Texas Tech University

Premiere of 'Narratives of Modern Genocide' Documentary Details Horrors of Modern-Day Massacres

Amanda Bowman

November 13, 2019

The Honors College and Texas Tech Public Media hosted a viewing of the documentary at the Museum of Texas Tech University in hopes of educating people on the atrocities of genocide that still occur around the world to this day.

When people hear the word "genocide," the first thing that comes to most minds is the Holocaust, where 6 million European Jews and millions of others, including Gypsies and homosexuals, were murdered in the most horrific ways imaginable, simply for existing.

Sichan Siv
Sichan Siv. Photo: Clinton School Podcasts

However, the horrendous crime of genocide didn't stop after the Holocaust. It has continued around the world – that's why stories of the survivors need to be heard.

To honor the victims and survivors of genocide, as well as shine a light on this persistent issue, Texas Tech University's Honors College and Texas Tech Public Media (KTTZ), hosted a screening of the documentary, "Narratives of Modern Genocide," at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

"Narratives of Modern Genocide," tells the oral history of 14 survivors of genocide in Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and Burundi. It is directed by Paul Allen Hunton, general manager of Texas Tech Public Media; Jonathan Seaborn, production director for Texas Tech Public Media, is the assistant director; and Aliza Wong, Minnie Stevens Piper Professor, an associate professor of history and the associate dean of the Honors College, produced the film. It was funded by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission (THGC).

Two survivors, former U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye, were recognized at the screening.

Ambassador Siv survived Pol Pot's Killing Fields in Cambodia. He was captured, sentenced to death and escaped three times before making his way to the United States and to Texas. He said the importance of the film is simple.

Gilbert Tuhabonye
Gilbert Tuhabonye. Photo: gilberttuhabonye.com

"The significance of the documentary is triple E: Education, Eradication, Emancipation," Siv said. "I think this is a good educational instrument to educate people about what happened. We don't want it to happen again, so that's education. Eradication: to eradicate people's ignorance about issues. And emancipation is to free up the spirit, especially young people. You know they say, 'This really happened? Is it really happening?' To free their spirit and make them say, 'This is what happened and we don't want it to happen again.'"

Tuhabonye survived the 1993 genocide of Burundi where Hutu extremists were trying to wipe out the Tutsi people.

"I was a young student at the time," Tuhabonye said. "One day, my school got attacked. We were put in a building, and the Hutus set the building on fire. I escaped. And when I escaped, luckily, I was able to make it to the U.S. Those things are still happening in Burundi and elsewhere in the world. So for this project, to share with our children what has happened and is happening, to educate the new generation, ideally, it really helps to ensure these genocides don't happen again. It's a privilege and an honor to be part of this project, and I hope many people will be able to learn about what happened in Burundi and across the globe."

"Narratives of Modern Genocide" poster

Since leaving their homelands, both Siv and Tuhabonye have thrived and continue to serve. Tuhabonye currently is serving as a commissioner on the THGC and is the co-founder of the Gazelle Foundation, which funds and builds clean water projects for the people of Burundi, regardless of their tribal affiliation. Tuhabonye also runs Gilbert's Gazelles, a program dedicated to helping anyone with a passion for improving their physical and mental wellbeing through running.

Siv was the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2001-2006 and is a commissioner for the THGC. His autobiography, "Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America," recounts his incredible path from the horrors in Cambodia to acclimating to life in the U.S.

"This is an ongoing process," Siv said. "It is not a one-time thing. I'm glad Texas Tech did the film because this way they can use it to share with other people around the country and around the world. We do think it's important for our community, our society, our humanity to be aware of what happened because you forget the past. You don't know what the future is going to be.

"I commend Texas Tech, I commend Dr. Aliza Wong and I commend the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission for putting their efforts together to produce this one. I hope many, many people will be able to see it for more and more years into the future."

To learn more about "Narratives of Modern Genocide," visit its website.