Ethnic cleansing is a type of crime against humanity. In an ethnic cleansing, ethnic or religious groups are forced to leave an area by a more powerful ethnic group. The goal of an ethnic cleansing is to get rid of everyone who does not belong to the more powerful ethnic group. Then the more powerful group can have the area they "cleansed" for themselves, and only members of their group will live there.
Usually, the perpetrators will also try to destroy any signs that the victims lived in the area they are "cleansing." They may destroy homes, farms, infrastructure, monuments, cemeteries, and places of worship.
Definitions[change | change source]
- It is done on purpose, as part of a plan
- It is done by one ethnic or religious group
- That group uses violence and terror to force other ethnic or religious groups to leave certain areas
- The goal is to make sure that only the perpetrators' ethnic or religious group lives in those areas
Experts say that ethnic cleansing is different than genocide. In a genocide, a group tries to kill every member of a certain group, so that group no longer exists on the earth. In an ethnic cleansing, the perpetrators are trying to get rid of other groups in specific areas.
International law[change | change source]
There is no official legal definition of ethnic cleansing. However, both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)[a] define deporting a population from its home as a crime against humanity. Other crimes that happen during ethnic cleansing are treated as separate crimes that may fit under the definitions of genocide or crimes against humanity. For example, murdering, raping, and persecuting large groups of people are all crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court's laws.
Examples of ethnic cleansing[change | change source]
Jews in ancient and medieval history[change | change source]
During ancient and medieval history, Jewish people were victims of ethnic cleansing in many countries. For example, around 1290 AD, King Edward I of England ordered all of the Jews in the country to leave. Hundreds of elderly Jews were executed. Next, France and some German states did the same. Finally, in 1492, Spain ordered its Jews to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. Any Jew who stayed in the country would be executed without a trial. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Jews were forced to leave Spain.
Early modern history: Ireland[change | change source]
In 1652, Oliver Cromwell and the English military took over Ireland. Historians Brendan O'Leary and John McGarry write: "Oliver Cromwell offered Irish Catholics a choice between genocide and forced mass population transfer." Cromwell wanted all of the Irish Catholics to leave eastern Ireland and move to the northwest.
- Threatening to execute Irish people who fought back against the English
- Taking away about 40% of the land owned by Irish Catholics, and giving it to English Protestants
- Massacring Irish Catholics
- Burning Irish crops with the goal of starving the Irish Catholics
Historian John Morrill says that England's actions were "the greatest episode of ethnic cleansing ever attempted in Western Europe." About 600,000 Irish people died – 43% of the Irish population. Because of this, historians do not agree on whether this was an ethnic cleansing or a genocide.
The 19th century: Indian removal[change | change source]
In the 19th century, the United States government committed an ethnic cleansing against Native American tribes. At this time, the United States was growing. Many people in the country wanted to take over what is now the Southern United States. However, this land had always belonged to Native American tribes, like the Cherokee Nation.
In the early 1800s, the United States government started a program of removing these tribes from the South. The government wanted these tribes to move west, outside the United States. Under Andrew Jackson, the United States military took land away from Creek and Seminole Indians.
Some tribes signed treaties and agreed to move. However, other tribes refused to leave the land that had always been theirs. In 1829, Andrew Jackson became President. The next year, he signed the Indian Removal Act. Jackson used this law to force tribes that were still in the South to leave the United States.
The Cherokee Nation refused to leave their homes. In 1838, President Martin van Buren ordered the military to force them to leave.p. 41 Soldiers forced about 15,000 Cherokees and 2,000 of their slaves to leave their land. At first, the Cherokees were all forced into internment camps, where 353 Cherokee died from diseases during one summer.pp. 41–42 After that, the Cherokee were forced to walk from the South to what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas. Most historians say that about 4,000 people died on the way. This was one out of every four people in the Cherokee population. Because so many people died, this forced migration is now called the Trail of Tears.
The 20th century: Poles during The Holocaust[change | change source]
In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. This started World War II. After taking over part of Poland, Nazi Germany committed an ethnic cleansing against the Polish people. They did this in many ways:
- The Nazis deported at least 1.5 million Polish people out of Poland. They did this for two reasons:
- So Germans could move into Poland and have it for themselves; and
- So Polish people could be used as forced labor in areas that Germany controlled
- The Nazis sent hundreds of thousands of Polish people to concentration camps
- They killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians
- They killed at least 3 million Polish Jews
A Polish child who died after 3 months in Auschwitz (1942)
The 21st century: Darfur[change | change source]
Starting in 2003, the government of Sudan has been accused of committing an ethnic cleansing against black ethnic groups in Darfur. The Sudanese military, police, and a militia called the Janjaweed have done this by:
- Attacking and massacring civilians
- Bombing and burning down villages
- Forcing people to leave Darfur, then giving their villages to Arab people
- Raping and sexually assaulting thousands of women and girls
As of 2007, about 450,000 black Darfurians had been killed, and about 800 villages had been destroyed. As of April 2008, about 2.5 million people – one-third of Darfur's population – were living in refugee camps. These people had been forced to leave their homes, either by soldiers, or because their villages had been destroyed.
Notes[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
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