Professor Hannibal Travis: United Nations’ Reaction Muted to Warning Signs of Genocide in Middle East

Turkey not a Credible Model for “Arab Spring” Countries

ZURICH, May 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Warning signs are present for a genocide of indigenous Christians in the Middle East, stated Professor Hannibal Travis in a speech delivered on Thursday as a part of CSI’s lecture series on the Future of Religious Minorities in Middle East. He furthermore argued that the policies of Turkey and its allies obstruct the advance of universal human rights norms in a region still grappling with the genocide of Turkey’s Christians during World War I.

Travis, Associate Professor of Law at Florida International University, noted a “pattern of reprisals against religious and ethnic groups believed to be friendly with the regime” in the Arab revolutions and civil wars which began in 2011. He cited many instances of anti-minority violence in these countries, including the attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Egypt in April 2013, the ethnic cleansing of black Africans in Libya, and attacks on Christians in Syria.

Travis pointed to serious warning signs for genocide in countries like Egypt and Syria, including civil war, demonization of groups, and institutionalized inequality between religious groups.

Explaining the United Nations’ apparent apathy towards this crisis, Travis claimed that the UN often displays “inaction, double standards and incongruity” in its dealings with human rights issues, since those nations supported by voting blocs based on ethnic or religious proximity at the UN tend to escape scrutiny. He argued that Turkey’s leadership within the largest of these blocs, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has resulted in the “neglect of human rights violations against the indigenous populations of Turkey, Iraq and Syria.”

Mr. Travis also argued that, despite claims that Turkey is a force for stability and can be seen as a “model” for democratic governance and tolerance, Turkey remains economically underdeveloped and deeply hostile towards religious minorities. Travis claimed that Turkey plays a negative role in the region by protecting human rights violators such as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and supporting violent movements in former Ottoman territories like Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria, creating more conflict “as veterans of civil and international wars migrate from country to country.”

Travis concluded that legal reforms in the United Nations system were required to “promote a universal application of human rights norms and genocide prevention.” Travis suggested several possible reforms, including decoupling the International Criminal Court from UN Security Council referrals, introducing greater transparency and participation at the UN, exploring alternatives to regime change as a remedy for human rights violations, and protecting the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples.

Prof. Travis’ presentation, “Preventing Genocide in the Middle East: The Continuing Relevance of the Ottoman Experience and the Problem of Bias within the United Nations,” can be viewed at

Hannibal Travis is an associate professor of law at Florida International University, and the author of the first comprehensive history of physical and cultural genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, entitled Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan.

In response to increasing violence and displacement of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, Christian Solidarity International has issued an Alert for the Prevention of Genocide.