On November 26, the Kurdish Policy Research Center hosted a conversation at the National Press Club with Ismail Beşikçi on the history of the Kurdish Question, from Sykes-Picot to last year’s referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. Beşikçi has been studying and writing about Kurdish politics since the 1960s. His work has been very controversial in his native Turkey, where 30 of his 36 books are currently banned and where, in the previous century, he served 17 years in prison.
Beşikçi made two central arguments: 1) the Kurdish people deserve to have a nation based on objective standards and 2) that can never happen without achieving internal unity. Beşikçi highlighted the fact that there are a number of countries, such as Qatar and Malta, that have populations of under one million. The Kurdish people, on the other hand, are over 50 million. Similarly, the geographic territories of these tiny countries are generally much smaller than that of the Kurds. Therefore, Beşikçi argued, the Kurdish people have at least as much right to govern themselves as the people of Qatar, Malta, and other nations of similar sizes. Beşikçi also emphasized the importance of the principle of self-determination as providing a legal basis for the Kurdish claim.
Though Beşikçi was critical of international organizations, he was clear that the resolution to the Kurdish question can come only from the Kurds themselves. Beşikçi explained that nothing could occur without unity and unification could not be imposed from the outside.
At the same time, he argued passionately for the support of regional and international powers. In Beşikçi’s opinion, the world should care about the Kurdish cause because peace in the Middle East would be impossible to achieve without Kurdish buy-in. Countries like Turkey and Iran, who have not traditionally supported a Kurdish nation, did not have anything to fear, according to Beşikçi, because a unified Kurdish nation would not oppose them.
Beşikçi’s discussion of both interior and exterior considerations demonstrates how many complex factors must align in order to make change, an important challenge to keep in mind as we think about what kind of changes we want to make in the world. What do you think? Comment below, write to us on our Facebook page, or send us an email at email@example.com with your thoughts
This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.
This past Thursday, HasNa hosted the third gathering in our DemoSapiens discussion series, co-hosted with MetaCulture. DemoSapiens comes from the Greek demos, meaning “people” and sapiens, meaning “wise,” because the series is designed to allow us to learn from one another’s wisdom. This third episode really leaned into that intention; there was no presentation and the entirety of the evening was spent in passionate discussion.
We were lucky enough to have participants from a wide range of backgrounds and at significantly different points in their professional careers. The diversity of viewpoints present meant that the conversation was always lively.
The central question of the evening was what does it mean to have freedom and where does it come from. Ultimately, a useful distinction was developed between conceptual freedom and freedom in practice. The US Constitution was discussed as a useful example of a document whose original definition of freedom has been continually reinterpreted over the generations in order to be more inclusive.
Another highly topical subject that generated many different opinions was free speech. The conversation centered on how to determine what kinds of speech should be regulated by the government. How do we decide what kind of speech is sufficiently harmful to deserve banning? Obviously, cultural context is one of the most important factors in this discussion. It was suggested that different groups within a society should try to come through a consensus through dialogue as to what they want the government to regulate. Essentially, freedom of speech must be exercised in order to decide the limits of that very same freedom. However, the problem there is how those sorts of dialogues should be facilitated. There was also some skepticism expressed of how effective dialogue can be in the long run.
The disagreement around the value of dialogue as a way to determine governmental actions was tied to a larger debate over whether democracy is or ought to be developed and run from the top down or from the bottom up. The founding of many democratic nations — such as the US and India, to give two vastly different examples — was led by elites who crafted and imposed their version of a good government on the majority. However, democracy at its core is about rule by the people, for the people. There is a clear unresolved tension there.
The evening closed with a discussion of whether the meaning of freedom changes in different cultural contexts. Although it is of course an oversimplification to divide the world’s countries into two camps, there can be a broad and imperfect distinction made between collectivist and individualistic cultures. In collectivist cultures, freedom may not be valued as highly. Should it be? Who has the right to make that call? This moral puzzle is further complicated by the privilege, economic and otherwise, that makes it possible to even debate questions about freedom. Who gets to talk about these things? Why do they have the space to consider these the most urgent problems?
It was a fascinating conversation that brought up many complicated ethical questions. Thank you to all the participants for their expertise and their passion. If you missed it, you can see the video here. We are so excited to continue exploring more complex issues through DemoSapiens, and we hope to see you there!
This article was contributed by Zeena Mubarak, intern at HasNa, Inc.
The United States Institute for Peace‘s November 19 event on the path to peace in Afghanistan was a fascinating conversation between scholars who are experts on Afghanistan and military actors with the power to affect change on the ground. It was a very interesting practical example of the integrating different areas of expertise in the hopes of building a sustainable peace.
The discussion was centered around five questions that US Central Command wished to ask the panel. This structure gave the event a sense of urgency and deep relevance, because it implied that at least some of the recommendations from the event could be implemented by the military. The questions explored a number of issues, from the roles and interests of other countries involved in the conflict to effect of recent events such as the ceasefire earlier this year.
The focus on other countries’ desires was led by Vikram Singh, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia. His detailed examination of the potentially conflicting interests of the US and regional powers highlighted the importance of considering the perspectives of other actors in peacebuilding, especially as some desires may, on their face, seem to oppose one another.
Another interesting conversation was led by Laurel Miller, former Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the U.S. Department of State, and Senior Foreign Policy Expert at the RAND Corporation. Miller explained that some common peacebuilding terms have significantly different meanings in the context of Afghanistan. She specifically highlights “reintegration” and “reconciliation.” Rather than their standard meanings, in Afghanistan, reintegrations refers to the process of peeling away Taliban fighters in order to disintegrate the group, while reconciliation is used as a synonym for peace process in general. Miller used the example of these two words to make a larger point about the importance of making sure all parties in peace talks are working from a common understanding of the meanings of terms.
Orzala Nemat, Director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, joined the panel through video conference from Afghanistan. Her contributions were particularly engaging because she was able to reference her personal experience from the ground. When she spoke of the ceasefire’s implications, she spoke not only of politics but also of her Eid experiences this past year, when she saw people from different sides of the conflict celebrating the holiday together. It was the first time she’d seen anything like it in her life. These kinds of stories personalized abstract discussions of war and therefore grounded them.
The event was a good learning opportunity for anyone interested in the peacebuilding field. USIP was able to show various different perspectives on tackling the same conundrum, which is always a valuable approach. What do you think? Comment below, write to us on our Facebook page, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.
On October 2, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies hosted a fascinating discussion with Christian evangelist Rob Schenck. Schenck spoke earnestly about conviction and faith and his recent turn away many mainstream evangelical political positions.
Rob Schenck framed his life story around three main conversions. His first conversion was purely religious; as a young boy growing up Jewish in the Midwest, he encountered Methodism through his friendship with a minister’s son. Drawn to what he saw as a more intimate God, he converted and eventually became an ordained minister. Many years later, in 1983, he saw President Reagan addressing the National Assembly of Evangelicals and, stunned to see evangelicals recognized on by a national figure, he underwent his second conversion and became a Republican. This came to define much of his adult life, as he devoted his career to advocating for evangelical causes on a national stage, including time spent influencing politicians on the Hill and in the Supreme Court.
Much of the discussion was taken up with his third, more difficult to define conversion. In 2010, troubled with the politicization of his faith community, Schenck turned to the writing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was jailed and killed because of his anti-Nazi activity. Schenck felt as though there were too many similarities between Bonhoeffer’s description of the co-opting of German churches by Nazi rhetoric and the trends he saw in his own community.
In the Q and A, there was an interesting discussion about whether differences or similarities should be the foundation of interfaith discussions. Schenck emphasized the importance of highlighting shared virtues and shared morality. He claimed that love, in particular, was a goal of all religions. According to Schenck, if we start from the basis of the shared value of love and emphasizing the smaller, practical matters where there can be agreement will lead to more productive discussions.
However, another evangelical leader present in the audience took the opposite approach. Evangelicals, he claimed, do not see different religions as being fundamentally similar. Accordingly, to try to begin an interfaith conversation on such terms would strike most evangelicals as disingenuous. He therefore advocated for identifying and accepting differences between religious traditions right off the bat.
The question of whether highlighting differences or similarities results in a more productive conversation is a highly relevant one for HasNa. As we work on building empathetic communication between highly diverse groups, it is fascinating to consider such divergent points of view as to what actually fosters trust in dialogue. What do you think? Comment below, write to us on our Facebook page, or send us an email at email@example.com with your thoughts.
This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.
On Monday, September 24, HasNa and MetaCulture held the second discussion in our DemoSapiens series. This time, the topic was Nations, Borders, and Immigration.
The event started with a presentation by HasNa president, Rukmini Banerjee. Rukmini provided historical context for today’s immigration debates, beginning with the earliest recorded mention of passports, which was granted to the Biblical prophet, Nehemiah, who immigrated to Judea for work.
