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Annual survey warns of severe consequences of ignoring global hate crime towards minorities and indigenous peoples

3 July 2014

Hate crime towards minorities and indigenous peoples is a daily reality in many countries across the globe, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its annual report, but is often ignored by authorities.

The international organisation’s flagship report, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014, focuses on ‘Freedom from hate’ and presents compelling evidence showing that hate crime and hate speech are prevalent in all regions of the world.

But hate crime is widely ignored, under-reported and often left unchecked by governments, resulting in escalating violence against minorities, says MRG in the report.

‘If governments ignore hate crime, the perpetrators see it as a green light to continue,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘The prevalence of hate crimes against minorities is widely under-estimated and is now being driven across borders by online propaganda, whether by sectarian jihadis or right-wing racists.’

The report finds that targeted violence often has a purpose. Anti-migrant rhetoric in Greece or sectarian violence in India serves to consolidate the power base of extremist organizations. Negative representations of indigenous groups in Guatemala or Uganda may provide justification for further exclusion or eviction from ancestral lands.

The impact of hatred may extend beyond discrimination to more visible extremes, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it drives the continuation of inter-ethnic conflicts. In the Central African Republic, hate speech and targeted attacks during 2013 were responsible for fomenting religious violence that has resulted in almost a million people being internally displaced.

Hate crimes send a message not only to the individuals targeted, but also to their communities. This is especially evident in violence against minority and indigenous women, with rape and sexual assault employed as a weapon of war or an instrument of oppression to fragment and humiliate entire civilian populations, says MRG.

In South Asia, for example, Dalit women are regularly subjected to sexual violence as a result of their lower caste status – often in response to their demands for basic rights.

The prevalence of demeaning or inflammatory language in political discourse, sermons, the media and online has very real implications for marginalized communities. The report highlights many countries in 2013 where rumours and incitement led to violence and loss of life.

In Burma, where a slow process of reform has opened up some degree of free expression, the situation for minorities is acute. In addition to reports of ongoing military abuses against ethnic minorities, a large number of Muslim Rohingya were murdered or displaced during 2013 by Buddhist vigilantes.

In Russia, official repression and discrimination of migrants from Central Asia and elsewhere has occurred alongside attacks and intimidation by extremists.

In Pakistan, despite the first democratic transfer of power between two elected governments in the country’s history, hundreds of Shi’a were killed in targeted attacks and other minorities such as Ahmadis also singled out.

The 2011 Arab Spring has had mixed implications for ethnic and religious minorities in the region. In Egypt, for example, a new constitution was passed in January 2014 that contained a number of new legal guarantees for minorities. Nevertheless, 2013 was marked by a series of violent attacks against religious minorities.

In Syria, civil conflict took on an increasingly sectarian character during the year. In July, the United Nations estimated that more than 100,000 people had died in the violence and by the end of the year the number of IDPs stood at 6.5 million, while the refugee population grew to 2.3 million.

In Iraq, 2013 saw the country’s highest death toll in five years, with smaller minorities such as Sabean Mandeans, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and Shabak continuing to be targeted with abductions and killings.

In Europe, the legacy of the 2008 financial crisis and the impact of austerity measures in many countries have played a major role in the rise of right-wing organizations with a strong anti-minority agenda. In Hungary, Jobbik’s rhetoric against the country’s Roma and Jewish minorities escalated as the party won a major place in mainstream politics, with its share of the national vote rising to more than 20 percent in the April 2014 elections.

Historical patterns of colonialism and segregation continue to be felt in some countries. In the USA migrants, Jews, African Americans and other minorities are still subject to vilification, particularly with the apparent rise of hate groups in recent years, in part due to anxieties over the country’s changing demographics.

While the 2014 State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples documents disheartening levels of violence, harassment and verbal abuse across the world, it also includes many examples of how hatred is being countered by legislators, politicians, journalists, and communities, by addressing the root causes. Though there is still a long way to go before minorities and indigenous peoples across the world are able to enjoy freedom from hate, these and other initiatives highlighted in the report show some of the ways forward.

‘The impact on victims of violent crime is well-known, but when such crimes are motivated by ethnic or religious hatred, whole communities are made to feel under attack. Hate crimes need to be recognised as such, and the perpetrators punished’, says Mark Lattimer.

Notes to editors

  • Interview opportunities:
    • Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International
    • Minority rights activists from Kenya, DRC, South Sudan, CAR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Burma
  • Watch a video produced for the launch of the report. Please let the Press Office know if you use the video.
  • State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014 is available for free download on 3 July 2014
  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

To arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].