Children and Nation: Forcible Child Transfer and the Genocide Convention through Historical and Contemporary Lenses

Long before the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in 1990, children were already regarded by the international community as a key component of societal and cultural wellness and survival. In 1948, children were explicitly included as part of the newly-minted Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (hereinafter, Genocide Convention). Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention declares that forcible child transfer committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such, amounts to genocide. The inclusion of the forcible child transfer clause in the Genocide Convention was connected with the vulnerability of children, their “dependence, futurity, and malleability” and, also the destructive consequences of this practice for the viability of the group.  The importance of children for the continuation of a people-group and the destructive group impacts of the removal of children from their families and cultures was a key insight of the Genocide Convention.    

Forcible child transfer with the intent to destroy a people-group features abundantly in the history of many societies. As several examples demonstrate, this practice is tightly bound into the processes of conquest and of colonization whereby children are targeted. For instance, a blood tax, Devshirme, in the Ottoman Empire, whereby young Christian boys were kidnapped, converted to Islam and raised as Muslims is recognized an early example of forcible child transfer. This phenomenon culminated during the Armenian Genocide, resulting in the forced transfer and islamization of hundreds of thousands of Armenian children.  Further, in the mid nineteenth century in Australia, Canada, and the United States, thousands of Indigenous children were ripped from their families and communities for assimilation and westernization. In another example, during 1920-1970s, the Swiss removed Roma children for the same purpose and starting from 1920s, Indigenous Siberian children were removed and placed in distant schools in the Soviet Union for Russification. Finally, another large-scale program was implemented during the Second World War when “racially valuable” children, mainly Polish, were forcibly removed by the Nazis from the occupied eastern lands to Germany for their Germanization.

The aim of this conference is to explore various aspects of the history and contemporary impacts of “forcible child transfer” as related to the Genocide Convention. It is dedicated to the 30th anniversary of entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Along with the conference the temporary exhibition will be held at AGMI dedicated to the same issue which will present it to the wide audience.

The Conference is jointly organized by “Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute” Foundation, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Centre for Contemporary Histories, Deakin University, Australia.


Date: May 13-15, 2023
Location: Yerevan, Armenia

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