Rukmini’s presentation covered a number of significant and timely historical questions, such as the birth of the American concept of illegal immigration, the way immigration laws change over time, and the role of xenophobia and economic anxiety in public perceptions of immigrants. Rukmini also illuminated the complexities of immigration by comparing the system in the US with the one in the UAE. Immigration is a fundamental part of the UAE’s way of life, because most of the population is made up of foreigners who are only in the states to work. Despite their necessity, they are often treated very poorly.
After the presentation, an energetic discussion was led by Ashok Panikkar, Director of Meta-Culture. Participants discussed the cultural, political, and economic benefits and disadvantages of immigration on the host country, as well as the cultural and emotional toll of leaving one’s homeland. The conversation ended with a thoughtful exploration of potential solutions for the number of thorny dilemmas that interactions between people inevitably give rise to.
We would like to sincerely thank all our guests for their participation. With everyone bringing our own unique experiences to the table, it was an excellent opportunity to learn from one another. If you missed the event, you can watch a few videos here. We look forward to seeing you at the next DemoSapiens discussion!
The Olive Tree Initiative is a university-based organization whose mission is to promote conflict analysis and resolution through rigorous academic preparation, experiential education and leadership development. OTI provides students, faculty and community participants with the education, training and experiences needed to better understand, negotiate, and resolve conflicts.
On Friday, August 17, 2018 HasNa hosted 10 students from the University of California, Irvine’s Olive Tree Initiative, along with Dr. Daniel Wehrenfennig, the Director of the program. On their way back to California from their study tour to Turkey and Armenia, the group of students stopped in New York, DC, and Boston, to meet with scholars, practitioners, and nonprofits engaged in peacebuilding, foreign policy, and conflict management in Turkey and Armenia.
Rukmini Banerjee, President of HasNa, gave the students an overview of HasNa’s model and past projects implemented in Turkey and Armenia, such as Crafting Peace (2012), Side by Side: Digital Stories (2013), and Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA: 2013-14). The students posed several questions regarding the challenges faced in the field, any push back received from families on either side of the border, and also the overall feedback on the projects. The students and Dr. Wehrenfennig also presented interesting insights into the challenges faced in their personal reasons for joining the Olive Tree Initiative. Rukmini also talked about HasNa’s experiences working with Turkish and Armenian diaspora in the US.
The conversation ended with an examination of the current political climate and US-Turkish relations, memory and memorialization, and a stronger resolve to continue working at the grassroots level to create positive, micro-level change.
On July 31, 2018, HasNa and Meta-Culture hosted their first event in a series of lectures and discussions on democracy and responsible citizenship under the banner of DemoSapiens. This event, titled Saving Democracy from Ourselves sought to examine the global shift towards more authoritarian and right-wing governments from two perspectives: first, the behavioral or psychological perspective, and second, the economic and political perspective.
Through her presentation, Rukmini Banerjee of HasNa, Inc. highlighted some of the implicit processes – guided by evolution – that create the context for a potential dictator to spring to power. She talked about the roles of carriers and narratives that can be both physical objects such as flags, uniforms, and statues, as well as psychological constructs such as stereotypes, that create, sustain, and propagate meaning. These carriers inform the needs, motivations, and attitudes of people and cultures, and often there is a continuity in our cultures and in leadership styles. Drawing from the works of Professor Fathali Moghaddam, Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, she distinguished between within-systems change and between-systems change, and revealed how the slow pace of between-systems change proves to be a major stumbling block for pro-democracy movements. She concluded her presentation with ten specific characteristics recommended by Professor Moghaddam, that ordinary citizens ought to cultivate in order to be able to support and effectively participate in a democracy.
William Staniland of Meta-Culture highlighted some of the socio-political and economic challenges facing liberal democracy. While the global economy has benefited the elite in developed countries, the working middle classes have been left behind. So the younger generation has not really seen economic growth in tandem with the spread of democracy. William brought a startling statistic to the forefront: today, 1 in 6 US citizens favor a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections as opposed to 1 in 16 in 1995. He also talked about the ease with which information is made accessible through the internet, and how social media taps into the addictive nature of its users and exploits our shortened attention spans. This leads to the dissemination of fake or inaccurate news and information, used by autocrats to deliberately disrupt democratic processes.
The two presentations were followed by a lively discussion facilitated by Ashok Panikkar, Director of Meta-Culture. The discussion touched upon key concepts related to democracy and citizenship, and enabled the audience to reflect on and engage with all the information that was presented to them. Several participants disagreed with the general idea that millennials were less inclined toward democratic governance and also attempted to focus on key issues such as compromise, critical thinking, and the rapid shift toward illiberalism all over the world. This event was entitled ‘Saving Democracy from Ourselves’ because of the simple but powerful idea that we, the general population, comprise a democracy, and that our own attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and power relations support, sustain, or pose a threat to democracy. We hope that this is the beginning of a long series of discussions and dialogue at the community level, ultimately leading to learning and action.
All photographs taken by Brooke Cox of Citizen Demos.
On Thursday, May 11, 2017 HasNa Inc. hosted a panel discussion titled From Liability to Asset: Realizing Turkey’s Potential. This panel discussion sought to explore the ways in which Turkey could play a pivotal role in middle-eastern politics by expanding its political and economic horizons, and also through a smarter and stronger transatlantic engagement. best wireless router for officeOur guest speakers were Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and former member of the Turkish parliament, and Mr. Cenk Sidar, a global risk executive with a vast experience in assisting top financial institutions, multinational corporations, risk management firms, and legal firms operating in high-risk regions. The panel was moderated by Dr. Pelin Eralp Wolak, Senior Program Manager at HasNa Inc.
The political and economic perspectives of the discussion were presented by Dr. Erdemir and Mr. Sidar respectively. Dr. Erdemir started the discussion by highlighting the main challenge for Turkey: how do we make the transition from this obsession with strong rulers to good governance and strong institutions? Law and order is often a result of inclusive and effective institutions, transparency and accountability. The most important lesson that we have learned from the current political situation in Turkey and indeed from many countries of the world, is that building strong institutions takes a lot of time, but destroying existing institutions does not take much effort or resources. Closing with the upcoming meeting between Presidents Erdogan and Trump on May 16, Dr. Erdemir emphasized the need for a principled engagement as opposed to appeasement between USA and Turkey.
Presenting the economic angle, Mr. Sidar started by describing Turkey’s position on the edge of a major economic crisis, with a high, unsustainable private sector debt that has been accruing for the last 5-6 years. If public debt is high, IMF can step in and inject some cash, thereby resolving the crisis temporarily. But the high private sector debt cannot be resolved by injecting cash. Inflation has reached 11% while economic growth is only 2% — a significantly low and dangerous growth rate for an emerging market with high increase in population. Sustainable, long-term growth is required to create economic stability. Historically, an economic crisis has always led to a change in government in Turkey. The younger people of the country voted in line with democratic principles, and 60% of the country’s population is below 35 years of age. According to Mr. Sidar, if Turkey’s economic condition is reversible, that reversal can be gradually accomplished by the youth of the country.
The session ended with a lively Q&A segment where the audience asked interesting questions about inclusivity and proposed action plans.
Please subscribe to HasNa’s Facebook page in order to view the video recording of the entire event.
Below is a short piece from HasNa’s founder and President, Nevzer Stacey:
Today, most places in the world are struggling with integration. The reason is that we have not paid much attention to the meaning of the word.
Integration does not simply mean that we put different things together. It does not mean that it happens naturally either. To integrate is not a passive word, but an active verb. We have to make an effort to achieve the goal. People on both sides of the equation need to work hard in understanding and respecting the other side.
As we all know, no individual is exactly like the other. We may have similarities, and differences. As the world continues to change, we have a tendency to get worried about losing our identity. There lies the problem. Is it really a problem or is it an opportunity for growth?
Let me try to explain what I mean by integration. If we decide to make a dish and we have few vegetables, we are pretty sure what each vegetable tastes like. We have less of an idea what the taste would be like if we mixed them all together. The challenge is to find out what different combinations of vegetables will produce. So, we experiment. Some people will like certain combinations, others will prefer other combinations. What is so interesting is that the way we integrate them will produce different results. Thus there will be more choices for people and fewer conflicts to fight over.
In recent times, our views on ethnicity and culture have been threatened by a heightened philosophy of patriotism that seeks to homogenize our tastes. Under such circumstances, it is even more important for civil society organizations operating at grassroots levels to ensure that multiculturalism is not replaced by a coercive form of assimilation. This is by no means a ground-breaking idea: that a multi-ethnic society could attain cohesion based on national solidarity while also maintaining distinct cultural histories was proposed all the way back in the early 1900s.
