Tag Archives: #genocide

Changing Social Reactions Toward Instances of Sexualized Violence Against Women  

A female Emory Student was raped Tuesday, February 11th at approximately 11:45pm in the wooded area between Dowman Drive and Oxford Road next to Emory Village. Approximately two hours later, there was another report that a girl was sexually assaulted on Fraternity Row. She reported an unknown male Emory Student touching her breasts and genital areas over her clothes, putting his hands in her shirt and touching her breasts, then proceeding to put his hands under her skirt (Full Report).


My first reaction as a female Emory student taking a class on gender violence and committed to issues on justice on gender violence to these reports was “What on earth were these females doing in those locations that late at night, especially an hour or two before Atlanta’s second winter storm of the year?”  When I took a second thought to it, I realized that my reaction was the way society was taught to react—to instantaneously blame the woman.


The notion of blaming the woman is not unique to American society—it is apparent almost everywhere around the world. In Rwanda, blaming the woman was first manifested right before the genocide through the release of the 10 Hutu commandments, which targeted Tutsi women as evil conniving individuals who used their sexuality to rise up the social and financial ladder. Furthermore, during and following the genocide, victims of rape were held accountable for their experiences by their families, and subsequently abandoned. During the Bosnian war, Muslim Bosnian women and children were taken into ‘rape camps’ and following the war, someone of them were condemned by their family and consequently disowned by their husbands or their household (More information on Women Under Siege).


Why are female victims the first to be blamed for something that they most often never ask for? It is because society has enculturated us to behave accordingly. In most societies, a woman is most valuable if she is a virgin. In the US, though the perception of woman has changed widely over the last century, a woman is still looked down upon based on her sexual promiscuity. It’s fascinating how though feminist movements have succeeded closing some of the gap of gender inequality when it comes to social and financial strata, society still has been unable to close the gap of sexuality—it is considered normal for a man to sleep around a lot yet it is a complete veto for a woman to do the same.


Of course, even the mention of a woman’s sexuality is ingrained in our minds as a taboo by society. However, to achieve true equality, feminists should opt to focus on it. They have indeed taken huge steps in this movement already advanced in it—victims are no longer keeping their traumatic experiences to themselves and are now reporting their cases, as illustrated with the cases above. Women, whether victims, or bystanders, are beginning to condemn, subtle or blatant acts that are evidently a violation to a woman.


Now, the next step in the feminist movement should be to break the norm of subconsciously blaming the female victim.Women—whether western, African or East European—can unfortunately be among the greatest critics of female sexuality. We are quick to judge the victim on why she was at wrong place at the wrong time, or on how her demeanor or her way of dressing led to her experience. The general safety tips concerning sexualized violence are always aimed toward women—tips such as never walking alone, avoiding poorly lit areas, walking with a partner of group after dark etc. It is time that we, as feminists, stop limiting our dialogue concerning safety precautions to our own circles, but to the entire community especially when it comes to sexualized violence—that is men, and most importantly, the bystander.

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Rape in Wartimes vs. Rape on Campus–Are They Comparable? 

It was once assumed that rape was committed as a result of sexual desire. Recent scholarship however shows that rape has a greater significance—it is used as a weapon of war. Though the international recognition of systematic sexualized violence against women during wartime as a crime against humanity has been a great advancement in the feminist movement, people should also focus on the rape during the peacetime, for example on campuses. What differences are there in the motives of rape in wartimes in comparison to rapes on everyday college campuses? It is important to highlight the functions of rape specifically in wartime before indulging its similarities with cases on college campuses.


Perpetrators in wartime use rape to humiliate the enemy. For example, during the Rwandan Genocide, the raping of Tutsi women served to symbolically devalue the Tutsi honor. In a country where the value of a woman was based on her virtue, virginity and cleanliness, a victim of rape was considered a disgrace to her family and hence the perpetrators used rape to destroy the Tutsi families and communities. Rape was also used as a method of ethnic cleansing—in the case of Rwanda, the cleansing of the entire Tutsi ethnicity. Hutu militiamen raped Tutsi women (and Hutu women married to a Tutsi man) to terminate an existing pregnancy of an enemy child, or to create a pregnancy with a Hutu child (More information on womenunderseigeproject.org).


