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This is the second in a series of blog posts by Auschwitz Institute interns who from October 2011 through March 2012 monitored countries for risk of genocide using the Analysis Framework of the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. This week we present the post by Shamiran Mako, a graduate student in political science and international relations at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. Shamiran monitored Bahrain for risk of genocide.

As an academic working mostly on comparative politics and international relations, the joint internship with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) furthered my understanding of the structure and implications of international policymaking on genocide and other crimes against humanity. Using the OSAPG’s eight-point framework of analysis as the legal and normative framework for measuring the risk of genocide in conflict states also furthered my understanding of international law and the structures and processes that shape the international community’s response to genocide. As a genocide-monitoring intern, my task was to compile research on the developing crisis in Bahrain following the Arab Spring.

A common misperception pins genocide as an abrupt and spontaneous rupture in a state’s internal governing structures and institutions. However, as an unfolding process, genocide often beings with the violation of basic human rights, ultimately resulting in the suppression and extermination of targeted groups based on a misplaced threat perception by the ruling elites. This threat perception, often entwined in an ideological justification, escalates to the mobilization of the state’s resources and institutions for the destruction of the perceived threat group. Two things I learned during the course of my internship with the Auschwitz Institute and the OSAPG are the role of history and ideology as fundamental mobilizing factors that legitimize and shape the state’s response to perceived threat groups.

As a genocide-monitoring intern, I was responsible for mapping out a background assessment of the country’s historical inter-group relations, discrimination of specific groups in society, and prior record of human rights violations against targeted groups. In the case of Bahrain, the Arab Spring, marked by widespread revolutions and uprisings that have come to define the politics of the region since early 2011, demonstrated an opportunity for Bahrainis to voice their discontent with the ruling Al Khalifa family’s domination of state structures and institutions since the 19th century. Culminating in state-sponsored human rights violations, mass suppression, and the targeted killing of unarmed protesters, Bahrain posed a complex and challenging case that required an analysis of all relevant contextual variables.

While gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1971, Bahrain is comprised of an estimated 70 percent majority Shi’is and has been ruled by the Sunni-minority Al Khalifa family since the 18th century. Sectarianism and competing religious ideologies have also been determining variables of state-citizen relations, where the Al Khalifa family, with strong regional ties to other Gulf States, have ruled with impunity. Historically, the Shi’i community has been marginalized from state structures and institutions and live on the lower margins of the socio-economic strata. The 2011 revolts and revolutions in the Arab world provided an opportunity structure for Bahrainis to protest against failed promises of political and economic reforms.

Using the Genocide Convention’s definition of genocide as the main international legal framework, as well as academic and non-governmental sources to analyze the situation in Bahrain since the Arab Spring, I was able to develop a broader understanding of the inter-communal dynamics that have come to dominate Bahraini politics during this critical juncture. What originally began as peaceful mass protests against government policies instituted under Al Khalifa rule permeated by the monarchy’s reluctance to implement and uphold constitutional reforms that would ensure equal distribution of parliamentary seats, equal political participation and socio-economic development for the country’s majority Shi’i community, spiralled into political violence and the suppression of political dissidents, unarmed protesters, and human rights activists. Moreover, the use of foreign military personnel from other Gulf States, namely Saudi Arabia, to quell the revolution deepened the suppression of Bahrainis, which only served to further delegitimize Al Khalifa rule. The current unification proposal by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which would see the geopolitical and military unification of the two countries, has been met with criticism from the majority Shi’i community in Bahrain, other Gulf Cooperation Council countries (namely Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), as well as Iran.

In sum, as a student of political science and international relations, the internship was an opportunity to understand firsthand the internal policy workings of the United Nations with regard to countries at risk of genocide and other crimes against humanity. In the case of Bahrain, its historical background, coupled with an understanding of the ideological implications that have plagued the country’s political trajectory, demonstrate the complex web of state-citizen interactions. The internship with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation in conjunction with the Office of the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide bolstered my knowledge of the multiplicity of variables that can impact a country’s recourse toward the suppression of its citizens, particularly the role of history and ideology in the case of Bahrain.

