Monday, 19 March 2007

Ethnic cleansing: destruction of communities

In this post I want to bundle up a few scraps on abandoned villages and ethnic cleansing and the destruction of communities more generally, which are relevant to, but outside the scope of, my research. Trying to open a PDF - which, if I find again, I won't link to - just crashed Firefox and did for the original, lovingly-crafted version of this post, so it may appear lazily disjointed, because, well, it will be. To lend it the air of coherence, I'm going to present the violence against community in chronological order.

[Tidied up on the 21st of March 2007]

Before I start, I should note [mainly to remind myself] that I learned that there are tourist excursions to 'abandoned villages' in Cyprus, run by the UK charity the Travel Foundation (formerly the Sustainable Travel Initiative). They go to Spilia and Kourdhali, which to my mind weren't abandoned, but apparently they use the term to encompass 'mountain villages in decline'; these are 'virtually abandoned, leaving behind unfarmed land, deserted buildings and elderly populations'. It's another reason to find a different term for the more or less deliberately destroyed villages I'm studying.

I should also note that the Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office's "Turkish mass media bulletin" from the 23rd of May [2006] contained the notice that,
Turkish daily HALKIN SESI newspaper (23.05.06) reports that members from the Germany-based Centre Against Expulsions [Zentrum Gegen Vertreibungen] arrived in Cyprus to study problems facing the displaced persons. Within this framework the two members of the centre, Dr Doris Muller and Dr Klotz went to Tylliria with some Turkish Cypriot displaced persons from the area and inspected the Turkish Cypriot villages which were vacated in August 1964. The Turkish Cypriot villages in the area are: Mansoura, Ayios Theodoros, Selain tappi Alevga and Kokkina.
I haven't been able to find any detailed information about this visit and/or its findings.

[In a] 30th of June 2006 article on the "tragedy on the Araxes: place of memory wiped off the face of the earth" (in Archaeology, reprinted at blogsome), Sarah Pickman plotted the various acts that, over the course of a century (between 1903 and 2005), destroyed the Armenian cemetery in Djulfa in where is now the Nakhichevan enclave in Azerbaijan:
Inside it were 10,000 or so headstones, most of them the intricately carved stone slabs known as khachkars.... gone now; broken down, all of the headstones have either been removed from Djulfa or buried under the soil....

There can be little doubt that historical grievances and political land claims have played a part in this attempt to eradicate the historical Armenian presence in Nakhichevan.
In "uprooted and planted", chapter five of "sacred landscape: the buried history of the Holy Land since 1948", Meron Benvenisti (2000) explored the destruction of community in Israel and Palestine:
Part of the Ein Hawd cemetery was made into a parking lot, but one has to be thankful that it didn't become the regional garbage dump, as had that of Ein Ghazal....
That reminded me a lot of acts of urbicide I'd heard about in Bosnia-Hercegovina and seen in Kosovo and Cyprus. The chapter presented Jewish-Israeli nationalist settlers' striking rational analysis of the logic of their urbicide against Arab-Palestinian villagers' landscapes. [It then went on to note that:]
The ancient orchards were uprooted to make room for chicken runs and fields of cattle fodder - but primarily to create "clean land."... The "detested" Arab sabra gave way to the Jewish "garden, orchard, and greenery".
In his (2004) conference paper on "the resilience of territorial conflict in an era of globalization", discussing "the replacement of an Arab-Palestinian landscape with a Jewish-Israeli landscape", David Newman observed that,
The names of abandoned villages disappeared from the map and these were replaced with alternative Hebrew names, while new Israeli settlements were called after incidents and people from ancient Jewish or modern Israeli history.... The means by which new landscapes are created which replace or obliterate former landscapes are, in turn, transformed into the new concrete political realities on the ground.
I found quite a few things on Burma/Myanmar. As André Boucaud and Louis Boucaud noted in their November 1998 piece in Le Monde Diplomatique, "Burma goes for extreme solutions: repression and ethnic cleansing":
There are empty and abandoned villages, sometimes looted and burned, with the bodies of women and children lying around. The army has killed hundreds, shooting on sight at anyone who strays off the track, refuses to obey or does not leave their village quickly enough. Others have died of hunger, disease or exhaustion on the road or in the camps. To stamp out resistance by armed Shan nationalist groups supported by the oppressed local population, the Burmese army has launched a huge scorched earth operation in Shan State.
Roland Watson's Dictator Watch reprinted a Free Burma Rangers Report from the 11th of January 2004:
The Burma Army is concentrating on clearing all Karenni refugees out of southern Karenni State and is burning rice barns, chasing civilians out of their villages, and laying landmines around the abandoned villages.
Sudan, understandably, was prominent. In its July 2001 Africa Messenger, the Persecution Project had conveyed that,
During our May/June outreaches we had opportunity to visit with persecuted brethren in the oil region along the Adar River as well as several areas near the Bentiu oilfields. We learned from firsthand accounts that Chinese military personnel were directly involved in NIF offensives against the civilian populations there. Along the Adar river we were led to a burnt out village that had been totally burned and flattened by the "scorched earth campaign."
In a May 2004 report, "Darfur destroyed: ethnic cleansing by government and militia forces in western Sudan", Human Rights Watch had explained that,
Human Rights Watch research in Darfur in March and April 2004 confirmed reports from refugees in Chad and other sources that Sudanese government forces and Janjaweed have systematically attacked and destroyed villages, food stocks, water sources and other items essential for the survival of Fur and Masalit villagers in large parts of West Darfur....