In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was a widespread belief that raping women would give militiamen more power and invincibility (Women Under Seige). Raping also served as a method of controlling natural resources. As explained in Merideth Turshen’s paper, “The Political Economy of Rape […],” the perpetrators would take their victims as their ‘wives’ and through what she termed “bogus weddings,” the perpetrators would receive self-granted access to their victims land and resources.


The preceding reasons for rape are specific to wartime. So once again, what are the similarities between rape on college campuses and rape during conflict? Though wartime and campus life are two completely different contexts, rape occurs surprisingly for similar reasons. One main similarity is that in most cases, rape has historically been used as a systematic tool for domination and power. This is seen in David Lisak’s study and interviews on rape incidents on college campuses and how undetected rapists (college students) strategically plan out how to make a girl vulnerable in order for them to make easier sexual advances on them. Lisak argues that men, both undetected and incarcerated, rape in order to reaffirm their position in society as superior to women. Similarly in wartimes, rape is used as a way for the enemies to manifest their superiority over women, especially women affiliated with their enemies. Another important similarity is that most rapists are repeat offenders. Lisak discovered in his research that 76% of the 120 undetected rapists on campus were repeat rapists, having raped an average of 6 women. Similarly in wartimes, most of the perpetrators are repeat rapists, some of which having raped up to 10 women as seen in the case of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rape on college campuses turns out to be similar to rape during wartime in the sense that the men involved commit these crimes to assert their superiority over women. Likewise in wartimes, most rapists on college campuses are repeat offenders, and some are even unaware of it. This shows that though women have succeeded in moving up the social ladder, many men have found it difficult to digest the idea of gendered equality. Therefore, the best way to change this perception of women deeply ingrained in both men and women’s minds is through education at an early age for a person educated on gendered equality will most likely grow up regarding both sexes with equal respect.

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Peacekeeping? The United Nations Member States Should Put Their Money and Troops Where Their Mission Is.

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

The Rwandan genocide is a horrific atrocity and blemish on the human rights record of the United Nations and the international community. The United Nations was created in 1945 in the wake of World War II’s total devastation.  World War II was the deadliest war in human history with an estimated sixty to eighty-five million deaths from battlefield fatalities, indiscriminate bombings, war related diseases, and genocide. The UN was created to maintain international peace and security and to prevent future atrocities. Specifically, the United Nations charter includes in the preamble: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” The United Nations undoubtedly failed to act with appropriate speed and force to prevent and end the genocide in Rwanda. This failure of action was a failure to achieve the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.

In October 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 872, which established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).UNAMIR was established, to help implement the Arusha Accords, monitor its implementation and support a transitional Government. UNAMIR was doomed from the start, as the mission was not given adequate troops, an adequate mandate, or adequate resources.  Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of UNAMIR sent a cable on Jan. 11, 1994 to Kofi Anan warning of the risk of genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Anan and the United Nations reasserted that the mission should not use force. On April 6 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the political and ethnic killings began. UNAMIR attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but they were unsuccessful and repeatedly were attacked. On April 21, 1994, The Security Council passed Resolution 912, which further crippled UNAMIR and reduced UNAMIR’s total numbers from 2,548 to 270.The Security Council eventually adopted Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994 that created an arms embargo against Rwanda and increased UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. On June 22, 1994 The UN Security Council granted a chapter VII mandate to a multi-national humanitarian operation led by French forces.This action came way too late as 800,000 Rwandan citizens died during the genocide while the United Nations largely failed to act, despite their knowledge of the genocide. This lack of meaningful intervention was largely due to a lack of political will, low interest in Rwanda, and in part a lack of resources from the international community.

