Center for Holocaust, Genocide, & Human Rights Studies

Syrian refugees Zubair Rushk and Amira Elamri will share their stories of life in Syria and a refugee’s long road to building a life in the United States during a public conversation on Tuesday, April 18, at UNC Charlotte Center City.

Even before the current civil war began, Syria was torn apart by regional alliances and differences in culture, history and language. After being imprisoned in his native country for teaching the Kurdish language and history to Kurdish children, Rushk sought asylum in Lebanon. He was selected in 2010 for the U.S. refugee resettlement program and now makes his home in Cary, NC.

Amira Elamri, her husband and their two children escaped the Syrian civil war in 2013. After nine moves within Syria and one to Lebanon to escape violence, they arrived in the U.S. with tourist visas. The couple now have work visas and live in the Boston area, awaiting approval of their Asylum applications. Ms. Elamri teaches in a Muslim preschool.

Doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. The program is open to the public without charge, but registration is requested. Register here. Information on obtaining a complimentary parking pass will be sent shortly before the event to those who are registered.

Dr. Charles Kurzman, sociology professor and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at UNC Chapel Hill, will provide historical context for the conversation. Poet Susan Shaw Sailer, English professor emerita of the English Department at West Virginia University in Morgantown, will read a new poem about Syrian refugees.

The conversation is a part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Anabel Aliaga-Buchenau Witness in Residence Initiative. Thanks to generous donors from the community, the initiative provides scholarships for students’ study-abroad experiences related to human rights and social justice. It also supports the annual Witness in Residence Program at UNC Charlotte, bringing to the campus and the community individuals who have personally witnessed an important world event from within that event.

                                                 Left to right: Zubair Rushk, Amira Elamri, Charles Kurzman



Click here for complete list of our 2016-2017 events




March 7, 1017: Our Center is among the 100 or so organizations that have signed this statement, released today by the Association of Holocaust Organizations:


Holocaust Organizations and Historians Urge Action to Preserve US Government Agency that Monitors Anti-Semitism

We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, an office that tracks and counteracts anti-Semitism abroad. Ira Forman, the most recent Special Envoy in charge of that office, was our voice to a world in the throes of xenophobia and racism. He recently wrote, “Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem; Jew-hatred — like other forms of religious and ethnic prejudice — is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracies.”

We urge the US government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new agency to address this urgent issue domestically. The need becomes clearer by the day as hatred, like a tidal wave, sweeps across the nation. Cemeteries, synagogues, churches and mosques are being desecrated. Jewish Community Centers and schools are targets of bomb threats and shootings. Swastikas and white supremacist threats appear on walls and on social media. Now is the time to increase vigilance, not roll it back.

December 17, 2016: Our Center is among the 100 or so organizations that have signed this statement, released today by the Association of Holocaust Organizations:

Recent months have seen a surge in unabashed racism and hate speech – including blatant antisemitism and attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, as well as other targeted groups.  Journalists have been threatened.  Places of worship, schools and playgrounds have been defaced with Nazi symbols intended to intimidate and arouse fear.  White supremacist groups have become self-congratulatory and emboldened.

As Holocaust scholars, educators and institutions, we are alarmed by these trends.  History teaches us that intolerance, unchecked, leads to persecution and violence.  We denounce racism and the politics of fear that fuels it.  We stand in solidarity with all vulnerable groups. (full text below)

This statement is co-authored by members of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, a network dedicated to the advancement of Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and is affirmed by the following institutions and individuals: full list:

January 27, 2017: "Someone's recounting the tragic story of the MS St. Louis on Twitter: Remembering the murdered, one tweet at a time"

"The St. Louis Manifest account was created by Russell Neiss, an educator and coder, and grandson of two refugees from Europe who survived the Holocaust. He told The Verge that the account came out of a conversation he had with a colleague Thursday night. “The United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial did all the heavy lifting” when it came to the passengers’ identities, he explained. Several years ago, the museum attempted to identify everyone on the ship. With that data, Neiss wrote up a simple Python script that scraped the information off the website and set up a Twitter bot automatically tweet it out. The entire project took him an hour or so to set up."

Full text

Recent books by HGHR Center steering committee members

"Scholar’s Book Analyzes Freedom, Citizenship In Study of Black Militia"

History professor Gregory Mixon’s new book analyzes one state’s process of freedom, citizenship and the incorporation of African Americans within the political and economic structure of the United States after the Civil War.

Show Thyself a Man: Georgia State Troops, Colored, 1865-1905 (University Press of Florida) explores the history of Georgia’s black militia and how both independent militias and state-sponsored militias defined freedom and citizenship for African Americans.

“Black people had a vision for freedom after the Civil War,” Mixon says. “They had a vision of what citizenship should be and that vision conflicted with white definitions of post-Civil War freedom and citizenship.” Attempts to fulfill the African American vision of freedom have often met with resistance.


"To Kill A People: Cox’s Book Considers Genocide in 20th Century"

.... John Cox emphasized that individuals make choices, although these may be under circumstances difficult to imagine. “We also have it within ourselves to ‘do the right thing,’ so to speak,” he says. “Genocidal violence can begin with small acts that go unopposed; similarly, resistance can begin with small acts or gestures, which then have a rippling effect. One thing we should learn from history is the necessity to be vigilant in defending human rights, and to stand up against bigotry and injustice, and to not keep silent, waiting for the storm to pass. It might not.”


Julia Marie Robinson, UNC Charlotte associate professor of Religious Studies, looks at the role black churches in urban areas in Race, Religion and the Pulpit – Rev. Robert L. Bradby and the Making of Urban Detroit (Wayne State University Press).

"During the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West, the local black church was essential in the making and reshaping of urban areas. In Detroit, one church and one minister in particular demonstrate this power of the pulpit."