The Geopolitics of Defining Genocides, Massacres, Targeted Extrajudicial, State Sponsored Murders and Ethnophobia


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Please note that this publication contains graphic images which may be disturbing to some readers.  Parental guidance is recommended for minors


“Everything in life is a question of perspective. The oppressor, perpetrator and the cabal of planned mass killing will classify it as “The Final Solution” while the oppressed will call the targeted killings as Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide. In finality, history will be the Judge, but History itself is written by the Victors.” [1]

The Armenian Death March forced by the Ottomans in 1915. Ottoman military forces march Armenian men from Kharput to an execution site outside the city. Kharput, Ottoman Empire, March 1915-June 1915. [Courtesy of the Armenian National Institute.]

This paper discusses the sad entity of genocides[2], ethnic cleansing[3] and other such mass extermination processes[4] of a particular group of people, based on personal hatred for political reasons and the impact it has on humanity.  While the author has written about such atrocities, extensively[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16], the present publication examines the criteria for defining such brutal crimes against humanity, in which the children bear the brunt of the tyranny inflicted by the perpetrator of these politically, ethnically and often religiously motivated mass murders by a particular regime, government or an empire.[17]


It is pertinent to begin by defining genocide.  To simplify the term in all its brutality, the synonyms express the gravity of the scale of the elimination process of humanity, by fellow humans:  murder, extermination, annihilation, pogrom and bloodbath.  Essentially, Genocide refers to the systematic destruction of a race or cultural group.[18]  To illustrate further, Genocide is the intentional and systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. It is a dark and tragic aspect of human history that has occurred at various times and in different forms from antiquity to the 21st century. An overview of some significant genocides, although not a comprehensive list,  that have occurred during this time span are :



    • Assyrian Genocide[19] (c. 8th century BCE): The ancient Assyrian Empire is believed to have carried out mass killings, deportations, and forced assimilations of conquered peoples, leading to the destruction of various cultures and societies.

Classical Period:

    • Roman Conquest of Carthage[20] (146 BCE): After a prolonged conflict, the Romans destroyed Carthage and enslaved or killed a significant portion of its population, leading to the end of the Carthaginian civilization.

Middle Ages:

    • Albigensian Crusade[21] (1209-1229): This crusade by the Catholic Church targeted the Cathars, a religious group in Southern France. Thousands were killed as part of the Church’s efforts to suppress this heresy.

Early Modern Period:

    • Native American Genocide[22] (15th -19th centuries): European colonization of the Americas led to the decimation of Indigenous populations due to diseases, forced labour, violence, and displacement.
    • Atlantic Slave Trade[23] (16th -19th centuries): The transatlantic slave trade resulted in the forced enslavement, suffering, and death of millions of African people.

20th Century:

    • Armenian Genocide[24] (1915-1923): The Ottoman Empire systematically killed, deported, and displaced around 1.5 million Armenians, leading to the deaths of many.
    • Holocaust[25] (1941-1945): The Nazi regime in Germany orchestrated the systematic genocide of approximately six million Jews, along with millions of other minorities, in concentration and extermination camps during World War II.
    • Rwandan Genocide[26] (1994): Ethnic Hutus in Rwanda killed around 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a span of just 100 days, driven by ethnic and political tensions.
    • Bosnian Genocide [27](1992-1995): During the Bosnian War, Bosnian Serb forces carried out mass killings, sexual violence, and ethnic cleansing, leading to the deaths of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats.

21st Century:

    • Darfur Genocide[28] (2003-present): Ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has led to mass killings, displacement, and human rights abuses, primarily against non-Arab ethnic groups.
    • Rohingya Genocide[29] (2017-present): In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority has faced violent persecution, including mass killings, sexual violence, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.


It is essential to note that this list is not exhaustive, and there have been many other instances of genocide and mass atrocities throughout history. Genocides often result from a complex interplay of political, social, and economic factors, and they continue to be a critical issue in the modern world. International efforts, including the United Nations[30] and the International Criminal Court[31], have been established to prevent and address such atrocities and hold perpetrators accountable.

The Rwandan Genocide:  In just 100 days in 1994, about 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.
Why was it so vicious?
Rwanda has always been a tightly controlled society, organised like a pyramid from each district up to the top of government. The then-governing party, MRND, had a youth wing called the Interahamwe, which was turned into a militia to carry out the slaughter.
Photo Credit: Gilles Peress / Magnum Photos

To illustrate a further point in scientific debates surrounding mass, group murders, the killings of the people of Prophet Moses[32], as recounted in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Quran, are a significant historical and religious narrative. The story is often associated with the oppression and persecution of the Israelites by the Pharaoh of Egypt, who is traditionally believed to have been Ramses II[33], although there is ongoing debate amongst historians about the historical accuracy of this identification.  The story, as described in the Book of Exodus[34] in the Hebrew Bible and in the Quran, revolves around the Pharaoh’s attempts to subdue the growing Israelite population and his harsh treatment of them. The Pharaoh orders the killing of Israelite male infants to control their population and prevent any potential uprising. This event is often referred to as the “Massacre of the Innocents[35].”


The story also includes the rescue of the baby Moses, who is placed in a basket and set afloat on the Nile River by his mother to escape the Pharaoh’s decree. He is later found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the Pharaoh’s palace.  While this narrative is a foundational element of Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious beliefs all of them belonging to the collective group of Abrahamic faiths[36], under the Patriarch Prophet Abraham as the archetype and founder father of this entire religious group, in its entirety, it is essential to note that historical evidence for these events is limited. The Hebrew Bible and the Quran are religious texts that convey spiritual and moral lessons, and their historical accuracy is a subject of debate among scholars. There is a lack of conclusive archaeological or written evidence to confirm the specific details of the events described in these texts.