The genocide had enormous consequences for Rwandan society as a whole and women were subjected to undue propaganda, hatred, rape, mutilation, and disease including the spread of HIV. In addition to humiliation and disease, these mass rapes also resulted in sterilization of abused women. The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still prevalent in Rwandan society today, as there are many children born from the genocide and the society is still attempting to heel from the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In order to prevent the international community from standing idly by, the Security Council should always push for humanitarian and military intervention to prevent massive deaths regardless of individual state interests. Unfortunately, P-5 veto powers and a lack of political will, still prevent necessary intervention today.

The international community said “never again” after the Holocaust and after the Rwandan Genocide, yet massive killings continue around the world today, especially in civil war ridden Syria.  The current death toll in Syria is estimated at over 140,000. Today The United Nations still faces the same criticism that it is not putting its member states money and troops where the UN Mission encourages them to be sent in order to maintain international peace and security.


By The Numbers: World-wide Deaths.” The National WWII Museum.

“Charter, United Nations, Preamble.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/preamble.shtml&gt;.

“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1Mar.. 2014.


“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unamirS.htm&gt;.

“UN Chief Cites Syria at Rwanda Genocide Commemoration.” Capital News. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2014/02/un-chief-cites-syria-at-rwanda-genocide-commemoration/&gt;.

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Looking at “Portraits of Reconciliation”

Amidst the intense horror of genocide is a painful truth: the pain and suffering doesn’t end when the violence stops. Especially in the case of Rwanda, where fighting was very personal and direct, the implications for reconciliation are slim and difficult to envision. Between the flaws in the reconciliation and punitive measures as well as the fact that many women were forced into relationships with their perpetrators, there is seemingly insurmountable suffering that impedes the society’s ability to move forward.

The New York Times Magazine recently featured a story entitled “Portraits of Reconciliation” in which Pieter Hugo, a photographer, captured images of survivors with their perpetrators. Underneath each photo, there is a short explanation from both the perpetrator and the survivor about the violence committed in the past and their path to forgiveness. All of the images capture a Hutu perpetrator and a Tutsi survivor, so this limiting of information must be noted – while this is how most of the crimes were performed, there were also Tutsi perpetrators and Hutu victims whose stories were silenced in this project.

The medium of photography allows for an emotional window into the lives of these individuals and the complexities of their relationships. While some of the pairs seem distanced, there were many who were sitting closely and some who were even touching each other. Some of them could ha been mistaken for a family photo if taken out of the context of this article. These images are definitely shocking, but there is something eerily touching about them as well. Despite the greatest of odds, these two individuals – former enemies, even – have reconciled on their own terms to begin to re-form the backbone of Rwandan society.

The individuals in these pictures are participating in a national effort towards reconciliation. The AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent) offers a program to council small groups of Rwandans over many months, which concludes in the perpetrator’s request for forgiveness. Usually the perpetrator will bring offerings to their victim to accompany their verbal appeal. Through this project, it is clear that these efforts are making an impact, even if it’s only on a small scale. The magnitude of these apologies is profound; while each of these examples only includes two people, each person who is able to forgive lifts some of the burden of the genocide off of their shoulders and the bitterness out of their hearts. This is a strong move in the right direction for Rwanda’s recovery from such a disaster and their positive development in the future.

