Cultural genocide or cultural cleansing is a concept that lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished in 1944 as a component to genocide. The term was considered in the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples juxtaposed next to the term "ethnocide," but it was removed in the final document, replaced with simply "genocide." The precise definition of "cultural genocide" remains unclear. Some ethnologists, such as Robert Jaulin, use the term "ethnocide" for "cultural genocide", although this usage has been criticized as engendering a risk of confusion between ethnicity and culture.
As early as 1944, lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished a cultural component to genocide, which since then has become known as "cultural genocide". The term has since acquired rhetorical value as a phrase that is used to protest against the destruction of cultural heritage. It is also often misused as a catchphrase to condemn any destruction the speaker disapproves of, without regard for the criterion of intent to destroy an affected group as such.
The drafters of the 1948 Genocide Convention considered the use of the term, but dropped it from their consideration. The legal definition of genocide is unspecific about the exact way in which genocide is committed, only stating that it is destruction with the intent to destroy a racial, religious, ethnic or national group as such.
Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples used the phrase "cultural genocide" but did not define what it meant. The complete article in the draft read as follows:
- Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:
- (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
- (b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
- (c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
- (d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;
- (e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.
This wording only appeared in a draft. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, but only mentions "genocide, or any other act of violence" in Article 7 (the only reference to genocide in the document). The concept of "ethnocide" and "cultural genocide" was removed in the version adopted by the General Assembly, but the sub-points noted above from the draft were retained (with slightly expanded wording) in Article 8 that speaks to "the right not to be subject to forced assimilation".
It involves the eradication and destruction of cultural artifacts, such as books, artworks, and structures, and the suppression of cultural activities that do not conform to the destroyer's notion of what is appropriate. Motives may include the religious (e.g., iconoclasm), as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing to remove the evidence of a people from a locale or history, as part of an effort to implement a Year Zero, in which the past and its associated culture is deleted and history is "reset", the suppression of an indigenous culture by invaders and colonisers, along with many other potential reasons.
In 2014 to 2015, in areas that it controls, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has carried out a campaign of cultural cleansing, destroying artifacts and historical sites in a campaign of iconoclasm waged against what it believes is idolatry. Included in this destruction are Shi'ite Islamic sites, including shrines and mosques, and artifacts that do not conform to ISIL's interpretation of Islam.
Examples of the term's usage
The term has been used to describe the destruction of cultural heritage in connection with various events:
- The persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran as a case of religious persecution has been called a cultural genocide by some scholars.
- In reference to the Axis powers (primarily, Nazi Germany) policies towards some nations in World War II (ex. destruction of Polish culture)
- In 2007, a Canadian Member of Parliament criticized the Ministry of Indian Affairs' destruction of documents regarding the treatment of First Nations members as "cultural genocide."
- The destruction by Azerbaijan of thousands of medieval Armenian gravestones at a cemetery in Julfa, and Azerbaijan's subsequent denial that the site had ever existed, has been written about as being an example of cultural genocide by some scholars.
- Branch of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the German occupation of Poland and the Japanese occupation of Korea have been mentioned as cases of cultural genocide.
- In 1989, Robert Badinter, a French criminal lawyer known for his stance against the death penalty, used the term "cultural genocide" on a television show to describe what he said was the disappearance of Tibetan culture in the presence of the 14th Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama would later use the term himself in 1993 and again in 2008.
- Historian Jean Brownfield cited the 1638 Treaty of Hartford as a "clear and explicit historical example of a cultural genocide, in which the Pequot language and name were outlawed and there was a clearly stated intention that this cultural entity would simply cease to exist."
- Existing attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to suppress the usage of Cantonese
- The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that the Canadian Indian residential school system "can best be described as 'cultural genocide.'"
- Robert Jaulin (1970). La paix blanche : introduction à l’ethnocide (in French). Éditions du Seuil.
- Gerard Delanty; Krishan Kumar (29 June 2006). The SAGE Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. SAGE. p. 326. ISBN 978-1-4129-0101-7. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
The term 'ethnocide' has in the past been used as a replacement for cultural genocide (Palmer 1992; Smith 1991:30-3), with the obvious risk of confusing ethnicity and culture.
- Raphael Lemkin, Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations (J. Fussell trans., 2000) (1933); Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, p. 91 (1944).
- Hirad Abtahi; Philippa Webb (2008). The Genocide Convention. BRILL. p. 731. ISBN 978-90-04-17399-6. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- Lawrence Davidson (8 March 2012). Cultural Genocide. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-5344-3. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- See Prosecutor v. Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T (Int'l Crim. Trib. Yugo. Trial Chamber 2001), at para. 576.
- "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.". 9 December 1948. Archived from the original on 2000-04-08.
- Draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples drafted by The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Recalling resolutions 1985/22 of 29 August 1985, 1991/30 of 29 August 1991, 1992/33 of 27 August 1992, 1993/46 of 26 August 1993, presented to the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council at 36th meeting 26 August 1994 and adopted without a vote.
- "United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (PDF). United Nations. 13 September 2007. p. 5. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Robinson, Julian (26 February 2015). "ISIS thugs take a hammer to civilisation". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- "UNESCO deplores 'cultural cleansing' of Iraq as armed extremists ransack Mosul libraries". United Nations News Centre. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- "ISIL destroys ancient shrines in Iraq". i24news. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila (1997). "Review of secondary literature in English on recent persecutions of Bahá'ís in Iran". Bahá'í Studies Review. Association for Baha'i Studies English-Speaking Europe. 7. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Nader Saiedi (1 May 2008). Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. p. 377. ISBN 978-1-55458-035-4. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Frelick, Bill (Fall 1987). "Iranian Baha'is and Genocide Early Warning". Social Science Record. 24 (2): 35–37. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- William Schabas, Genocide in international law: the crimes of crimes, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-78790-4, Google Print, p.179
- Jorge Barrera (25 April 2007). "'Genocide' target of fed coverup: MP". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on 2015-05-03.
- History Today, November 2007, "Sacred Stones Silenced in Azerbaijan"
- Switzerland-Armenia Parliamentary Group, "The Destruction of Jugha", Bern, 2006.
- CGS 1st Workshop: "Cultural Genocide" and the Japanese Occupation of Korea (archive) "During Germany's occupation of Poland (1939-1945) and Japan's occupation of Korea (1910-1945), the prohibition of use of the native tongue, the renaming of people and places, the removal of indigenous people from institutions of higher education, the destruction of cultural facilities, the denial of freedom of religious faith, and the changing of cultural education all took place. The instances of German cultural genocide, which Lemkin took as his basis, cannot be ignored when conducting comparative research.""One of the most striking features of Japan's occupation of Korea is the absence of an awareness of Korea as a "colony", and the absence of an awareness of Koreans as a "separate ethnicity". As a result, it is difficult to prove whether or not the leaders of Japan aimed for the eradication of the Korean race."
- Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (21 April 1989). Les droits de l'homme [Human rights]. Apostrophes (Videotape) (in French). Ina.fr. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "10th March Statements Archive". Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "'Eighty killed' in Tibetan unrest". BBC News. 16 March 2008.
- Dr. Jean F. Brownfield, "The Dark Pits of American History" (Forward; Ch. 3)
- "Cantonese language could disappear, says UBC linguist Zoe Lam". CBC News. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Canada's Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was 'Cultural Genocide,' Report Finds". NY Times. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015.