I’ve just been doing some literature studies and articles-research on different violations of human rights for the evening course I take at Uppsala University. I’ve been naive enough to find myself raising eyebrows on the use of brutal oppression by dictators and totalitarian states as something of a relatively modern phenomena. And that terrorist violence was something caused by the lack of knowledge, a.k.a. Stupidity…
We are all children of our time and society, but we begin obtaining our ethnocentric version of the world from a very early age. What if we reflected more and earlier in life on those issues? No matter where one is born on Earth, that very social context you raised in will shape and foster you to consider someone unknown as ‘the other’. If we don’t pay attention to this, we might believe or miss to see that we treat someone else is worth less… That we have the ‘right’ to mistreat someone else for something that they cannot change, to keep flattering the ugly face of discrimination. So what can we do to hinder such an outcome?
By taking responsibility for your words and actions, and by STANDING UP for someone who’s being mistreated or that’s wrongly accused as ‘weak’ by a group of people or a ‘strong’ individual. You say ‘It’s in humanity to compete, and nature is harsh’ but It’s not all about ‘permanent’ norms, or natural group psychology, ’cause people will always have differences (=be unique), and history is a proof of how the view of what people considered as ‘normal’ has changed over time and between groups. The problem with us lies rather in our intolerance with people that are outside OUR comfort zone, it’s often the collective who takes a stand against an individual. The many shape the norms and expectations of acceptance of today, so If everyone sometime in life would be viewed upon as an outsider, we would all understand what it feels like to be TREATED differently.
We need to talk more about norms and not just silently accept things as they ‘are’, ’cause what if we are wrong? Or what if someone on the outside is more ‘right’? Determinism in the case of discussing normality/norms is as devastating for our future generations as not trying to solve an armed conflict, or not trying to fix a bleeding wound, at all… I’m not saying that we do not talk about these things, but that we need to reflect more on why we’ve been treated or not treated in a certain way. Raising awareness about self-reflexivity makes us more conscious about the mechanisms we can change. What if we can’t befriend everyone we meet? Well, at least we could try to respect them, but hopefully even accept and appreciate our amazing diversity. After all, what would humanity be without us all? Inhumanity?
This last week’s studies have more specifically included an ethnographic book on the Pol Pot & Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, (1974-1979). It was at times a devastating treat to read, but ought to include as universal truths as any realistic documentation of the European Holocaust does! I did not react strongly just because of the inhumane and cold-hearted killings described in the book, but how the victims/enemies in Khmer Kampuchea 🏯 were systematically categorized, deported and finally executed from life and all major history-writing!? The betrayers often disappeared “without a trace” and never received a proper trial. Even their own peeps and neighbours were suspected ‘infidels’ and Khmer comrades could also turn into an ‘enemy’. The book “The Lost Executioner” by Nic Dunlop is an insightful piece of ethnographic documentation on one of modern times worst mass killings. 💀💀💀
Another terrible event (and the world’s so far biggest gas attack directed mainly at civilians) took place during the end of the Iran/Iraq war in 1988, near the north-east of Iraqs border to Iran.
The city of Halabja was bombed with biological weapons such as mustard gas and (probably) cyanide. ⚠️The world hadn’t been sure of Iraq’s use of biological weapons until Saddam Hussein’s (Iraq’s former dictator, hanged 11 years ago today) bombings took place and were documented by Tehran journalists on March 16, ‘Bloody Friday’, 1988.
Halabja was at the time home of Kurdish separatist-groups living with their families, and general governmental assumptions were made that the Kurds supported Iran’s troops and not their own state’s during the Iran/Iraq war in the region. Saddam had never befriended the Kurdish minority in the northern parts of his nation and accused them for co-opting attacks with Iran against the Ba’ath Baghdadi regime. Saddam thought that suspicion of supporting Iran was a legitimization fair enough for major persecution of the Kurdish minorities, and escalated with the bombings of Halabja where about 5000 people (75% civilian women and children) were killed in one day! 💨💀
If you don’t mind autenthic (but terrible) documentation from severe war milieu, here is a concise snippet of a BBC-commentary just after the foul and disastrous attacks! These were probably part of the first ‘proof’ of Saddam’s use of biological warfare, and crime against humanity.
How can we not have learned more from history? Wether concerning racism, genocides, the mass killings in Cambodia or the persecution on Kurds in Iraq (and elsewhere) after all this years? We have the knowledge, the channels and certainly the documented proof, but what do we do with it…? Nothing…?