Published on October 25, 2021
On the 8th of this month, Philippine-American journalist Maria Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor she shares this year with Russian reporter Dmitry Muratov. In its official statement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized these two journalists "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace." Describing Maria's work over decades as a journalist and founder and CEO of the news site Rappler, the Nobel Committee could not have been clearer: "Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines." In particular, Rappler's reporting has drawn international attention and condemnation to the Duterte governments "war on drugs," a campaign of murderous violence by state agents against civilians that has resulted in thousands of deaths. The true number of deaths may never be known, and the Philippine government's attack on its own population has now been referred for investigation to the International Criminal Court.
Maria's efforts to expose the erosion of democratic norms, state corruption, and the horrific attacks on civilians in the Philippines have certainly gotten the government's attention. Over the past several years she has been targeted with a seemingly endless series of criminal charges, often fanciful or fabricated. She has been arrested over ten times, and is currently awaiting sentencing for violating a "cyber libel" law that could result in a lengthy prison sentence. Her life has been threatened, credibly, more times than she can count. Perhaps more than in any other society, her work and Rappler's reporting have also exposed the remarkable power of social media - Facebook in particular - to serve the will of authoritarian leaders savvy enough to co-opt media platforms through a sophisticated operation of disinformation, misinformation, fake accounts, government-paid troll armies, and other techniques aimed at amplifying government messaging, propagating fake news, and targeting for online and offline harassment and intimidation of all those the Duterte government sees as threats.
For this reason, the Nobel Committee understood that Maria's work to expose government use of social media to shut down free expression, strangle civil society, and target political foes is just as significant as her efforts to provide objective and reliable reporting on state violence. As the Philippines struggles to preserve a fragile democracy against a democratically elected authoritarian leader, the toxic combination of state brutality and sophisticated online misinformation offers a chilling glimpse into what awaits other societies at risk of "democratic backsliding," and at exceptionally heightened risk of atrocity violence.
Maria's willingness to stand up to this risk, and to struggle for free, open, and responsible reporting in her country highlights the often overlooked role of independent journalism as an atrocity prevention mechanism. Just hours before she learned that she had been awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, Maria spoke with I-GMAP Co--Directors Max Pensky and Nadia Rubaii as one of two panelists on our October webinar, "Investigative Journalism at the Atrocity Frontline." Maria joined our October Visiting Practitioner, American investigative journalist and best-selling author Nick Turse, for a wide-ranging conversation about the significance, risks, and promise of investigative reporting in holding rights-violating regimes to account, documenting atrocities, and learning how to push back against state-sponsored online misinformation and harassment. Her comments showed us why she is so richly deserving of recognition by the Nobel Committee.
We join the international community in congratulating Maria and Dmitri Muratov for this great honor, and thanking the Nobel Committee for making a powerful statement on the power of investigative journalism to bring truth, accountability, and visibility to the abuses of authoritarian regimes. And we join in a global chorus of voices, led by Reporters Without Borders, calling for support for Maria, and an independent media in the Philippines and elsewhere. You can sign their online petition, #HoldTheLine, to offer your support. And you can join in the work of preserving and protecting journalists threatened by state violence everywhere.
- Max Pensky & Nadia Rubaii
In case you missed our recent message, we are so glad to present our 2020-2021 Annual Report to the public.
For best viewing, we recommend downloading the PDF and adjusting the Adobe settings to View the Page Display as "Two Page View" and "Show Cover Page in Two Page View."
We welcome your reactions to the Report and your engagement with I-GMAP in the coming year.
How do we identify the risks of atrocity? How do we address these risks before violence begins? How do we motivate peace building?
These are the questions scholars and administrators in Genocide & Mass Atrocity Prevention (GMAP) ask every day.
Want to learn more about GMAP, why it’s relevant now, and how you can get involved in this work?
Listen to the latest episode of the Do Good Well Podcast from Binghamton University’s Department of Public Administration. The interview, conducted by MPA & GMAP Certificate alum Sarah Prentice, features Professors Nadia Rubaii and Kerry Whigham.
Listen on your favorite streaming platform, for example listen on Apple Podcasts.
We are very excited to share the news about the cohort of Charles E. Scheidt Faculty Fellows in Atrocity Prevention for the 2021-22 academic year. This year, we expanded the faculty fellows program to include nominations from any faculty member from any discipline at any of the State University of New York (SUNY) campuses.
SUNY is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States comprising 64 institutions, including research universities, academic medical centers, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, colleges of technology and an online learning network, and serving nearly 1.3 million students.
