In the Fall of 2011, I participated in Dr. James Poulos' seminar "Genocide II: Gendercide." The course revolved around the theme of identifying instances of gendercide in genocide incidents. For instance, most published literature about the Armenia Golgotha in the 19th century focuses on how women and children were killed in such organized killings. However, the reference to male victims is almost always overlooked. It is almost as if society prefers the murder of males over females or children.
This was perhaps the most paradigm altering seminar I have taken at Manhattanville. As we studied the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and the Cambodian massacre, one thing was obvious. In most cases, the perpetrator denies the act and calls the entire massacre a fabrication and misreporting. For instance, in Turkey, heavy media censorship and control over literature exists so that the general population does not know that Turkish authorities killed millions of Armenians. To me this was unbelievable. However, my entire belief system was shaken when we started studying about the Bangladeshi genocide in late 1960s and early 1970s until Bangladesh was founded in 1971.
Having been raised in Pakistan, I had learnt in school or through media or family that Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan and because of India's cunning political schemes, it was separated from West Pakistan and formed into Bangladesh. Pakistanis often refer to Bengalis as their brothers and entire blame for this separation is shifted onto India or the betrayal or faithlessness of East Pakistanis. I had also learnt that for some reason Bengalis do not like Pakistanis. In this class when we started studying about the genocide in Bangladesh, I was stunned! As it turned out, an immense amount of literature, photos, videos and voice interviews showed that infact West Pakistanis had started genocide of Bengali men and wide-scale rape of Bengali women in East Pakistan. East Pakistan had started fighting for their own representation in the assembly and more power as all the resources were usually consumed by West Pakistan and East Pakistanis were marginalized. As they began fighting for their rights, West Pakistan tried to curb them by carrying out genocide and gendercide of thousands of their own brothers and sisters.
It is very difficult for me to put into words what exactly I felt when I found out the reality. I had always wondered that how can Turkish society not be aware of what their government did and here I was in the exact same situation. Most Pakistanis are utterly unaware of these events and Pakistan still has not recognized the genocide or apologized to the victims. I hope that one day we can find the grace to do that.
Other themes in the course included the case of missing women due to sex-selective abortion, rape as a weapon of war as well as making a poster for the Human Rights Awareness Day (see pictures below):