Surviving the Yazidi Genocide: A story of trauma, loss, and the fight for justice

9781524760434.jpegNadia dreamed of either becoming a history teacher or opening a hair salon in Kocho, Iraq – a small village of farmers and shepherds in southern Sinjar. In her book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State (2017), Nadia talks about growing up with her many brothers and sisters amidst a tight-knit Yazidi community. Central to Yazidi identity is the history of the seventy-three past firmans (to mean genocide) committed against the community by outside forces. Nadia, along with others Yazidis, learned about this history but never thought she herself would soon survive a genocide against her own religious community. Nadia writes, “…these stories of persecution were so intertwined with who we were that they might as well have been holy stories. I knew that the religion lived in the men and women who had been born to preserve it, and that I was one of them.” To Nadia, however, the previous genocides belonged to a distant past. The ongoing violence in Iraq and neighboring Syria also did not feel like part of the contemporary plight of Yazidis – until one day ISIS began to surround Kocho and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces fled, leaving them unprotected.

Continue reading “Surviving the Yazidi Genocide: A story of trauma, loss, and the fight for justice”

101 Years of Denial: How Turkish Policy Keeps the Pain of Genocide Alive

The Turkish systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting present-day Turkey between 1915-1923 can be defined with one word: genocide. Is this by now an incontestable statement? Over the last century, the surviving Armenian communities, spread across the globe as part of one of the world’s largest diasporas, have struggled to gain official recognition for the genocide. Along the way, Turkish nationalist organizations have fought recognition. Instead these organizations push for reconciliation, which merely serves to perpetuate denialist propaganda as it distracts from Turkey’s role in committing genocide.

Continue reading “101 Years of Denial: How Turkish Policy Keeps the Pain of Genocide Alive”

Genocide News Digest for April 2016

ISIS is Committing Genocide: Now what?

On March 15th, the United States House of Representatives passed an unprecedented resolution: it condemned the actions of ISIS as genocide. In a clear demonstration of the barbarity of the terrorist regime, the House resolution passed 393-0, a virtually unheard of display of bipartisan support. Two days later, the Obama administration confirmed the House’s decision, when Secretary of State John Kerry said: “My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims.”

Continue reading “Genocide News Digest for April 2016”

Why April?

States and organizations around the country and the world have set aside April to be a month of genocide awareness, education and action against genocide.

Why April? Several genocides over the last century began in this month. The events leading to the Armenian genocide started in April 1915. The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh fell to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in April 1975. Hutu extremists launched their plan to exterminate the entire Tutsi civilian population of Rwanda in April 1994.

April 1943 is also the month in which the few remaining Jews in the Warsaw ghetto rose in a desperate but heroic revolt against their oppressors. Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, was later established to commemorate those events, which represent unprecedented destruction but also courage, resilience and hope.

At the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies we see anniversaries as a valuable opportunity to advance scholarship and education. It is a chance to encourage students, educators and the broader community to deepen their understanding of past events and their sequels, as well as awareness of current manifestations of genocide and massive human rights violations.

Our programs in the next weeks reflect this mission. We started the month with an educational trip to the Bdote (Dakota for “where the rivers meet”) at Fort Snelling State Park, guided by scholar and teacher Iyekiyapiwiƞ Darlene St. Clair. Bdote is where the Dakota creation stories locate their origins, and also the site of internment, starvation and forced removal in the aftermath of the US Dakota War. “A place of genesis and genocide,” as one Dakota author eloquently put it. We will close this month of remembrance and awareness on Holocaust Memorial Day with a lecture by Sidi N’Diaye, who examines the role of hateful representations in the murders of Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust in Poland and of Tutsi neighbors during the 1994 genocide.

As we move through April, it is important to remember the quote from Holocaust historian Robert Abzug: “We must recognize that if we feel helpless when facing the record of human depravity, there was always a point at which any particular scene of madness could have been stopped.” In that spirit, this month we remember the victims of genocide and honor those who have worked tirelessly to stop it.