For this reason, organizations such as HasNa Inc. aim to work with ethnically divided communities to gradually build peace and mutual understanding between them. Integration lies at the core of HasNa’s mission: we help communities understand the importance of unity in diversity. Through our bi-communal capacity-building programs, we also demonstrate how peace can be profitable. Food metaphors aside, there is an increasing need to focus our attention on new dialogue on the subject of integration and the different ways in which we can attain a truly inclusive national identity.
Our staff had the pleasure of attending the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s event “Arab Fractures: Reimagining the Regional Order?” this past Wednesday, and panelists discussed the Carnegie Endowment’s recently published report of the same name. Below is a short summary of each panelist’s remarks. Video of the event can be watched here
Bassma Kodmani, co-founder and Director of the Arab Reform Initiative and member of the Syrian Opposition
Ms. Kodmani focused on her experience in Syria and said she views authoritarianism as the underlying cause for every problem in Syria. The current government has manipulated sectarian differences, and she stressed the need for a solution that reunifies the country. She believes no solution is possible as long as radical sectarian militias are prevalent, and said the focus for the future must be on negotiating a decentralized government. She feels a successful government would feature strong center state with devolved power to local and regional authorities, and pointed to the role of local governments in providing for its citizens since 2011 as a building block for the future.
Amr Hamzawy, Senior Fellow at CEIP and former MP in Egypt
Mr. Hamzawy focused his remarks on Egyptians’ deep distrust of their government. He said decades of human rights abuses have led to a lack of credibility for the government, and said while Egyptians might not identify be able a specific actor responsible for these abuses, they always believe it was the state. He continued to say the government’s crackdown on dissent is worse now than it was prior to the 2011 protests and that the government is waging war against all autonomous voices. He believes the substitution of populism for democracy has distracted and disrupted Egypt’s growth. Despite this, he remained positive that the social fabric is still strong and resistant, and pointed to the revival of labor unions and trade associations as bright spots.
Mehrezia Labidi, current member of the Tunisian Parliament and executive member of the Muslim Democrat Ennahdha Party
Ms. Labidi began by saying Tunisia is giving birth to a new model of government by reforming and that the old model of citizen mistrust of authoritarian governments is dead. Tunisia has focused on fighting corruption and implementing accountable institutions. She said Tunisia has built a spirit of compromise because the social contract was given adequate time to be discussed, which allowed Tunisians to feel it belongs to them. She stressed the importance of elections in ensuring a participatory feeling among citizens, and she finished saying Tunisians must continue working together to construct a common, shared image of Tunisia.
George Abed, distinguished scholar in residence at the International Institute of Finance
Mr. Abed said the collapse of the rentier model for oil-exporting Arab countries means citizens will begin to finance the government through taxes and other means, and he said this will consequentially lead to them asking questions about transparency and accountability of government.
Hamza Halawa, independent political analyst and lawyer in Egypt
Approximately 65% of the Arab world is under 30 years old, and Ms. Halawa said the attempt to simplify and label youth as a monolithic group has failed. Experts have underestimated how deep the revolutionary demands have gone, and she said young people have no trust change will come from the top and civil society has grown for this reason.
On January 9, Busboys and Poets (Takoma) hosted a conversation between the Saudi filmmaker Hamzah Jamjoom and John Hanshaw, Founder of the Washington Film Institute. Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Hamzah Jamjoom is a writer, director, and actor currently based in Chicago. From a young age, Hamzah exposed himself to the art of storytelling and decided to study computer graphics animation. His first big break was the successful IMAX feature film titled Arabia 3D, where he was part of both the cast and the crew. As he began to acquire some recognition for his work through short films and music videos, he decided to use his position as a filmmaker and storyteller from the Arabic world, to subvert existing narratives surrounding the Middle East and the Islamic world and explore the various conflicts faced by the artist’s “ego”.
The main topic of last evening’s conversation was the artist’s ego, and the tendency of the artist to always want to present the best version of himself. Jamjoom explores the human ego through his more recent and upcoming artistic endeavors, particularly a sci-fi series on religion and the ego titled ‘Balance’ that he recently completed. He tackled a variety on questions from the audience towards the end of the conversation. These questions ranged from his own religious views to his experience working with Maher Zain, one of the most popular contemporary musicians of the Islamic world, who has previously worked with American pop artists such as Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. At a time when most of society is deeply polarized along religious and political lines, artists such as Hamzah Jamjoom are making a huge contribution towards achieving some sort of understanding and stability by portraying various religious and cultural backgrounds through alternative discourses that challenge negative stereotypes.
In order to cultivate empathy and cross-cultural understanding, it is of vital importance to continue engaging in dialogue with people holding religious and political views that are very different from our own.
Below is a message from HasNa’s President, Nevzer Stacey, on the necessity of collaboration:
In order for us to respect the voices of people in a society, we cannot only hear them; we must listen to them. We hear a lot of things, some intentionally, some unintentionally. But when we listen it signifies that we are actively engaged. We make a decision to listen and learn. Whether we agree or disagree is immaterial. What is important is that we are engaged in the topic being discussed. Although we may all be listening to the same message, we may hear different things. One person never has all the answers and even the people we disagree with have thoughts and ideas that may help us to understand better.
It is always to one’s advantage to find commonalities that we can share with others. We may be spending a lot of time to convince our opponents that we have the right answer. What we should be doing instead is searching for common elements.
— Nevzer Stacey, President of HasNa Inc.
After the July 15th failed coup attempt that killed approximately 300 people and injured over 2,200, the Turkish government has implemented a series of crackdowns on civil society organizations resulting in the suspension of approximately 1,495 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ministry of Interior justifies their actions under Article 11 of the State of Emergency Law 2935, which allows the state to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of violence. President Erdogan’s government claims that these organizations have ties to the Gulen Movement, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Islamic State (IS). While the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurulmus maintained that the NGOs are suspended, not shut down, the extent of this suspension remains undetermined. Suspended NGOs include the Progressive Lawyers Association, the Association of Lawyers for Freedom, the Association for Support of Women Candidates, Istanbul LGBTI, and Flying Broom. Media outlets have also been shut down, including the Cihan news agency, the pro-Kurdish IMC TV, the opposition newspaper Taraf, as well as the Zaman newspaper and its English language sister publication.
The state of emergency has also led to mass detentions and the loss of 50,000 state jobs, most of which are from the education sector. With the government openly denying civil society organizations their constitutional rights of assembly, demonstration, and organization, what is the future for civil society organization in the country? Tulay Cetingulec, author of al-monitor.com article “State of Emergency Shuts Down Turkish NGOs,” mentions that the majority of Turks are not active in any NGO due to the country’s history of military coups, with the first targets of dismantlement being civil society organizations and labor unions. Senal Sarihan of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) states, “Sadly, in Turkey, associations have become places grouping people born in the same cities or who come together to build mosques. This is not a sign of democracy. Women’s associations and teachers’ associations are rapidly disappearing.”
The state of emergency was extended for another three months as of 19 October 2016, confirming fears that the crackdown and the restrictions that followed would soon become permanent. Though the future seems bleak, many organizations have openly stated their opposition to this restrictive period, namely the Turkish Bar Associations and more than 50 women’s NGOs, including HasNa partner Mus Kadin Catisi. The women’s organizations have released a joint declaration stating that their organizations may be shut down, but they will still spread their opposition sentiment throughout the country. The consequences of the extended state of emergency may further dissuade Turkish citizens to be active participants in civil society organizations.
Written by Ashley Brekke and Sydney Brown
Gonzalo-Bilbao, Noemi. (November 22, 2016). “Turkey: HRF Condemns Shutdown of 370 Independent Civil Society Groups.” Human Rights Foundation. Accessed November 30, 2016. Retrieved from https://hrf.org/news/turkey-hrf-condemns-shutdown-of-370-independent-civil-society-groups-00595.
Cetingulec, Tulay. Translated by Timur Goksel. (November 21, 2016). “State of emergency shuts down Turkey’s NGOs.” Al-Monitor. Accessed November 30, 2016. Retrieved from
HasNa, Inc. is honored to be represented in this month’s edition of Buralarda, Arkadaşlar’s newsletter. Our founder, Nevzer Stacey, attended a reunion last month where she spoke about one of our upcoming programs, the Turkish-Armenian Youth Dialogue (TAYD). We value our close relationship with Arkadaşlar, a network of former Peace Corps volunteers in Turkey, and look forward to working together in the future.
On Friday, September 30th, Garo Paylan will be participating in a community town hall discussion titled “Recent Developments in Turkey and the Armenian Community”. Mr. Paylan is a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and is a deputy of the Turkish Parliament representing the third district in Istanbul. The discussion will be held at Soorp Khatch Armenian Church- Arabian Hall
(4906 Flint Drive, Bethesda, MD 20816) and will begin at 7:30 PM. The event is being presented by the
Armenian Relief Society “Satenig” Chapter.