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* Today Majlis-e-Wehdat Muslameen (MWM) claimed that Pakistani government intelligence agencies were supporting terrorist organizations in an ongoing genocide of Shia Muslims in Balochistan Province, Pakistan. MWM is a coalition of Shia organizations created in April 2010 to advocate on behalf of the Pakistani Shia community vis-à-vis the government. MWM alleges that over 700 Shias have been killed between 1984 and 2011, and that government agencies have aided terrorist organizations in a genocidal plot against the Shia in Pakistan, citing the frequent acquittals of terrorists by the Lahore High Court. On October 17 hundreds of Shia Muslims staged a two-hour sit-in at Main Kachari Road Multan in Southern Punjab to condemn “the ongoing genocide,” and demanded that the Pakistani government recognize the links of the Lahore High Court to the terrorist organizations it is charged with trying. In an October 18 report documenting two more assassinations of Shia Muslims by Sunni terrorist organizations, Ahlul Bayt News Agency claimed that the United States was the mastermind behind these terrorist organizations, such as Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, in a “conspiracy to destabilize the country.”

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced yesterday that substantive proceedings for the trial of four top former Khmer Rouge officials would start on November 21. The defendants are Nuon Chea, chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, head of state; Ieng Sary, foreign minister; and Ieng Thirith, minister for social affairs. Each faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. This announcement follows years of interference by the Cambodian government, resulting in only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, being convicted, despite the $100 million the trials have cost since being established in 2006. On October 11, German co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk resigned from the ECCC, citing interference by Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and other government officials. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, declared last week that further trials were “not allowed,” prompting Judge Blunk’s resignation. Following this setback, Patricia O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for legal affairs,  announced she would pay a visit this week to Phnom Penh to meet with government officials and others about the tribunal.

Photo: babulilmlibrary.com

Gunmen on motorcycles killed 14 Shia civilians on October 4 in Balochistan, Pakistan. This attack came on the heels of a September 19 massacre of Shia civilians by a Sunni militant group, also in Balochistan, which left 26 people dead. The Asia director of Human Rights Watch said, “The targeted killings of Shia are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.” Human Rights Watch claims that there have been 16 recorded attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan in 2011.

Shia protests broke out in the Pakistan port city of Karachi on September 23, over the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop attacks on Shia Muslims. Human Rights Watch said that Sunni militant groups act with impunity even in areas where government authority is well established. After the October 4 killings, opposition parties demanded the resignations of government officials they believe have failed to address the issue. Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, ignored their demand.

In response to mounting protests of government inaction, on October 5 Pakistani police said they had launched a crackdown on militants, detaining up to 100 suspects on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

Photo: ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com

* Extrajudicial killings and the massacre of 36 civilians in Burundi have human rights groups worried about a return to civil war. September 18, in the town of Gatumba, a group of gunmen dressed in police uniforms entered a bar and ordered everyone to lie on the ground before opening fire. The Guardian reports that the bar was known as a popular place for government supporters. This massacre comes on the heels of a report by the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a Burundian watchdog organization, which claimed it had evidence of 125 extrajudicial killings by the Burundian government between May and August, mostly targeting former Hutu rebels. The New York Times wrote that “an African diplomat in Nairobi” believed the killings in Gatumba were retribution against the government. “The government has been slaughtering them like rats,” the diplomat said. The attack on Sunday “was payback,” he said.

* Twenty-nine Shia civilians were killed in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan on September 20. Reports say the victims were Shia pilgrims, who were lined up in front of their bus before being shot. Amnesty International says the incident reveals the Pakistani government’s failure to address ongoing sectarian violence nationwide. Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an anti-Shia extremist group, claimed responsibility for the massacre. “These are not random killings but demonstrate the deliberate targeting of the Shia by armed groups,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “These attacks prove that without an urgent and comprehensive government response, no place is safe for the Shia.”

Photo: cbc.ca.com

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