We received an impressive array of nominations from across SUNY campuses and we are excited to announce that the following individuals (listed in alphabetical order) have been selected for this cohort:
|Susan Appe||Public Administration and Policy||Albany|
|Kanisha Bond||Political Science||Binghamton|
|Monica Ciobanu||Criminal Justice||Plattsburgh|
|Shahab Derhami||Business Analytics and Operations, Sch. of Mgt.||Binghamton|
|Raslan Ibrahim||Political Science and International Relations||Geneseo|
|Vanessa Cañete Jurado||Romance Languages and Literatures||Binghamton|
|Ekrem Karakoc||Political Science||Binghamton|
|Carl Lipo||Anthropology and Environmental Studies||Binghamton|
|Meisha Marzell||Public Health||Binghamton|
|D. Andrew Merriwether||Anthropology and Biology||Binghamton|
|Ania Nikulina||Theatre Department||Binghamton|
|Anne O'Byrne||Philosophy||Stony Brook|
|Paul Rogan||Criminal Justice Bachelor's Program||Delhi|
|Angela Thering||Adult Education||Buffalo State|
|Atanas Tzenev||Entrepreneurship & Innovation Partnerships||Binghamton|
In mid-September, we conducted a hybrid in-person/virtual orientation session for the faculty fellows. In this session, the fellows shared their interests in joining the program and began to brainstorm ideas for incorporating an atrocity prevention lens into their teaching. Starting in October, the faculty fellows will begin their online modules and interact in a virtual space together throughout the rest of the academic year.
Jaime Godoy, our joint Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence with SUNY Broome, presented as part of SUNY Broome’s Hispanic Heritage Month a lunch and learn topic, “Business and Human Rights: Human Dignity has No Price” in memory of Professor John G. Ruggie, Author of the UN Guiding Principles.
Jaime addressed a range of questions related to business and human rights including the following: Do businesses have a responsibility to protect human rights and prevent atrocities? Should CEOs of large multinational corporations be accountable for the abuses perpetrated by governments in the locations where they operate? Are there mechanisms for redress for victims of human rights abuses committed by business activities? What is our role as citizen consumers, employers/ees, students, and members of the academy?
This lecture explored those questions within the framework of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights on the 10th anniversary of their adoption and looking ahead to their next decade. Protection of human rights and prevention of mass atrocities are traditionally responsibilities of the State, however increasingly the business sector, including private, public, multinational and SME companies and investors, are being called upon to consider these criteria in their decisions.
Co-Director Nadia Rubaii’s Work Featured in 5 Essential Reads about Bolsonaro Crimes Against Humanity Charges
On October 21, 2021, The Conversation published an article highlighting five essential reads to learn more about the recommended charges of crimes against humanity levied against Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic. Back in July 2020, I-GMAP Co-Director Nadia Rubaii published an article with Julio José Araujo Junior of Rio de Janeiro State University and the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor’s Office about the lack of care for Indigenous Peoples in Brazil during the covid-19 pandemic. Nadia and Julio’s article is included as one of the essential reads to better understand the charges against Bolsonaro for his actions, or lack thereof to protect people, which have harmed millions and have had a disparate impact on Indigenous Peoples.
On Saturday, September 11, I-GMAP Co-Director Nadia Rubaii led a 10-member team in the 23rd Annual Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP) Ride for Life. STAP is a non-profit whose mission is to compassionately and competently meet the evolving needs of our communities by serving people affected by chronic illness and to improve public health through disease prevention, care coordination, and advocacy. STAP provides a variety of programs and services to eight counties (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Tioga, and Tompkins counties) in Upstate New York with over 100 staff members and five STAP offices. The AIDS Ride for Life is the biggest fundraising event for STAP, where donations raised go to assist their programs and services in closing the gaps between the needs of our clients and the grant funding the agency receives. The AIDS Ride for Life offers multiple route options around Cayuga Lake, from 14 to 102 miles. I-GMAP’s team, aptly called Pedaling for Prevention, raised over $8,600, making it the 2nd highest team in fundraising totals. If you would like to ride with us in 2022, reach out and let us know; we would welcome you on the team.
In September, we welcomed Rushan Abbas, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, as I-GMAP's first Visiting Practitioner of 2021. As lockdowns spread across the world in early 2020, we decided to postpone our in-person Visiting Practitioner program until it was safer to gather on Binghamton University's campus again.
We were delighted to host Rushan Abbas and Julie Millsap, director of public affairs and advocacy at the Campaign for Uyghurs, for a week of classroom visits, a public talk, a webinar garnering attention from around the world, and informal discussions over coffee and meals with University community members. Her visit reinforced the value of these face-to-face engagements. Even individuals who already knew about the ongoing Uyghur genocide, learned so much more about what is happening and ways to prevent further mass atrocities.
