Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, racism and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, imprisonment, internment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution, but not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate.

International law

As part of the Nuremberg Principlescrimes against humanity are part of international law. Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles states that

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:…

(c) Crimes against humanity:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Telford Taylor, who was Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials wrote “[at] the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the tribunals rebuffed several efforts by the prosecution to bring such ‘domestic’ atrocities within the scope of international law as ‘crimes against humanity'”. Several subsequent international treaties incorporate this principle, but some have dropped the restriction “in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime” that is in Nuremberg Principles.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is binding on 111 states, defines crimes against humanity in Article 7.1. The article criminalises certain acts “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”. These include:

(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender... or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph [e.g. murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, apartheid, and other inhumane acts] or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court

According to tradition, early Christians were fed to lions in the Colosseum of Rome

According to tradition, early Christians were fed to lions in the Colosseum of Rome


Main article: Religious persecution
See also: Persecution of Traditional African Religion 

Religious persecution is systematic mistreatment of an individual or group due to their religious affiliation. Not only theorists of secularization (who presume a decline of religiosity in general) would willingly assume that religious persecution is a thing of the past. However, with the rise of fundamentalism and religiously related terrorism, this assumption has become even more controversial. Indeed, in many countries of the world today, religious persecution is a Human Rights problem.


Main article: Persecution of atheists

Atheists have experienced persecution throughout history. Persecution may refer to unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, beating, torture, or execution. It also may refer to the confiscation or destruction of property.


Main article: Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians is religious persecution that Christians may undergo as a consequence of professing their faith, both historically and in the current era. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose and the Roman Empire which controlled much of the land across which early Christianity was distributed. Early in the fourth century, the religion was legalized by the Edict of Milan, and it eventually became the State church of the Roman Empire.

Christian missionaries, as well as the people that they converted to Christianity, have been the target of persecution, many times to the point of being martyred for their faith.

There is also a history of individual Christian denominations suffering persecution at the hands of other Christians under the charge of heresy, particularly during the 16th century Protestant Reformation as well as throughout the Middle Ages when various Christian groups deemed heretical were persecuted by the Papacy.

In the 20th century, Christians have been persecuted by various groups, and by atheistic states such as the USSR and North Korea. During the Second World War members of many Christian churches were persecuted in Germany for resisting the Nazi ideology.

In more recent times the Christian missionary organization Open Doors (UK) estimates 100 million Christians face persecution, particularly in Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. According to the International Society for Human Rights, up to 80% of all acts of persecution are directed against people of the Christian faith.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism)

Main article: Anti-Mormonism

With the Missouri extermination order Mormons became the only religious group to have a state of the United States legalize the extermination of their religion. This was after a speech given by Sideny Rigdon called the July 4th Oration which while meant to state that Mormons would defend their lives and property was taken as inflammatory. Their forcible expulsion from the state caused the death of over a hundred due to exposure, starvation, and resulting illnesses. The Mormons suffered through tarring and feathering, their lands and possessions being repeatedly taken from them, mob attacks, false imprisonments, and the US sending an army to Utah to deal with the “Mormon problem” in the Utah War which resulted in the Mormons massacring settlers at the Mountain Meadows Massacre. A government militia slaughtered Mormons in what is now known as the Haun’s Mill massacre. The founder of the church, Joseph Smith, was killed in Carthage, Illinois by a mob of about 200 men, almost all of whom were members of the Illinois state militia including some members of the militia who were assigned to guard him.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Main article: Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Throughout the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their beliefs, doctrines and practices have engendered controversy and opposition from local governments, communities, and mainstream Christian groups.

Falun Gong

Main article: Persecution of Falun Gong

Falun Gong was introduced to the general public by Li Hongzhi in Changchun, China, in 1992. For the next few years, Falun Gong was the fastest growing qigong practice in Chinese history and, by 1999, there were between 70 and 100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China. Following the seven years of widespread popularity, on July 20, 1999, the government of the People’s Republic of China began a nationwide persecution campaign against Falun Gong practitioners, except in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. In late 1999, legislation was created to outlaw “heterodox religions” and retroactively applied to Falun Gong. Amnesty International states that the persecution is “politically motivated” with “legislation being used retroactively to convict people on politically-driven charges, and new regulations introduced to further restrict fundamental freedoms”.


Main article: Persecution of Hindus

Persecution of Hindus refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Hindus that may undergo as a consequence of professing their faith, both historically and in the current era. Hindus have been brutally persecuted during the historical Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent and during Portuguese rule of Goa.

Even in modern times, Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh have suffered persecution. Most recently, thousands of Hindus from Sindh province in Pakistan have been fleeing to India voicing fear for their safety. After the Partition of India in 1947, there were 8.8 million Hindus in Pakistan (excluding Bangladesh) in 1951. In 1951, Hindus constituted 22% of the Pakistani population (including present-day Bangladesh which formed part of Pakistan). Today, the Hindu minority amounts to 1.7 percent of Pakistan’s population.

The Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) resulted in one of the largest genocides of the 20th century. While estimates of the number of casualties was 3,000,000, it is reasonably certain that Hindus bore a disproportionate brunt of the Pakistan Army’s onslaught against the Bengali population of what was East Pakistan. An article in Time magazine dated 2 August 1971, stated “The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim military hatred.” Senator Edward Kennedy wrote in a report that was part of United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations testimony dated 1 November 1971, “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, mass rape and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked “H”. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad”. In the same report, Senator Kennedy reported that 80% of the refugees in India were Hindus and according to numerous international relief agencies such as UNESCO and World Health Organization the number of East Pakistani refugees at their peak in India was close to 10 million. In a syndicated column “The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored”, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Sydney Schanberg wrote about his return to liberated Bangladesh in 1972. “Other reminders were the yellow “H”s the Pakistanis had painted on the homes of Hindus, particular targets of the Muslim army” (by “Muslim army”, meaning the Pakistan Army, which had targeted Bengali Muslims as well), (Newsday, 29 April 1994).

In Bangladesh, on 28 February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the Vice President of the Jamaat-e-Islami to death for the war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Following the sentence, activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir attacked the Hindus in different parts of the country. Hindu properties were looted, Hindu houses were burnt into ashes and Hindu temples were desecrated and set on fire. The violence included the looting of Hindu properties and businesses, the burning of Hindu homes, the rape of Hindu women, and the desecration and destruction of, according to community leaders, more than 50 Hindu temples; 1,500 Hindu homes were destroyed in 20 districts. While the government has held the Jamaat-e-Islami responsible for the attacks on the minorities, the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership has denied any involvement. The minority leaders have protested the attacks and appealed for justice. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh has directed the law enforcement to start suo motu investigation into the attacks. US Ambassador to Bangladesh express concern about attack of Jamaat on Bengali Hindu community.


Main articles: Persecution of Jews and The Holocaust

Kaunas pogrom in German-occupied Lithuania, June 1941

Kaunas pogrom in German-occupied Lithuania, June 1941

Persecution of Jews is a recurring phenomenon throughout Jewish history. It has occurred on numerous occasions and in widely different geographical locations. It may include pogroms, looting and demolition of private and public Jewish property (e.g., Kristallnacht), unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, torture, killing, or even mass execution (in World War II alone, approximately 7 million people were deliberately killed only for being Jewish). They have been expelled from their hometowns/countries, hoping to find havens in other polities. In recent times anti-Semitism has often been manifested as Anti-Zionism, despite the fact that there are various Jewish groups whose members themselves oppose the idea of Zionism.


Main articles: Persecution of Muslims
See also: Persecution of Muslims by Meccans and  Persecution of Sufis

The persecution of Muslims has been a recurring phenomenon throughout the history of Islam. Persecution may refer to unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, beatings, torture, or execution. It may also refer to the confiscation or destruction of property, or incitement to hate Muslims.

Persecution can extend beyond those who perceive themselves to be Muslims and include those who are perceived by others as Muslims, or it can include Muslims who are considered non-Muslims by fellow Muslims. The Ahmadiyya regard themselves as Muslims, but are seen by many other Muslims as non-Muslims and “heretics”. In 1984, the Government of Pakistan, under General Zia-ul-Haq, passed Ordinance XX, which banned proselytizing by Ahmadis and also banned Ahmadis from referring to themselves as Muslims. According to this ordinance, any Ahmadi who refers to oneself as a Muslim by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, directly or indirectly, or makes the call for prayer as other Muslims do, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. Because of these difficulties, Mirza Tahir Ahmad migrated to London.


Main articles: Sikh holocaust of 1746Sikh holocaust of 1762, and 1984 anti-Sikh riots

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the 1984 Sikh Massacre was a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards in response to her actions authorising the military operation Operation Blue Star. There were more than 8,000 deaths, including 3,000 in Delhi. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents, as it had been occupied by Sikh separatists who were stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were initiated to clear the separatists from the countryside of Punjab state.

The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos. In the aftermath of the riots, the Indian government reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the People’s Union for Civil Liberties reported “at least” 1,000 displaced persons. The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigating agency, is of the opinion that the acts of violence were organized with the support from the then Delhi police officials and the central government headed by Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother’s death and, when asked about the riots, said “when a big tree falls, the earth shakes” thus trying to justify the communal strife.

There are allegations that the government destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. The Asian Age front-page story called the government actions “the Mother of all Cover-ups” There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathisers during the riots. The chief weapon used by the mobs, kerosene, was supplied by a group of Indian National Congress Party leaders who owned filling stations.


Main article: Racism

Ethnic persecution refers to perceived persecution based on ethnicity. Its meaning is parallel to that of racism, (based on race). The Rwandan genocide remains an atrocity that the indigenous Hutu and Tutsi peoples still believe is unforgivable. The Japanese occupation of China caused the death of millions of people, mostly peasants who were murdered after the Doolittle Raid in early-World War II.


