Genocide Watch Report: Countries of Special Concern January-June 2021


Genocide Watch exists to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide and other forms of mass murder. Genocide Watch actively monitors the progression of genocides and genocidal processes around the world.

The purpose of this Genocide Watch report on Countries of Special Concern is to report on developments in countries with ongoing genocides, in countries at increased risk for genocidal massacres, and in countries of continued concern for genocidal violence. Based solely on developments over the past six months, the countries and regions of most concern are:


Active Emergencies - Afghanistan, Central Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger), China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Nigeria.

Situations of Increased Risk - Armenia/Azerbaijan, Belarus, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Israel/Palestine, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Russia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, and Venezuela.

To view previous Genocide Watch Countries of Special Concern reports, see: Countries of Special Concern: July-December 2020 and Countries of Special Concern: January – July 2020.

“Stages" refer to the ten genocidal processes monitored by Genocide Watch: The Ten Stages of Genocide.


Active Emergencies

Afghanistan

Stages: Organization (5), Preparation (7), Persecution (8), Extermination (9)

As the United States (U.S.) moves forward with its unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Taliban and Islamic State militants are escalating their genocidal assault on civilians. The Taliban and Islamic State are actively targeting those who have aided the U.S. as well as ethnic and religious minorities, women, and civil society members who oppose their rule.

Much of the violence has been concentrated in Shia neighborhoods, home to the Hazara minority. While the Hazaras have been targets of Taliban attacks for decades, the Islamic State-affiliate in Afghanistan is also carrying out genocidal violence against the group, killing at least 1,200 Hazara civilians since 2015. In May 2021, an unclaimed militant attack on a Hazara girls’ school in West Kabul left more than 90 students dead.


The Afghan militant groups are not targeting just Hazaras but have also intentionally targeted women in positions of power and civil society groups. Over the past six months, Taliban and Islamic State militants have assassinated several female judges, journalists, and human rights defenders, creating a climate of fear and repression reminiscent of when the Taliban last controlled the country from 1996-2001. Several reports document that the Taliban is currently at their greatest strength since 2001. With the looming U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, the country faces the immediate prospect of a return to Taliban-led fundamentalist rule marked by severe repression of women and minorities and genocidal violence. Genocide Watch predicts that Taliban genocide against the Hazara is imminent.

Central Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger)

Stages: Organization (5), Polarization (6), Extermination (9)

Islamist militants have continued to wage a genocidal campaign targeting civilians across the central Sahel region of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Since 2015, jihadist militants operating in the region have killed more than 8,000 civilians, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). Despite the high numbers killed already, this year is on pace to be the deadliest yet. Jihadist attacks in southwestern Niger have killed more than 400 civilians, including two massacres that killed at least 100 civilians. In June, a mass killing carried out by jihadist-recruited child solders in northeast Burkina Faso left at least 160 civilians dead. The continued violence has exacerbated a regional humanitarian and displacement crisis, with more than two million people internally displaced across the Sahel.

After its failed counter-terrorism mission, Operation Barkhane, France announced an end to its 5,100-troop presence across the Sahel, leaving a further power vacuum for jihadist militants to expand their genocidal campaign.

China

Stages: Discrimination (3), Organization (5), Persecution (8), Extermination (9), Denial (10)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority in western Xinjiang province. More than one million Uyghurs were detained in concentration camps, where they were tortured and coerced into renouncing their religious and cultural practices.


Outside of the "re-education" camps, Uyghurs are subject to mass surveillance and forced labor. The goal of these policies is to destroy the Uyghur people as a distinct ethnic, religious, and cultural group. The CCP continues its systematic destruction of the Muslim presence in Xinjiang. The Chinese state has destroyed two-thirds of the mosques in the region.


Due to CCP policies aimed at suppressing Uyghur population growth, birthrates in Xinjiang dropped nearly 50% from 2017-2019. A June 2021 study found that this trend will continue and could result in a reduction in Uyghur births by up to 4.6 million over the next two decades. These policies are in direct violation of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Despite its prevention of Uyghur births and transfer of Uyghur children for Han Chinese "re-education," China vehemently denies its genocide.


