HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION AND COUNTERING GENOCIDE DENIAL IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

To mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, emphasise its universal significance and oppose its distortion, the NEVER AGAIN Association, together with its civil society partners and members in Southeast Asia, has co-organised a special online session on 27th January 2021. It brought together Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, intellectuals, faith leaders, human rights activists, educators and students from different countries and continents, with a special focus on the Southeast Asian region.

The online round table featured Jeremy Jones, the Director of Community and of International Affairs of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (Australia); Venerable Lablu Barua, Wat Phrmarangsi Buddhist Monastery in Bangkok (Thailand); Sayana Ser, the translator of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ in Khmer language, Peace Institute (Cambodia); Nickey Diamond, a scholar and human rights specialist at Fortify Rights (Myanmar); and Prof. Rafal Pankowski of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association (Poland). It was moderated by a member of ‘NEVER AGAIN’, Natalia Sineaeva, a Holocaust scholar and Rotary Peace Fellow alumna (Chulalongkorn University Bangkok 2018) and Dr Sanjoy Barua Chowdhury of the International Buddhist College (IBC) in Thailand.

The participants came from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Germany, India, Israel, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, UK, USA, and Vietnam. They discussed the legacy of the Holocaust, challenges for its commemoration and the possible meaning of its commemoration in the region of Southeast Asia in relation to the region’s history and experiences of genocide and mass atrocities.

The United Nations General Assembly designated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day or International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in 2005. The 27th of January marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in 1945.

Natalia Sineaeva noted in her introductory remarks: – ‘Jews and Roma were mainly targeted for genocide by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, but its significance is universal. Today, when very few Holocaust survivors are left, we need to preserve this memory, and not let it be trivialised, banalised, or even worse, distorted and denied. How can we use and apply the universal lessons of the Holocaust which happened in Europe in a non-European context, where the experiences of the Second World War were different, for example in Southeast Asia? There is often a lack of knowledge of Holocaust history, but there are local histories of conflicts and instances of genocide, and various forms of genocide distortion exist, too.’

The online round table was the first in the series of further events to be organised for the project ‘Identifying and Countering Holocaust Distortion. Lessons for Southeast Asia’ implemented by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association together with its partners in the countries of Southeast Asia. The project deals with various forms of Holocaust distortion and denial spread in the region of Southeast Asia, e.g., the usage of Nazi imagery, normalisation of the image of Hitler and Nazi Germany in popular culture; conspiracy theories scapegoating minorities and blaming the victims (including the Jews) for past crimes and historical conflicts; the dangerous globalisation of genocide denial, including the rise of ‘multi-deniers’ who distort both the Nazi crimes and other cases of genocide, such as the crimes of the Khmer Rouge or anti-Rohingya violence. Importantly, the project draws on the regional experiences of the Second World War and further instances of genocide in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand to inspire critical memory discourses and develop capacities to counter Holocaust and genocide distortion in the region. It has been supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent anti-racist organization founded in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

Additional information:

www.neveragainassociation.org

www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity

www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ

SWEET TEA, BITTER LIFE

On the occasion of the Refugee Week 2020, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has launched a new video documentary on the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar under the title ‘Sweet tea, bitter life’ (SEE VIDEO).

The Rohingya refugees are survivors of the ongoing genocidal campaign conducted by the Myanmar military. They have been described by the United Nations as the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority.

The languages of the documentary are Rohingya, Polish and English (with English and Polish subtitles) and it is available freely on the Association’s YouTube channel. It was shot several weeks ago, shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, where approximately 1 million predominantly Muslim refugees from Myanmar are located.

According to the lead maker of the short documentary, Pawel Bolek, its aim was to show the human side of life in the refugee camp, which is largely unknown to the outside world. He says: – ‘The film shows that in our world everybody can suddenly, unexpectedly become a refugee’.

Previously, members of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ visited the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar in November 2019. During the visit representatives of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Natalia Sineaeva and Rafal Pankowski met with refugees as well as medical personnel and civil society representatives.

Commemoration of genocide, empowering the victims of violence and the promotion of peace and non-discrimination will be among the subjects of a large-scale international event co-organized by ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association member Natalia Sineaeva, the Global Cyber Peace Conference ‘Envisioning the World After the Great Pause’, held on 27 June.

The conference will last for 24 hours, starting from New Zealand through Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe, ending in the Americas/Caribbean. It will be an interactive online experience featuring speakers and attendees from around the globe. The conference is organized in cooperation with Rotary Peace Centres across the world, Mediators Beyond Borders International, and many other organisations. Almost forty sessions and workshops will be conducted across three conference zones: Asia/Oceania, Africa/Europe/Middle East, and the Americas/Caribbean. The conference themes include topics such as tackling identity-based violence, environment and peace, education and peace, and cultural resources for peace.

Natalia Sineaeva is the Europe regional coordinator for Rotary Peace Fellowship Alumni Association and she is a member of the conference leadership team for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

During the event a special panel under the heading Cultural Resources for Peace: Peace Project Incubator will be devoted to the question: how do museums and memory sites deal with ongoing atrocities and war? The speakers include the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association’s Natalia Sineaeva as well as Shahriar Kabir, a renowned writer, filmmaker and human rights activist, President of the Forum for Secular Bangladesh & Trial of the War Criminals of 1971; Kornelis Spaans, a member of the International Committee of Memorial Museums in Remembrance of the Victims of Public Crimes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM); Tali Nates, the founder and director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre and chair of the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation; Naomi Kikoler, the director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Mofidul Hogue, director of the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Haider Elias, the President of Yazda – Global Yazidi Organization.

