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Cultural genocide: Wikis


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Cultural genocide is a term used to describe the deliberate destruction of the cultural heritage of a people or nation for political, military, religious, ideological, ethnical, or racial reasons.


Relevance to international law

As early as 1933, Raphael Lemkin proposed a cultural component to genocide, which he called "vandalism".[1]

However, the drafters of the 1948 Genocide Convention dropped that concept from their consideration.[2] The legal definition of genocide is left unspecific about the exact nature in which genocide is done only that it is destruction with intent to destroy a racial, religious, ethnic or national group as such.[3]

Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase "cultural genocide" but does not define what it means.[4] The complete article reads as follows:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;
(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

It should be noted that this declaration only appeared in a draft. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, but only mentions "genocide", not "cultural genocide", although the article is otherwise unchanged.

Beside its legal currency, the term has acquired rhetorical value as a phrase that is used to protest against the destruction of cultural heritage. It is also often misused as a catchphrase to condemn any destruction the user of the phrase disapproves of, without regard for the criterion of intent to destroy an affected group as such.

Examples of the term's usage

Cultural advocates have leveled charges of "cultural genocide" in connection with various events:

  • In 2007, a Canadian Member of Parliament criticized the Ministry of Indian Affairs' destruction of documents regarding the treatment of First Nations members as "cultural genocide."[6]
  • The destruction by Azerbaijan of thousands of medieval Armenian gravestones at a cemetery in Julfa, and Azerbaijan's subsequent denial that the site had ever existed, has been widely written about as being an example of cultural genocide.[7][8]
  • When Turkey's Minister of Cultural Affairs re-opened the medieval Armenian Aghtamar church in eastern Anatolia as a museum, critics objected to the use of its Turkified name, seeing in it a denial of the region's Armenian heritage and as a sort of "cultural genocide".[9]
  • Some right-wing and far right activists have applied the term "cultural genocide" to what they see as a downfall of Western civilization due to liberal immigration policies, diversity, and multiculturalism.[11][12]
  • In 1989, Robert Badinter, a high-profile French criminal lawyer, participated to a famous french television program, Apostrophes, devoted to human rights, in the presence of the 14th Dalaï Lama. Talking about the disappearance of the Tibetan culture in Tibet, Robert Badinter used the term "cultural genocide".[13] Later on, and for the first time in 1993, the Dalaï Lama used the same term of cultural genocide to describe the destruction of the Tibetan culture.[14] More recently, at the time of 2008 Tibetan unrest, the Dalai Lama accused China of practising cultural genocide against the peoples of Tibet.[15]
  • According to Rebiya Kadeer, the President of Uyghur American Association, "In the name of so called bi-lingual education, the Chinese authorities have begun to impose the Chinese language and replace the Uighur language. They began to gradually erase Uighur people's language, scripture, literature, and the way of life. We consider this a sort of cultural genocide, a way to gradually eradicate the Uighur people." [16]
  • South Koreans have accused United States Christian missionaries of "cultural genocide" for their success in converting large number of South Koreans to Christianity.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Raphael Lemkin, Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations (J. Fussell trans., 2000) (1933); Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, p. 91 (1944).
  2. ^ See Prosecutor v. Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T (Int'l Crim. Trib. Yugo. Trial Chamber 2001), at para. 576.
  3. ^ Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, art. 2, Dec. 9, 1948, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.
  4. ^ Draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples drafted by The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Recalling resolutions 1985/22 of 29 August 1985, 1991/30 of 29 August 1991, 1992/33 of 27 August 1992, 1993/46 of 26 August 1993, presented to the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council at 36th meeting 26 August 1994 and adopted without a vote.
  5. ^ William Schabas, Genocide in international law: the crimes of crimes, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0521787904, Google Print, p.179
  6. ^ Jorge Barrera , ‘Genocide’ target of fed coverup: MP, Edmonton Sun, April 25, 2007.
  7. ^ History Today, November 2007, "Sacred Stones Silenced in Azerbaijan"
  8. ^ Switzerland-Armenia Parliamentary Group, "The Destruction of Jugha", Bern, 2006.
  9. ^ Cengiz Çandar, The So-Called ‘Akdamar museum’, Turkish Daily News, March 30, 2007.
  10. ^ CGS 1st Workshop: “Cultural Genocide” and the Japanese Occupation of Korea
  11. ^ The Era of Defamation and Multi-Cultural Genocide The British National Party claims "multi-cultural genocide" in progress against Britain.
  12. ^ John Tyndall Arrested Former Ku-Klux Klan leader David Duke claims cultural genocide against Whites
  13. ^ Les droits de l'homme Apostrophes, A2 - 21/04/1989 - 01h25m56s, Web site of the INA
  14. ^ 10th March Archive
  15. ^ BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | 'Eighty killed' in Tibetan unrest
  16. ^
  17. ^

External links

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