In summary, the story of the Pharaoh’s killing of the Israelite male infants, as described in religious texts, is a central part of the narrative of Moses and the Exodus. However, from a historical perspective, the events remain a matter of religious belief and interpretation rather than confirmed historical fact.  Furthermore, this extermination of the “children of Israel” can be regarded as the first evidence of Genocide, biblically, at least, in the absence of significant archaeological or other scientific evidence.  There is no archaeological or scientific evidence that directly supports the specific details of the biblical account of the systematic killing of the first-born male Israelites in ancient Egypt, as described in the Book of Exodus. While archaeology has provided insights into the history of ancient Egypt and the presence of Israelites in the region, it has not yielded conclusive evidence for the events described in the biblical narrative, such as the killing of the first-born males.


The lack of concrete historical evidence for this specific event has led scholars to approach the Exodus narrative with caution. Some suggest that it may have been based on oral traditions or served as a symbolic representation of the Israelites’ liberation from bondage rather than a precise historical record.  Archaeological research in Egypt has not uncovered inscriptions or records that corroborate the biblical account of the Exodus, and the identity of the Pharaoh in the story remains a matter of debate among historians. Additionally, the dating and the scale of the events described in the biblical narrative do not align with the historical and archaeological record of ancient Egypt.  While the story of the Exodus is a foundational and deeply significant element in Jewish and Christian tradition, and to some extent in Islamic tradition, it is primarily a matter of faith and religious belief rather than one supported by empirical, archaeological, or scientific evidence.  There is a lack of scientific or archaeological evidence, even in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to confirm the specific historical details of this event.


The Dead Sea Scrolls,[37] discovered in the mid-20th century, are a collection of Jewish texts, including portions of the Hebrew Bible, that date back to the Second Temple period. While the Dead Sea Scrolls are a significant archaeological find and provide valuable insights into ancient Jewish texts and traditions, they do not contain conclusive evidence related to the historicity of the Exodus story, including the killing of the first-born Israelite males.  The Exodus narrative remains primarily a matter of religious belief and tradition, and its historicity is a topic of debate among scholars and religious authorities. Some interpret the story as a combination of history and mythology, while others believe it represents a more symbolic or theological account of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt.  It is essential to remember that religious texts often serve multiple purposes, including providing moral and spiritual guidance, and may not always align with modern historical and scientific methods of inquiry. As a result, beliefs related to these narratives are often deeply rooted in faith and religious beliefs and traditions.


Furthermore, on a comparative scale, even in the Hindu scriptures[38], including the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Bhagavad Gita, which contain numerous narratives and accounts that are deeply significant in Hindu tradition, these texts are primarily religious and mythological in nature, they, too, raise important points about the interplay of history, mythology, and faith.



The Mahabharata is one of the longest epic poems in the world and is traditionally attributed to the sage Vyasa. It narrates the story of the Kurukshetra War, a great war between two factions of a royal family, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The text contains numerous episodes, moral teachings, and philosophical dialogues.  While the Mahabharata is a significant part of Hindu tradition and mythology, the historical accuracy of the events described in it, such as the war and the existence of its characters, remains a matter of debate among scholars. The Mahabharata is generally regarded as a work of epic literature, history, and moral philosophy, rather than as a precise historical record.



The Ramayana is another ancient epic poem attributed to the sage Valmiki. It tells the story of Lord Rama, his exile, and his quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. The narrative is replete with moral lessons and serves as a source of spiritual inspiration. While the Ramayana is a revered text in Hinduism, the historicity of the events, characters, and locations in the narrative is also a subject of scholarly debate. It is often considered a sacred work of literature, art, and devotion rather than a strict historical account.


Bhagavad Gita[41]:

The Bhagavad Gita is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata. It is a conversation between Prince Arjuna and Lord Krishna, who serves as his charioteer. The dialogue explores complex philosophical and ethical concepts, as well as the paths to spiritual realisation.  The Bhagavad Gita is primarily a philosophical and spiritual text, and its historical context within the larger Mahabharata narrative is more significant than any historical accuracy in the events it describes.


Similar to the narratives of the Abrahamic faiths, these dharmic[42], Hindu scriptures are regarded as sacred and revered by practitioners, but their historicity can be a matter of interpretation and faith. They often convey profound spiritual and moral teachings and have been instrumental in shaping Hindu philosophy and culture. However, their primary purpose is not to serve as historical records but to provide guidance, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the human condition.   Essentially, these codified canons are there for human creation to lead a righteous life and if the humans disobey or transgress, then their soul is destined for the hellfire, as stated in the Abrahamic faiths or you will be reincarnated as a dog or a poor person in your next cycle of birth, until you achieve nirvana as per the tenets of Hinduism  There is no escape  until a transgressor repents and their aberrant code of conduct, as these various religious doctrines dictate.


Similarly, The Siege of Masada[43], which occurred in 73-74 CE, is a historical event that is often not classified as a genocide in the same way that some other mass killings are. The term “genocide” typically refers to the intentional and systematic destruction of a specific racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. While the events at Masada were undoubtedly tragic and resulted in significant loss of life, they are not typically characterised as a genocide for the following reasons:


Context: The Siege of Masada was part of the First Jewish-Roman War, during which the Roman Empire was engaged in a conflict with Jewish rebels. The Romans besieged the Jewish fortress at Masada, which was the last stronghold of the Jewish revolt.


