April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month – when we highlight the events and causes of genocide with the aim to prevent future catastrophes.
Rwanda, Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur – all of these genocides started during the month of April and, as such, this month is crucial for highlighting the atrocities of genocide and the reasons why it must be prevented.
Claiming approximately 800,000 lives within 100 days in 1994, the Rwandan genocide is considered to be one of the deadliest ever. The genocide began on the 6th April 1994: that night, an airplane transporting President Habyarimana was approaching Kigali airport, and was shot by surface to air missiles.
In retaliation, all moderate Hutu were killed the next morning, and violence spread like wildfire. The paramilitary organisation Interahamwe built road blocks in Kigali, the presidential guard blocked Belgian UN troops at the airport, peacekeepers were surrounded, disarmed, prevented from continuing on their journeys and shot. Roughly 200,000 civilians joined in the killing – whether due to fear or hatred – using simple weapons like machetes, clubs and picks, and occasionally even rifles. Nobody was safe. In some cases, the Hutu even killed their own Tutsi wives, relatives or children.
The deaths of approximately 1.5 million Armenians was forgotten for a long time. Today, however, Turkey remains the only state that denies the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. This genocide, which also claimed the lives of approximately 250,000 Assyrians and 350,000 Pontic Greeks, is viewed as one of the three biggest genocides of the 20th century – alongside Rwanda and the Holocaust.
The first coordinated attack on the Armenian people occurred on the 24th April 1915: between 200 and 300 intellectuals were captured, killed, tortured or were forced to work themselves to death in Constantinople. All Armenian soldiers had to hand in their weapons, and were either shot or sent to work camps. The men who were fit for action were killed first to make sure that all those able to defend the community were destroyed. The remaining women, children and elders thereby became easy targets.
To read more about the Armenian Genocide, follow this link: https://genozidblogger.de/en/armenia-1915-1918/
On the 17th April 1975, the communist party Khmer Rouge (the Red Khmer) took political power in Cambodia, developing hatred against so-called enemies of the people. They particularly targeted the rich, the lower-middle-class, specialists (especially foreigners), academics, intellectuals and everybody who supported the USA. Even ethnic minorities, such as Vietnamese or Chinese people or Cham Muslims, or religious people who believed in anything other than the Khmer Rouge’s pseudo-religion became victims. The entire population was forced to do hard agricultural work. People died from exhaustion, starvation or disease. Those who didn’t were either killed or tortured to death. It is estimated that during the four years of Khmer Rouge’s control, between 1.7 and 1.9 million people (of a total of 8 million citizens) were killed.
The former Balkan state of Yugoslavia underwent an ethnic cleansing campaign, including a genocide, during the Bosnian War (April 1992 – December 1995) and the Kosovo War, marking the first genocide since the end of the Second World War.
Serbian concentration camps were built in Bosnia, where Muslim men (and occasionally women) were captured, and beaten with clubs, cables, boots, metal rods, etc.. They were abused, starved, systematically raped and executed. Under the command of General Mladic, the Serbs attacked the city of Srebrenica, where about 500,000 Muslims sought protection, in July 1995. Mladic ordered for the stationed UN soldiers to be taken hostage and for all men and boys between the ages of 16 and 60 to be separated from the women, girls and elderly: approximately 8,000 men and boys were deported and shot.
A genocide started in Darfur in 2003, resulting in the deaths of more than 300,000 people and forcing 2.7 million to flee their homes.
The Sudanese government committed inhuman crimes against civilians, with the help of Arab nomads (Janjaweed): the Sudanese air force attacked and bombed the villages of African rebels, usually at dawn. Shortly after that, the Janjaweed and government troops arrive on horseback or camels to kill the remaining survivors. Young men are rounded up, tortured and shot, or sometimes chained together and burnt alive. They are often beheaded and their heads thrown into the village’s wells to poison the water. The women are kidnapped, raped, mutilated or killed, their houses plundered and their villages burnt.