Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
Black lives matter, except on the Polish-Ukraine border. In a blatant show of racism, African students fleeing the fighting in Ukraine were refused entry into Poland because of the color of their skin. It would appear that Europe might be western and a liberal democracy, but they also have a serious problem with racism.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Poland to let in all people who are trying to flee Ukraine, saying they “have the same right to safe passage under U.N. convention, and the color of their passport or their skin should make no difference.”
Emily, a 24-year-old medical student from Kenya, told the Guardian that she was able to reach a hotel in Warsaw only to be refused a room because she was Black. She was told by hotel staff the rooms were only for Ukrainians.
Isaac, a Nigerian man trying to get into Poland, told the BBC that Polish border staff told him they were “not tending to Africans“.
“They stopped us at the border and told us that Blacks were not allowed. But we could see White people going through,” said Moustapha Bagui Sylla, a student from Guinea told France24. He said he fled his university residence in Kharkiv as soon as the bombing began.
“They won’t let Africans in. Blacks without European passports cannot cross the border (…). They’re pushing us back just because we’re Black!” said Michael, a Nigerian student to France24. “We’re all human,” he added. “They should not discriminate against us because of the colour of our skin.”
How people look, the color of their skin and hair, as well as the language they speak, and where their grandparents came from are all sources of racism, and the western liberal media has a problem with racism as well.
On Saturday, David Sakvarelidze, Ukraine’s former deputy general prosecutor, spoke to the BBC, suggesting that it was harder for him to watch white people fleeing conflict.
“It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed,” he said.
NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella also came under fire from fellow journalists after she stated on air that “these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine… They’re Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar.”
Racism turned to genocide in the case of the Armenian Genocide, the first time that term was used, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1916 killed 1.5 million Armenians and Syrian Christians. Later, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party used the Armenian Genocide as an example to follow when killing Jews and others in Europe.
Russian President Putin has accused Ukraine of Genocide in the Donbas region. Just days before Putin gave the order to enter Ukraine the new German leader Olaf Scholz stated publically that Putin’s accusation was “ridiculous”.
Christian Amanpour of CNN interviewed Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center on February 23. Trenin commented that Olaf Scholz’s very undiplomatic ridicule of Putin’s accusation of Genocide may have been a contributing factor leading Putin to giving the final order to enter Ukraine.
According to Trenin, “…the inefficiency of the Minsk process, the Germans, the French, and the Americans failing to convince Minsk — to convince Kyiv to fulfill Minsk, the chance remark by the German chancellor about genocide in Donbas being ridiculous, and the comment by President Zelensky of Ukraine that maybe it’s time to revisit the non-nuclear status of Ukraine. Those things, I think, may have been the proverbial straws that broke the camel’s back.”
Genocide is a very powerful accusation. The Azov Battalion is one of several Nazi (White Supremacist) militias operating in Ukraine and officially integrated into the Ukrainian Army. The UN has accused them of war crimes. Russia has filed a report with the United Nations alleging that Ukraine’s military has committed “crimes” against residents of the eastern Donbas region, according to documents viewed by the Wall Street Journal.
In 2014, a civil war broke out in the Donbas region of Donetsk and Lugansk. Residents there were made up of ethnic Russians who speak Russian. More than 14,000 people have lost their lives in seven years of conflict in Donbas. The Ukrainians had arms, militias and were allowed and encouraged by the central government in Kyiv to target and kill the Russians living in Ukraine. This is called ethnic cleansing, and was part of the President Volodymr Zelensky government policy. Mass graves, destroyed homes and racism from 2014 to 2022 evolved into a full scale war.
If the Zelensky government was the western, liberal democracy that the US, EU and NATO claimed they are, then why didn’t they ever eradicate the Azov Battalion, and the others like it? Why was the Donbas allowed to suffer and fester under the stench of ethnic cleansing?
Black lives matter and Russian lives matter.