Many of the perpetrators have taken it on themselves not only to apologize, but to make up for their malicious actions by supporting and protecting their former victims long-term. A strong example of such is the case of Juvenal Nzabamwita (perpetrator) and Cansilde Kampundu (victim). Nzabamwita explains in his section how he looted Kampundu’s property and how his father was also involved in the killing of her children. Because of the education he received in jail, he recognized the importance of forgiveness as an avenue towards reconciliation and moral peace. When he came to apologize, he “told her that I would stand by her, with all the means at my disposal.” Kampundu herself explains why she forgave a man who damaged her life so greatly: “The reason I granted pardon is because I realized that I would never get back the beloved ones I had lost. I could not live a lonely life – I wondered, if I was ill, who was going to stay by my bedside, and if I was in trouble and cried for help, who was going to rescue me?” In this instance, Kampundu chooses to forgive out of a need for security, something which she lost during the genocide. In the case of Godefroid Mudaheranwa and Evasta Mukanyandwi, there is a similar connection. When Mudaheranwa asked for forgiveness, Mukanyandwi “was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.” While these connections are motivated by exterior factors – a need for security – they attempt to replace this feeling of safety that was lost during the genocide. Even if these relationships are not entirely amicable, there is a positive impact for both sides, where the victim receives protection and the perpetrator can find peace in the forgiveness of those he hurt.

Not all of the perpetrators promise lifelong support, but in all of these selected instances the act of forgiveness seems to lift a barrier on society and between individuals. As Karorero, a survivor, explains, “Sometimes justice does not give someone a satisfactory answer – cases are subject to corruption. But when it comes to forgiveness willingly granted, one is satisfied once and for all. When someone is full of anger, he can lose his mind. But when I granted forgiveness, I felt my mind at rest.” Perhaps, in line with this quotation, individual forgiveness can be more powerful and more effective in certain instances than formal punitive measures. As we can see from the interactions between these pairs, whether or not they feel a closeness between them, they all seem to feel “at rest” again to a degree. The AMI seems to be making large strides towards a reunited Rwanda and perhaps are offering a strong alternative to truth commissions and other more formal modes of reconciliation after large-scale tragedy and violence.


To see the pictures and for further reading on the project, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=MG_POR_20140404&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1388552400000&bicmet=1420088400000&_r=3

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The Rwandan Genocide in Comics

Many consider comics a childhood distraction, corrupting youth towards a world of violence and superheroes. This specificity excludes a large selection of works that transcend such a narrow description, but which can still be defined as a comic. In Scott McCloud’s comic Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, he seeks to expand the definition of comics to include Egyptian heiroglyphics, graphic novels, sequential artwork and many other sub-genres among this realm. He stresses a scholarly definition of comics as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” (9). The author intends to provoke certain reactions based on how he or she expresses the characters’ emotions and which senses are called forth from the readers.
However, comics lack objectivity and fail to produce only one clear-cut aesthetic response. Each image can elicit a variety of interpretations based on an individual reader’s background knowledge and personal opinions, as one’s culture shapes him or her to see the world in certain ways and to draw meaning from physical stimuli. As McCloud states, this phenomenon of “observing the parts but perceiving the whole” (63) is called closure. One’s social context and background heavily influence this learned process; “a single image can serve a multitude of purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people” (Sturken 10) based on how the reader constructs meaning from the material world.
The graphic novel Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Phillippe Stassen depicts the traumatic effects of the Rwandan genocide on a teenage Hutu boy, also named Deogratias. Deogratias’ sober thoughts are plagued by nightmares and hallucinations about his actions during the genocide. Throughout the graphic novel, Deogratias’ flashbacks touch upon the terror and cruelty synonymous with the time, although the author does not lay out exactly what happened. It is evident that Deogratias was complicit in the murders of his Tutsi friends and the rape of their mother, but the full extent of his role remains ambiguous. Thus, the reader also undergoes closure to take away meaning from the various images.
The cultural bias inherent in closure is perhaps even more severe when focusing on a subject like the Rwandan genocide, because it is such a personally tragic and polarized historical event. Moderates became radicalized, neighbors murdered neighbors and the lines were blurred between victims and perpetrators. The graphic also depicts the Western powers’ roles in the tragedy. Thus, every reader of this graphic novel has some connection to the genocide. Objectivity is not, nor should be, possible when describing such a historical event; merely observing the facts and figures cannot bring justice to the victims because they reduce individuals to numbers on a page.
Deogratias sheds light on the complexities by addressing the conflict through the eyes of a perpetrator. Thus, the reader can gain some insight into the mind of a moderate Hutu when his or her own experiences likely differ dramatically. The comic’s form and depiction of Deogratias further contribute to this effect because it allows the reader to analyze the story’s content from another lens by reducing the identification between the reader and the graphically-depicted character. The drastic difference in subject portrayal creates the sense that it is a new story, despite plenty of media attention on the Rwandan genocide and publicized stories of survival. Although the vast majority of people recognize the cruelty and horror that characterizes the Rwandan genocide, Stassen’s use of different subjects and contexts is somewhat shocking to the reader and causes him or her to follow the storyline closely, rather than assuming the events will be similar to those told in other genocide testimonies.
The complex emotions and thoughts that a reader experiences when reading Deogratias merely touch upon the complexities involved in the entire conflict. However, they certainly challenge the notion that there is an objective, black-and-white way to view and process the historical event. The graphic novel highlights the devastation that plagued the entire nation, not just the Tutsis, and the variety of different roles that factored in to create such a tragic event in world history.

