Photo story: Peoples under Threat 2014

The Peoples under Threat index identifies those countries around the world where communities face the greatest risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression.

It provides early warning of potential future mass atrocities.

The Middle East and Africa dominate the list of major risers in the index this year.

The war in Syria, whichhas risen dramatically up the table to now rankthird, continues to fragment, and take on a growing element of sectarianism, says MRG. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has steadily lost ground to a number of Islamist militias with a sectarian agenda and Kurds in the north, long persecuted under Assad, faced repeated attacks in the second half of 2013 by Islamist groups as well as the FSA, pushing some 50,000 refugees to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan.

It continues to host the largest UN peace-keeping mission in the world, but the Democratic Republic of Congo rose again in the Peoples under Threat index in 2014.

According to the international rights organisation, threat levels in the DRC remain high for at least three related reasons: the proliferation of different armed groups, leading to dozens of separate conflicts over ethnicity and natural resources; the track record of neighbouring states in consistently supporting such armed groups; and the repeated practice of integrating former rebels into the Congolese armed forces.

Yemen has steadily risen in Peoples under Threat eight years in succession and now finds itself in the top ten states in the index. Conflict exists on a number of separate fronts, including between al-Houthi (Shi’a) rebels in the north and Sunni tribes, as well as between the authorities and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

‘When the newly-independent state of South Sudan materialised near the top of the index two years ago, it seemed that pessimism had prevailed over hope. But events of the last six months have sadly proved the prescience of Peoples under Threat,’ says Mark Lattimer.

A dispute between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, quickly degenerated into open ethnic conflict in December 2013, pitting Dinka forces controlled by the government against ethnic Nuer. An estimated 10,000 people had been killed by January, and by March over one million had been displaced.

In the Central African Republic, both UN and French officials warned in November of the risk of genocide. Abuses by Anti-Balaka, the Christian self-defence militias, have now left the minority Muslim communities at the greatest risk of mass killings. Muslim civilians are often accused of supporting the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition – itself responsible for grave abuses - which took power and then disintegrated in 2013.

Egypt has risen a striking 33 places in the index this year. Following the removal of President Muhammad Morsi by the military in July, over 1,000 people were killed in an army crackdown on protest camps in Cairo and clashes across the country. Attacks on Coptic Christians and churches were blamed on Muslim extremists, but MRG has also criticised an inadequate response from Egyptian authorities. After a major military operation was launched against Islamist militants in North Sinai, Sinai Bedouin, long marginalized by Egyptian authorities, fear their communities will suffer most in the escalation of the conflict.

Peoples under Threat has been compiled every year since 2005 to provide early warning of potential future mass atrocities. Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq have consistently topped the table.

To mark the launch of the 2014 Peoples under Threat ranking, MRG has put together this photo story to illustrate the peoples most at risk and the threats they are facing.

Gallery

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IDP camp at Kiwandja, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2009. Among the worst affected by the armed conflict are Bambuti Pygmies who, since being forced to leave their homes, have suffered repeated displacement. Young people have been stuck inside the camp for months with nothing to do. Although the inhabitants can leave, it is dangerous to go out, particularly for women. Credit: MRG
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Hazara community in Afghanistan, 2009. Discrimination against the Hazara community continued throughout the year. The overall civilian casualties rose by 14 per cent in 2013, according to the UN assistance mission. Of 2,959 civilian deaths, most were due to indiscriminate bombings and other attacks by the Taliban and anti-government elements, although there was also an increase in the number of civilians killed in the course of operations by pro-government forces. Credit: Fakhria Ibrahimi
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Lalish, Headquarter of the Yezidi religion, Iraq, June 2011. Operations by the rebels Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant increased in intensity, particularly in Anbar, and car bombings ran at the rate of two a day for much of the year. Both the activities of armed groups and the tense political situation led to a dangerous new rise in Sunni-Shi’a sectarian killing. At the same time, the situation remains precarious for many of Iraq’s smaller communities, including Chaldo-Assyrians, Yezidis and Turkmen. Credit: MRG
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Pastor Gill and his church, Islamabad, December 2012. The threat of ethnic or sectarian killing reaches across the country. This includes risks from interethnic political violence in Sindh, sectarian clashes between Deobandi and Barelvi militant groups, violent repression of Baluchi activists in Baluchistan, continued persecution of Christians and Ahmadiyya, and an exterminatory campaign against Hazara and other Shi’a across the country waged by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Pakistani Taliban, which claimed the lives of hundreds of victims last year. Credit: MRG
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Along the road from Bor to Juba, South Sudan, August 2009. A dispute between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his deputy, Riek Machar, quickly degenerated into open ethnic conflict in December, pitting Dinka forces controlled by the government against ethnic Nuer. The NGO International Crisis Group estimated that up to 10,000 people had been killed by January, and the UN estimated in March that over one million had been displaced. Credit: MRG
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Women waiting for food aid at a distribution centre in Afgoye, Somalia, August 2013. The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent gave out food aid as part of a programme for the month of Ramadan. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces provided support in Afgoye, where over 5,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were given something to eat. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones
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Emergency food, drinking water and shelter to help people displaced in Rakhine State, western Burma, December 2012. The gradual thawing of Burma/Myanmar’s system of authoritarian government continues, but the country remains stubbornly in the upper reaches of the Peoples under Threat index. One reason for this is the growing hostility against minority Muslims. The most serious abuses have occurred against Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state, but violence has also spread to other parts of the country, stoked by Buddhist extremist rhetoric. Credit: DFID Burma
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Bossangoa, Central African Republic, December 2013. Young mother Kadija with her husband Moussa and her baby in the post-operative ward of the hospital in. Kadija was the victim on an Anti-Balaka attack on December 5. “I was running from the house with the children when the anti-Balaka shot me,” she said. Credit: UNHCR/S. Phelps
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