NEVER AGAIN’ Association members and friends are also going to speak in several other sessions of the conference, one of the largest of its kind in recent history.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

Additional information:

Global Cyber Peace Conference registration: http://rpfaa.org/global-cyber-peace-conference/

www.neveragainassociation.org
www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity
www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ

Sweet tea, bitter life’ documentary:

‘NEVER AGAIN’ WELCOMES ICJ RULING ON MYANMAR GENOCIDE AHEAD OF INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has welcomed the International Court of Justice ruling on the case concerning genocide against the Rohingya minority committed in Myanmar (Burma).

The ICJ, based in The Hague (Netherlands), ruled on 23 January that Myanmar must protect the Rohingya population. The court ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to prevent genocide against the Rohingya.

Co-founder of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Rafal Pankowski was present in The Hague on the day of the ruling. He said: – ‘We welcome the ICJ decision and hope justice for the Rohingya will be delivered. Myanmar’s greatness is to be found in her diversity and the Rohingya must be treated with respect, their rights as citizens must be fully restored, their suffering must be recognized and compensated. Symbolically, the ICJ ruling was announced just days before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27th January, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Genocide and genocide denial must not be ignored by the international community.’

The Rohingya have been described by the United Nations as the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority.

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Members of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association had visited Myanmar in solidarity with the local human rights activists in August 2018. In November 2019, representatives of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Rafal Pankowski and Natalia Sineaeva visited the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar (Bangladesh). During the visit, representatives of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ met with refugees as well as medical personnel and civil society representatives.

Also on 23 January, in the run up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association’s representative Anna Tatar delivered a keynote speech at a conference on ‘The Rise of Hate Crimes and the Role of Youth in Countering Them’, co-organized with Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas university and the Youth for Peace student group under the heading ‘Varsovians against Violence’. Students coming from numerous countries and continents demonstrated their solidarity with the victims of hate crimes and hate speech in Poland and elsewhere.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

More information:

www.neveragainassociation.org

www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity

www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ

MYANMAR GENOCIDE IN FOCUS IN SEOUL

An international sports boycott of Myanmar was debated during a discussion led by a representative of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association in Seoul.

On 23-25 August 2019, ‎human rights activists from across the world gathered at the conference on ‘Protection of Rohingya Survivors and Accountability for Genocide’ held at the Sogang University, one of the leading universities of South Korea, established by the Jesuits. The opening keynote speech was delivered by Professor Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

Co-founder of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association Rafal Pankowski chaired the conference session ‎on ‘Travel, Culture and Governmental Relations’ which discussed the international campaigns to end genocide against the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim minority in Myanmar.

– ‘The newly announced initiative of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) to organize a future football World Cup in Southeast Asia is an interesting opportunity for the promotion of the region, but the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar make it currently next to impossible for the proposed bid to have any credibility from the human rights perspective’ – noted Rafal Pankowski. – ‘Football can be a positive tool for peace and intercultural understanding, but FIFA must not legitimize human rights abuses. The same applies to the idea of Myanmar as a co-host of the U-20 World Cup in 2021.’

The meeting was co-organized by Korean civil society groups together with the Free Rohingya Coalition, FORSEA (Forces of Renewal of South East Asia), EuroBurma Office and Human Rights Action Centre. It was attended by over one hundred participants, including a large group of Catholic nuns and ended with a joint Buddhist-Christian-Muslim demonstration outside of the Myanmar embassy in Seoul.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent educational and research organization established in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland and internationally. Among others, it implemented the UEFA Euro 2012 ‘Respect Diversity’ programme: major educational and awareness-raising activities that took place before and during the European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine. It also cooperates with partners in Southeast Asia in the field of genocide commemoration and prevention, peace and intercultural dialogue.

More information:

www.nigdywiecej.org
www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity
www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ

INTERNATIONAL DEBATES ON HUMAN RIGHTS HOSTED BY ‘NEVER AGAIN’ AT POL’AND’ROCK FESTIVAL

The biggest open-air free music festival in Europe, Pol’and’Rock, also known as Polish Woodstock, took place from 1 to 4 August 2019. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association organized a series of anti-racism activities accompanying the festival.

The festival line up included internationally known performers who oppose racism and discrimination such as Gogol Bordello, Skunk Anansie, Ziggy Marley, and Prophets of Rage. The last band includes former members of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.

The festival stand of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association was the venue of a debate with Nay San Lwin, a human rights activist and representative of the persecuted minority of Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma). For years he has been drawing the attention of world public opinion to the genocidal practices used by the military dictatorship against the Rohingya, such as violence, hunger and forced evictions. The genocide in Myanmar has been documented by the United Nations. The other participants of the debates organized by ‘NEVER AGAIN’ included members of Opferperspektive (Victim’s Perspective), a German organization which helps the victims of hate crimes, as well as activists from Denmark, Moldova, and Belarus.

Poland’s Civil Rights Ombudsman Adam Bodnar also participated in a meeting organised by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association during the festival. Mr Bodnar spoke about the recent cases of homophobic violence in Poland. Furthermore, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association organized a football tournament promoting the message of ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of the Stadiums’ among the festival participants. On 2 August, the group’s members played a match with the Ombudsman’s team led by Adam Bodnar himself.

During the festival days ‘NEVER AGAIN’ organized many other educational activities, including public discussions with numerous musicians involved in its ‘Music Against Racism’ campaign and an anti-fascist quiz with the ‘Naprzod’ (Forward) Foundation. The anti-racist educational activity during the festival was supported by Studio K2, the Fare network, and the Warsaw-based Rotary Club Goethe.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

More information:

www.nigdywiecej.org
www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity
www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