In this issue, we highlight details from the webinar and public talk along with embedding the video recordings available on our YouTube channel. You can also check out the Campaign for Uyghurs’ press release about the visit on their website.
In our first webinar of the 2021-2022 academic year, we held an engaging two-hour discussion assessing policy and legislative options for the United States to respond to the Uyghur genocide. Our distinguished guests explored questions related to ongoing efforts by the U.S. government to pass legislation and enact policies to protect Uyghurs and stop the ongoing mass atrocity crimes being committed against them. Our panelists included Rushan Abbas, founder and executive director, Campaign for Uyghurs; Nury Turkel, senior fellow, Hudson Institute; Brett Hansen, Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State; Ewelina Ochab, Co-Founder, Coalition for Genocide Response; and Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch.
In the first part of the conversation, we explored the various actions taken by the US government to respond to the ongoing mass atrocity crimes along with the observed inaction in recent weeks. The panelists stressed the need for urgent action because Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, is calling for a final solution to the Uyghur problem, as Rushan recounts. Rushan outlined that the government is building crematoria near the detention centers despite cremation not being a tradition of Uyghur culture. In this discussion, the panelists focused on the need for the US government to develop a long-term and multilateral approach to confront China on this issue and other human rights abuses.
We must examine supply chains and boycott companies that use products known to be made by forced labor, the panelists urged. They noted that the US government agency tasked with reviewing products origins is understaffed and has had a weak response to effectively block slave labor products from entering the U.S. market. Rushan pointed to the Coalition to End Forced Uyghur Labour as an example of informing consumers about which product to boycott. The panelists also stressed the need for consumers to pressure companies, shareholders, and pension funds to divest from companies that profit off of the forced labor.
The conversation then shifted to encouraging Muslim-majority countries to help support Uyghurs and how the United States can partner directly with these countries in support of this effort. In this space, the United States has a lot of space to build capacity and focus more efforts in diplomacy. Rushan and Nury offered suggestions for the United States to work harder with civil society and religious leaders in Muslim-majority countries and assist in efforts to counter the Chinese government’s disinformation campaign about what is going on in Xinjiang. The audience was cautioned that this may be an uphill battle because many of these countries have human rights abuses of their own and may be more inclined to side with China.
Finally, the panelists focused on the genocide determination and reasons for why China is committing mass atrocity crimes. Rushan spoke about the history of the region and the importance of the geographical area of the Uyghur homeland to the Belt and Road Initiative. She offered the perspective that by getting rid of the Uyghurs, China will have easier access to expanding its territorial influence into Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Sophie added that the Chinese government is continuing its efforts to remake the “Great Chinese Nation” which includes a dissent free society, and as long as the Uyghur culture does not fit into that project, it must be erased. In concluding, the panelists reminded us all that we are confronting ongoing mass atrocity crimes and that inaction is not an option. They suggest that the United States should immediately open its borders to Uyghur refugees and develop a longer term plan that is human focused and victim centered. Rushan concluded the panel with a call to reject cultural relativism on this issue and for immediate action to stop this evil for the future sake of humanity.
In a public talk open to the entire Binghamton University community, Rushan Abbas, the founder and executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, offered an illuminating account of past and ongoing mass atrocity crimes in East Turkestan, or Xinjiang Province in the People’s Republic of China. She explored the history of the Uyghur people and the strategic importance of her peoples’ homeland to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Her public talk concluded with engaging questions from the audience about what can we do as individuals and residents of the United States to help stop the Uyghur genocide.
Rushan began her talk with describing how millions of Uyghurs have been taken to concentration camps and gave detailed accounts of how Uyghurs detainees are not being re-educated, as the Chinese government now describes the purpose of these centers, but rather are being tortured and forced into unpaid labor. In addition, Rushan explained that the government is moving Han Chinese “relatives” to live in the homes of families whose family members are in the concentration camps. She called this policy, government sponsored mass rape.
She also explained how East Turkestan is in the middle of the Belt & Road Initiative, and that this is being used as a reason to commit mass atrocity crimes against the Uyghurs to remove them from the physical landscape. The Chinese government has stated that the people held in re-education camps have graduated, but Rushan questions where did they graduate to. She explains that the Uyghur detainees are being forced to work in factories in China proper, which has been exacerbated by factories shutting down due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Rushan shared with the audience that her sister was abducted by the Chinese government and her family has not been given proof of life in three years. In September 2018, her sister was arrested six days after Rushan spoke in public criticizing the Chinese government for the treatment of Uyghurs. Initially, the government denied that her sister was in detention and then later admitted that she was convicted to a 20 year sentence.