Works Cited

Stassen, John-Phillippe. Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda. (Macmillan, 2006).
McCloud, Scott. Understanding comics: The invisible art. (Massachusetts: 1993).Sturken, Marita, Lisa Cartwright, and Marta Sturken. Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
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MicroGenocides:from micro to Macro, should we look away


Should the violence being perpetrated by the radical islamicist Boko Haram in northern Nigeria be labelled genocide?  This is a much more complex question to answer than it might appear. The international world addresses human rights and social justice issues, through frameworks which are developed and constantly revised. The question is, when do we label killings as genocide, by what indices do we quantify the lives taken, lives destroyed, violations and atrocities as genocidal in order to justify its naming as such? Who decides this, who should act? How does the “micro” become “Macro” to gain international attention? Nations have been birthed through genocide ,for example, states have sponsored genocidesstructural and systemic genocides .When then, do the key descriptors of genocide begin to make meaning? The Boko haram insurgency in Nigeria did not start overnight. Nigeria has a long pre-dated history of “micro- genocides”. There have been several sectarian killings going on in the northern part of Nigeria for long before now. The last terrible ones were in the 1990s there were massive killings in various northern cities; Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi to mention a few.

This article is premised on the everyday news of mass killings and sectarian violence that occur in Nigeria with a specific focus on the “Boko Haram” insurgencies. These sort of bloody insurgencies have and are also occurring in different places across the world daily. I have chosen to qualify the term genocide by using the prefix “micro” and “Macro” to help underscore the differences, its spatial and linguistic context and draw attention to how these prefixes change in the space of time, historically and in the political contexts in which they occur. The aim of this blog is to open up discussions to a critical examination of the term “Genocide” and what its use propagates or serves. The title Micro-genocides: from micro to Macro, calls to question the use of words in defining human impact activities and actions ,what it means locally and internationally and how these terminologies elude the very cause for which they were created and institutionalized, or perhaps obscure the gravity of  human actions. In this blog, I argue that often times “Macro-genocide = genocide” as defined in today’s contemporary world  are as a result of “micro genocides”  such as any killings premeditated by hate & detesting; racial, ethnic, clan or religious inclinations leading to the mass killings of specific populations ; often defined as “massacre” (massacre- micro genocide) in order to differentiate it from “genocides= Macro genocide” and that these “micro genocides  that occur every day can also be, in-fact macro genocides= genocides in themselves and are as such worthy of attention, locally and internationally.

It is also worth noting that at local or international levels historically, that the bodies on which these genocides occur have been the basis for defining “what is or is not a genocide” in today’s contemporarily. Thus, this goes to say that the current definition of genocide is politically inscribed on bodies, dependent on identity, class, race, locality, visibility and is based on the magnitude of the numbers or degree of atrocity or violence as perceived by the international world. The question of if these standards are just, in themselves or justified is persistently raised now, as has in past contentions. This therefore calls for the need to provide a critical appraisal of the word in view of recent world events and natures of conflicts and human losses.

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