SWM 2014: Photo story

Hate crime towards minorities and indigenous peoples is a daily reality in many countries across the globe, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its annual report, but is often ignored by authorities.

The international organisation’s flagship report, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014, focuses on ‘Freedom from hate’ and presents compelling evidence showing that hate crime and hate speech are prevalent in all regions of the world.

But hate crime is widely ignored, under-reported and often left unchecked by governments, resulting in escalating violence against minorities, says MRG in the report.

’If governments ignore hate crime, the perpetrators see it as a green light to continue,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘The prevalence of hate crimes against minorities is widely under-estimated and is now being driven across borders by online propaganda, whether by sectarian jihadis or right-wing racists.’

The report finds that targeted violence often has a purpose. Anti-migrant rhetoric in Greece or sectarian violence in India serves to consolidate the power base of extremist organizations. Negative representations of indigenous groups in Guatemala or Uganda may provide justification for further exclusion or eviction from ancestral lands.

The impact of hatred may extend beyond discrimination to more visible extremes, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it drives the continuation of inter-ethnic conflicts. In the Central African Republic, hate speech and targeted attacks during 2013 were responsible for fomenting religious violence that has resulted in almost a million people being internally displaced.

Hate crimes send a message not only to the individuals targeted, but also to their communities. This is especially evident in violence against minority and indigenous women, with rape and sexual assault employed as a weapon of war or an instrument of oppression to fragment and humiliate entire civilian populations, says MRG.

In South Asia, for example, Dalit women are regularly subjected to sexual violence as a result of their lower caste status - often in response to their demands for basic rights.

The prevalence of demeaning or inflammatory language in political discourse, sermons, the media and online has very real implications for marginalized communities. The report highlights many countries in 2013 where rumours and incitement led to violence and loss of life.

In Burma, where a slow process of reform has opened up some degree of free expression, the situation for minorities is acute. In addition to reports of ongoing military abuses against ethnic minorities, a large number of Muslim Rohingya were murdered or displaced during 2013 by Buddhist vigilantes.

In Russia, official repression and discrimination of migrants from Central Asia and elsewhere has occurred alongside attacks and intimidation by extremists.

In Pakistan, despite the first democratic transfer of power between two elected governments in the country’s history, hundreds of Shi’a were killed in targeted attacks and other minorities such as Ahmadis also singled out.

The 2011 Arab Spring has had mixed implications for ethnic and religious minorities in the region. In Egypt, for example, a new constitution was passed in January 2014 that contained a number of new legal guarantees for minorities. Nevertheless, 2013 was marked by a series of violent attacks against religious minorities.

In Iraq, 2013 saw the country’s highest death toll in five years, with smaller minorities such as Sabean Mandeans, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and Shabak continuing to be targeted with abductions and killings.

In Europe, the legacy of the 2008 financial crisis and the impact of austerity measures in many countries have played a major role in the rise of right-wing organizations with a strong anti-minority agenda. In Hungary, Jobbik’s rhetoric against the country’s Roma and Jewish minorities escalated as the party won a major place in mainstream politics, with its share of the national vote rising to more than 20 percent in the April 2014 elections.

While the 2014 State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples documents disheartening levels of violence, harassment and verbal abuse across the world, it also includes many examples of how hatred is being countered by legislators, politicians, journalists, and communities, by addressing the root causes. Though there is still a long way to go before minorities and indigenous peoples across the world are able to enjoy freedom from hate, these and other initiatives highlighted in the report show some of the ways forward. 

‘The impact on victims of violent crime is well-known, but when such crimes are motivated by ethnic or religious hatred, whole communities are made to feel under attack. Hate crimes need to be recognised as such, and the perpetrators punished.’ says Mark Lattimer.

To mark the launch of the 2014 State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, MRG has put together a photo story to illustrate the ongoing discrimination and marginalization facing minorities and indigenous peoples.

