UEL lecturers call for action against Islamic State genocide

Professor John Strawson

Professor John Strawson - Credit: UEL

Two University of East London professors are urging world leaders to stop the genocide in the Middle East.

In February, the European Union passed a resolution officially recognising the actions of Islamic State – also known as Daesh – as a genocide.

But Professor John Strawson, co-director of the centre for human rights in conflict, believes lessons have not been learnt from previous genocides, including that in Rwanda.

During a 100-day period between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 people were killed – around 70 per cent of the Tutsi population.

Professor Strawson said: “In Rwanda in 1994 and in IS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria since 2014, the international community has refused to act to stop genocide.

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“Yet this is an international legal obligation under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

“It requires states to ‘suppress the crime of genocide’. Instead, the world has looked the other way.”

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He has called on governments to take action to stop the crimes against minority groups who do not agree with the Daesh interpretation of Islam.

Professor Strawson said, “Evidence of mass graves of men and the rape of Yazidi women – the latter chillingly recorded by Rukmini Callimachi in the New York Times as recently as March 12 – has been met with much hand-wringing in most capitals.

“The IS cult has been allowed to perpetrate its crimes, despite being a relatively small force of no more than 30,000 fighters.

“Like the Tutsis in Rwanda 22 years ago, the Yazidis have been abandoned to their fate.

“If we want to honour the memory of Rwandan victims, it is time to act and stop the genocide against the Yazidis.”

His calls are echoed by Professor Giorgia Dona, of forced migration and refugee studies and who lived in Rwanda for four years immediately after the genocide there.

She said that like the ordinary Rwandans who were killed because they opposed what was happening in their country, the minority groups being targeted by Daesh were in danger of being overlooked.

“The dominant narrative about ‘new wars’ between Daesh, Assad’s government, rebel forces, Russia and Western governments is leading to another example of forgotten people,” she said.

“The sad experiences of Yazidis, Sabeans, Christian minorities, and internally displaced people and refugees fleeing the atrocities might be passed over and forgotten”.

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