Mass Suicide: The most famous aspect of the Masada story is the mass suicide of the Jewish defenders and their families. According to historical accounts, Jewish defenders chose to take their own lives rather than be captured or killed by the Romans.


Selective Targeting: The Roman siege was aimed at the Jewish rebels who had occupied Masada, rather than the broader Jewish population. Genocides typically involve a broader and systematic targeting of a specific group, while the events at Masada were focused on a specific conflict.


Hence the Siege of Masada, a tragic and historically significant event, is more accurately described as a military conflict with tragic consequences for the people involved, particularly those who chose to take their own lives to avoid capture by the Romans. The term “genocide” is reserved for situations involving the deliberate and systematic extermination of a specific group, which is not the primary characteristic of the events at Masada.

The Holocaust: April 12, 1945 – Bodies of prisoners of the Nazi, Ohrdruf concentration camp stacked like cord-wood, as observed by the allies after the fall of Berlin.
Photo Credit: Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home

Therefore, the term “genocide” is defined as the intentional and systematic extermination of a racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. It involves acts that are committed with the purpose of destroying all or part of a specific group. The term was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, in the early 1940s, during and in response to the Holocaust, the systematic extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany. The comprehensive definition of genocide, as established by the United Nations in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide[44], includes the following key elements:


Acts: Genocidal acts can include killing members of the targeted group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to them, deliberately inflicting conditions leading to the group’s physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children from the targeted group to another group.

Intent: Genocide must be committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. This intent distinguishes genocide from other forms of mass violence.


Group: The acts must be directed against a “national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” This means that the group being targeted is defined by one or more of these characteristics.


Systematic: Genocide involves a systematic plan or pattern of behavior aimed at the destruction of the group. It is not a random or isolated act.


Legal Framework: The Convention established that genocide is a crime under international law, and those who commit it should be held accountable and punished.


The term “genocide” is used to describe some of the darkest chapters in human history, such as the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and more recent events like the Rwandan Genocide. It is a term that underscores the gravity and heinousness of acts that seek to annihilate a specific group based on its identity.


Often, to the dismay and frustration of the descendants of the affected group, the classification of an obvious genocide can indeed be influenced by geopolitical, diplomatic, and strategic considerations. There have been instances where governments or international bodies have been hesitant to use the term “genocide” to describe ongoing or historical events, despite strong evidence of mass atrocities. Several factors may contribute to this reluctance:


Political Interests: Governments may downplay or avoid using the term “genocide” if it conflicts with their diplomatic or economic interests. Labelling an event as genocide can have significant legal and political implications, potentially requiring them to act.


International Relations: Geopolitical considerations may lead powerful nations to avoid using the term “genocide” in relation to their allies or trading partners to avoid straining diplomatic relationships.


Legal Obligations: The legal definition of genocide under international law is quite precise. To establish that an event constitutes genocide, there must be clear evidence of specific intent to destroy a particular group. In some cases, governments or international bodies may contend that the evidence does not meet this high legal standard.


Bureaucratic Delays: The process of formally recognizing an event as genocide can be slow and bureaucratic, and political considerations can influence the speed at which such declarations are made.


Preventing Accountability: Avoiding the term “genocide” may hinder efforts to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. If an event is not classified as genocide, it may not trigger international legal mechanisms, such as prosecutions at the International Criminal Court.


Moral or Ethical Concerns: Some individuals and organizations may be concerned that using the term “genocide” could obligate them to take direct action, such as military intervention, which they might view as ethically or practically challenging.


These considerations can lead to situations where an obvious genocide, based on the evidence and circumstances, is not formally classified as such, and the terminology used may be more diplomatic or cautious. This can be a source of frustration for those advocating for justice and recognition of the gravity of the events in question. However, it is important to emphasise that the use of the term “genocide” is a complex matter that involves legal, political, and moral dimensions, and decisions are made at the discretion of governments, international bodies, and legal authorities.


The Genocide Convention[45]

The United Nations Genocide Convention, officially known as the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” is an international treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948. The Convention serves as a key international legal instrument aimed at preventing and punishing the crime of genocide. It came into force on January 12, 1951. Here are the main provisions and elements of the Genocide Convention:


Preamble: The Convention’s preamble acknowledges the “universality of the crime of genocide” and the need to prevent and punish it. It recognises that genocide is a crime that “has inflicted great losses on humanity.”


Article I – Genocide Definition: This article provides a legal definition of genocide, describing it as acts committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. The acts include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to them, deliberately inflicting conditions leading to the group’s physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children from the group to another group.


Article II – Punishment for Genocide: This article states that individuals who commit genocide or conspire to commit genocide shall be punished. It also holds that genocide is a crime under international law, which the contracting parties undertake to prevent and punish.


Article III – Responsibility of Superiors: Article III outlines that leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices who participate in genocide shall be held criminally responsible, even if they act on behalf of a state or an organization.


Article IV – Extradition: This article obliges parties to the Convention to undertake extradition proceedings for individuals accused of genocide. There is no political asylum defense against extradition for genocide.


Article V – Competence of National Courts: Article V allows contracting parties to exercise jurisdiction over individuals accused of genocide, irrespective of their nationality, and provides for the principle of aut dedere aut judicare, which means that states must either prosecute or extradite individuals accused of genocide.