Gallery

Click on image for larger view

Muslim children in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, December 2011. As India entered the run-up to its general elections in 2014, this year saw the continued use of inflammatory language against minorities by political candidates to stir up anger and secure votes. Attacks on Muslim minority communities in Uttar Pradesh spurred renewed calls for an anti-communal violence bill. In Muzaffarnajar, Uttar Pradesh, riots broke out in September after a violent altercation that killed two Hindus and a Muslim. As the riots spread throughout the area, 60 people were killed and thousands, mostly Muslims, were left homeless. Photo credit: Eric Parker
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Batwa women, Uganda, March 2014. Uganda’s ethnic minority groups and indigenous peoples, such as Batwa, Karamajong, Nubians, Ugandan Asians and others, have reported for many years that they are targets of hate speech and hate crimes on the basis of their culture and ethnicity. Ugandan Batwa are regularly portrayed as poachers or destroyers of the Ugandan forests, despite their long history of stewardship. Such stereotypes are used by state actors and neighbouring communities to justify evictions of Batwa from their traditional lands. Batwa women in Uganda are the subject of multiple stereotypes, including the myth that having sex with a Mutwa woman can cure certain ailments, including HIV. Photo credit: Emma Eastwood/MRG
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Pygmy girl in UN camp, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), September 2009. In recent years the DRC has seen ongoing conflict between armed groups, some of them local and some formed with the backing of other countries, despite the presence from 2000 of a succession of UN peacekeeping missions. At the end of 2013, nearly 500,000 DRC citizens remained refugees, while an estimated 2.7 million were internally displaced. Photo credit: MRG
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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. In December 2013 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a peace message in French and the local language, Sango, on local television and radio. However, so far these efforts have been unable to alleviate the violence. Photo credit: UNHCR/S. Phelps
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Emergency food, drinking water and shelter to help people displaced in Rakhine State, western Burma, December 2012. In Rakhine, around three-quarters of those killed in intercommunal violence since late 2012 were Muslim, yet four-fifths of those arrested are Rohingya. The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tomas Quintana, who toured the country in October, cited evidence of ‘systematic torture’ against Rohingya inmates. Other reports indicated that many Rohingya prisoners had died in detention. Credit: DFID Burma
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Migrants from Central Asia working in Moscow, Russia, August 2008. Russia is relatively ethnically diverse, with a number of minorities, migrant communities and indigenous peoples within its territory. However, 2013 saw a number of developments that highlighted the country’s ongoing failure to achieve inclusion for many of these groups. In 2013 in Russia among the victims of racist and xenophobic violence 13 victims originating from Central Asian countries were murdered by far-right activists, with a further 45 people injured. Photo credit: Fred S.
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Pastor Gill and his church, Islamabad, Pakistan, December 2012. Hate speech has played an important role in the deteriorating situation for minorities in Pakistan. Although Pakistan has legislation against hate speech as part of its blasphemy law, which prescribes punishments for those who insult religion, it has mostly been abused to persecute individuals rather than transform the fundamental drivers of hate speech. While the blasphemy law nominally protects all religions from denigration, it has frequently been used against minority members. Photo credit: MRG
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Damage caused to Christian church in Minya, Egypt, August 2013. Incidents of sectarian violence against Christians have been a recurring pattern in Egypt for years. Their intensity and frequency have been on the rise, however, since the fall of former President Mubarak following the January 2011 uprising. Despite some signs of political progress, repeated attacks against Copts, Shi’a and Bahá’i minority members occurred under Morsi. Photo credit: The Organisation of Justice and Development for Human
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Lalish, Headquarter of the Yezidi religion, Iraq, June 2011. Religious minorities are targeted for ideological reasons, with fundamentalist groups such as ISIS aiming to bring an end to Iraq’s religious diversity and to establish a Sunni caliphate in the region. Both Christians and Yezidis are frequently associated collectively with the West and attacked as a result. Photo credit: MRG
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Roma children in Cserehat, Hungary, September 2011. The Roma community in Hungary is by far the largest minority ethnic community in the country. As is the case for Greece, Roma in Hungary suffer profound social and economic marginalization. Rates of unemployment and poverty are far higher than for the majority population. Roma in Hungary are also a prime target of ethnically motivated attacks. Photo credit: UNDP
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