The movement to call China’s treatment of the Uyghurs what it is – genocide – has gained traction over the past six months with several governments including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Lithuania making such declarations. However, this diplomatic and economic pressure has yielded little change in China's genocidal policies and practices.


China has also continued its crackdown on minorities and political dissent in Tibet and Hong Kong. In Tibet, the CCP is instituting policies like those in Xinjiang to root out the threat of so-called “ethnic separatism.” In Hong Kong, China’s National Security Law, introduced in June 2020, has all but eliminated political freedom in the territory. At least 117 democracy activists, journalists, politicians, and students have been arrested over the past year. Most activists are now afraid to speak out against the Chinese repression.


Democratic Republic of the Congo

Stages: Persecution (8), Extermination (9)

Violence continues to escalate in DRC’s far eastern Ituri and North and South Kivu provinces. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the fighting has killed more than 1,000 people since January 2021 alone. The government, militants, and local militias continue to target the country’s Banyamulenge, Hema, and other minorities.


The Ugandan based Islamist rebel group, the Allied Democratic Force (ADF), accounts for many of the massacres of civilians, killing at least 200 civilians through March 2021. The ADF has carried out further massacres since, killing at least 57 civilians in an attack in late May. The ADF claims ties to the so-called “Islamic State” as part of a growing trend of jihadist militancy in sub-Saharan Africa. The ADF has launched attacks along with remnants of the Rwandan Interahamwe and the DRC's Mai Mai. It commits mass rape whenever it attacks a village. The surge in ADF attacks across eastern DRC prompted the government to declare a “state of siege” in the DRC's eastern provinces in May 2021. Government actions have thus far been ineffective in reining in the violence.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo near the regional hub of Goma in late May exacerbated regional instability, forcing up to one million residents to evacuate. The conflict combined with environmental displacement and the pandemic have catalyzed a humanitarian disaster with more than 27 million people, 1/3 of DRC’s population, facing acute levels of hunger.

Ethiopia

Stages: Persecution (8), Extermination (9), Denial (10)

In November 2020, the Ethiopian military invaded the country’s northernmost regional state of Tigray in response to a Tigray People's Defense Force (TPLF) attack on an Ethiopian military base. The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and allied Eritrean troops have massacred at least 1,900 civilians in Tigray – with Tigrayan officials claiming the death toll stands at 50,000. The fighting has internally displaced more than 1.7 million people and forced more than 60,000 to flee to neighboring Sudan.


The ENDF, Eritrean army, and Amhara militia forces have committed widespread and systematic atrocities across Tigray, including extrajudicial killings, airstrikes on civilian targets, torture, and sexual violence. Their violent assault has been genocidal in nature. At least one-third of attacks on civilians involve sexual violence by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers intent on “cleansing the bloodlines” of the Tigrayan people. The Ethiopian government has also instituted siege tactics on Tigray in order to starve the population, leaving an estimated 900,000 people at immediate risk of famine.


Communal violence also continues across Ethiopia’s fractured ethnic regions, most notably in Oromia, Benishangul-Gumuz, and the Southern People’s Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region, and along the Eritrean border zone. In these regions, ethnic-based massacres have become increasingly commonplace.


Myanmar

Stages: Persecution (8), Extermination (9), Denial (10)

In a February 2021 coup, the Burmese military – the Tatmadaw – seized control of Myanmar, ousting the elected government led by Aung Sung-Su Kyi. The Tatmadaw has been a vicious human rights violator and perpetrator of genocide against the country’s Rohingya minority. Tatmadaw Commander Min Aung Hlaing, a chief architect of the genocide against the Rohingya, is now the de facto leader of the country.


In response to the military coup, a massive protest movement formed with the aim of restoring civilian rule. The Tatmadaw has responded to protests with brutal crackdowns and reprisals, frequently firing on unarmed civilians and detaining anyone who stands in their path. In total, the junta has arrested at least 5,000 people, and killed more than 860 civilians, including dozens of children.


Rohingya who have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh still live in extremely dire conditions and the threat of refugees being sent back to Myanmar remains serious. If Rohingya are forced back to Myanmar, they will face a high likelihood of further persecution by the military junta. Bangladeshi authorities have started to move Rohingya refugees to the low-lying island of Bhasan Char, which poses a high risk of annual flooding and which has inadequate facilities for the Rohingya refugees.


