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New online map shows Middle East, Africa states dominate Peoples under Threat 2014 survey on risk of mass killing

28 April 2014

Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Egypt are among the most significant risers in this year’s internationally acclaimed global ranking Peoples under Threat, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says.

‘A number of states which rose prominently in the index over the last two years – including South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Syria – have subsequently faced episodes of extreme ethnic or sectarian violence,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘The 2014 release of Peoples under Threat analysis shows that the risk in those states remains critical – but also that threat levels have risen in other states.’

The Peoples under Threat survey seeks to identify those peoples or groups that are most under threat of genocide, mass killing or other systematic violent repression in 2014, and for the first time is being launched today by MRG as an online map.

The war in Syria, which has risen dramatically up the table to now rank third, continues to fragment, and take on a growing element of sectarianism, says MRG. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has steadily lost ground to a number of Islamist militias with a sectarian agenda and Kurds in the north, long persecuted under Assad, faced repeated attacks in the second half of 2013 by Islamist groups as well as the FSA, pushing some 50,000 refugees to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan.

It continues to host the largest UN peace-keeping mission in the world, but the Democratic Republic of Congo rose again in the Peoples under Threat index in 2014.

According to the international rights organisation, threat levels in the DRC remain high for at least three related reasons: the proliferation of different armed groups, leading to dozens of separate conflicts over ethnicity and natural resources; the track record of neighbouring states in consistently supporting such armed groups; and the repeated practice of integrating former rebels into the Congolese armed forces.

Yemen has steadily risen in Peoples under Threat eight years in succession and now finds itself in the top ten states in the index. Conflict exists on a number of separate fronts, including between al-Houthi (Shi’a) rebels in the north and Sunni tribes, as well as between the authorities and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

‘When the newly-independent state of South Sudan materialised near the top of the index two years ago, it seemed that pessimism had prevailed over hope. But events of the last six months have sadly proved the prescience of Peoples under Threat,’ says Mark Lattimer.

A dispute between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, quickly degenerated into open ethnic conflict in December 2013, pitting Dinka forces controlled by the government against ethnic Nuer. An estimated 10,000 people had been killed by January, and by March over one million had been displaced.

In the Central African Republic, both UN and French officials warned in November of the risk of genocide. Abuses by Anti-Balaka, the Christian self-defence militias, have now left the minority Muslim communities at the greatest risk of mass killings. Muslim civilians are often accused of supporting the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition – itself responsible for grave abuses – which took power and then disintegrated in 2013.

Egypt has risen a striking 33 places in the index this year. Following the removal of President Muhammad Morsi by the military in July, over 1,000 people were killed in an army crackdown on protest camps in Cairo and clashes across the country. Attacks on Coptic Christians and churches were blamed on Muslim extremists, but MRG has also criticised an inadequate response from Egyptian authorities. After a major military operation was launched against Islamist militants in North Sinai, Sinai Bedouin, long marginalized by Egyptian authorities, fear their communities will suffer most in the escalation of the conflict.

Peoples under Threat has been compiled every year since 2005 to provide early warning of potential future mass atrocities. Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq have consistently topped the table.

Notes to Editors

  • Interview opportunities:
    • UK: Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International (English)
    • Syria: Jwan Miro, Public Relations Officer, YASA – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy – [email protected]; other interview opportunities are available from Syrian religious minorities on request.
    • Egypt: Mamdouh Nakhla, Al-Kalema Centre for Human Rights (Arabic) – [email protected]
    • South Sudan: Paul Oleyo, Boma Development Initiative (English, Swahili, Arabic) – [email protected]
    • DRC: Pacifique Mukumba, Réseau des Associations Autochtones Pygmées (French, English, Swahili) – [email protected]
    • Central African Republic: Joseph Bindoumi, Président de la Ligue centrafricaine des droits de l’homme (French) – [email protected]
    • Yemen: Sami Al-Naggar, All Youth Network for Social Development (Arabic, English) – [email protected]
  • Visit MRG’s new online map which visualizes data from the Peoples under Threat index at View the map by year or by country, and find links to reports, press releases and further information on the communities under threat.
  • Download the full Peoples under Threat survey, with a description of how it is compiled.
  • 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.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].