At the conclusion of her talk, Rushan offered suggestions for what we in the audience and collectively in the United States can do to help stop the mass atrocities against the Uyghurs. These included a boycott against companies that use products made from Uyghur forced labor, and a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics. She also argued that the United States needs to take leadership on this issue as other countries are waiting to see what the U.S. will do. Furthermore, she advocated that other Muslim-majority countries need support the Uyghurs and join together to force China to stop committing mass atrocity crimes against the Uyghurs.
Dr. Nick Turse visited Binghamton University’s campus for a weeklong stay in October as part of I-GMAP’s Visiting Practitioner program. In addition to meeting with members of the Charles E. Scheidt Faculty Fellows program and talking to students in classes across the university, Nick held a public talk entitled, “‘It sounds like a really important story, but…’ Can Collaborations with Academia Improve Press Coverage of Mass Atrocities?”
In this illuminating public lecture, Nick recounted his career trajectory starting with his doctoral research about Vietnam veterans and PTSD to his post-doctoral experience working with the LA Times to interview perpetrators of war crimes living in American suburbia and victims in Vietnam. He then spoke about the shifting landscape of journalism and the drying up of funding for active war zone reporting over the past two decades. Nick recounted parts about his work in the DRC, Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan where he documented ethnic cleansing crimes and the difficulty he encountered when trying to get mainstream publications to run the story. Eventually, he was able to publish the story in a German literary magazine. He also told us about his work in the DRC where he traveled to an active conflict zone to get the stories of survivors and tell the “outside world” about what was going on. This resulted in his story entitled, “A Slaughter in Silence” published by Vice News.
Nick wrapped up his talk outlining the desperate need to promote more effective journalism through greater funding for on-the-ground investigative reporting. As an example of a unique collaboration with an academic institution, Brown University’s Costs of War Project, Nick was able to travel to Burkina Faso and to report on active conflicts occuring in the country that were receiving little mainstream media attention. These stories about his investigative journalism raised very interesting questions from the audience, including how he was careful to not appropriate victims’ stories, to which he replied that the survivors could end the interview at any point and that it’s his job as a journalist to ask the survivors what they want to tell the outside world. It is this holding power to account that makes independent journalism essential to documenting mass atrocities, and building international pressure to stop ongoing conflicts and to prevent them in the first place.
On October 7, I-GMAP Co-Directors Max Pensky and Nadia Rubaii spoke with two investigative journalists on the atrocity frontlines, American reporter and New York Times best selling author Nick Turse, and acclaimed Philippine journalist, co-founder of the online news site Rappler, and subject of the documentary A Thousand Cuts, Maria A. Ressa. As noted in the opening message from the co-directors, less than 24 hours after her participation in our webinar, Maria was announced as a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
In this wide ranging conversation, Max and Nadia talked with Nick and Maria about the central role that journalism and journalists play in holding power to account and bringing transparency to the general population. Maria and Nick spoke about the dual pressures on journalists from above, by the government, and from below, disinformation on social media spread by millions around the world. Maria spoke about the crumbling of democratic institutions from within and outlined “lawfare” issues where, “democracy dies using the gavel in a courtroom.” This reinforces the need and justification for the “battle for truth,” especially as it relates to the number of deaths resulting from Duterte’s War on Drugs. Nick and Maria also focused on the exacerbated atrocity risks from covid-19 pandemic and the triggering events such as the upcoming Philippine elections. This reminds us of the essential need for facts and independent journalism.
With much excitement, we welcome returning students to Binghamton University and the first cohort of Master of Science in Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention students. This Fall 2021 semester, we welcome three new students, Samuel Atkin, Omar Ndizeye, and Yong Ho (Allen) Song.
Samuel recently graduated from Binghamton University with a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Neuroscience and a minor in History. Describing his motivations for applying to the GMAP MS program, Samuel writes: “I first dove into the subject matter in my youth as personal growth and now am proud to be in the first class of students of the M.S. program at the Institute. I look to my Jewish upbringing to hold true to the maxim of ‘Never Again’ in the face of human cruelty. That collective trauma that all Jews inherit propelled me into the field of GMAP. I wish to promulgate that such heinous acts are not anathema to the human condition but resultant from modulation of our inherent psychobiological norms. In the United States we often think of genocide as specific to the Holocaust, occuring as a single act of ultimate act of evil. Yet that view promotes an indifference towards other genocides through the criterion that only the prototypical means constitute “genocide” rather than the term’s actual definition.” Samuel is interested in researching how to use a shared tabletop role-playing game (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons) experience depicting pre-violence situations to promote self reflection. He writes that, “given such a bleak topic, using play to begin these conversations may have a more measurable impact at the personal level.”