Article VI – Genocide Proceedings: This article stipulates that genocide cases can be tried by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or other competent international tribunals, as well as by national courts. It establishes that the ICJ has jurisdiction over disputes concerning the interpretation, application, or fulfilment of the Convention.


Article VII – Non-Preclusion of Other Acts: This article clarifies that the acts defined as genocide do not preclude punishment for other crimes that may be perpetrated in conjunction with genocide.


The Genocide Convention is considered a crucial instrument in international law for preventing and addressing genocide. It has been used in various legal proceedings and has informed the establishment of international courts, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which have prosecuted individuals for their roles in genocidal acts. The Convention also played a significant role in shaping international law’s stance on crimes against humanity and human rights.


Extrajudicial, State Sponsored Killings[46]

Let us examine the status of extrajudicial, state sponsored killings, ongoing occupation, persecution and dehumanisation would constitute a genocide as carried out in Myanmar and Palestine[47], with particular reference to the ongoing killings of civilians, including murder of children, targeted bombings of hospitals, safe UN shelters and killings on the only escape route for the Palestinians, who were ordered to leave northern Gaza by the Israeli Government, according to the convention.


The situation in Myanmar,[48] particularly with respect to the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, has been a subject of significant concern and debate. While the term “genocide” has been used by various international bodies, human rights organisations, and some governments to describe the events in Myanmar, the legal determination of whether these acts meet the strict definition of genocide under the Genocide Convention is a complex matter. It is necessary to breakdown of some key elements to consider, the classification of genocide:


Extrajudicial Killings: The intentional killing of members of a protected group can be considered an act of genocide if it is part of a systematic campaign to destroy the group. The Genocide Convention requires proof of specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the targeted group. The acts must be committed with this specific intent.


State-Sponsored Persecution: Persecution based on ethnicity, religion, or nationality may be a component of genocide, but again, it must be part of a broader plan with the specific intent to destroy the group. It is essential to establish a pattern of persecution linked to that specific intent.


Dehumanisation and Deprivation: Acts such as forcibly transferring children, causing serious bodily or mental harm, or creating conditions that lead to the physical destruction of the group can be considered components of genocide, but again, they must be carried out with the specific intent to destroy the group.


Intent: A critical element in determining genocide is the specific intent to destroy the targeted group. It is this element that often poses significant legal challenges in proving genocide under the Genocide Convention.


Ongoing Occupation: An ongoing occupation, while a cause of concern, is not, in itself, synonymous with genocide. However, if it is accompanied by acts such as the systematic destruction of a group with the specific intent to destroy that group, it could potentially meet the criteria for genocide.


The legal determination of whether an event constitutes genocide under the Genocide Convention typically involves a comprehensive and thorough assessment of the specific circumstances, legal evidence, and intent of those responsible for the acts. It is a matter for competent legal authorities, such as international courts or tribunals, to make this determination.


The killings of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the genocide of the Tutsi population in Rwanda are both deeply tragic and concerning events, and they share some similarities in terms of the scale of violence and the targeting of specific ethnic or religious groups. However, there are also key differences in the context and nature of these events. Some of the distinctions are:


Geopolitical Context[49]:

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Southeast Asian country with its own complex history of ethnic conflict and military rule. The persecution of the Rohingya has been part of a broader pattern of ethnic and religious tensions in Myanmar, particularly in the Rakhine State, where the Rohingya are primarily located.

Rwanda is a landlocked country in East Africa that experienced a genocide in 1994 when the majority Hutu population systematically targeted the Tutsi minority. The conflict had deep historical and ethnic roots but was also influenced by regional geopolitical factors.

Scale and Speed:

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 resulted in the mass killing of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis in just 100 days. The speed and intensity of the violence were unprecedented.

While the violence against the Rohingya has been widespread and resulted in significant loss of life, it has not occurred at the same rapid and concentrated scale as the Rwandan Genocide.

Specific Intent:

The United Nations and various legal bodies have used strong language to describe the situation in Myanmar as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Some have referred to it as a potential genocide. The specific intent to destroy the Rohingya as a group has been a subject of debate, and legal determinations are ongoing.

In the case of the Rwandan Genocide[50], there is a consensus that the violence was carried out with the specific intent to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group in whole or in part, which aligns with the definition of genocide under the Genocide Convention.

International Response:

The international response to these two events has varied. The international community has been criticized for its failure to intervene effectively during the Rwandan Genocide. In contrast, the response to the Rohingya crisis has involved sanctions, condemnations, investigations, and legal actions at the International Criminal Court.  In summary, while both the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and the Rwandan Genocide involve large-scale violence against specific ethnic or religious groups, the specific intent and the geopolitical and historical contexts of these events differ. The use of the term “genocide” to describe the situation in Myanmar has been a subject of debate, and legal determinations are ongoing, while the Rwandan Genocide is widely recognized as such. Each situation is unique and complex and requires careful consideration of its distinct circumstances.


It is interesting to note that similar differences are overarched when it comes to classifying the ongoing genocide in Gaza[51] by the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin [52]Netanyahu and his ultra-right coalition government in Israel, since the beginning of 2023.  The question often raised is who and how is a decision made to classify mass murder of an ethnic group, as a genocide.  The classification of mass extermination as genocide, particularly when it involves the specific intent to destroy a particular group, is typically determined by legal authorities, international bodies, and courts. The key entities and mechanisms involved in making such determinations are:


International Criminal Tribunals[53]: International criminal tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have been established by the United Nations to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes, including genocide. These tribunals have the authority to make legal determinations regarding whether the events they are investigating meet the criteria for genocide.


