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Review of the Genocide Conference at FAU

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  • Review of the Genocide Conference at FAU

    University Press , FL (Florida Atlantic University)
    June 30 2005

    Review of the Genocide Conference at FAU
    By Jason Parsley
    Published: Thursday, June 30, 2005

    Death. Extermination. Mass murder. These are the topics that were
    discussed at the sixth biennial conference of the International
    Association of Genocide Scholars, hosted this year by FAU in Boca
    Raton, which met from June 4-7.

    The association was founded in 1994 by four dissatisfied scholars,
    who felt that not enough attention was being paid to the continuing
    threat of genocide at the major academic conferences. IAGS is a
    nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that seeks further research
    on the causes, consequences and prevention of genocide.

    When asked to define genocide, Frank Chalk, the former president of
    IAGS and a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada,
    went into a long speech about the legal definitions of the word as
    defined by the United Nations. Dr. Alan Berger, a professor at FAU
    and a member of IAGS, defined it very simply as the, "systematic
    killing of a group of people who have committed no crimes."

    The conference consisted of keynote speakers, panel discussions and
    video presentations.

    One of the highlights of the conference was the viewing of the
    Sundance Film Festival's award winning, Shake Hands With the Devil:
    The Journey of Romeo Dallaire. This documentary tells the story of
    Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian Lt. General, who commanded the UN peace
    keeping forces during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This film was as
    much about his personal struggle as it was about the genocide itself.

    During the film Dallaire told the story of where the name of the
    documentary came from. He said he had shaken the hands of the future
    leaders of the genocide and noted how they were unnaturally cold and
    "their eyes were not human."

    After the film Major Brent Beardsley an officer that served with
    Dallaire spoke to the audience about the film and some of his
    experiences in Rwanda. At the end of the genocide he said it was a,
    "big cemetery, everything was dead. I didn't even hear any birds sing."

    Rupert Bazambanza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, took a different
    approach in trying to educate the youth and prevent such an atrocity
    from occurring again. He wrote and designed, Smile Through the Tears:
    The Story of the Rwandan Genocide - a comic book detailing the events
    of the massacre. The story is based upon Rose Rwanga, who lost her
    husband and children during the genocide.

    The last keynote speaker of the conference was Juan Mendez, who is
    the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide to the Secretary
    General of the United Nations. His position was created in 2004 and
    some of his responsibilities are to: collect existing information on
    massive human rights violations, act as an early-warning mechanism
    and to make recommendations on actions to prevent and halt genocide.

    "Preventing genocide is a principle of international law so fundamental
    we cannot ignore it," Mendez said.

    One of this year's themes was the 90 year anniversary of the Armenian
    genocide. Even after 90 years, however, this massacre is still
    causing controversy.

    Mendez spoke briefly about the Armenian genocide but he referred to
    it as an "event." This caused a stir from the crowd and one of the
    audience members objected to that reference stating that, that term is,
    "used by deniers." The audience then erupted in applause.

    Mendez responded that since the UN has not officially recognized the
    genocide, he was not allowed to call it that. However, he strongly
    implied that he personally believed it should be recognized and he
    noted that his home country of Argentina had officially recognized it.

    The Armenian genocide took place in present day Turkey between
    1915-1918, but 90 years later the Turkish government continues to deny
    that it ever took place. Because of the relationship between Turkey and
    the US, the US has also refused to officially recognize the genocide.

    Dr. Alan Berger, a professor at FAU, believes that, "a denial of
    genocide is a continuation of genocide."

    When asked if the U.S. had ever committed genocide, Berger believes
    that the treatment of the Native Americans borders on genocide and,
    "it was certainly a cultural genocide."

    Berger says that students can make a difference in the prevention of
    genocide by: educating themselves by reading books and taking courses,
    writing their politicians, writing letters to the editor, and making
    contact with people from countries where the conditions for genocide
    are ripe or where it is already occurring. "You have an awesome
    responsibility to move the world away from a catastrophe," Berger said.
    [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]