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Russia’s war in Ukraine not only victimizes Ukrainians but also negatively impacts minorities throughout the world. By encompassing almost all of the United State’s public, political, and media attention, Putin’s war is revictimizing groups like the Uighurs, the Rohingya, the Yezidis, and many other minority groups who continue to suffer unjustly at the hands of their oppressors. Even traditional conventional war becomes transnational when it diverts international will and attention away from other minorities who aren’t in the global spotlight. This can be seen throughout history in both world wars and is at risk of happening again today.
World wars are not the only factors that enable genocides. Nor do armed conflicts guarantee that genocide will take place. However, they provide a convenient narrative through which the public can be assuaged and the international community appeased. From the Armenians in World War I and the Jews in World War II, the international community must learn that the consequences of international apathy and distraction are deadly. While much of the U.S.’s attention is understandably consumed with Russia and Ukraine today, America cannot afford to let this conflict encompass all of its attention.
Today, and in 2014 when he annexed Crimea, Putin has claimed that Ukraine is committing genocide against ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. Not only does this claim open the door for Putin to exert sovereignty by force over all former Soviet states in which Russians reside, but Putin is also assaulting the memory of all those who have truly been victims of genocide, simply for his own political gain. The international community and the U.S. specifically must have the political courage and moral fortitude to intervene even when the threat does not immediately or directly impact Americans. What America and the international community decide to do – or not do – today will directly impact the world tomorrow. America must become proficient at multitasking, keeping all pressure on Putin to end his war while relentlessly continuing to stand up for all oppressed minorities.
America is appalled at the images coming out of Ukraine – and rightly so. We are horrified at the brazen disregard for human life – as we should be. We cannot wrap our minds around the fact that a world leader of the 21st century invaded a neighboring country – and is getting away with it. But let us not forget about the Rohingya who faced the Covid-19 pandemic from refugee camps in Bangladesh. Let us not forget that China is still persecuting the Uighurs and Peng Shuai’s safety is still in question. Let us not forget that Yezidis are still missing, that Syrians are still internally displaced, and that Kurds are still fighting for autonomy.
Let us keep the same pressure on our domestic and international leaders to fix these problems with the same strength and zeal we are pressuring them today to do something about Ukraine. Let us shine the media spotlight on the horror, the tragedy, and the preventable loss of life in these areas, just as we are with the war in Kyiv, Mariupol, and Bucha. Let us persist with such moral indignation and unquenchable persistence that America will not be labeled apathetic or distracted at this time of crisis. Let America and the international community remain attentive and committed, in order to ensure that societies around the world never have to build any more museums, monuments, or mausoleums, inscribed with the words, ‘Never Forget.”