The world can be a dangerous place. With corrupt governments, armed militias, criminals, terrorist plots and war, it’s hard to imagine a world that has ever been at peace. While quite a few nations enjoy at least a cautious quiet within their borders in terms of mass violence, others are not quite so lucky. Here, we take a look at the top ten most violent countries in 2016. These ratings are a result of an inverse calculation of the Global Peace Index, which takes into account levels of outright violence, as well as social impetus and capacity for violent actions across a country.
10. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
Starting off our list of most violent countries is North Korea, the hermit kingdom which has long had a history of empty threats to the outside world, but very real threats to the citizens within. North Korea has for decades been known for its tight control over citizens, whose education, employment, and ultimately fates of their families (at least for three generations) are entirely reliant on the mercies of the main political party. If one is to be found as one of the 20% of the population marked as “hostile” to the government, they can often expect torture, imprisonment of up to three generations in labor camps, and often execution for the slightest infraction. A prime example of this which has made it into the world wide media was the execution of the Defense Chief at the time, Hyon Yong-Chol. Hyon was executed in a non traditional manner to say the least, as a test target for a new anti-aircraft gun. The few citizens who have escaped and spoke publicly about the regime state that such brutalities are not only common place, but actively encouraged. In an Human Rights Watch hearing in Geneva, Switzerland, a North Korean prison guard divulged that in the prison and concentration camps (within there are around 120,000 prisoners), using children as training targets for attack dogs, and everyone else as martial or target practice is seen as a source of amusement. In fact, it was said that those young guards who shot a prisoner outside the gates and dragged back the body were given the reward of a state-sponsored college education.
Famous as the country where it for decades has been cheaper to buy a Kalashnikov rifle than a book, Somalia has been nothing less than a war zone. Luckily in the past two years, the situation has stabilized enough for the relative expense of these goods to flip, and the natural poetic nature of the Somali language has once again began to flourish. With a newly established government and international coalition, the future is in fact looking up for this previously failed state. Still, the people of Somalia have much to struggle through in terms of militant organizations. Al-Shabaab, a now dedicated branch of Islamic State, calls the country (in particular the southern half) home, and regularly conducts raids both inside and outside of the borders for supplies, recruits, and for general combat purposes. Piracy also remains a problem, where raids on vessels both large and small have caused a significant jump in the armed presence on ships going around the horn of Africa, and increasing violent situations.
8. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ranking as one of the most underdeveloped countries (176th out of 187 rated), the DRC is also one of the most violent countries of the world. Originally a Belgian colony and carrying the name of Belgian Congo until 1960, this land is a prime example for those who oppose colonialism as to what can go wrong. After a massive war that involved nearly the entire continent in one way or another within it’s borders in 1996 that took nearly 5.5 million lives, the DRC has yet to fully recover. Even 20 years later, there are some 15 armed groups still within the country to some extent, alongside some 20,000 child soldiers. Between this, and the governments inability to solve the issues due to what is locally termed “le mal Zairois”, or the disease of Zaire. Namely, government corruption.
The country of Sudan has had a history of violence quite unique onto itself. Having been recently divided into two separate countries, the previous civil war gained world-wide attention with the ethnic cleansing campaign termed the War in Darfur. With both armed tribal gangs and government militias who had originally been structured with the advisement of Muammar Gaddafi some decades previous, many minority ethnic groups and non-Muslims found themselves in a bad position. Rape, shootings, amputations and the use of child soldiers had become common even more so than in the Sierra Leone conflict. Sadly for this country, such aggression against minority groups has failed to cease, though there has been some nominal progress presented by the capital after the founding of South Sudan.
6. South Sudan
One of the newest countries in the world is also one of the most violent. South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011 has remained the source and victim of multiple armed ethnic clashes, and remains on the number 2 spot as most fragile country in the world. Still in the midst of a civil war, 1.4 million inhabitants have been displaced at time of writing and 300,000 killed. Political instability is at an all time high, there was a reported attempt at a hostile takeover of the office of president by his former deputy, which has only increased the violence in the surrounding country.
5. Central African Republic
Yet another country in Central Africa to face the woes of civil war, the CAR is still currently in active combat, despite many attempts from both sides to end the conflict. With at least 5 internally funded and armed groups fighting alongside international militaries from South Africa to France, there have been reports of human rights violations including all of those mentioned in the Sudan and South Sudan sections, as well as even several reports of cannibalism during battles. Crossing both sectarian and ethnic divides, this conflict appears to be continuing without much of a loss of momentum.
Despite being a G20 member, a Commonwealth Nation member, and even a founding member state of CERN, Pakistan has made it into the top 5 of the most violent countries in the world. While the more educated urban centers tend to be much more liberal and in many cases more peaceful, attacks in the country side and mostly lawless zones of tribal lands have lent a lot of violence to the area. Having been a hub for the Taliban ( there has been questioning as to whether the government was in support of their presence) and many other terrorist organizations, the Pakistani city of Karachi in particular happens to be a target of car bombs and suicide bombers. Pakistan’s police force has often been accused of abductions and torture as well, making it a little difficult to trust authorities in the area.
Afghanistan has always been a land renowned for throwing out invaders, without any fear of bloodshed. Though there have been periods of peace and even relative advancement in human rights, the current delve into the darkness of human capabilities for violence began during the Afghan-Soviet war in the late 1980’s. As a result of the influx of Jihadist fighters and the ample amount of experience available, as well as the latter war with the United States, Afghanistan has had a lingering problem with both terrorist activity and corruption within many areas of the country. Unfortunately, due to the mountainous nature of the country, efforts to rid the country of terrorist elements has caused many leaders and hostile groups to take refuge in hard to cover terrain and allowed for the creation of many training camps, varying from basic combat to chemical and biological weapons manufacturing.
The origin of ISIS, and having been the site of some of the worst fighting in either of the two American wars of this generation, Iraq has certainly seen better days. Having been ruled previously by Saddam Hussein who had carried out chemical attacks against the Kurdish minority, and then subject to a war between Iraqi insurgents and coalition forces, the Iraqi people have faced violence that has more or less shattered the country. This has only worsened with the installment of the “caliphate”, which has led horrific executions of locals and foreigners alike. With both terrorist and coalition elements causing collateral damage, Iraq is certain an unsafe place to be.
Topping off our list of the most violent countries of 2016 is Syria. Like Iraq, ISIS has a vast presence in the area, and entire swaths of the nation have been wiped out by terrorist and airstrike alike. As a result of this violence, there has been a massive refugee crisis spanning across the globe, and Syria is seen as the epicenter for current terrorist attacks world-wide. With Aleppo, one of the largest cities of the nation all but wholly bombed out, and no sign of stopping in terms of the conflict between ISIS and the rest of the world, it is likely Syria will remain at the top of this list for quite some time.