Omar Ndizeye is a Rwandan author, genocide survivor, and public speaker whose work focuses on survivors’ stories of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda as captured through oral histories. His published memoir Life and Death in Nyamata: Memoir of a Young Boy in Rwanda’s Darkest Church (2020, Amsterdam Publishers) documents his experience as a 10-year old and reflects on how this has shaped the man he has become. Currently, Omar is working on research about Rwandan Genocide memorial sites – specifically the representation of genocide massacre sites – as part of a project intended to result in a co-authored book on the process of memorialization in post-genocide Rwanda.
Omar is pursuing his master's degree in GMAP at Binghamton University to increase his analytical skills with the goal of more effectively integrating and using stories in societal healing and memory as part of a broader strategy of preventing recurrence of genocidal violence. He comes to Binghamton University with 9 years of experience working in non-government organizations in Rwanda, focusing on survivors’ empowerment, youth engagement, peacebuilding, societal healing, human rights, and conflict transformation. Omar was among the speakers at the United Nations, 27th International Day of reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi. He has also participated in various dialogues on memory, governance, and peacebuilding in Rwanda, the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, and Germany.
Yong Ho (Allen) Song
Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Yong Ho (Allen) is a first-year M.S. student in Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (GMAP) at Binghamton University. Before coming to Binghamton, he worked as a fellow attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services where he represented low-income asylum seekers and immigrants in the Greater Boston area. He was also heavily involved in the public interest community at his law school, earning over 1,400 pro bono service hours during his course of study.
Allen joined the GMAP program to study why genocides and mass atrocities occur – and more importantly, how to prevent them. His experience with asylum-seeking clients has taught him that the best way to help refugees is to tackle root causes of their migration, which, in most cases, are violence and atrocity crimes. He intends to use his two years at Binghamton wisely to build strong foundational knowledge in mass atrocity prevention mechanisms.
On October 1, Omar Ndizeye joined an online roundtable discussion entitled, “Reflection about the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda 27 years later”. Omar, a GMAP MS student and author of Life and Death in Nyamata joined Judence Kayitesi, author of A Broken Life, Consolée Nishimwe, author of Tested to the Limited, and Jens Stappenbeck of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK). The discussion was moderated by Valentin Rugina Hategekimana and organized by IBUKA-Deutschland - Erinnerung und Gerechtigkeit e.V.
As a person interested in public administration work, Sarah Prentice ('20) felt it an obvious decision to incorporate the GMAP certificate into her studies. Sarah knew the program would allow her the mental frameworks necessary to use strength-based approaches when dealing with inequities in the public sector.
After completing her Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the GMAP certificate, Sarah moved on to work as a Communications Associate at the Seattle Indian Health Board. In this administrative role, she uses strength-based approaches to amplify the creativity and brilliance of Indigenous folks all over Turtle Island through coordinating community events, developing digital marketing strategies, and engaging with youth at health fairs. The foundation of her GMAP studies combined with continuous learning on effective allyship allow her the ability to perform in service to the Native community as a non-Native person.
Apply for Spring (January) 2022 Admission to the Master of Science in Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (GMAP)
Binghamton University’s Master of Science in Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (GMAP) is accepting applications for Spring 2022 entry. This professional degree prepares graduates to analyze risk factors, formulate strategies, and implement policies and practices to reduce the occurrence, severity, and potential for recurrence of genocides and other mass atrocities around the world. With a focus on the application of an atrocity prevention lens, the program educates students to recognize opportunities to engage in upstream (before conflict), midstream (during conflict) and downstream (post-conflict) prevention measures. Through an interdisciplinary approach integrating classroom learning, applied research, engagement with practitioners, and an intensive field placement, the program prepares graduates to be prevention actors at the micro- (individual), meso- (organizational), and macro- (societal) levels.
A key feature of Binghamton’s MS in GMAP is a funded 4- to 6-month field placement, which will normally be completed during the second year of full-time study and will provide an opportunity for students to work alongside practitioners, to apply the knowledge, skills and abilities from their coursework, and then to reflect on the experience. Another component is the Mechanisms of Atrocity Prevention research project, in which students will work alongside the staff of the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP) on practical research targeted to governmental and civil society clients.
The program seeks applications from a diverse group of students from around the world. Funding may be available for highly qualified applicants with financial need. Eligibility will be determined upon application to the program.
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