Tag: <span>Democracy</span>

The Hazara Appeals

We Must Protect the Rights of the Hazara Population…

Featured Image: Hazara people in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan 2020. By Shaah-Sultaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is strongly concerned by possible repression against the Hazara population in Afghanistan, repression of such an extent that it could be considered genocide. While it is still too early to know what the policies and practice of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule (1996-2001) there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara and a number of massacres.

There are some three million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city. The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban as well as by members of the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIS-K), now also an armed presence in Afghanistan.

In the past there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. During the 1891-1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed, and many others put into slavery-like conditions.

To understand fully the concern of the AWC for the Hazara, it is useful to recall Article II of the 1948 Convention against Genocide.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Abdur Rahman Khan

Abdur Rahman Khan, King of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901. By Frank A. Martin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law. The then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in an address at UNESCO on December 8, 1998:

“Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word our out time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance but be eternal.”

The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII:

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide […]

Despite factual evidence of mass killings, some with the intent to destroy “in whole or in part”, no Contracting Party has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)

The criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of people killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue. Events need to be watched closely, and nongovernmental organizations must be prepared to take appropriate action.

Kofi Annan

Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan spoke with the media at the United Nations Office at Geneva following the June 30, 2012 Meeting of the Action Group for Syria. By US Mission in Geneva, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.



(1) For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see: William A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)


Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Religious Appeals

Religious Liberty: Continuing Efforts by NGOs Needed.

Image By S. Hermann & F. Richter in Pixabay

by Rene Wadlow.

22 August has been set by the United Nations General Assembly as the

“International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief”.

Due to Nazi and Japanese militarist persecution of religious groups during the Second World War;   freedom of religion and belief was on the U.N. agenda from the start of the organization. The issue is at the heart of article 18  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;  proclaimed in 1948.

Religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs);  were active during the San Francisco conference;  at which the drafting of the U.N. Charter was completed. It was due in part to their active efforts  that an article creating a consultative status for NGOs;  was included into the U.N. Charter. NGOs in consultative status with the U.N;  can make U.N. bodies aware of issues by providing timely;  factual information. Often NGOs will address matters to U.N. agencies;  when governmental delegations keep silence. The duty of NGOs is not to speak against States;  but for the interests of humanity and human rights.

Spiritual But not Religious.

Although religious NGOs have had a wide range of interests to stress at U.N;  meetings and conferences;  such as the status of women, ecology, food policies;  liberty of religion and belief;  has always been a concern. The concern of religious liberty is not limited to religious NGOs;  but is also championed by secular NGOs;  such as Amnesty International and the Association of World Citizens.

Over time;  there has developed a fairly large number of people;  who consider themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” There has been the development of a growing number of associations devoted to practices;  which have their roots in religious traditions;  but can also be independent such as yoga, meditation, Chi Quong. Such associations often fall outside the usual governmental protection of religions – their tax status or other facilities concerning their buildings and properties.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International at the Bologna Pride 2012, in Bologna, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, June 9 2012. By G.dallorto, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.N. holds that the religious liberty provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration;  are not limited in their applications to traditional religions;  or to religions and beliefs;  with institutional characteristics or practices  similar to those of traditional religions. Thus;  newly established movements and religious minorities should be protected.

Article 18 of the Univesal Declaration of Human Rights is developed in detail by the: 

“Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance nd Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief”.

Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 November 1981. The Declaration recognizes that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and religion. The importance of inter-religious dilogue; is stresssed as is the need for intensified efforts to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and to eliminate all forms of hatred, intolerance and discrimination;  based on religion or belief.

There is a hope that tolerance and pluralism will strengthen democracy;  facilitate the full enjoyment of all human rights; and thereby constitute a sound foundation for civil society;  social harmony and peace. Yet we are fully aware that forces of aggressive nationalism;  absence of religious tolerance;  religious and ethnic extremism continue to produce fresh challenges.

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Islamic State (ISIS).

A tragic current example of victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief;  is that of the Yazidis of Iraq at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). The Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian;  a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces;  that of light and good;  and that of darkness and evil are in constant battle. Humans are called upon to help light overcome evil.

However;  the strict dualistic thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet: Mani of Ctesiphon in the third century CE.  Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious;  teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through travel and trade:  Buddhim and Hinduism from India;  Jewish and Christian thought;  Helenistic Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece as well as many smaller;  traditional and “animist” beliefs.

