Amardeep Singh at the Genocide Denial Conference
American Sikh Council (ASC) representative S.Amardeep Singh and S. Agyamjot Singh attended the Genocide Denial Conference at University of North Carolina at the Center City campus in Charlotte, NC from April 13-14, 2019.
This was the first time this conference was held and organized by the Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies (CHGHRS) at UNC, Charlotte, NC. This year’s Genocide Denial Conference had over 130 attendees who were mostly scholars and professors with a sprinkling of activists and practitioners. There were academic s from over 12 countries which included; Nigeria, Netherlands, Denmark, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, UK and the US. The two day conference ran from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm on April 13 and 9 am – 4:30 pm on April 14.
The sessions were very intriguing and covered various stages of the genocides. A lot of focus was on the denial of the genocides by the perpetrators, courts and deceitful characters with ulterior motives.
Many times, internationally, the academia, legislative bodies and other institutions succumb to different pressures and not call a spade a spade. It is a form of denial when under the cover of different definitions; they try to label a genocide anything less than what it is. It not only helps the offenders to avoid any consequences from international community, such actions also encourage the future perpetrators and provide them frameworks on how to go about doing their dirty deeds and India is a perfect example of not calling the ‘Sustained Sikh Genocide 1984-1998’ as a genocide.
A panelist speaking at Genocide Denial Conference on April 13, 2019
William Pruitt from Virginia University presented a brief on his paper ‘Weaponizing Genocide Denial’. Most European countries have laws to punish anyone denying the Holocaust and spreading misinformation about it. But the same European countries do not want to acknowledge other genocides perpetrated within Europe or outside, like the Armenian genocide, the Bosnian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, the sustained Sikh genocide, etc. It may be understandable that Turks do not want to call their atrocities towards Kurds and others, a genocide and have laws in place to punish anyone calling it as a genocide. However, it is hard to understand why many legislative bodies denied the victims the right to pass legislations to punish anyone spreading false information or denial about these facts. As a result, false information and hate continues to spread freely on social media.
Many speakers talked about how Genocide Denial is used in general by various regimes and vested interests. It was used as a defense in the courts by the perpetrators of the genocide in Bosnia and Croatia by out-rightly rejecting that anything happened. A speaker from SOAS University of London, UK talked about how the denials are exploited as business to attract followers, and then celebrating and profiting from it.
For the future generations to learn from the events, it is imperative to save the memories, experiences and the artifacts. However, many speakers (including a speaker from Dersim, a small area in Turkey) spoke about the challenges for the first generation to preserve all the details as it becomes very hard for them to talk about their experiences. The second generation of witnesses (children of that time) are burdened with both re-building of the community, as well as focus on preserving the truth with clear perspectives of past-to-present ideologies as the society may have evolved after the trauma.
Attendees at the Genocide Denial Conference April 14, 2019
Jeremiah Erimish from Chrisland University, Nigeria, talked about her research and paper on her Myanmar experience. After the military rule of over four decades, Myanmar has moved towards democracy in last few years. Elections are being conducted, but the ruling parties are still aligned to the military. The markets are being opened, creating a huge opportunity for the western corporations to set themselves up in one of the most underdeveloped Asian countries. The speed of growth is phenomenal – one of the fastest in the world. This political and market setup creates a perfect cover for Myanmar to perpetrate atrocious crimes against Rohingya and other minorities. The is a major misconception among foreign governments as all they see is that the democratic setup is being promoted, whereas the corporations do not want to talk about anything other than maximizing from the rare market opportunity. The people within Myanmar are either are delusional or in denial of the reality due to the biased media and the shiny new things offered by the multi-nationals, or they are silenced by the authorities. It was so easy to relate all this to what Sikhs are going through in India over the last many decades. While India flourishes, it continues to oppress the minorities without any fear of reprisals or consequences. www.thirdsikhgenocide.org
Adam Hasain, an activist of a Palestinian father and Irish mother, talked very passionately about his trip to Gaza, Israeli settlements and other areas. The fact that there were many Jewish folks present in the audience, he showed pictures of the daily struggles of Palestinians and criticized the Israeli occupation. While everyone talked about Genocide Denial as the final stage of genocide, he highlighted that denial is being used by Israel for over 70 years, while continuing to commit the genocidal crimes against Palestinians and their identity.
S.Agyamjot Singh at the Genocide Denial Conference
There was not much discussion in the conference on how to solve these issues and come up with concrete solutions.
ASC representative S. Amardeep Singh did display the ‘Sustained Sikh Genocide 1984 – 1998’ brochures and also copies of the book list of ‘Human Rights Violations against the Sikhs’ at the conference.
The networking and the outcome of the Genocide Denial Conference was a great success, thanks to the great planning and quality of panelists who were invited to this conference.