Prior to his election, Mr. Paylan served on the central committee of HDP and in the management of Armenian schools in Istanbul. He has long promoted bilingual education and minority rights in Turkey, and has been actively engaged in raising awareness on discrimination toward minorities, the rights of the Armenian and Kurdish communities in Turkey, Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, and the Hrant Dink murder case. Mr. Paylan’s family hails from Malatya. He has served in the Turkish Parliament since 2015.
(This blog post is contributed by Harper Clark, a summer ’16 undergraduate intern with HasNa Inc. All views and opinions reflected in this article strictly belong to the author.)
With a number of complex social and economic issues abound, there seems to be no immediate solution for Turkey’s entrance into the EU, especially after Brexit. However, negotiations are still ongoing, which means progress can still be made. The EU wants to see Turkey tighten up its security and immigration laws in order to protect itself from terrorism, while Turkey wants to deal with these issues independently. Brexit means a huge economic loss for both England and Europe at large, but there is a possibility that Turkey might be exactly what the EU needs to bolster economic growth and prosperity. Ultimately, what it comes down to is bilateral cooperation and understanding between the Turkish and the rest of Europe, addressing concerns on both sides of the aisle.
What does all this mean for the average Turk living in such a tumultuous time in Turkey’s history? Without European visas this means that young Turks who are looking for a job cannot go to other European countries to seek work. This is quite limiting to the youth who are looking for meaningful careers and want to branch off from agriculture, textile manufacturing, and tourism, three staples of the Turkish economy. We could see rising unemployment and a greater disparity of wealth with socio-economic tensions. In Turkey, as in many other countries, the rich seem to be getting richer, and the poor seem to sliding deeper down the hole of poverty. Of course with this migration comes a lot of racism, xenophobia and just hatred in general for those that are different from them both ethnically and in terms of religion. What Turkish youth must do in order to stabilize their country for the coming decades is develop understanding between the new refugees, since an end to the war in Syria does not seem to be coming anytime soon. They must cultivate cultural understanding so that Syrians can integrate into Turkish culture effortlessly until it is safe to go back to their home. Turkish youth have more opportunities than ever to strengthen their economy and really make Turkey a model for economic resilience and strength.
Personally, I recommend opening up dialogue about the issues at hand and not keeping anything off the table. The problem seems to be that there are too many non-negotiable subjects to Erdogan; such as the way they handle security and anti-terrorism policies, which stifles progress. On the EU’s side there are definitely a lot of standards that they will have to hold Turkey too, some of which they have to be more flexible about like their economic and climate change policies. What seems to be the biggest problem in the way of Turkey’s accession into the EU is their long list of human rights abuses. The Copenhagen criteria were created to keep the European countries up to these high standards and that is exactly where Turkey falls disappointingly short. Turkey must rectify this problem immediately, not just for its accession into the EU but because it puts the people of Turkey in a negative light. As a country that wants to prosper as a member of the EU it is essential that the Turkish government allow the people to exercise their right to freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. These have all been problems in the past that simply cannot be ignored anymore. Once the Turkish government takes a step forward in their human rights record they will also take a step forward in their path of accession into the EU.
From an American youth’s perspective I sympathize with the plight of the Turkish youth. It is a very chaotic time to be a Turkish millennial and I fear that under Erdogan’s regime their voices will not be heard, which could have costly effects. I do live in hope that there are serious governmental reforms on the way, which will lead to more opportunities and possibilities in Turkey. We are on the brink of change in a country that has yet to prove its unwavering stability so I anticipate a major transformation in the way that Turkey operates between both Europe and the Middle East.
On June 15th 2016, HasNa hosted two guest speakers, Omer Taspinar and Gonul Tol at George Washington University’s Marvin Center. Dr. Taspinar is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at the National War College. Dr. Tol is the founder and director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. Both of them addressed the complex issues that have arisen due to the Kurdish fight for independence in the Middle East and Turkey’s response. Overall, we had a good turn out of about 40 to 50 people at the Marvin Center, all actively engaged with the discussion about Turkey and the Kurds.
The Kurds would like to ideally branch off and make their own space, which they are trying to carve out in Syria. This is difficult when they are fighting against the Assad regime, ISIS, and the Turkish government. Dr. Tol pointed out that the Kurds need the Turks because their only connection to Europe and the Western world is through Turkey. The Kurds do receive help from the United States though, especially with their fight against ISIS, which is expanding northward past Raqqah and Markadeh into Kurdish territory. The problem is that the U.S. is also allies with Turkey so the U.S.-Kurdish relationship could potentially put the U.S.-Turkish relationship in jeopardy. The PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) were also originally backed by the Soviet Union so the West faces a conflict of interest whenever they back the PKK in order to fight ISIS. Our speakers reminded us that the PKK is fighting against ISIS first and fighting for Kurdish independence second.
There were a few questions from our attendees, most of which were wondering what was at the heart of the Kurdish and Turkish feud. One person asked why Kurdish integration has been so difficult, whereas multi-cultural integration in America has gone more smoothly. Dr. Tol and Taspinar both remarked that this ethnocentric conflict has been going on for hundreds of years and that the United States is relatively young. Turkey has not had the same history of inclusion that the U.S. has had and religious and ethnic differences can spark massive controversy in Turkey. Turkey must take steps to become much more culturally understanding and inclusive if they want to finally end the hostility around them in the Middle East.
This is just the first of an exciting series of events that HasNa is hosting over the coming months. We will have various guest speakers with diverse backgrounds discussing the importance of international conflict negotiation and the steps that we can take towards building peace and a better tomorrow. If you would like to be updated on our monthly events you can follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hasnaDC/
Prominent Turkish-Jewish sculpture artist Nadia Arditti will be exhibiting her outstanding works in Washington, DC next month at the Gallery NK. On Saturday, April 2nd from 6-9 PM, Gallery NK will be display Arditti’s renowned sculptures. Pieces will be available for purchase, and she will be donating a portion of the sales to helps the victims of the 2014 mining disaster in Soma, Turkey. Additionally, there will be a raffle at the event, including a prize of a week vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Born in Istanbul in 1948, Arditti learned sculpture at Irfan Korkmazlar′s workshop and is known for using nontraditional materials, such as stones from dry riverbeds, drift wood from beaches and sea shells from the south coast of Turkey, in her sculptures. She has held many solo exhibitions in Turkey, and her works can be seen in many private collections in Turkey, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Spain and the U.K. She currently continues her work in Turkey.
Last week the Financial Times published a fantastic article about recent progress made in the reunification of Cyprus. The author of the article, Tony Barber, speaks optimistically about the discussions between Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot president of Cyprus, and Mustafa Akinci, leader of the Turkish Cypriots. While Mr. Barber is absolutely correct in his hope for unification of this ethnically divided island, we cannot forget the crucial work done by NGOs in Cyprus that has enabled progress. For nearly 20 years, HasNa has worked tirelessly in Cyprus to unify the divided population. Programs like the Cyprus Friendship Program, which pairs Turkish and Greek Cypriot teens to form friendships, have been critical in breaking the cycle of fear and mistrust between the two groups. The work of NGOs has aided the formal reunification efforts, and the progress made by government officials must not be viewed separately from the progress of NGOs. Rather, HasNa believes the two must be viewed together as an intertwined initiative to bring peace. Together, Cyprus will continue moving forward and a unified, prosperous island can be achieved.
Please consider supporting HasNa and its efforts in Cyprus—donating online is quick and easy at hasna.org/donate
Below is the text of the Financial Times Article titled “Crossing the Divide”.
On the Greek Cypriot side of the barbed-wire fences, walls and watchtowers that make Nicosia the world’s only divided capital stands a museum dedicated to the vision of a city without barricades and a Cyprus reunited in ethnic harmony.
“Here we encourage Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to understand their common cultural heritage,” says Rita Severis, co-founder of the Centre of Visual Arts and Research, which opened in September 2014. “We think of ourselves as a forum for reconciliation and coexistence.”
Such ideals have often fallen on stony ground in Cyprus, the east Mediterranean island which is famous as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, and no less renowned as the location of one of the world’s most intractable diplomatic disputes. Now, however, after more than half a century in which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have lived in almost complete separation while nursing bitter historical grievances, a different spirit is in the air.
Over the past eight months, this iciest of frozen conflicts has thawed to the point that some politicians and diplomats close to the negotiations think that 2016 may be the breakthrough year for Cyprus. It is not only EU, US and UN officials who express cautious enthusiasm about the latest attempts to settle the dispute, but local political leaders too.
