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    Eight stages of genocide offer chances for prevention

    Sultan Ahmed

    Issue date: 4/17/09 Section: Opinion
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    Alas, loyal readers, I write now my final article of the semester. In this moment, I find myself reminiscing about all I have written about throughout the course of these past few months. I find it fitting thus to write now, for this final piece, about something which unifies all genocides occurring throughout the world, and perhaps possible measures to prevent new ones from happening.

    Gregory H. Stanton, president of the international organization Genocide Watch, has developed a systematic analysis of genocide. He has identified eight stages that he believes typify all cases of genocide, and he believes steps can be taken during each of the stages to prevent or stop the genocide.

    The first of the stages identified by Stanton is classification. Classification involves society dividing itself into sections based upon race, ethnicity, and other common characteristics. People have a tendency to identify with others like themselves, and this develops micro-communities within a nation that operate independently of one another. Prevention in this step is perhaps the easiest to carry out. It involves creating universal institutions that transcend ethnic and racial boundaries. These institutions, such as a common language, unite members of a nation under a common banner that promotes tolerance and understanding.

    The second stage is symbolization. Symbolization involves assigning images or symbols to each group within the society. They become characterized by something like the clothes they wear or symbols they adopt, the Star of David and the sari being two familiar examples. Prevention during this stage can take two forms: denying the significance of the symbol, or establishing a common symbol to unite the people. In Bulgaria, for example, the government refused to issue badges for Jewish citizens, thus mitigating the significance of the symbol of the star. People can also be united under a universal image such as a country flag.

    The third stage is dehumanization. This stage is self-explanatory, involving the members of one group dehumanizing the members of another: treating them like animals, morally degrading them, likening them to vermin, etc. Prevention during this stage is critical. Hate speech and crimes need to be socially denounced by leaders. All offenders need to be strictly punished, and no divisive actions can be tolerated.

    The fourth stage is organization. Genocide is generally organized and systematic, usually by the state. Militias are formed and plans and preparations are made. It is the international community's responsibility in this stage to prevent the state from attaining the necessary resources to carry out this preparation.

    The fifth stage is polarization. Extremist views divide sections of society to completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Moderates are censured, and extremists take the forefront in the media through their actions. During this stage, moderates from the respective groups should intervene. They need to take a stand against and denounce the extremists who attempt to speak for them.

    The sixth and seventh stages are preparation and extermination. These are the stages where the genocide is actually carried out. People are divided and systematically killed. Prevention here can only occur through rapid, direct, and overwhelmingly forceful military intervention.

    The final stage is denial. The state which carried out the acts denies any criminal activities. They burn bodies and prevent investigations. Such denials are almost guaranteed indicators that further genocidal activities will occur. Prevention of further genocide here involves rapid adjudication and punishment by international bodies of justice.

    And thus Stanton identifies the eight stages of genocide, each clear and distinct, and each leaving room for preventive measures. I leave you with a quote from one of my professors: "If I have managed to make even one person see the world from a different perspective, then I have lived a full life."

    Sultan Ahmed is a freshman biochemistry, philosophy, and religion major. He is a member of Mock Trial and Model UN and plans to become a bioethicist.
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