In the past year, government and Janajweed forces have killed imams, destroyed mosques and prayer mats. In some villages, they have torn up and defecated on Qorans....

In the words of Asha, a sixty-two-year-old woman from Kudumule village: "The problem began ten years ago. It began with the stealing of cows. Two years ago they started killing our men."...
[That is a point I find very interesting, as the victims have constructed a basic narrative of the escalation of violence, within which symbolic violence (here, attacks on livestock, but elsewhere, against community property and cultural heritage) is a precursor to violence against persons.

This would make sense on several grounds. Symbolic violence is easier, safer and less severely punished. It may act as a call to arms without committing an act so reprehensible that it prevents any community support; at the same time, it may drive "the enemy" to commit acts of revenge that push people from all sides into essentialised, polarised groups and consolidate the conflict.

It not only demonstrates the significance of cultural heritage and other symbols in conflict, but also supports the view that symbolic violence may be a forewarning of violence against persons. Going further, optimistically, if understandings of history and community may be improved, it may be possible to end or even prevent the emergence of violent conflicts at this point.]
An elderly man from Tunfuka... said one family had built a new dwelling, not in the traditional Masalit style, while another was living in an unburned hut that had belonged to a man called Abdul Magid Fadhel. The Arabs had built a new mosque in the village, he said.
As I found on Passion of the Present's blog on Sudan, the International Herald Tribune had relayed from the Associated Press on the 8th of March 2007 that the "U.N. human rights chief says rape remains widespread in Darfur conflict":
Women in Darfur continue to be subjected to rape by all sides in the brutal conflict.... More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since February 2003, when ethnic African tribesmen took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by the Khartoum government. Sudanese authorities responded by unleashing both the military and the janjaweed.
It is worth nuancing discussions of ethnic cleansing early on. Timothy Snyder's (2001) working paper, '"to resolve the Ukrainian Question once and for all": the ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians in Poland, 1943-1947', addressed both Polish and West Ukrainian nationalism and undermined over-generalisations effectively:
a large number of Ukrainians risked (and sometimes lost) their own lives by warning or sheltering Poles instead.... Examples of such courageous generosity drawn from Volhynia in 1943 and Galicia in 1944: Wspomnienia II/17 (older Ukrainians hid Poles while younger ones destroyed their houses), II/63t (a Ukrainian priest tries to protect Poles and is killed himself; UPA [Ukrains'ka Povstans'ka Armiia (Ukrainian Insurgency Army)] soldiers give arms to Poles for self-defense).... These individual recollections serve as reminders of the limits of inevitable generalizations about the behavior of national groups. It is of course also worth repeating that the UPA was always a regional organization whose membership was at its peak 0.1 percent of the Ukrainian population.
These works reveal the diverse ways that nationalisms and other bigotries and their impacts upon communities develop. The scraps gathered together here should demonstrate the sometimes divergent, but frequently coinciding programmes of ethnic cleansing, in which nationalists wreak the destruction of communities [and hint at means of working against them].

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