Main article: Organised persecution of ethnic Germans

Historically, this has been due to two causes: the German population was considered, whether factually or not, linked with German nationalist regimes such as those of the Nazis or Kaiser Wilhelm. This was the case in the World War I era persecution of Germans in the United States, and also in Eastern and Central Europe following the end of World War II. While many victims of these persecutions did not, in fact, have any connection to those regimes, cooperation between German minority organisations and Nazi regime did occur, as the example of Selbstschutz shows, which is still used as a pretense of hostilities against those who did not take part in such organisations. After World War II, many such Volksdeutsche were killed or driven from their homes in acts of vengeance, others in ethnic cleansing of territories prior to populating them with citizens of the annexing country. In other cases (e.g. in the case of the formerly large German-speaking populations of Russia, Estonia, or the Transylvanian (Siebenbürgen) German minority in Rumania and the Balkans) such persecution was a crime committed against innocent communities who had played no part in the Third Reich.

Hazara people

Main article: Persecution of Hazara people

The Hazara people of central Afghanistan have been persecuted by Afghan rulers at various times in the history. Since the tragedy of 9/11, Sunni Muslim terrorists have been attacking the Hazara community in southwestern Pakistani town of Quetta, home to some 500,000 Hazara who fled persecution in neighbouring Afghanistan. Some 2,400 men, women and children have been killed or wounded with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claiming responsibility for most of the attacks against the community. Consequently, many thousands have fled the country seeking asylum in Australia.


Main articles: Antiziganism and Porajmos

Antiziganism is hostility, prejudice, discrimination or racism directed against the Romani people as an ethnic group, or people who are perceived as being of Romani heritage.

The Porajmos was the planned and attempted effort, often described as a genocide, during World War II by the government of Nazi Germany and its allies to exterminate the Romani (Gypsy) people of Europe. Under the rule of Adolf Hitler, a supplementary decree to the Nuremberg Laws was issued on 26 November 1935, defining Gypsies as “enemies of the race-based state”, the same category as Jews. Thus, the fate of Roma in Europe in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Historians estimate that 220,000 to 500,000 Romani were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators, or more than 25% of the slightly less than 1 million Roma in Europe at the time. Ian Hancock puts the death toll as high as 1.5 million.


See also: 2017 Rohingya persecution in Myanmar

Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017

Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017

The UN human rights chief slammed Myanmar’s apparent “systematic attack” on the Rohingya minority, warning that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be underway. Ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing security forces in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have described killings, shelling, and arson in their villages that have all the hallmarks of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” Human Rights Watch said. “Rohingya refugees have harrowing accounts of fleeing Burmese army attacks and watching their villages be destroyed,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Lawful operations against armed groups do not involve burning the local population out of their homes.”

Sri Lankan Tamils

See also: 1958 anti-Tamil pogrom and Black July

Widespread attacks on Sri Lankan Tamils came in the form of island wide ethnic riots, including The 1958 anti-Tamil pogrom and the Black July riots. Further persecution through murders, targeted rape and kidnapping occurred. Whilst previously, the majority of Tamils demanded instead for a separate state, by 1983 armed struggles against Sinhalese extremists began to rise, culminating in the formation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Based on genetics

People with albinism

Main article: Persecution of people with albinism

Persecution on the basis of albinism is frequently based on the belief that albinos are inferior to persons with higher concentration of melanin in their skin. As a result, albinos have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of albinistic people dug up and desecrated. Such people have also been ostracized and even killed because they are presumed to bring bad luck in some areas. Haiti also has a long history of treating albinistic people as accursed, with the highest incidence under the influence of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Of people with autism

Main article: Persecution of people with autism

People with autism spectrum disorders have commonly been victims of persecution, both throughout history and in the present era. In Cameroon children with autism are commonly accused of witchcraft and singled out for torture and even death.

Additionally, it is speculated that many of the disabled children murdered during Action T4 in Nazi Germany may have been autistic, making autistic people among the first victims of The Holocaust.


A number of countries, especially those in the Western world, have passed measures to alleviate discrimination against sexual minorities, including laws against anti-gay hate crimes and workplace discrimination. Some have also legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions in order to grant same-sex couples the same protections and benefits as opposite-sex couples. In 2011, the United Nations passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights and, in 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized in all states of the United States.

Based on military service

Persecution on the basis of army service (or the lack of it) operates in Israeli society. In the State of Israel, Jewish citizens who receive an exemption from service in the Israel Defense Forces cannot take up many prestigious career options, especially in the field of security. The root of discrimination on the basis of army service lies in the practice that at age 17, non-Arab citizens (including Druze) are called up to be examined for eligibility to compulsory military service. A record for each potential conscript is made. Those who actually serve in the military are distinguished from those rejected from service by a Discharge Card, which has additional information on it, including the soldier’s rank, military profession, and behavior during army service. Potential employers show a particular interest in Discharge Cards, since they constitute a universally available source of information about a potential employee. Employers frequently look down upon citizens rejected from the army, typically believing that “those who are unfit for army service are also unfit for the work environment”, and that those who succeeded in the army are also likely to become good employees. Job advertisements in Israel very frequently specify a requirement of “Full Army Service”, thus the decisions taken by the draft board regarding a 17-year-old minor may affect entire careers.

In fiction, Robert A. Heinlein depicts a society where suffrage rights depend on military service in his 1959 novel Starship Troopers.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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