“This is the most serious effort so far, bearing in mind the progress achieved,” says Ioannis Kasoulides, foreign minister of the Greek Cypriot-controlled, internationally recognised government of Cyprus. “A lot of people ask me, ‘How many months do you need?’ My reply is that there are still certain thorny issues. If they are resolved, we are very close. If not, we are not so close.”
There are no formal deadlines in the talks, conducted between Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot president of Cyprus, and Mustafa Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern area. But both men want to sustain the momentum built up since they met last May, just two weeks after Mr Akinci was elected. Parliamentary polls are scheduled for May 22 in the Greek Cypriot south, and a no-holds-barred election campaign risks souring the atmosphere if the talks are not completed ahead of that vote. The two leaders, who have already met 20 times, would therefore like to wrap up the negotiations by the end of March.
They have made the most progress on how to share power in a future decentralised Cypriot state, on the nature of its legislative and judicial institutions and on the political equality of the two communities — a particularly sensitive issue in the north where Turkish Cypriots fear being overwhelmed.
A deal would represent a moment of hope in a region beset with ethnic violence, political conflict, religious extremism and social distress in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Apart from demonstrating that political courage and painstaking diplomacy can bear fruit in apparently unpromising circumstances, it might send a signal, from an island shared between Christianity and Islam since the 16th century, that no conflict need be permanent .
“In the event of a solution, Cyprus would be a model for coexistence between Muslims and Christians,” says Mr Anastasiades.
Among the chief reasons for optimism is that he and Mr Akinci — who built credibility in both communities during a 14-year spell as mayor of the northern sector of Nicosia — are both committed to a deal and have forged a seemingly warm relationship. They were born within 15 months of each other in the 1940s in Limassol, a southern city where, Mr Anastasiades says, “people are open-hearted, open-minded and honest”.
In May they walked together across the UN buffer zone that divides Nicosia’s Old Town. In December they delivered new year’s greetings in a joint television appearance, each leader speaking in Greek and Turkish.
Ever since Cyprus won independence from Britain in 1960, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political movements, religious authorities, education systems and media have fostered mistrust via mutually exclusive ethnic nationalism.
There are other, more subtle psychological barriers. For many on both sides of the border, the status quo of a divided but generally peaceful island is preferable to a leap into the unknown that might upset ingrained habits and concepts of national identity. Opinion polls reinforce this point, showing that neither community regards a bicommunal, bizonal federal state — the proposed formula for a settlement since 1977 — as its first preference for a deal. To appreciate why the existing “non-violent non-solution” may resist attempts at a more ambitious peace, it is essential to recall how violent the conflict was.
An outburst of violence in 1963-64 caused Turkish Cypriots to withdraw from the young state’s institutions and to retreat into their own enclaves for safety. Then, in July 1974, came a coup d’état in Nicosia inspired by Greece’s ruling military junta and aimed at the unification of Cyprus with Greece. This prompted Turkey to invade the island, an action followed by the flight and dispersal of entire communities and the de facto establishment of a Turkish Cypriot northern zone, including about 37 per cent of Cyprus’s territory, with the rest divided between a Greek Cypriot south and two British military bases.
Yet the risk of war or communal violence on the island is very low — the last outbreak was two decades ago. Border crossings between the two zones were opened in 2003. The UN has maintained a peacekeeping presence since 1964. Younger generations of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are more interested in their job prospects and whether to emigrate to countries such as the UK, than in reunification.
The knowledge that violence is unlikely in a divided Cyprus explains why, for the most part, peace talks since the 1970s have been an elaborate ritual in which each side engages largely to parry accusations of not wanting a deal.
Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, said in 1999 that as a result “the Cyprus problem has become overlain with legalistic abstractions and artificial labels which are more and more difficult to disentangle and which appear increasingly removed from the actual needs of both communities”.
Mr Annan gave his name to what was, until now, the most serious attempt at brokering peace — the Annan Plan, subjected in 2004 to an all-island referendum. Turkish Cypriots backed it by 65 to 35 per cent. Greek Cypriots rejected it by an even greater majority, not least because their then president and the head of the influential Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus advocated a No vote, and because the EU had promised to let the Greek Cypriots join the bloc even if they rejected the Annan Plan.
This time it is different. Mr Anastasiades is actively working for a solution, the Orthodox Church appears favourable to a deal and, after the collapse of their financial system in 2013 during the eurozone crisis, many Greek Cypriots are open to the economic case for reunification. Harris Georgiades, Cyprus’s finance minster, says: “Greek Cypriots stand to benefit from the ability to operate across the whole island, and because of access to the hugely important Turkish market, which is closed now but is right next door to us.”
An independent 2014 study, called “The Cyprus Peace Dividend”, estimated that after a deal all-island gross domestic product would rise to about €45bn by 2035 from €20bn in 2012.
The discovery in 2011 of hydrocarbon reserves in waters south of Cyprus is more of a double-edged sword. Occasional troubles have flared between Turkey and the Greek Cypriots over the latter’s hostility to sharing the gas bonanza with Turkish Cypriots until the island is reunited. Yet now that larger deposits have been found in Egyptian and Israeli areas of the Mediterranean, it may make sense to exploit all reserves under a regional umbrella, calming tensions between Cyprus and Turkey.
The most unpredictable factor in the Cyprus equation is the attitude of Turkey, and in particular Recep Tayyip Erdogan, its president. In 2004 Mr Erdogan, then prime minister, supported the Annan Plan, largely to persuade European governments to open formal talks on Turkey’s bid to join the EU. But times have moved on, and both EU leaders and Mr Erdogan regard Turkish membership as a remote prospect, though each side has an interest in reinvigorating the accession talks.
Erdogan’s casting vote
The most pressing question is whether Mr Erdogan, battling foreign and security policy challenges from Iraq and Syria to Russia, will deem it in Turkey’s interests to secure peace on one flank by agreeing to a Cyprus deal. It would certainly earn him credit with the US and EU. By reducing and eventually eliminating subsidies for the self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot state it would also ease pressure on Turkey’s budget and free up troops for use elsewhere.
Broadly speaking, Mr Erdogan has adopted a hands-off approach to the talks, but he has said nothing about withdrawing all Turkey’s soldiers from northern Cyprus — a step that, in Greek Cypriot eyes, is a non-negotiable element of any deal. Moreover, some friction is evident between Mr Akinci and Mr Erdogan. Mr Akinci protested last year that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots should have “a relationship like brother and sister, not like a motherland and her child”. It is a reminder that the final word on a deal may rest more with Turkey than with the Turkish Cypriots.
Against the grand sweep of Cyprus’s history, this should come as no surprise. At various moments, including the Ottoman conquest in 1571, the British takeover in 1878 and the linkage of independence in 1960 to Greece, Turkey and the UK as guarantor powers, it has been outsiders who have determined its fate.
Now reunification requires Turkey’s support and the consent of Cyprus’s two communities. The omens appear better than ever. But as David Hannay, a British diplomat who knew the island inside out, once observed, no one ever lost money betting against a Cyprus settlement.
Dialogue is the Answer
Is it possible to talk to people when they threaten you physically?
Is it possible to listen to people whose belief system drastically differs from yours?
Is it possible to be unbiased when you believe that they don’t respect your ideas?
Answering the above questions is not easy, but we certainly can try; especially because it is the only way to understand the root causes of conflict. We may not agree with their explanations, but it is always better to hear their reasons for acting the way they do rather than us making up their reasons.
Let me give you an example of what may surface in a dialogue that may not have been understood otherwise.
Two families live side by side in a small town in the US. They both have two children, and the children both go to the public school in the neighborhood. Members of one family always leave their shoes outside when they enter their house and the other family does not. Without a dialogue, one family may think that the reason for leaving one’s shoes outside is to prevent dirt or dust from getting into the house. Another explanation may be that the family is very poor and doesn’t want to use their shoes unnecessarily inside so they would last longer. Yet, another explanation may be that the family is very rich, and they want everyone to see how expensive their shoes are.
This is just one of many examples of where engaging in a dialogue can foster understanding. When there is a dialogue, the parties can understand their cultural differences and they become more understanding about others.
A major challenge in peacebuilding is its case for profitability. Unlike conflict, there is a resounding silence when justifying the economic benefits of peace. “The dominance of the securitized approaches may be attributed to much more consistent and powerful lobbying, by political and commercial interests in the defense sector. In contrast, the peacebuilding field has no strong and consistent governmental or private sector lobby in its support.” The economic dominance by defense sectors repeatedly overshadows peace at the table of policymakers. Peace is viewed as passive in its maintenance and its economic implications. This misconception fails to recognize the activity of peacebuilders who constantly practice conflict prevention and mediation to eliminate roots of conflict.
This ongoing activity, like most societal development, seeks to create behavioral change. However, project-based interventions fall short of the sustained efforts needed to foster change. Rather than the short-term provision of goods or services, peacebuilding efforts must remain continuous in stimulating dialogue and relationships.