Thank you for supporting the work of the Center.


Alejandro Baer is the Stephen Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Sociology.


Will we only care about Burundi if it is called a genocide?

A few things have been happening in Burundi this year. The president, Pierre Nkuruzinza circumvented the constitution and ran for a third term. The result of this has been on-going conflict from April. Burundi was not a surprise though. Journalists I spoke to earlier this year all stated that regional coverage of Burundi had pointed to something being afoot as early as last year. None-the-less, here we are, with yet another unfolding atrocity, several deaths, an ever growing numbers of displaced and plenty of hand-wringing by the international community.

Continue reading “Will we only care about Burundi if it is called a genocide?”

Book of the Month: War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice

War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice

by David M. Crowe

164In this sweeping, definitive work, leading human rights scholar David M. Crowe offers an unflinching look at the long and troubled history of genocide and war crimes. From atrocities in the ancient world to more recent horrors in Nazi Germany, Cambodia, and Rwanda, Crowe reveals not only the disturbing consistency they have shown over time, but also the often heroic efforts that nations and individuals have made to break seemingly intractable patterns of violence and retribution – in particular, the struggle to create a universally accepted body of international humanitarian law. He traces the emergence of the idea of ‘just war,’ early laws of war, the first Geneva Conventions, the Hague peace conferences, and the efforts following World Wars I and II to bring to justice those who violated international law.


He also provides incisive accounts of some of the darkest episodes in recent world history, covering violations of human rights law in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, the Iran-Iraq war, Korea, Tibet, and many other contexts. With valuable insights into some of the most vexing issues of today – including controversial US efforts to bring alleged terrorists to justice at Guantánamo Bay, and the challenges facing the International Criminal Court – this is an essential work for understanding humankind’s long and often troubled history.

Book of the Month: Genocide: A Reader

Genocide: A Reader

By Jens Meierhenrich

148Genocide is a phenomenon that continues to confound scholars, practitioners, and general readers. Notwithstanding the carnage of the twentieth century, our understanding of genocide remains partial. Disciplinary boundaries have inhibited integrative studies and popular, moralizing accounts have hindered comprehension by advancing simple truths in an area where none are to be had.

Genocide: A Reader lays the foundations for an improved understanding of genocide. With the help of 150 essential contributions, Jens Meierhenrich provides a unique introduction to the myriad dimensions of genocide and to the breadth and range of critical thinking that exists concerning it. This innovative anthology offers genre-defining as well as genre-bending selections from diverse disciplines in law, the social sciences, and the humanities as well as from other fields. A wide-ranging introductory chapter on the study and history of genocide accompanies the carefully curated and annotated collection.

Seeds of genocide in the CAR: What we need to know

After concerted efforts by the Economic Community of Central African States, Prime Minister Djotodia, stepped down last week following a two-day summit in Chad. This concluded the shuttle diplomacy by Ambassador Power and concerted efforts by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to raise awareness of what was happening in CAR. His replacement, Mr. Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet is the former speaker of parliament and upon his ascension to office has claimed that violence has largely subsided. Continue reading “Seeds of genocide in the CAR: What we need to know”

Violence in Central Africa: Is the Central African Republic on the Road to Genocide?

Something insidious, but sadly not unexpected, is happening in the Central African Republic (CAR)-over the past twelve months mass killings have been taking place in the CAR, a former French colony in a very rough neighborhood (it borders the Sudan’s to the East, Chad to the North, and DRC to the South). Things came to a head in March when the former president Francois Bozizé was deposed by a group of Muslim militants (Séléka) whom instigated sectarian killings and human rights abuses against the largely Christian populace. This has resulted in the formation of self-defense groups (Anti-balaka meaning ‘sword/machete’ in the Sango language) formed to protect the victims. This conflict is complicated by the fact that there are claims of the Séléka getting support from mercenaries in Sudan and Chad.

Continue reading “Violence in Central Africa: Is the Central African Republic on the Road to Genocide?”