Today we present another Guest Preventer from Prof. Alex Hinton’s genocide prevention class at Rutgers–Newark:

Shant Afarian, Class of 2012, Biology major

My name is Shant Afarian and I am a third-year biology major. In addition to my penchant for science, I have a very deep-rooted interest in genocide. This interest stems from my heritage; I am a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide. From early on in my childhood I have learned of the genocide of my ancestors. I was young, however, and unable to fully comprehend the extent of the crimes committed. Now that I am older, I can better appreciate the mistakes of the past, but I still have many unanswered questions. Why, for example, did the international community remain silent during the Armenian genocide? Why was nothing done to end the atrocities that were committed against my people?

Professor Hinton’s class seemed like an appropriate place to have my questions answered. And to some extent, they have been answered, but they have been replaced with other, more daunting questions. These questions deal with the integrity (or lack thereof) of the international relationships that are necessary for effective genocide prevention.

What seems to be the most prevalent issue is the persistence of international disagreement. Unfortunately for genocide preventers, humanity’s best interests and the self-serving interests of sovereign states usually clash, effectively preventing most humanitarian efforts. This conflict of interests, coupled with the ambiguities of the loophole-ridden legal definition of genocide, stands as the greatest obstacle in our path to a genocide-free world.

The successes and failures of the past are examined in Professor Hinton’s class in an attempt to learn from the mistakes of our predecessors. We have examined many case studies and have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from many key figures in the field. Their inputs have shaped our class discussions; by taking our initially confused outlooks and opinions and reinforcing them with key facts and philosophical musings, they have greatly expanded our knowledge of the history of genocide, thus allowing us to return the favor by passing on what we learned to future generations.

Indeed, as we have seen multiple times throughout the course, the lack of general awareness is a major contributor to the difficulty of effective genocide prevention. The first step was giving a name to the “crime without a name”—by doing this, a previously inconceivable horror was turned into a tangible concept. It follows then that the next step is raising awareness. Once the minds of the general public are as permeated with thoughts of genocide as ours, once we have we succeeded in bringing genocide to the forefront of our minds, then and only then can we hope to succeed in preventing genocide.