The practice of HasNa Inc, a DC-based NGO focusing on conflict prevention, mitigation and resolution in Turkey, is an example of organic peacebuilding at work. HasNa facilitates communication between groups through sector-specific exchange programs that train participants in a particular skillset. This creation of a safe space during the exchange allows for the groups to interact and inadvertently disprove negative assumptions about each other. The continuous development of skills after the program’s end bridges groups together and allows dialogue to cultivate organic acceptance into social identities.
In order to help peace gain the traction it needs as a policy issue, HasNa and other peacebuilding actors must advocate for the sector-wide adoption of this ongoing organic practice. Equating peacebuilding to profitability begins with making the case for its sustained activity and how the cultivation of dialogue and relationships has direct economic implications, be it through the generation of income through these activities, the formation and fortification of new trade partners, or other avenues that prove to be successful in practice and lucrative in nature.
Richard Davis is HasNa’s graduate intern from George Washington University. As a second-year student in his final semester, he is currently studying International Education, specifically gender equality and community engagement, while also earning a Nonprofit Management certificate.
Interested in a scholarship for a Master's degree in Business Administration at BAU International University in Washington, DC?
BAU International University (BAUI) is offering scholarships to three students referred by HasNa. If you are finishing your undergraduate studies or have recently graduated from college, you might be eligible to apply for a scholarship at BAU International University in Washington, D.C. best gaming laptop under 600HasNa can recommend three students per academic year for BAUI’s EMBA program, which has concentrations in Entrepreneurship, Global Affairs, and International Law and Economics. All you need to do is contact HasNa, and we will tell you the requirements for receiving a recommendation letter from HasNa.
You may contact us via phone or email.
On May 21, 2015, HasNa screened Hüseyin Karabey’s 2014 Turkish film, “Come to My Voice,” at the Avalon Theater in Washington, DC. It is a simple enough premise, but powerful in its ability to bring to light the realities of a typical Kurdish village’s unfortunate interactions with police through a storyline that seems at once natural and mythical. The stories within stories, local music, and tranquil mountainous landscapes are woven into the sad realities facing the villagers. Many elements struck me and will continue to linger in my mind, from the grandmother who, through her actions, teaches her granddaughter strength, courage, discretion, and kindness, to the respect and compassion with which the men and women of the village treat each other. In sharp contrast is the way in which the protagonists are barely treated as citizens within their own homeland, subjected to checkpoints and humiliation. Beyond the typical suspicion and threatening aggression in such scenarios, the reality of cultural oppression is also manifested when the officers make condescending remarks about the villagers’ Kurdish dialect, insisting that they speak in Turkish.
Karabey – both the director and writer – subtly adds complexity to characters in an absurd situation. The villagers in poverty, accused of harboring weapons, are forced to find guns they had never before sought in order to free some of their men from jail. As in any case of human interaction during any given conflict, across all time and space, there will always be a variety of individual behaviors. Of the dominant group asserting its power, some will play along and simply follow orders, others will abuse the system and use it for personal gain, and still others will follow their conscience and show compassion toward the oppressed. Because we see examples of all three behaviors, the film manages to show the humanity in soldiers who find themselves pressured to participate in oppression through a depiction of the system as the root problem, not any one group.
Through personalizing and storytelling, films and media have the power to both raise awareness and change perspectives. The Harmony Institute, a research center that studies the impact of media on individuals and society, acknowledges that impact could take many forms and is often difficult to measure. Nevertheless, the Institute’s studies have shown that character attachment creates a strong emotional experience, and that can make a story an effective means to contributing to social change.
Jonathan Gottschall, Ph.D., explores a unique theoretical perspective of the purpose and impact of storytelling: being able to relate to fictional characters can influence a given attitude more than typical factors such as one’s background and beliefs1,2. This is due to forming judgments about the characters in the same way as we would real people, which then ends up impacting generalizations on those groups or issues. Hence, in the case of Karabey’s film, anyone can relate to the bond between the grandmother and granddaughter and their determination to bring back their missing family member. Gottschall argues that the proliferation of American TV shows and films with likeable characters seems to be a large factor in drastic shifts in American public opinion regarding various groups. Gottschall even believes that fictional characters may effect social change as strongly as direct political action, and certainly more so than nonfiction, when people keep their critical guards up against something clearly meant to persuade them.
As for the film, one turn of events, in particular, really moved me. When the granddaughter decides to take matters into her own hands in order to save another man in the family from danger, a powerful message of love and sacrifice arises. The message is all the more potent and tangible through the tacit understanding between the granddaughter and grandmother that they must take this risk. I can imagine that, whether one has heard nothing of Kurdish people, or only negative depictions, this part of the film would be moving and memorable.
In this ever more interconnected, globalized world, the power of storytelling can help us make sense of news, empathize with people from other cultures, and put a human face on issues to which we would otherwise have trouble relating. It can also make us re-evaluate issues that are familiar to us. Along the same lines, HasNa, through coordinating projects between conflicting communities in Turkey, Cyprus, and Armenia, puts a human face on neglected and misunderstood regions. HasNa’s focus on relatable human needs and desires – from agriculture and business to youth and female empowerment – is what leads to inspired members, progress, and peacebuilding. The impact of individual stories through collaboration is as noteworthy as the impact of the film’s stories, as evidenced by its People’s Choice Award at the Istanbul International Film Festival. There is hope that people everywhere are open to re-shaping their long-held views of socially and economically excluded populations.
HasNa is open to future screenings of this film. Please contact us if you would like to get involved in organizing an event.
————————— Gottschall, J. (2012) The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Gottschall, J. (2012, Jun 20). The Power of Fake Gay (and Black) Friends [Web log post]. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog
This blog post was contributed by Michelle “Zephyr” Williams, who is currently an intern at HasNa Inc.
Does peace-building happen only between nations or cultures, or is the concept more all-encompassing than that? Can peace-building happen between genders?
Last week Ozgecan Aslan, a Turkish student, was murdered for resisting rape while taking public transportation. This devastating story is not unique to Turkey. It is reminiscent of the 2012 brutal rape and murder of Jyoti in New Delhi, or the Isla Vista killings in California that sparked the #yesallwomen conversation. Now, in Turkey, protesters are calling for their leaders to do more to protect women from gender-based violence (GBV). The Financial Times quoted Deniz Bayram, a lawyer who works with the feminist organization, Mor Cati, as saying, “Every woman thinks that it could have been her in the minibus instead of Ozgecan.” And this certainly rings true for many of us.
Reading about Ozgecan reminded me of a scary encounter I had while taking public transportation in Istanbul. A man followed me incessantly as I disembarked from the tram, until I ran into a pharmacy and asked for the employee to call the police. Sharing this story at work, I discovered that others had similar stories of being targeted by men in transit systems—from DC’s Metro to Nairobi’s busses. I could have been Ozgecan. You could have been Ozgecan. Violence against women permeates not only Turkish culture, but global culture, and it is going to take both genders working together to stop it.
As an intern at HasNa, a non-profit that builds peace through development activities in Turkey, Armenia and Cyprus, I’ve learned about the laws that are in place to protect women in Turkey. Like many nation’s laws and even global compacts, these attempts don’t always translate into action. The past decade has seen a dramatic rise in the cases of violence against women. In fact, a 2009 Human Rights Watch study that found that 42% of Turkish woman are subject to domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, and only 8% seek legal help against it. While communities with a population larger than 50,000 are required by law to have a women’s shelter, NGOs lack the resources to serve victims of GBV.
For this reason, HasNa initiated Project SHINE (Self Help through New Exchanges) to empower NGOs working to end GBV and enhance their capacity to serve Turkey’s women. What is more interesting is that the participants of Project SHINE are both male and female leaders. Engaging men in the fight against GBV is extremely important. Increasingly, international organizations are calling for men to step up and speak out: HeforShe, Men Can Stop Rape, and The White Ribbon Campaign, to name a few. If we want to build peace between the genders, we cannot only engage a single gender in the dialogue!
The tragic death of Ozgecan has reminded us of how important this project is for the region and the world. Women in Turkey need our solidarity, and we hope that you will partner with us through supporting Project SHINE to fight GBV in Turkey and help ensure the rights of women. You can find out more information on this project and our other work in the region on our website. You can also support Project SHINE directly through our Trevolta campaign. Together, we can stop violence against women.
This blog post was contributed by Nichole Saad, who is currently an intern at HasNa Inc.
HasNa’s 2014 Eco-Journalism Workshop – Highlighting the bi-communal importance of eco-awareness in journalism
As the third follow-up initiative held by HasNa alumni from the Collaborative Solutions program, an eco-journalism workshop took place for Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot undergraduate journalism students in Cyprus this November.
