Interview with MRG Director Mark Lattimer: Minorities face attack as revolutions sour in Middle East and North Africa, says new global Peoples Under Threat survey

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Peoples under Threat is Minority Rights Group’s annual authoritative rankings table which highlights those countries around the world where the risk of mass killing is greatest.

Peoples under Threat is created by compiling data on the known antecedents to genocide or mass political killing. While the individual indicators describe the current situation – what is happening – the index as a whole seeks to predict what may happen.

As an early warning tool, Peoples under Threat has been widely used by UN officials and other human rights and conflict prevention practitioners. Almost all the significant episodes of civilian killing that occurred over the last year took place in countries which were near the top of, or major risers in, 2011’s Peoples under Threat table.

This year, countries in the Middle East and North Africa feature prominently in the major risers. Among the Arab countries, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Egypt have all risen significantly in the table. As political space opens up following the Arab Spring of 2011, ethnic or sectarian grievances have been exacerbated and minorities scapegoated.

Minorities in particular are at risk during this time of transition. Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director said, ‘The huge changes taking place across the Middle East and North Africa, while increasing hopes for democratisation, represent for both religious and ethnic minorities perhaps the most dangerous episode since the violent break-up of the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.’

Africa's newest sovereign state, South Sudan, is the highest riser in the rankings table. A history of cattle raiding between the Lou Nuer and the Murle, as well as other groups, has developed into inter-communal violence on a highly organised scale in Jonglei state, affecting some 120,000 people. Tens of thousands of refugees have also fled across the border into South Sudan in recent months, escaping Sudanese government shelling of communities in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile state.

Click on the link below to download an interview with MRG Executive Director Mark Lattimer or listen to the interview by using our player above.

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