Today is Holocause Memorial Day - the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
It is a day to remember all those who have died as a result of genocide or attempted mass extermination of human beings, be they Jews, Russians, Poles, Armenians, Gypsies, mentally handicapped people, Tutsis or Hutus, Freemasons, or any other group.
Details of today's commemoration in the United Kingdom are given here.
In the run up to Holocaust Memorial Day, I have been reading about how mass murder and attempted extermination remains a major cause of death and suffering in many parts of the world. I can recommend the "Genocide Watch" website at http://www.genocidewatch.org/ run by a campaign group calling itself the International Alliance to End Genocide, for anyone who is interested in learning about this - especially anyone who is under the impression that genocide ended with the defeat of the nazis.
The worst threats at the moment are, unsurpisingly, Syria, Sudan, and Eastern Congo, but there are a horrifying number of parts of the world where there is a serious risk of genocide or it is actually taking place
The 2012 genocide watch "Countries at risk" annual report can be found at
As last year, not all the perpetrators of mass murder are governments. For example, the Taleban/Al Queda are still listed by "Genocide Watch." among those responsible for massacres, and government officials, particularly honest ones, remain at particular risk of being murdered by drug gangs, terrorists, or religious extremists in several countries.
The top twenty countries and victim groups suffering most or at serious risk according to Genocide Watch as at August 2011, are
1) Democratic Republic of Congo: where women, civilians, and Congo Tutsis are at risk from ex-Rwandan genocidists and mineral warlords and just about everyone is at risk from the organistion which calls itself the "Lord’s Resistance Army" and also kills people in Sudan and Uganda
2) In Sudan, Darfurese, Abyei,and Nuba people are at risk from the Sudanese army and Arab militias
3) Syria, where the civil war has included massacres of those suspected of being pro-democracy protesters or government opponents have been massacred by the Assad regime's forces, Alawite loyalists and there also appear to have been atrocities perpetrated by the opposition.
4) In Somalia there have been massacres between opposing clans
5) In parts of Afghanistan, government supporters and anyone who does not support the "right" kind of Islam is in danger of attack from the Taliban and Al Queda
6) Pakistan - ditto
7) In North Korea anyone suspected of opposing the government is liable to persecution
8) There have been signs of significant progress in Burma/Myanmar over the past year but the military regime which has run the country for decades has a history of severe repression against the Shan, Karen, Rohinga and against democrats. "Genocide watch" still has Burma in the highest category in their 2012 report.
9) Ethiopia: where government opponents have been persecuted by the Tigrean Army
All the above are listed at stage seven by Genocide watch indicating their view that genocide is actually taking place. The following are listed as stage 6 (preparation for genocide/serious risk)
10) Nigeria, where there is a serious risk of conflict between ethnic and religious groups:
11) Lybia - following the end of the regime and the beginnings of a return to normal the genocide risk status of Lybia has been downgrades from stage 7 to stage 6, but polarisation between supporters of the old regime and the new one mean that there is still significant danger of mass violence
12) Yemen: last year the threat was massacres of opponents of the Saleh regime by pro-govt troops. President Saleh has gone and the threat of genocide has been downgraded from level 7 to level 6, but there is still a significant risk of violence between suni and shiite muslims and from Al-Qaeda.
13) People's Republic of China where the Falun Gong and Uighers are being repressed by the PLA and Chinese authorities
14) Colombia, where government officials have been murdered by drug gangs and FARC guerrillas
15) Equatorial Guinea, where the Bubi minority is oppressed by the Government and police
16) Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the "Democratic" republic of Congo) where ethnic groups associated with the opposition have been oppressed by government forces
17) Chad, where the Zaghawas have been attacked by Sudanese raiders
18) Central African Republic, where African farmers have been attacked by Arab militias
19) Haiti, where democrats have been killed by supporters of the former Duvalier regime
20) Kenya, where opposition supporters have been attacked by government supporters
21) Guinea-Bissau, where democrats have been attacked by the army and by drug cartels.
As already mentioned you can read more details at the Genocide Watch webpage here.
Holocaust memorial day should not just be about remembering the past: it should be about considering what we can do to save people from genocide in the present and make it unthinkable in the future.