International Criminal Court (ICC): The International Criminal Court is a permanent international court established to prosecute individuals for the most serious international crimes, including genocide. The ICC can investigate, prosecute, and make legal determinations regarding allegations of genocide.


United Nations[54]: The United Nations, through its various bodies, can play a role in determining whether an event constitutes genocide. The UN Security Council, for example, can establish international tribunals and refer cases to the ICC. The UN General Assembly can pass resolutions and declarations recognizing genocide in certain situations.


Independent Fact-Finding Commissions[55]: In some cases, independent fact-finding commissions or investigative bodies, often established by international organizations or governments, may be tasked with gathering evidence and making determinations about whether mass atrocities, including genocide, have occurred.


National Courts: National courts of individual countries also have the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide if they are accused of committing such crimes on their territory or if their nationals are involved. National courts may make determinations regarding genocide based on their own legal systems and definitions.


International Legal Experts: Legal experts, scholars, and human rights organizations may play a role in assessing and reporting on situations that may involve genocide. Their research and findings can inform legal determinations made by international courts and tribunals.


It is important to note that the determination of genocide is a complex legal process that involves a comprehensive assessment of the specific circumstances, evidence, and intent behind the events in question. The legal criteria for genocide are outlined in the Genocide Convention, and meeting these criteria is essential for making a formal legal determination. Legal authorities and international bodies base their determinations on a rigorous analysis of the available evidence and applicable law.


Another point in question, is the conflict in Yemen[56], which is a complex and multifaceted conflict involving multiple parties, including the Yemeni government, Houthi rebels, and a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. While there have been serious concerns about the humanitarian impact of the conflict, including civilian casualties and suffering, classifying it as genocide would require meeting the specific legal criteria outlined in the Genocide Convention.


Genocide, as defined in the Genocide Convention, involves acts committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. These acts can include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to them, and imposing conditions leading to their physical destruction.


The legal determination of genocide is a complex and rigorous process, and it is typically made by international courts, tribunals, or legal authorities after a thorough investigation and consideration of the evidence. To classify the Yemen conflict as a genocide, it would need to be established that there is specific intent to destroy a particular group, such as a particular ethnic or religious group, and that the acts committed meet the legal criteria for genocide.


While the conflict in Yemen is characterised by grave human rights abuses, including civilian casualties and suffering, making a formal legal determination of genocide is a highly significant step and requires a comprehensive and evidence-based assessment by the relevant legal authorities.


Furthermore, while there have been concerns and reports about violence and persecution targeting religious minorities, including Muslims, in India[57], the formal legal classification of events as genocide would require a comprehensive and evidence-based assessment by legal authorities. Making such a determination is a complex and rigorous process that is typically carried out by international courts, tribunals, or legal bodies after thorough investigation and consideration of the evidence.  The use of the term “genocide” in relation to specific events is a subject of debate and legal assessment, and it carries significant legal, moral, and political implications. It is important to rely on authoritative and up-to-date sources for the latest information and legal assessments regarding specific situations. Legal authorities and international organisations may play a role in making determinations related to the classification of events as genocide if there is evidence that meets the legal criteria.


Similarly, King Henry VIII of England did not conduct a genocide against Catholics during his reign. However, he did initiate significant religious and political changes that led to the English Reformation.


Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church [58]was driven primarily by his desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, as she had not provided him with a male heir. His efforts to secure an annulment from the Pope were unsuccessful, leading him to take steps to establish the Church of England, with himself as the Supreme Head of the Church, through the Act of Supremacy in 1534. This marked the beginning of the English Reformation.[59]


As part of the English Reformation, monasteries and religious institutions were dissolved, and their assets were seized by the crown. While this led to the loss of property and influence for the Catholic Church in England, it was not a systematic campaign to exterminate Catholics. Henry’s motivations were primarily political and rooted in his desire for an annulment and increased royal authority.


The term “genocide” is typically used to describe actions that involve the intentional and systematic destruction of a specific racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. Henry VIII’s actions, while significant in reshaping the religious landscape of England, do not meet the criteria for genocide. The English Reformation, instead, had a profound impact on the religious and political history of England and contributed to the establishment of the Church of England as a separate religious entity from the Roman Catholic Church.  While certainly, King Henry VIII’s actions, including his break with the Roman Catholic Church [60]and the establishment of the Church of England[61], were indeed a rebellion against the Pope’s authority and the authority of the Catholic Church in England. The Pope was considered the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church and was viewed by Catholics as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. By asserting his authority as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, Henry effectively rejected the Pope’s authority in matters of religion within his realm.  Henry’s motivations for this break were primarily political and personal, driven by his desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His actions were not initially motivated by theological differences, but they did result in significant religious and theological changes in England.  This period of history, known as the English Reformation, marked a profound shift in the religious landscape of England and set the stage for subsequent religious developments, including the rise of Anglicanism and the Church of England as an independent religious institution. It also led to changes in the relationship between the English monarchy and the Catholic Church, as well as the Pope’s authority in England.  However, whatever, the persecution of Catholics is classified as, it is well documented that during King Henry VIII’s reign, an estimated “57,000 to 72,000 people”, civilians and clergy were executed[62], all in the name of a religious reformation, which began for the lustful, matrimonial motivations of King Henry VIII during that era. Ironically, Anglicanism has become established as the “Royal Religion” in England since then. Indeed this commenced, initially in the United Kingdom as a “Rebel Religion”, all because of King Henry VIII, the murderous Tudor King[63].