Students learned of the importance of collaboration between the two communities, highlighting a communal duty to protect the environment as well as protect what unites both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The students were divided into three groups, each directed by a professional eco-journalist and went on field excursions to study three areas of great importance to Cyprus, including Paralimni Lake, Achnas, and Lake Orklini.
Following the excursions, students prepared press releases about the program. See the following link to an article written by one of the students about the program. There are language links at the top of the article to select your language choice. The article is available in English, Greek, and Turkish.
Water is essential for human life and the depletion of clean water resources is a serious global threat. According to the International Water Management Institute, one third of the global population does not have access to clean drinking water and another 1.5 billion people live in areas experiencing water scarcity. Some scientists argue that within two decades more than half of the world population will face water-based vulnerability. To avoid a global water crisis, we all need to act immediately and find ways to use water more efficiently.
In order to address the global water challenges, particularly in the developing world, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation along with its partners which include the US Department of State have formed the US Water Partnership (USWP) in 2011. As its name indicates, USWP is a US based public-private partnership that includes a wide array of public agencies and private institutions. The main functions of the USWP are to provide access to information on water issues and to give technical assistance to domestic and/or international organizations that aim to solve water challenges around the globe. As our past training programs for Turkish water engineers indicate, HasNa has been focusing on improving water management and irrigation methods in southeastern Turkey since 2000. Thus, it is only natural that we reached out to USWP to help us with our upcoming training program in 2015 for water union association chairmen coming from southeastern Turkey.
The Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), which is one of the most ambitious and expensive regional development projects in the world, has so far constructed 12 dams out of the 22 planned to be built in the basins of Tigris and Euphrates. By utilizing the waters of these two major rivers, this integrated regional development project seeks to improve not only agriculture and irrigation in the region but also aims to provide hydroelectric power and better infrastructure for economic development. Since this expensive project revolves around using water as the key resource, it is essential for the region’s population ranging from farmers, agricultural experts and local government officials to water engineers to understand how to use water efficiently not wastefully. Water Union Associations (WUAs) which are doing bulk of the work in terms of advising farmers on irrigation issues were the main targets of HasNa’s training programs between 2000 and 2005. After five consecutive years of working with the WUAs in southeastern Turkey, HasNa has established a respectable alumni network of engineers and water experts in the region. Continuing demands for additional training on irrigation and water management in the region have prompted us to bring a new group of WUA chairmen to the United States for training. We are planning to cooperate with the US Water Partnership and benefit from their expertise for this upcoming training. As the humanitarian crisis in the neighborhood surrounding southeastern Turkey worsens, it is becoming even more critical to use water carefully and efficiently. Depletion of water resources due to mismanagement will only make the socio-economic situation more daunting in the Middle East.
If you want to learn more about water’s many uses and the global water challenges we are facing, you can access the H2infO on the US Water Partnership’s website: http://uswaterpartnership.org/h2info-2/
In his meditative essay on ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), Walter Benjamin spoke of the decay or withering of the aura of art that comes with mass reproduction through photography and printing. As the importance of art pour l’art or ‘art for art’s sake’ decreases with the advent of modernity, mechanical reproduction of art is used for propaganda, and political messaging. Thus, in reaction to the gradual aestheticization of politics, Benjamin called for politicization of the arts. Since then, art is often perceived as being greater than merely a reflection of society. It goes one step ahead; not only does it make a comment on society, but it chooses to take a stand. The personal becomes political.
In Cyprus, art has been a little more than just a creative or aesthetic product; it has frequently been used to communicate a message to the public. According to Daniella Gold, ‘artists have used their work to bring together two communities through sharing common cultural experiences, rehumanizing the other community, and engaging individuals in atypical ways. Bi-communal art activities have helped to foster interaction between the two communities and facilitate reconciliation. Though the visual arts are by no means the only creative method that should be used to aid peacebuilding, the arts have played a significant role in increasing understanding between warring groups and facilitating interaction’ (The Art of Building Peace: How the Visual Arts Aid Peace-building Initiatives in Cyprus, 2006).
Buffer Fringe held its first bi-communal performance art initiative in Cyprus on October 18-19 of this year, on the Buffer Zone. Fifteen fringe performances from across the island were presented outdoors during this two-day event. The UN buffer zone at Lefkoşa was transformed into an open air stage, where the performances were held to celebrate art, fresh ideas, and free thinking. From 6 PM each evening, the audience enjoyed live performances that encompassed theater, art, and dance. The performances were presented in English, Turkish, and Greek. Highlights of the festival included English stage adaptations of The Princess and the Pea and Miss Margarida’s Way, and also a Turkish and Greek play called Çanta / Τσάντα / Bag.
The idea of adopting “atypical” or unconventional ways of building peace resonates closely with HasNa’s mission. Our programs have often been guided by the urge to identify a problem, come up with a creative way to solve that problem, and then pull in our skills and resources to implement that solution; or at least empower others to implement solutions of their own. Our bi-communal activities in Cyprus span across a number of topics including the environment, journalism, radio shows, and exchange programs. So far, we have been able to use various forms of art – film, literature, mass media – to promote cross-cultural understanding in the island. But we’re still looking for more creative ways of building peace. How many can you think of?
opera mini for androidA friend (and dedicated HasNa volunteer) recently shared a Twitter message with me about the display of the “Ghazir rug” at the White House. Sad to say, I was not familiar with it; but the Tweet referenced the rug’s “symbolism of the Armenian genocide” and I decided to do some investigation. The Near East Relief organization presented the rug to President Calvin Coolidge in December 1925 as a gift, woven by Armenian orphans living in Ghazir, Syria (now Lebanon). It was inscribed as a “Golden Rule token of appreciation to President Coolidge” for U.S. humanitarian assistance to displaced Armenian orphans. Dr. John Finley, who presented the rug, noted that the President’s “words as to the observance of Golden Rule Sunday [the previous year had] gone out into all the earth..and…been especially appreciated by the orphan children…”
“Golden Rule Sunday” referred to an international campaign by the Congressionally-chartered humanitarian aid organization Near East Relief, declaring December 2, 1923 the first International Golden Rule Day. The organization asked citizens to practice “self denial” so that others would not starve, specifically that Americans forego the usual lavish Sunday dinner tradition and instead eat a meal similar to what Near East Relief orphans ate daily (recipes available upon request) and contribute the cost savings to relief work. President Coolidge was among those taking the Sunday Dinner pledge.
The Isfahan-style rug took 10 months to complete, with four girls working the loom at a time. It contained 4,404,247 knots, representing flora and fauna, including 144 animals in its design (some would say depicting the Garden of Eden of Biblical reference). Dr. Finley, describing it as a labor of love, remarked, “They have tied into it the gratitude of tens of thousands of children to you and to America. And what they have tied into it will never be untied.”
But the rug’s goodwill history belies its political symbolism today. Tension still exists between Turkey and Armenia over labeling the massacre beginning in 1915 as “genocide.” The current White House Administration came under fire in 2013 for not loaning the rug to The Smithsonian for the launch of a book on the rug’s history (Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian’s President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug). The White House stated at the time that it was inappropriate to display a rug from the White House collection at a book sale. Critics claimed the American government was afraid of inciting the ire of the Turkish government and Turkish organizations. But, as political winds shift, it was announced this month that the rug will be on display at the White House Visitors Center as part of an exhibit entitled “Thank You to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad” from November 18-23, 2014. It’s actually only the third time the rug has been displayed publically since the Coolidge family gifted it back to the White House in 1982; the rug remained in storage until now. Is all well then in U.S. foreign relations related to the Turkish-Armenian controversy?
What strikes me as tragic (though not as tragic as the millions of people who lost their lives between 1915 and the early 1920s) is the loss of the rug’s intended symbolism of “goodwill on Earth” to quote President Calvin Coolidge. Let’s not forget that the rug was a labor of love and gratitude, from children displaced by war and violence and death. As a novice weaver myself, I can’t help but think of the metaphor of weaving in our peacebuilding work. The art of weaving is in capturing the beauty through interlacing different colors and textures in the creation of patterns and shapes that have meaning to the artist and to the viewer. Throughout history, woven textile design has been steeped in cultural contexts, shaped by sociological and political influences. The product of weaving is borne out of an artist’s dream or vision, a culmination of focusing intently on the steps of warp and weft. In the end, the individual threads are interlaced, each important to the design; but it is the integration of those threads that brings the woven art to life, and gives the textile its strength.
This imagery applies to our work — integrating people with perceived differences through one lens on problem solving, weaving their perspectives into a common understanding. An understanding not only of the problem’s solution (be it farm extension or environmental conservation) but of the common humanity. Isn’t that the legacy of the Ghazir orphans through their rug? They wove into their rug their gratitude for humanitarian support of strangers helping strangers. The violence that catalyzed the conditions that led to the rug was not the ultimate source of its creation. Love and gratitude were.
