STAND Summit I attended, I met people from all over the world who were working to prevent mass atrocities and who worked in a number of different environments—some of which I never knew existed! These people were passionate, engaged, and (best of all) incredibly kind and welcoming. I was so inspired by this community of activists that I decided to apply to be on the Managing Committee (MC). I hoped that I could inspire others to follow their passions and change the world like the STAND members had already inspired me to do. I could not have been happier when I got the call that I had received the position of Midwest Regional Organizer (RO)!

Being a part of the MC has been both inspiring and extremely fun. The MC retreat in particular is one of my favorite memories of being on the Managing Committee thus far. The retreat, which happens twice a year in Washington DC, is where we plan for the semester, hear from speakers from various conflict areas around the world, and bond with our fellow MC members. Ordering pizza, listening to music, and learning about one another through silly icebreakers kept me laughing all night! In fact, it was so hard to leave the retreat after we all became so close!

To anyone thinking about applying for the MC, I would say: if you are passionate about genocide prevention and ready to commit yourself to the cause, then definitely do it. As a member of the Managing Committee, I have learned how to lobby, how to work with a team to lead an NGO, and how to support several chapters that are thousands of miles away from me. Because of the incredible opportunities that STAND offers students, I have gained confidence in myself and my ability to lead. It never crossed my mind that I would have the chance to speak to Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill or become friends with people going to school across the country. Because of the incredible experiences I’ve had on the MC, I feel more prepared for the next steps in my life in my work with in the anti-genocide movement.

From internships to an eventual career, I believe that STAND has opened the door to so many possibilities that I would otherwise not know about. Because of STAND, and the MC, I have stepped out of my comfort zone as a shy freshman to discover the world and change it for the better!

 

Follow this link to learn more and apply by April 1st!


101Casey Bush is a freshman at Clark University, where she is an active member of her school’s STAND chapter. She is the Midwest Regional Organizer for STAND and can be reached at cbush@standnow.org.