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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Uncovering the Untold Stories: Shedding Light on 20th Century Forgotten Genocides

Various genocidal tragedies have been obscured by the passage of time or intentionally sidelined by political agendas. Yet, the echoes of these atrocities reverberate through generations, leaving deep-lasting scars on communities to this day.
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At the Potočari genocide memorial near Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, countless gravestones stretch across the entire field, serving as a stark and solemn reminder of the lives lost during the 1995 Bosnian genocide. (Photo Credit: Michael Büker, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Throughout human history, genocides stand as some of the most horrifying and tragic chapters. While some genocides are widely acknowledged and commemorated, there exists a plethora of lesser-known atrocities that have been relegated to the peripheries of historical discourse. These are the forgotten genocides, obscured by the passage of time, overshadowed by more prominent events, or deliberately concealed by those in power. Yet, their victims deserve remembrance, their stories demand acknowledgment, and their legacies compel us to confront the darkest aspects of our collective past.

The list of forgotten genocides spans continents and centuries and the reasons for their obscurity are manifold. Some occurred in remote regions far from the scrutiny of international media and diplomatic attention. Others were overshadowed by concurrent conflicts or eclipsed by the magnitude of larger-scale atrocities. In certain cases, political interests, denialism, or historical revisionism have actively sought to erase or minimize the significance of these events.

The Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime, the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century Ottoman Empire, and the genocide of indigenous peoples in the Americas following European colonization are just a few examples of these overlooked tragedies. Each of these genocides represents a unique manifestation of human cruelty, driven by ideologies of supremacy, racial hatred, or political expediency.

Moreover, the legacy of forgotten genocides extends beyond the immediate loss of life. It encompasses the intergenerational trauma inflicted upon survivors and their descendants, the erasure of cultures and languages, and the perpetuation of cycles of violence and injustice. By relegating these genocides to the margins of historical memory, we risk perpetuating the same patterns of neglect and indifference that enabled their occurrence in the first place.

In shedding light on forgotten genocides, we not only honor the memories of those who perished but also reaffirm our commitment to the principles of justice, truth, and human rights. By acknowledging these overlooked atrocities, we challenge the narratives of denial and impunity that persist in many parts of the world. Ultimately, the recognition of forgotten genocides serves as a solemn reminder of the collective responsibility to confront the darkest chapters of our shared history and strive toward a more just and compassionate future. 

“I think that it is incredibly important to acknowledge genocides and spread awareness of them. It is through a lack of acknowledgement and responsibility that these acts of violence are forgotten,” said Malena Galletto ’24. Galletto has translated her passion for spreading awareness of social injustice to the Speech and Debate world. For her piece this year, she chose to feature ethnic violence in Chile and other Latin American countries. 

Armenian Genocide (1915-1923)

Genocide survivors hold a burial service in order to honor the victims of the Ourfa Armenian massacre. The remains, scattered in the monastery yard, bear witness to their tragic fate. At the summit, a translated verse from Armenian poet Krikor Zohrab reads: “We may be gone, but the nation is left with 400,000 orphans. Save them.” (Photo Credit: Father Rafael, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Armenian Genocide was a systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians orchestrated by the Ottoman Empire. The backdrop to this atrocity lies in the declining Ottoman Empire’s efforts to consolidate power amidst rising nationalism and internal dissent. Armenians, a Christian minority, were viewed with suspicion and targeted as scapegoats for the empire’s troubles. The genocide began with the arrest and execution of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders on April 24th, 1915, followed by mass deportations, forced marches, and massacres. The implications of the Armenian Genocide are profound and far-reaching. It not only decimated the Armenian population within the Ottoman Empire but also led to a significant Armenian diaspora across the globe. The genocide has had lasting effects on Armenian identity, politics, and culture, fostering a deep sense of loss and a persistent demand for recognition and justice. Despite overwhelming historical evidence, the genocide remains a contentious issue, with the Republic of Türkiye, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, consistently denying it as such, leading to strained diplomatic relations and ongoing international debate over historical accountability and memory.

Nakba Genocide (1947-present)

The Nakba, meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic, refers to the mass displacement and exodus of approximately 750,000 Palestinian Arabs during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which accompanied the creation of the State of Israel. The conflict erupted after the United Nations’ 1947 partition plan, which proposed to divide British Mandate Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by Arab leaders. The ensuing violence led to widespread destruction of Palestinian villages and towns, forced expulsions, and atrocities committed by both sides, but predominantly affecting the Palestinian civilian population. The Nakba has had enduring implications for the Palestinian people, resulting in a vast diaspora and the creation of a significant refugee population living in camps across the Middle East. It has also shaped Palestinian national identity and remains a core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, influencing the ongoing struggle for statehood, the right of return for refugees, and peace negotiations. 

