September 23, 2023: ICHRRF successfully conducts the 1st Annual Convention on Forgotten Genocides at The George Washington University
On September 23, 2023, The International Commission for Human Rights & Religious Freedom (ICHRRF) successfully held a Convention on Forgotten Genocides featuring presentations by a diverse set of speakers from communities that have been or are victims of genocides that remain mostly ignored by the international community. It was a day-long event in Washington, DC, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the George Washington University.
ICHRRF will be releasing a Book of Proceedings based on this convention within the 2 to 3 weeks, which will serve as an academic resouce for future reference. The entire event has been video recorded and clips have been uploaded to ICHRRF's YouTube channel in a playlist for easy browsing.
The Convention was kicked off by ICHRRF President, Prof. Dr. Adityanjee, himself a psychiatrist, who underlined the need to dialogue on this subject in order to avoid further trauma. The inaugural address by renowned jurist Prof. Ved P Nanda was then telecast, in which he pointed out the highly lopsided coverage and awareness of some atrocities versus others that are even more serious in scale, impact and present-time urgency. Board Member Prof. Dr. Yashwant Pathak was also present to release a new book by ICHRRF and also to chair a session. Ms. Christina Boozer, Director of Planning, was also present and chaired a session. The event was also graced by His Excellency Mr. Pradeep Kapur, former Indian Ambassador.
The first speaker was Ms. Sinam Mohamad, who hails from the Kurdish city of Afrin in Syria, and was twice nominated to run for Parliament. She is currently the top diplomat of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The city and Kurdish areas have been utterly decimated and remain a target rich area for Turkiye-supported jihadi groups. She reflected on the long history of discrimination against Kurds and Yazidis in that country, but affirmed her commitment to the territorial integrity of Syria and wanted to find solutions within that framework.
The second speaker was Ms. Pari Ibrahim, a Yezidi representative and founder of the Free Yezidi Foundation. She elaborated on the ongoing Yezidi Genocide and sexual enslavement of women carried out by ISIS and its affiliates, as well as the historical persecution of this community. This is a burning issue and has been a special focus of ICHRRF this year and will continue to be so going forward.
The third speaker was Ms. Tereza Yerimyan from the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Armenia has again been in the news due to the ongoing aggression by resource-rich Azerbaijan and very little support or intervention from the United States, on whom Armenia appears dependent. Apart from large scale death and ethnic cleansing, millennia old architectural and sacred heritage is also being systematically destroyed by the Azeri state.
The fourth and last speaker in the first session was Mr. Kofi Sarpong, a Ghanaian national who is Director of Outreach for Africa at ICHRRF. He spoke on the Rwanda/Burundi Genocide of Tutsis. He emphasized how inter-tribal relations between Hutus and Tutsis were harmonious until the arrival of European colonialism, who drove a wedge between the two communities based on perceived physical differences such as skin complexion and average height, and then awarded privileges to one over the other based on ethnic identification alone.
The second session after coffee and snacks was kicked off by Ms. Sudha Jagannathan, a Board Member of the advocacy group Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA). She spoke of the Genocide of Malabar Hindus by their Moplah Muslim neighbors during British colonialism. This is relevant topic as Islamist radicalism among Moplah Muslims in the state of Kerala in India is again high, with many of their youth finding their way to Syria and Iraq to join international terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
This was followed by Prof. Sen Nieh, a senior professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Catholic University of America and lifelong Falun Gong practitioner and lover of traditional Chinese culture and heritage. He is Vice President of Global Service (Tuidang) Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party. He went into details of the horrific abuses, genocide and destruction of cultural heritage that went with the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao Zedong. He then presented evidence of more recent and continuing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners along similar lines.
The third speaker in the second morning session was Mr. Brett Chapman, an attorney for Native American rights and a person of Ponca and Kiowa ancestry himself. He informed an astonished audience of the levels of ruthlessness and hypocrisy that have shaped US policy towards Native Americans since the beginning, and continuing to this day. It was also the Native Americans who made the first move an won the first battles for civil rights of non-white and non-Christian peoples in the United States - a contribution often overlooked.
ICHRRF also released a book, "Human Rights, Religious Freedom And Spirituality: Perspectives from The Dharmic and Indigenous Cultures". This book was already released in New Delhi, India, earlier and this was its official release in Washington, DC.
In the first session post-lunch, Ms. Richa Gautam, co-founder of Cares Global and founder of advocacy think-tank CasteFiles.com, spoke about the Great Bengal Famine and the UK's culpability. The British colonial administration saw multiple manmade disasters and famines in which tens of millions of people in Bengal and elsewhere in India perished, most recently during World War II. These intended genocides raise questions on the legal and moral propriety of sanctions regimes that hurt populations even today.
The next speaker was Ms. Priya Saha, who spoke on the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide by the Pakistani Army. A great majority of those murdered were Bangladeshi Hindus. Ms. Saha is an author, editor, and co-founder of several human and women's rights organizations in Bangladesh, and was regularly cited in that country until her attempts to internationalize the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities by Islamists invited personal attacks and sent her into exile.
The final speaker in this session was Mr. Utsav Chakrabarty, a Capital Beltway watcher and advocacy thought-leader, who spoke on the ongoing Bangladeshi Hindu ethnic cleansing and genocide. This escalating pattern of violence has reduced the Hindu population in the region of Bangladesh from 25% to less than 8.5% today in a span of 60 years.
After a tea break, the last session was lead by Mr. Ramesh Jaipal, from the Pakistani Hindu minority. He himself rose from being trafficked as a boy to become a camel jockey in Dubai, to earning his education and today presenting the case of the escalating abuse of minorities in Pakistan to the world. He spoke on the targeting of Hindu girls for abduction, the systematic discrimination against non-Sunni Muslims by the state and its institutions, and the quickening emigration of minorities towards India.
This was followed by two other speakers from the region. Dr. Mohan Sapru is a neuroscientist and prominent member of the Kashmiri American community and himself a witness to the last genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir by Islamist separatists in 1990-91. He spoke anecdotally of what it was like on the streets, as well as in policy terms. He noted that Islamist terror was aided and abetted by ordinary Muslim neighbors and colleagues. This underlines the role of religious indoctrination on a mass scale.
The final speaker was Dr. Vijay Sazawal, co-founder and veteran member of the Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF). He analyzed the root causes for why the Kashmiri Genocide happened in a democratic and secular state like India. Both he and Dr. Sapru remained committed to inclusive solutions to rehabilitate the thousands of Kashmiri Hindu refugees and prevent the repetition of the cyclic ethnic cleansing and genocide that has marked Islamic history in South Asia.
This marked the first Annual Convention on Forgotten Genocides. ICHRRF is delighted at the audience response, speaker participation and is committed to holding the Convention next year again, with greater participation from academics and advocacy groups internationally.