Here in the UK, and around the world, millions of people face prejudice, discrimination and hostility simply because of their identity. Holocaust Memorial Day is a day of commemoration and action, when we challenge these attitudes and behaviours in order to build a better future together.
Rohingya refugees in Unchiprang camp in Cox’s Bazar © European Union 2018
In the UK
When we learn about the Holocaust and more recent genocides we learn for a purpose: to challenge present-day discrimination and hostility.
Today, the language of division, fear and prejudice is all too common – both online and in person around the UK. Police figures from England and Wales show hate crimes have risen year on year, and organisations such as the Community Security Trust and Tell MAMA continue to document rising antisemitism (anti-Jewish hatred) and anti-Muslim hatred.
Anti-Gypsy, Roma and Traveller attitudes are prevalent, and members of the LGBTQI+ community continue to face hostile environments. Sexism, ageism, racism and disability discrimination are all forms of identity-based prejudice which need to be challenged.
We all have the power to make changes and take action to support those who face discrimination. From educating ourselves to better understand those who we perceive as different, to reporting hate crime if we see it, there are actions we can and must take to make our communities safer.
Around the world
Identity-based persecution takes place on a daily basis, in all corners of the world. Discriminatory legislation, social attitudes vilifying minorities and mass internment of specific groups are all too common.
In recent years we’ve seen the dreadful persecution of many groups.
In 2016 UN human rights investigators accused so-called Islamic State of committing genocide against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. Thousands of Yazidi people were rounded up or killed by IS fighters in the Sinjar region of Iraq, with women and children sold as slaves and given as ‘gifts’ to militants.
In Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims have faced appalling abuse at the hands of Myanmar’s military. Thousands of Rohingya people have died and around 700,000 fled to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh in 2017. In January 2020 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take steps to prevent genocide, in a landmark case filed by The Gambia. A fuller investigation is expected to follow.
Uyghur Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang have faced years of persecution and cultural repression. In 2018 the UN heard evidence that up to one million Uyghurs were being detained in so-called ‘re-education camps’, and widespread evidence has emerged of a crackdown on the Uyghur way of life. The destruction of Mosques, separation of families, forced labour and children taken away from their culture and religion all bear the hallmarks of genocide.
These situations, and many more, demand our attention and action.
Whilst HMDT does not make a judgement on which situations meet the legal definition of the crime of genocide, we are committed to raising awareness of situations where people are persecuted based on their identity. By understanding the experiences of those facing oppression we can challenge widespread denial and support efforts to bring safety and justice to those who need it.
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