Islamic State

Variant of the jihadist black flag. This particular version is used by the “Islamic State of Iraq” and by al-Shabaab in Somalia. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Demon Worshipers.

He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework though;  giving it a somewhat more Taoist (yin-yang) flexibility. Mani had  lived in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul;  by individual effort through separate lives through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought. He combined the idea of spiritual progress through different lives;  with ethical insights of Gnostic and Christian thought. Unfortunately;  only the dualistic Zoroastrian framework is still attached to Mani’s nme: Manichaeism. This is somewhat ironic as it was the Zoroastrian Magi;  who had Mani put to death as a dangerous rival.

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework;  the Yazidi added the presence of angels;  who are to help humans in the constant battle for light and good. The Yazidi place great emphasis on Melek Tauis;  the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam;  angels that one does not know could well be demons;  and so the Yazidis are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers”.

Collateral Damage.

There are probably some 500,000 Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in Iraq. Iraq demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds;  who had been Yazidis;  but had been converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds of Turkey;  but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. There are smaller groups of Yazidis in Syria, Armenia and Georgia. (1)

The Yazidis have often been persecuted for their beliefs;  and as part of the Kurdish-speaking community. This was true during the period of the Ottoman Empire;  as well as during the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party rule of Iraq. However;  the most recent and dramatic form of persecution came at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Association of World Citizens stressed that the policy of the ISIS leadership was genocide – the destruction in whole or in part of a group. The killing of the Yazidis is a policy and not “collateral damage” from fighting. While ISIS has lost much of the territory in Iraq and Syria that it once held;  the trauma  continues. The Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief call upon NGOs for continued speedy and effective action.


1) See Nelida Fuccaro. The Other Kurds in Colonial Iraq (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999)


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

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The Goddess of Democracy Education of World Citizenships.

The Goddess of Democracy: 4 June 1989.

Featured Picture: WroclawPoland: the memorial of 10th anniversary (1999) of Tian’anmen Sq. (BeijingChina) massacre, June 4th, 1989 The first version of this memorial was “erected” by Polish students a day after the massacre, June 5th 1989 – as a destroyed bicycle and a fragment of tank-track lying nearby. The version in the photograph was erected ten years later, in 1999, and the symbolism is identical: bicycles against tanks… Photo by Julo, Public domain.

The uprising of Chinese students, soon joined by workers, peasants, and those who called themselves shimin (citizens) started a new era of « reform from below » with the symbol of the Goddess of Democracy. Students from colleges and universities in China’s capital initiated protests after the death on 15 April 1989 of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, the reformist Hu Yaobang. The movement then spread over a number of weeks to other major cities such as Chengdu, Xian and Changsha.

The students made numerous demands for reforms : among them were calls for an end to corruption in government, increased funding for education, greater freedom of expression, and increased democratic participation in decision-making which was already being put into practice within student organizations. On 4 May 1989, these student-led demands were structured into a written text and read out in Tiananmen Square. Intellectuals approved of the text and made the demands of reform their own.

We have made this statue as a memorial to democracy.

The protests took place against the background of a meeting between the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping putting an end to a 33-year freeze in Sino-Soviet relations. However, the visit of Gorbachev recalled to Chinese leaders the deep changes underway in the USSR as well as in Eastern Europe, formerly under Soviet influence.

There were fears within the Chinese ruling circle that such changes might be possible in China due to uncontolled demands from below. There were strong debates between hard-liners and reformers within the leadership as to how to handle the student protests. There were many foreign journalists in Beijing to cover the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev and so the student protests were becoming front-page news in many parts of the world.

On 20 May 1989, martial law was declared giving the government greater legal right to act against protesters. Arrests started being made. The students responded with greater determination, and protesters from other parts of China joined those on Tiananmen Square.

On 29 May, during the night, students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts assembled a 37 foot-high Goddess of Democracy built in two days of plaster and styrfoam. As the statue was unvailed, a student announcement was made « We have made this statue as a memorial to democracy. »

The Goddess of Democracy

Replica of the statue “Goddess of Democracy” from the Tiananmen square protests in 1989. Photo taken in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, during the commemoration event for the 21st anniversary of the massacre.
Photo by MarsmanRom & Isa Ng, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy has not been rebuilt.

