Genocide in the contemporary Middle East

A historical and comparative regional perspective

Authored by: Martin Shaw

Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138807679
eBook ISBN: 9781315750972
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613763


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The targeted atrocities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after its emergence in 2014 1 drew widespread accusations of genocide. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, issued a statement on the situation in Iraq in which they pointed to a ‘risk of genocide.’ 2 The same month an ‘Open Letter from Concerned Genocide Scholars Regarding the Situation in Syria and Iraq’ also warned of genocide committed by Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front. 3 Although both statements apparently concerned the situations in Iraq and Syria generally, accusations of genocide were directed only at Islamists. However, in Iraq the army and Shi`ite militia were also accused of grave atrocities against particular groups of civilians, and in Syria the Assad regime was then responsible for far more targeted killings of civilians. Yet the advisors’ and scholars’ reminders to states of the ‘responsibility to protect’ populations from Islamic State, including in the latter case an explicit call for ‘military force’, by implication endorsed the move towards U.S.-led bombing in conjunction with the Iranian-backed ground counter-offensives of the Iraqi and Syrian governments. These offensives predictably entailed more atrocities on their parts, but with Islamists labelled the genocidal actors, scrutiny of others’ acts within the scope of genocide was blocked.

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