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Genocide Memorial Day

By Islamic Human Rights Commission

Genocide Memorial Day (GMD) is a day focusing on remembering man’s inhumanity to man.  This remembrance is not limited by the background of either the victims of the genocides or the perpetrators of any of the genocides.  The philosophy of this project by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) rejects the notion that there is a hierarchy of victim depending on their background.  We want to hold people accountable in the framework of GMD by highlighting those people and power structures who have perpetrated genocides or genocidal acts and we want to remember the victims of these genocides and genocidal acts who have lost their lives.  While the idea of this commemoration is firmly rooted in Islamic ideology, this commemoration is an inclusive event which encourages people of all faiths or none from all parts of the world to take part.  The IHRC list of genocides is not exhaustive and resources permitting we intend to continue to add to this list depending on where our research takes us.

As the IHRC is a campaigning organisation, it is important for us to not just commemorate the past but also to recognise the genocides and/or genocidal acts taking place in the modern era with a view to stopping these from happening in the present or the future.  In order for this to happen it is important for us to use this commemoration as a springboard to analyse the climate that leads to an environment where ordinary people can become part of a genocidal machine.  In this respect every society needs to introspect and consider whether it is creating an environment where the steps towards genocide become easy for it to take.

This event began in January 2010 with the convergence of two ideas.  The first necessity was to counter the idea that some genocides are more exclusive than others and therefore worthy of greater attention.  The second necessity was that this wouldn’t just be a theoretical remembrance but begin to identify current genocidal practices with a view to stopping them.  A genocidal act had taken place in Gaza, Palestine with Operation Cast Lead, which finished in January 2009 the previous year.  This was a representative example of a long standing environment of destruction of the Palestinian people and their way of life in Palestine where these steps towards a climate of genocide have become easy to take.  In order to remind people, that remembrance ceremonies without a current practical application are not enough, we have decided to hold GMD to coincide with the end of Operation Cast Lead and for pragmatic reasons the third Sunday of January has been chosen as a time to hold this event.

The GMD project has created a platform where we can consider the impact not just of the physical genocide but also of other processes which could lead up to the physical destruction e.g. cultural genocide.  In order to extend the platform and create awareness amongst the youth we held a poetry competition on the theme of genocide for eleven to eighteen year olds in which the prize was to go to Bosnia to witness first hand a recent example of genocide in Europe.

IHRC wishes with this project to aim towards a culture where the burden of responsibility of the verse, “whoever kills a soul (...)  it is as if he had slain mankind entirely”(Quran 5:32) becomes a norm for all humanity to internalise rather than just an ideal for theoretical discussion.

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