Analogously, the intentional killing of scores of Black people in pre-1994, apartheid, South Africa[64], particularly during the apartheid era, is a deeply troubling and tragic part of the country’s history. However, whether these acts constitute a genocide depends on whether they meet the specific legal criteria for genocide as outlined in the Genocide Convention.  The Genocide Convention defines genocide as acts committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. These acts can include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to them, and imposing conditions leading to their physical destruction.  The use of the term “genocide” is a complex legal determination, and it requires an evidence-based assessment by legal authorities. While the apartheid system in South Africa involved widespread systemic discrimination and violence against Black people, the specific intent to destroy a particular group, as required by the Genocide Convention, is a key element in establishing genocide.


Similarly, The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand[65], and the term “Māori” is not typically used to refer to a group carrying out a genocide in New Zealand. Instead, the history of New Zealand involves interactions between the Maori and European settlers, which led to significant changes in the country’s demographic, social, and political landscape.


While there were conflicts and land disputes between the Maori and European settlers during New Zealand’s colonial history, the use of the term “genocide” in this context is subject to debate and interpretation. Genocide is a specific legal and historical concept, as defined by the Genocide Convention, and making a formal determination of genocide requires meeting strict legal criteria, including the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.


The history of indigenous peoples and colonial settlers is complex and varies from region to region. It often involves colonization, dispossession, and conflicts, but not all instances meet the legal criteria for genocide. Instead, these histories are often characterized by issues of land rights, cultural disruption, and social change.  It is essential to approach historical events and their classification with precision and rely on authoritative sources and scholarship to understand the complexities of specific historical contexts. The history of New Zealand, like that of many countries, is marked by a complex interplay of cultural, social, and political factors.



At this juncture, it is necessary to amplify geopolitics in the context of this paper.  geopolitics refers to the study of the effects of geography (human and physical) on politics and international relations. It examines how geographic space, location, resources, and physical features influence political power, decision-making, and interactions among states and other actors in the international system.  The key components of geopolitics include:


Geographic Factors: Geopolitics considers the physical characteristics of regions, such as landforms, climate, natural resources, and access to waterways. These factors can influence a country’s economic potential, military strategy, and overall geopolitical significance.


Political Power: Geopolitics explores how states and other entities use their geographic advantages or navigate challenges to exert political power on the global stage. This includes considerations of territorial integrity, military capabilities, and diplomatic influence.


Strategic Interests: States often formulate their foreign policies and strategic interests based on geographical considerations. Access to key resources, control of critical sea routes, and proximity to potential allies or adversaries can all shape a country’s geopolitical priorities.


International Relations: Geopolitics is closely tied to international relations, as it examines the dynamics and interactions among nations. It considers how states form alliances, engage in conflicts, and negotiate treaties based on their geographical positions and interests.


Geoeconomics[67]: In addition to political and military aspects, geopolitics also encompasses economic considerations. Trade routes, access to markets, and control over resources are vital components of geopolitical strategies.


Global Power Structure: Geopolitics analyses the distribution of power in the international system, examining the roles of major powers, regional actors, and emerging players. It explores how shifts in the global balance of power can impact geopolitical dynamics.


Geopolitics is an interdisciplinary field that draws on geography, political science, history, economics, and international relations. Scholars and policymakers use geopolitical analysis to understand the forces shaping world affairs, predict potential conflicts, and formulate effective strategies to navigate the complexities of global politics.


Some examples of geopolitical considerations and events from different historical periods, are:



Peloponnesian War [68](431–404 BCE): The conflict between Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece was influenced by geopolitical factors such as control over trade routes, access to resources, and alliances with other city-states.


Punic Wars [69](264–146 BCE): The three wars between Rome and Carthage were driven by geopolitical competition for dominance in the Western Mediterranean, control of trade routes, and access to key resources.


Medieval Era:

Crusades[70] (11th–13th  centuries): The Crusades were driven by geopolitical and religious factors, as European powers sought control over the Holy Land, influencing trade routes and asserting influence in the Middle East.


Mongol Empire [71](13th–14th centuries): The expansion of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his successors had profound geopolitical consequences, reshaping trade routes and connecting East and West.


World War I[72] (28th July 1914–11th November 1918):

Imperialism and Alliances: The war was influenced by imperialistic ambitions, geopolitical competition for colonies, and a complex system of alliances among European powers.


Balfour Declaration[73] (1917): The geopolitical considerations behind the Balfour Declaration included British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine to gain favour with Jewish communities and strengthen British influence in the Middle East.


World War II[74] (1939–1945):

Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939): The geopolitical maneuvering between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union allowed both powers to secure their interests temporarily, with the pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.


Pacific Theatre[75]: The expansion of Japanese militarism in the Pacific was driven by geopolitical considerations, including access to resources and the desire to establish a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.


21st Century:

Iraq War [76](2003): Geopolitical factors, including concerns about weapons of mass destruction, regional stability, and control over oil resources, influenced the decision by the United States and its allies to invade Iraq.


South China Sea Disputes[77]: Geopolitical tensions in the 21st century involve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where multiple countries vie for control over strategic maritime routes and access to natural resources.


