Ethnic cleansing

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"Fettmilch-Aufstand" by Georg Keller (Expulsion of the Jews from Frankfurt in 1614)
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Hating thy neighbour
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For the video game, see Ethnic Cleansing (video game).

Ethnic cleansing is the use of force to separate and segregate and often try to force certain ethnic or religious groups within a community to leave, sometimes outright deporting them forcibly. Generally driven by racism and other forms of prejudice as well as politically opportunistic factors, the term was coined during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s but applies equally to a number of other conflicts. The act has been around for much longer than the term — ancient conquerors like Tikulti-Ninurta, Pachacuti Yupanqui, and Xerxes were big fans, often to secure control of conquered populations via destroying their identity.

Official definition[edit]

Although there is no actual legal definition of the term, there is a working semi-officially used one. The Final Report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 780 defines ethnic cleansing as:

a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas[1]

Ethnic cleansing vs. genocide[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Genocide

While sometimes used interchangeably by the media, authors, and others; genocide means the attempted extermination of ethnic, religious, or minority group by murdering them. Ethnic cleansing often more refers to forced deportation, although methods are indeed often violent and lead to deaths. Some academics consider genocide to be a subset of "murderous ethnic cleansing". However, in common discourse, the terms are often synonymous.

At its most basic, genocide is when the goal is to kill the target group(s), whereas ethnic cleansing is when the goal is to kick them out of your land, often violently and murderously.


Towards Jews[edit]

  • Edward I expelled the Jews (who can never catch a break) who were living in England, 1290
  • In 1492, Spain expelled/forced-converted its Jewish population. In 1496, they were expelled from Portugal. Really can't catch a break.
  • Before the "final solution" began, the moving of Jews into camps was non-genocidal ethnic cleansing (it didn't last long).
  • Russia… Just Russia. It's basically a national pastime.
  • 1947-1990s. Many Jews were forced from the Islamic world. Many went to Israel, some went to Europe (notably France), and others went elsewhere. The combined property seized was about 4 times the size of Israel.[2] Most of the cleansing was 'finished' after the 1970s, but a few cases popped up from time to time, notably the various Central Asian republics after the USSR broke up. The only Islamic countries with any Jewish population of note remaining are Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. Today there are more Arabs between Red Sea and Jordan than were there in 1948, but vastly fewer Jews in Middle East countries that aren't Israel than were there in 1948.

Towards Palestinians[edit]

  • Israel and the Palestinians, 1947-1967. Following the Partition Proposal rejected by the Arab countries on grounds that only 33% of the population was allocated 56% for a Jewish state, fighting broke out. 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled as Zionist militias occupied strategic areas of the land designated for the Arab state. Following the declaration of the state of Israel, Arab countries invaded the Arab state and 300,000 — 400,000 more Palestinians were expelled, bringing the total expelled to around 700,000. Jordan agreed in collusion with Israel[3] to annex the West Bank and drove out the Jewish inhabitants. Another 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians would be expelled by Israel in the 1950s. When Israel took over the West Bank, Sinai, and the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War, another 300,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled (many having fled the previous time).[4] Arguably happens whenever Israel builds/expands a settlement or demolishes a Palestinian home.[citation needed]
  • Speaking of the Palestinians, in 1991 another 400,000 Palestinians were cleansed from Kuwait during and after the Gulf War, in part out of revenge for Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein.[5].
  • The Palestinians aga… before? In the mid-19th century, many Palestinian Christians fled due to oppression from the Ottoman empire.[6]

Towards other groups[edit]

Trail of Tears plaque
  • The Romani have been kicked out of virtually everywhere. But don't worry, cleansing couldn't happen in modern Europe, except that it still does.[7]
  • South Africa would often relocate people to "Bantustans" for their own "safety". The most infamous of these cases was "District Six", where 60,000 black people were kicked out of their homes.
  • Haiti, after decades of slavery, the slaves finally had enough and rebelled; the French were forced to flee. France responded with an expensive and bloody war where Haiti was forced to pay tribute reparations that prevented the economy from ever recovering.
  • The Indian Removal Act, which became law in the United States on May 26, 1830, and resulted in forced relocations, known as the Trail of Tears.
  • Azeris of Zangezur and other parts of present-day Armenia are ethnically cleansed by Armenian guerilla fighters in 1918–1920.
  • The Bolshevik regime killed or deported an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Don Cossacks during the Russian Civil War, in 1919–1920.
  • Turkey kicked out the Greeks in the 1920s. This was among the least horrific things they would do during this time.
  • Look at the map of Poland prior to World War II and after. Notice how both the eastern and western borders shifted towards the West? So did the Russians, Poles, and Germans. The ones that weren't force-marched to Siberia, anyway.
  • 1947, India was split up into India, Pakistan, and umm… Pakistan. A number of Hindus were kicked out of Pakistan, and a number of Muslims likewise kicked out of India. Obviously the two three countries weren't on good terms after this, and have had 4 really nasty wars and to this day are constantly fighting over territory such as Kashmir. Now with nuclear weapons.
  • Between 1957–1962, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt carried out an Anti-European policy, which resulted in the expulsion of 100–200,000 Greeks from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt.
  • Zanzibar expelled Arabs and Indians in 1964.
  • By 1969, more than 350,000 Salvadorans were living in Honduras. In 1969, Honduras enacted a new land reform law. This law took land away from Salvadoran immigrants and redistributed this land to native-born Honduran peoples. Thousands of Salvadorans were displaced by this law.
  • Libya expelled 150,000 Italians in 1970 in what is known as the "Day of Vengeance".
  • Idi Amin's regime forced the expulsion in 1972 of Uganda's entire ethnic Asian population, mostly of Indian descent.
  • As mentioned above, Yugoslavia, the breakup of which created the term. A nice "clean" war with 3 main ethnic groups slugging it out, with constant interference from other groups around the world (including an early Al Qaeda).
  • Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa[8]
  • After the creation of South Sudan, many black Sudanese were booted out of Sudan. This was considered a "good" outcome, given that it was either that or genocide.
  • Current ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Central African Republic.
  • China is likely to be IS ethnically cleansing their Uighur population in Xinjiang Province as of 2021.[9]

Video game[edit]

There is, believe it or not, a video game titled Ethnic Cleansing in which one takes the role of a skinhead or klansman and kills minorities.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Final Report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 780 (1992), United Nations
  2. Link
  3. Avi Shlaim, Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine(Oxford,1988)
  4. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (Cambridge,1987, p.592
  6. The Lebanese in the world: a century of emigration, Albert Habib Hourani, Nadim Shehadi, Centre for Lebanese Studies (Great Britain), Centre for Lebanese Studies in association with I.B. Tauris, 1992
  7. France sends Romani to Romania
  9. U.N. Panel Confronts China Over Reports That It Holds a Million Uighurs in Camps by Nick Cumming-Bruce (Aug. 10, 2018) The New York Times.