Guatemala Genocide (1981-1983)

An exhumation of a mass grave site is performed in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. (Photo Credit: JGarzon/USAID, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Guatemalan Genocide involved the systematic targeting and mass murder of the indigenous Maya population by the Guatemalan military and government forces. This period, known as La Violencia, saw the implementation of scorched-earth policies under the regime of General Efraín Ríos Montt, who aimed to eliminate perceived support for leftist guerrilla movements among the indigenous communities. The genocide resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 people, with widespread atrocities including massacres, forced disappearances, and acts of sexual violence. The implications of the Guatemalan Genocide are profound, leaving deep psychological scars on survivors and leading to significant displacement and destruction of indigenous cultures and communities. Efforts to achieve justice have been slow and contentious, with notable developments like the 2013 conviction (later overturned) of Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. The legacy of the genocide continues to shape Guatemala’s social and political landscape, highlighting the challenges of reconciliation, accountability, and the fight for the rights and recognition of indigenous peoples.

Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979)

Pictured above is a display of skulls from Cambodian killing fields. While the exact identifications are unknown, the sheer number of skulls underscore how horrific the genocide was. (Photo Credit: Quadell via Wikimedia Commons)

The Cambodian Genocide, orchestrated by the Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Pol Pot, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 to 2 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population at the time. The Khmer Rouge, driven by an extreme communist ideology, sought to transform Cambodia into a rural, agrarian utopia by abolishing cities, money, private property, and religion. Intellectuals, professionals, ethnic minorities, and anyone suspected of dissent were systematically targeted and eliminated. The regime’s brutal policies led to widespread famine, forced labor, torture, and executions, particularly in the infamous “killing fields.” The implications of the Cambodian Genocide are profound, leaving deep scars on the nation’s social fabric, economy, and cultural heritage. It decimated entire generations and disrupted the lives of survivors, many of whom continue to grapple with psychological trauma. Efforts to bring justice have been slow but ongoing, with the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in 2006 to prosecute senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The genocide’s legacy persists in Cambodia’s collective memory and continues to influence its socio-political landscape, underscoring the need for remembrance and reconciliation. 

Bangladeshi Genocide (1971)

Classified as “Human Remains and War Materiel from 1971 Genocide,” these remains from the tragic event are displayed at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo Credit: Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bangladeshi Genocide, also known as the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War or the genocide during the Bangladesh Independence War, involved mass atrocities committed by the Pakistani military and supporting militias against the Bengali population of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The conflict erupted on March 26th, 1971, following the declaration of independence by East Pakistan. The Pakistani military launched Operation Searchlight, aiming to suppress the independence movement through widespread killings, rapes, and destruction of property. An estimated 300,000 to 3 million people were killed, and millions of others were displaced, leading to a massive refugee crisis in neighboring India. The genocide specifically targeted intellectuals, students, and members of the Hindu minority, aiming to cripple the Bengali nationalist movement. The implications of the Bangladeshi Genocide are profound, cementing a collective memory of suffering and resistance that has shaped the national identity of Bangladesh. The atrocities also strained Pakistan-Bangladesh relations and influenced regional politics in South Asia. Efforts to address the genocide’s legacy include ongoing demands for recognition, justice for war crimes, and efforts to reconcile and document the historical truth for future generations.

Ultimately, by confronting and acknowledging these forgotten genocides, we can work towards healing the wounds of the past, ensuring justice for survivors and their descendants, and fostering a global culture that rejects hatred and embraces human dignity and rights.

Moreover, remembering these atrocities compels us to reflect on contemporary issues of violence and discrimination, urging a proactive stance against potential genocides and human rights abuses. The legacy of these genocides emphasizes the necessity of international solidarity and cooperation in preventing future atrocities. It is through remembrance and education that we can build a world where the horrors of genocide are not only recognized but also prevented. 

By relegating these genocides to the margins of historical memory, we risk perpetuating the same patterns of neglect and indifference that enabled their occurrence in the first place.

About the Contributor
Pritika Patel, Staff Reporter
Pritika Patel is an Editor-in-Chief for ‘The Science Survey.’ She believes that journalism serves as the vital connection between people and the world around them. The vastness of the journalistic world is something that she is fascinated by and cannot wait to continue exploring. Pritika believes that journalism provides her and others the opportunity to explore various perspectives, opinions, and stories on a plethora of subjects. This multifaceted view is what makes journalism appeal to her the most. She is also interested in studying the tangible impacts that news sources have upon our society. With the rise of fake news, she believes that ethical newspapers such as ‘The Science Survey’ have become all the more essential. Outside of school, Pritika enjoys exploring new ideas through reading and traveling. In the future, she plans to pursue a career in either the legal field or political journalism. With interests in political science, international relations, and public policy, Pritika is sure that journalism will always play a vital role in her life and will be closely connected with whatever direction she decides to pursue.