Nigeria

Stages: Organization (5), Polarization (6), Extermination (9), Denial (10)

In the first six months of 2021, surging violence in Nigeria has left more than 1,600 civilians dead, according to ACLED. Most of the victims have been Christians. As an Islamist insurgency continues largely unabated and insecurity mounts across the country, Nigeria is at immediate risk of further genocidal violence.

The UN recently updated its estimate of the direct and indirect death toll from jihadist violence in northeast Nigeria to more than 350,000 people. Despite the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in June, there is little reason to believe that either Boko Haram or its rival splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), will stop their attacks on Nigerians. Recent videos show Boko Haram fighters pledging allegiance to ISWAP.

Violence against civilians has not been limited to Nigeria’s northeast. In the country’s northwest and “Middle Belt” regions there continues a combination of what the government has termed “armed banditry” and systematic genocidal assaults by Fulani jihadist militants against Christians. According to the International Committee on Nigeria, Fulani militants have killed at least 11,500 Christians since 2015.


Since January, there has also been renewed conflict in Nigeria’s southeast between security forces and Igbo (Biafran) separatist groups. In June, after Twitter removed a tweet by President Muhammad Buhari threatening a violent response to the political unrest in the southeast, the Nigerian government suspended the social media platform.

Situations of Increased Risk

Azerbaijan

Stages: Preparation (7), Persecution (8), Denial (10)

Tensions along the Armenia-Azerbaijani border have escalated since Azerbaijan's invasion of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) ended with a November 2020 ceasefire agreement that awarded Azerbaijan substantial territory in Artsakh.


The Azerbaijani government has increased its hateful anti-Armenian rhetoric on mass media. Its propaganda includes a shocking “Military Trophies” Park in Baku, which displays the helmets of dead Armenian soldiers alongside mannequins of Armenian soldiers with hooked noses and disfigured faces. Azerbaijan has begun a systematic campaign of vandalizing and destroying Armenian churches and cultural sites in the newly acquired territories of Karabakh.

Azerbaijani forces killed one Armenian soldier on May 25th during a shootout in the Armenian province Gegharkunik, and recently captured six Armenian soldiers on May 27th in the same area. There have also been reported border incursions by Azerbaijan along the border of the Syunik Province in the south.


Belarus

Stages: Preparation (7), Persecution (8)

Across Belarus, a mass protest movement against the nearly three-decade rule of President Alexander Lukashenko has continued in 2021 despite violent crackdowns on protestors by security forces. Journalists, protesters, and opposition leaders are frequently beaten, tortured, and imprisoned by the Lukashenko regime. Belarus is the only European country that practices capital punishment. The government gives families of prisoners no execution or burial date if authorities do carry out the death penalty.


On May 23, 2021, the Belarussian government diverted Ryanair Flight 4978 into a forced landing in Belarus to detain opposition journalist Roman Protasvich, in violation of International Civil Aviation law.

Central African Republic

Stages: Organization (5), Polarization (6), Persecution (8)

In late December 2020, a rebel coalition led by former president and war criminal François Bozizé sought to upend elections and seize power in the Central African Republic. In January, rebels attacked the capital Bangui and the surrounding areas, forcing officials to declare a “state of emergency.”


In the period since, renewed violence between security forces, rebels, and foreign mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group, has forced more than 200,000 people to flee. Amid the fighting, armed groups and security forces have carried out massacres, including the February killing of at least 14 civilians at a religious site. The UN has accused Russian mercenaries of committing war crimes, including extrajudicial killings and torture. More than 2.8 million people in the CAR, more than half the country’s population, are now in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection.


Chad

Stages: Organization (5), Polarization (6)

In April, rebels killed Chad’s president of more than three decades, Idriss Deby. In the day prior to his death, Deby was elected to a sixth term in office in a vote marred by political repression and a boycott by the opposition. After his killing, Deby’s son assumed control in circumvention of the constitution. Security forces have since led a violent crackdown on activists seeking the implementation of democracy and civilian rule in Chad.