These examples illustrate how geopolitical considerations have shaped historical events across different periods, influencing the behaviour of states and the course of international relations.


The impact of geopolitics on the future of humanity is profound and far-reaching, influencing various aspects of global affairs, security, economic development, and the overall well-being of societies. Here are several key ways in which geopolitics may shape the future:


Global Power Dynamics:

  • Shifts in Power: Geopolitical dynamics determine the distribution of power among states. The rise or decline of major powers can reshape international relations and influence the global balance of power.

Security and Conflict:

  • Regional Conflicts: Geopolitical tensions often lead to regional conflicts as states vie for influence, resources, and strategic advantages.
  • Arms Races: Competing geopolitical interests may contribute to arms races, affecting global security and increasing the risk of conflicts.

Economic Development:

  • Trade and Alliances: Geopolitics plays a crucial role in shaping trade relationships and alliances. Economic interdependence and geopolitical considerations influence the prosperity of nations.

Technology and Innovation:

  • Technological Competition: Geopolitical rivalries can drive competition in technology and innovation. States seek technological superiority for economic, military, and strategic advantages.

Climate Change and Resources:

  • Resource Competition: Geopolitical factors influence competition for vital resources, including water, energy, and minerals. Climate change exacerbates resource challenges, contributing to geopolitical tensions.

Global Governance:

  • International Institutions: Geopolitics affects the functioning of international institutions and organizations. Cooperation or discord among nations shapes the effectiveness of global governance.

Humanitarian Challenges:

  • Refugee Crises: Geopolitical conflicts often contribute to refugee crises, impacting the humanitarian landscape and requiring global responses.
  • Human Rights: Geopolitics can influence the protection or violation of human rights, with authoritarian regimes often challenging established norms.

Pandemic Response:

  • Global Health Security: Geopolitics influences the response to global health challenges, as seen in the coordination (or lack thereof) during pandemics like COVID-19.

Space Exploration and Cybersecurity:

  • Space Race and Cybersecurity: Geopolitical competition extends to space exploration and cybersecurity. Nations vie for dominance in space and seek to secure their digital infrastructure.

Cultural and Social Impact:

  • Cultural Exchange: Geopolitics affects cultural exchange and influences the spread of ideas, values, and norms across borders.
  • Migration: Geopolitical factors, including conflicts and economic disparities, contribute to patterns of migration, impacting societies and demographics.

Environmental Sustainability:

  • Environmental Policies: Geopolitics influences international cooperation on environmental sustainability. Climate agreements and conservation efforts are shaped by geopolitical considerations.

Technological Risks:

  • Cybersecurity Threats: Geopolitical tensions contribute to cybersecurity risks, including the potential for state-sponsored cyberattacks with global consequences.


Understanding and navigating these geopolitical dynamics is crucial for policymakers, scholars, and global citizens as they seek to address challenges, foster cooperation, and build a more stable and equitable future for humanity. The complex interplay of geopolitical forces will continue to shape the trajectory of global development in the years to come.

A picture of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli airstrike has won the 2012 World Press Photo award. The photo was taken by the Swedish photographer Paul Hansen, working for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
Taken in Gaza on November 20, 2012, the photo shows a group of men marching the dead bodies of a brother and sister, wrapped in white cloth, through the city. The piece portrays what’s become a common scene on the ground under Israeli occupation of Palestine. With this award, Palestinian plight is being seen by more and more people worldwide resulting in increasing support in favour of Palestine and worldwide condemnation of Israel and its brutal oppression of Palestinians.

The Bottom Line is that the idea of geopolitics leading to World War III is a grave concern, and while it is speculative, certain geopolitical factors and dynamics could contribute to such a scenario. It’s important to note that the world has seen significant changes since the end of World War II, and the current global order, marked by the presence of nuclear weapons, international institutions, and interconnected economies, creates strong incentives for avoiding large-scale global conflicts. Nevertheless, the following factors could potentially contribute to the risk of a third world war.

Rising Geopolitical Tensions: Territorial Disputes: Ongoing or escalating territorial disputes, particularly in regions with historical animosities, could lead to heightened tensions and, in extreme cases, military conflicts.

Military Alliances: Entangling Alliances: Complex and overlapping military alliances could turn a regional conflict into a broader one, as seen in the alliances that played a role in the outbreak of the two World Wars.

Resource Scarcity: Competition for Resources: Intense competition for dwindling resources, such as water, energy, and minerals, could exacerbate geopolitical tensions and trigger conflicts.

Great Power Rivalry: Rise of New Powers: The rise of new global powers and challenges to the existing geopolitical order may lead to increased competition and strategic rivalries.

Nuclear Proliferation: Spread of Nuclear Weapons: The proliferation of nuclear weapons to more states or non-state actors increases the risk of a conflict escalating to a global scale.

Cyber Warfare:  Cyber Attacks: Escalation in cyber warfare, particularly if it leads to significant disruptions or damage, could trigger a broader conflict.

Economic Strains: Economic Crises: Severe economic crises, exacerbated by geopolitical factors, could lead to domestic unrest and potentially aggressive actions by states.

Ideological or Religious Conflicts:  Ideological or Religious Extremism: Conflicts fueled by ideological or religious extremism could draw in multiple nations, especially if they align with existing geopolitical fault lines.

Environmental Challenges:  Climate Change: Environmental challenges, such as extreme weather events or resource scarcity driven by climate change, could intensify geopolitical tensions and trigger conflicts.