A Goddess of Democracy whose face was at the same level as the portrait of Mao Zedong was too much for the hard-liners. On the afternoon of 3 June, soldiers started moving into the Square, smashing student barricades. An unknown number of Beijing protesters were killed, succumbing to gunshots or crushed by tanks and armored personnel carriers. More are wounded. « Counter-revolutionary rebellion is now taking place. They aim to overthrow the People’s Republic of China » announced a government broadcast.

At 2 A.M. On 4 June, military transport trucks entered the Square. At 4 A.M. the Goddess of Democracy is toppled by a tank. By mid-morning, the Square is emptied of protesters. Hope for student-led democratic reforms is set aside. On 5 June, a lone man stopped a tank convoy heading for an empty Tiananmen Square along an empty Chang’an Avenue, a vivid image of the power of nonviolence in the face of military threats.

Since 1989, political and economic policy has been set by the political leadership. There have been shifts in policy, many of which have increased economic conditions. These reforms, however, were not articulated by groups of citizens. The Goddess of Democracy has not been rebuilt.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

4 June: Memories of Tiananmen Square.

4 June makes the security forces in China somewhat uneasy, especially in Hong Kong where, in the past, there were large memorial meetings tp remind people of 4 June 1989…

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Albert Luthuli Book Reviews

Robert Trent Vinson. Albert Luthuli.

Featured Picture: JRamatsui, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

(Athens, OH:  Ohio University Press, 2018)

As Robert Vinson highlights “When Albert Luthuli;  president of the African National Congress (ANC).  South Africa’s leading anti apartheid organization;  became the first African-born recipe ant of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961;  the world celebrated his advocacy of nonviolent civil disobedience.  The prize signaled international recognition for his Gandhian strategy to end apartheid;  South Africa’s disastrous white supremist political policy of racial subordination;  and separation and connected South Africa’s antiapartheid struggle to the growing global human rights campaigns. 

It propelled Luthuli to global celebrity and raised the profile of the ANC;  which he had led since 1952. The ANC would survive lethal state repression in the late 1960s;   and throughout two ensuing decades.  As a mass organization, it articulated a broad;  inclusive African nationalism and led the Congress Alliance, a multiracial; milti-ideological antiapartheid coalition that shared Luthuli’s vision of a nonracial, democratic, equitable South Africa.

Albert Lutuli

Albert Luthuli: Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A  Vision of Universal Love and Christian-Based Activism.

Both Albert Luthuli and Martin Luther King shared a vision of universal love and Christian-based activism;  against the moral evil of racism. Yet for both men;  there were followers for whom nonviolence  was a technique that could be set aside;  if violence produced better or faster results. On the night of 13 December;  1961 as Luthuli and his wife returned to South Africa after his Nobel address;  a new formation of ANC members created a new group;  Spear of the Nation;  set off explosive charges that marked the start of what for some became an armed struggle.

Albert Luthuli (1898 – 1967 );  was the son of a Protestant minister;  but who died when Albert was six months old.  He was brought up by the family of his mother;  which held responsible position in the Christian Zulu milieu.  He did his higher studies to become a teacher and a trainer of teachers. He was active in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA);  and made life-long friends in the Christian activist milieu.

A Positive Model of Multiracial Democracy.

In 1948;  the unexpected victory of the National Party made apartheid official state policy.  In June 1948;  Luthuli traveled to the United States for seven months;  speaking to churches, civic groups and others.  He returned to South Africa;  hoping that African Americans would triumph over segregation laws;  and that the U.S.  would become a positive model of multiracial democracy.  

Luthuli  became a national political figure during the 1952;  Defiance Campaign based on Gandhi’s active nonviolence.  Yet escalating State violence marked the 1950s.  Younger militants willing to consider armed “self-defense” surged to the fore.

By the mod-1960s;  the balance between a nonviolent strategy and a willingness to use force;  had shifted in favor of the use of violence.  However;  on 25 February 1990;  two weeks after his liberty was restored;  Nelson Mandela addresses a mass rally in Durban;  hoping to stem the rising tide of violence between the ANC  supporters;  and the rival Inkatha Freedom Party led by Mangosu Buthelazi. Speaking of a united South Africa;  Mandela invoked Lutjuli’s prophetic words:

I personally believe that here in South Africa with our own diversities of color and race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy.”

It is important today to recall the quality of Luthuli’s leadership;  his services to the disposseded  and his collaborative leadership style.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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