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Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, or religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous. Along with direct removal such as deportation or population transfer, it also includes indirect methods aimed at forced migration by coercing the victim group to flee and preventing its return, such as murder, rape, and property destruction. The definition of ethnic cleansing is disputed, with some researchers including and others excluding coercive assimilation or mass killings as a means of depopulating an area of a particular group.
Although scholars do not agree on which events constitute ethnic cleansing, many instances have occurred throughout history; the term was first used during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s by the perpetrators as a euphemism. Since then, the term has gained widespread acceptance due to journalism. Although research originally focused on deep-rooted animosities as an explanation for ethnic cleansing events, more recent studies depict ethnic cleansing as "a natural extension of the homogenizing tendencies of nation states" or emphasize security concerns and the effects of democratization, portraying ethnic tensions as a contributing factor. Research has also focused on the role of war as a causative or potentiating factor in ethnic cleansing. However, states in a similar strategic situation can have widely varying policies towards minority ethnic groups perceived as a security threat.
Ethnic cleansing has no legal definition under international criminal law, but the methods by which it is carried out are considered crimes against humanity and may also fall under the Genocide Convention.
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