Failed Diplomacy:  Breakdown in Diplomacy: Repeated failures in diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully could create conditions conducive to military escalation.

Nationalism and Authoritarianism: Rise of Nationalism: A resurgence of nationalism and the erosion of international cooperation may lead to a more confrontational global environment.

Pandemics and Health Crises:  Global Health Threats: A severe global health crisis, especially if mishandled or exacerbated by geopolitical tensions, could have widespread consequences.

While these factors outline potential risks, it is crucial to emphasize that the vast majority of global leaders and citizens recognize the catastrophic consequences of a world war. International institutions, diplomatic efforts, and the lessons learned from past conflicts contribute to efforts to prevent large-scale conflicts and maintain stability in the international system. The promotion of dialogue, diplomacy, and cooperative solutions remains essential to mitigate the risks associated with geopolitical tensions.

The Role of Religions in Geopolitics[78]

Religions play a multifaceted role in geopolitics, influencing the behaviour of states, shaping international relations, and contributing to the dynamics of conflicts and cooperation. The impact of religions on geopolitics can be observed in various ways:

Identity and Nationalism:

  • Cultural Identity: Religions often contribute to the cultural identity of nations and communities. This identity can shape the worldview and policies of states.
  • Nationalism: Religious beliefs can be intertwined with nationalism, fostering a sense of unity and loyalty among a population. In some cases, this can contribute to geopolitical tensions or aspirations for regional dominance.

Conflict and Cooperation:

  • Religious Conflicts: Geopolitical conflicts have been fueled by religious differences, where disputes over holy sites, religious persecution, or clashes of religious ideologies contribute to tensions and violence.
  • Interfaith Dialogue: Conversely, religions can also be a source of interfaith dialogue and cooperation, fostering understanding and collaboration between nations with diverse religious populations.

Political Legitimacy:

  • Political Authority: Religious institutions have historically provided political legitimacy to rulers and governments. The relationship between religious authorities and political leaders can influence domestic and foreign policies.
  • Theocracy: Some states incorporate religious doctrines directly into their governance structures, leading to the establishment of theocratic regimes where religious leaders hold political power.

Human Rights and Values:

  • Ethical Foundations: Religious teachings often contribute to the ethical foundations of societies. This can influence a state’s approach to human rights, justice, and international relations.
  • Advocacy for Peace: Many religious traditions promote peace, justice, and compassion. Religious leaders and institutions can advocate for conflict resolution, human rights, and social justice on the global stage.

Moral Authority:

  • Moral Guidance: Religious leaders and institutions may be seen as moral authorities, influencing public opinion and potentially shaping the moral dimension of geopolitical decisions.
  • Moral Diplomacy: Religious principles can play a role in diplomatic efforts, with leaders seeking to align their policies with ethical or moral imperatives.

Terrorism and Extremism:

  • Religious Extremism: Certain geopolitical conflicts involve groups motivated by religious extremism. Terrorism, driven by religious ideologies, can have significant geopolitical implications.
  • Counterterrorism Policies: States often adopt counterterrorism policies that consider the religious dimensions of extremist ideologies.

Refugee Movements:

  • Religious Persecution: Religious persecution can lead to refugee movements, impacting geopolitics as displaced populations seek refuge in other countries.
  • International Responses: Nations may respond differently to refugee crises based on religious considerations, affecting regional stability and international relations.

Resource and Territory Disputes:

  • Holy Sites: Religious sites, considered sacred by multiple religious communities, can be focal points of geopolitical disputes, as seen in conflicts over Jerusalem, Mecca, or Ayodhya.
  • Resource Allocation: Religious considerations may influence states’ claims to certain territories or resources, contributing to geopolitical tensions.

Global Moral Agenda:

  • Global Advocacy: Religious leaders and institutions may advocate for a global moral agenda, addressing issues such as poverty, climate change, and social justice in the international arena.
  • Moral Responsibility: Religions can articulate a sense of moral responsibility for the well-being of all humanity, influencing global cooperation on shared challenges.

Soft Power:

  • Soft Power: The cultural and spiritual influence of religions can be a form of soft power, shaping perceptions and building relationships between nations.
  • Cultural Diplomacy: Nations may engage in cultural diplomacy, showcasing their religious and cultural heritage to foster international understanding.

While religions can contribute to peace, ethical governance, and global cooperation, they can also be sources of tension and conflict. Understanding the interplay between religious beliefs and geopolitical dynamics is crucial for comprehending the complexities of international relations and working towards a more peaceful and cooperative world.  In the 21st century, every humanoid must shoulder the collective responsibility to not only maintain and sustain peace but to actively propagate peace, locally and globally. This is the only way to ensure sustainable peace, in one’s own little domestic empire, regionally and indeed globally, at all times.

Main Photo: Armenian children lie in the street of an unidentified town.
Photograph taken by Armin T. Wegner. Wegner served as a nurse with the German Sanitary Corps. In 1915 and 1916, Wegner traveled throughout the Ottoman Empire and documented atrocities carried out against the Armenians.
[Courtesy of Sybil Stevens (daughter of Armin T. Wegner). Wegner Collection, Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach & United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.]
 Inset: This handout photo taken by Swedish photographer Paul Hansen and released by the World Press Photo shows the bodies of two year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad, who were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, being carried on November 20, 2012 in Gaza City. (AFP Photo / Paul Hansen)


[1] Personal quote by author, October 2023
















































































Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Nov 2023.

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