 New York Times, “President Receives Rug Woven by Orphans of Near East and Praises Work of Relief” December 5, 1925.
 Urbana Daily Courier, “Golden Rule Day Gains Popularity”, 26 November 1923.
 New York Times, December 5, 1925
A study conducted in every household in Armenia in 2010 looked at real employment rates for different groups of individuals on the basis of various parameters such as socio-economic status, gender, age, level of urbanization, etc. One of its findings was that the employment rate is the lowest for the youth in Armenia (age group 16-24) at 23.2%. Although a majority of these youths are engaged in academic activity at this age, upon completing their degrees there has been found to be many challenges for them to find employment. This in turn creates social tension at the community level as well as increased stress and depression at the individual level.
Engaging such youth in volunteering activities not only helps them acquire certain professional skills that are attractive to employers and increase employment rates, but also has positive externalities for peace building and community building. The UN Volunteers have also come up with the benefits of youth engagement:
- Outcome 1: Increased recognition of the contribution of youth to global peace and sustainable human development through volunteerism, and inclusion of youth voices in the development discourse.
- Outcome 2: Improved capacity of relevant stakeholders to support an enabling environment for regional, national and community youth volunteering for global peace and sustainable human development.
- Outcome 3: Increased and diversified opportunities for young people to contribute to global peace and sustainable human development work
Thus given this scenario of the youth employment rates in Armenia, the individual and social benefits of volunteering work, HasNa’s projects such as VITA (Volunteering in Turkey and Armenia) is in sync with our mission statement of promoting peace building and development. The project entailed training activities for youth participants from both countries that can build their capacity to facilitate and promote more volunteerism in the area. Bringing the youth of Armenia and Turkey further allows for conversation and sharing of ideas and opportunities, which can lead to collaborative sustained growth in the region. In the follow up program to the VITA concrete results were seen. 66 young people participated in the follow up projects that were started by member of the initial VITA program by HasNa. Members shared and volunteered a range of their skill as well as sharing experiences from DC to implement in their homes. Be It in the area of IT/ Web design, social media skills, local dance or even healthier ways of cooking, these volunteers are coming together and building ideas and strategy to be resourceful and lay the seeds for future youth volunteers to make this a self-sustained model.
This post is written by Rohini Ray, who is currently working as a volunteer for HasNa. Rohini recently graduated from Smith College with a degree in Economics and Physics. She is interested in the middle-east with her independent research looking at the oil and exchange rates in the area.
As the only city to reside on two continents, Europe and Asia; Istanbul is unique in the world. Everyday millions of people living in Istanbul commute from one continent to the other for work, school and fun. I was one of those commuters when I lived in Istanbul. My parents lived on the Asian side of the city, which we Istanbullus call the Anatolian side, and my school was on the European side. Sometimes I drove with my friends and crossed the Bosphorus bridge. Other times I took the ferry to get to the European side. For anyone who hasn’t seen Istanbul, the Bosphorus strait offers a stunning view like no other in the world. The blue Marmara sea, the white clouds watching the European and Anatolian coastline, beautiful buildings from different eras – Byzantines, Ottomans, Turks, and of course the noisy seagulls which fly right in front of you if you are taking the ferry… No wonder why Istanbul is one of the top ten cities to visit in the world. Just crossing the Bosphorus strait is enough to make your trip unforgettable. Yet, it is easy to forget how unique Istanbul is due to its location if you are crossing the Bosphorus bridge every day for years. We Istanbullus start to take the beauty of the city for granted after years of commuting from one continent to the other. Now that I live in the United States, I appreciate that view and what Istanbul symbolizes for many different civilizations more. I carefully breath in that sea smell when I ride the ferry every time I go back to Istanbul to visit my parents. In fact, I take the ferry back to back several times so I can only concentrate on the view and remind myself how unique this city is and how lucky I was to live in Istanbul for 24 years…
In many ways, Istanbul is a microcosm of Turkey. First, like Istanbul, Turkey lies between Europe and Asia and it has been the crossroads for many different civilizations for more than 2000 years. So many cultures have flourished there and so many other foreign cultures have influenced the way people have lived in Anatolia because it has been the crossroads between two continents. Similar to Istanbul, the beauty and strength of Turkey lies in its multi-cultural past and present. Second, approximately one out of four Turkish citizens resides in Istanbul. When you walk around Istanbul, you come across people from all parts of Turkey. With its almost 20 million population, Istanbul is a microcosm of Turkey where you can interact with people from the east, west, north and south of the country. Finally, the history of Istanbul is very old and multifaceted like the rest of Turkey. You come across archeological ruins and architecture from many different civilizations both in Istanbul and in the rest of Turkey. Sightseeing in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey is similar to being a time traveler. You can travel from the time of Hittites to the time of the ancient Greeks, the Lydians, the early Christians, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Seljuks, the Ottomans and the list goes on and on… It’s fascinating to travel in Turkey like it’s in Istanbul.
These are the important parallels between Istanbul and the rest of Turkey. Now here’s how the rest of the country differs from Istanbul. The rest of Turkey is not as economically developed as Istanbul. In my opinion, the saddest thing in life is wasted potential. Every time I visit Istanbul and chat with people from all over the country who now live in Istanbul, they tell me that they migrated to Istanbul because they couldn’t realize their potential back in their own cities, towns or villages. There were simply not enough opportunities for education and jobs. According to OECD’s 2012 report, Turkey ranks third highest on a scale of income inequality among its 34 member countries. This situation is not unique to Turkey though. Like many other developing countries in the world, there is a big social and economic disparity between the major cities and the rest of the country. So neither Istanbul nor Turkey is unique in this sense. What’s relatively more unique is that given its geographic location, incredible history and multicultural strength, there might be much more untapped resources in Turkey and hence more wasted potential compared to other developing countries…
The good news is a lot has been going on in the past several decades to develop the rest of Turkey. Social and economic programs targeting different parts of Turkey have been designed and implemented by administration after administration for decades. Some administrations have been more successful than others of course but still the awareness that gives rise to such efforts is there. Ok, here is the bad news. These efforts need to be accelerated and not only the governments but the private sector and the non-profit sector have a responsibility to act towards this end. The rate of migration to Istanbul and other major cities is still outpacing the rate of social and economic development in the underdeveloped parts of Turkey. Furthermore, the political problems in the Middle East are sending more and more refugees to southeastern Turkey and creating a dire situation that needs to be addressed more urgently than ever!
As important as it is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities to people who are in need, it is more meaningful to equip them with the tools that can help them realize their potential in the long run. That’s why the Nobel prize went to an extraordinary individual who committed her life to improving access to universal education. During her speech at the United Nations, Malala Yousafzai said that just one student, one teacher and one book is enough to make a change. Surely, change that comes through education is slower but let’s not forget that it’s the most promising way to fix social and economic disparity in the world. The more people have access to education, the more they can improve their socio-economic situation. The underdeveloped regions of Turkey which are also experiencing the flow of refugees from the Middle East are in need of education centers that can equip them with the tools to improve their well-being. Strategic educational programs such as training centers that give technical training can be effective for eradicating poverty, improving socio-economic levels and eventually giving rise to more stable political climate in the region as well. There is a strong link between economic well-being, democracy and security. It might be a tough journey but it’s a promising one. HasNa wants to contribute to this journey by helping young adults who want to gain new technical skills. We are currently in the process of collaborating with business owners, companies as well as regional NGOs to determine the skills that are mostly desired and marketable in the region. We invite everyone to join us in increasing access to education and jobs in whichever part of the developing world you are passionate about. Let’s all contribute to improving education and job training in the developing world even if it is one girl, one teenager, one refugee, one adult at a time…
Sustained Dialogue – we often hear this term when talking about peace, but what does it really mean? This informative piece on Sustained Dialogue details five stages of Sustained Dialogue: Deciding to Engage, Mapping Relationships and Naming Problems, Probing Problems and Relationships, Scenario Building, and Acting Together.
HasNa’s program model incorporates the five stages of Sustained Dialogue in a unique way aiming for alternative routes to building sustainable relationships. While many dialogue groups engage individuals around topics specific to conflict, HasNa does not plan programming specifically around the topics of tension within the communities we serve. Instead, HasNa participants choose to engage for the purpose of bettering themselves in some capacity, by way of professional or skill development or building relationships with foreseeable personal impact.
The second stage of mapping relationships and naming problems is specific to each program. For example, farmers have a need to work with agricultural experts in increasing their productivity and understanding the necessity and nature of those relationships as well as the problems that are addressed by them are crucial in this stage. In another example from our Crafting Peace program, we saw Armenian stonemasons with intimate knowledge of historical buildings that was beneficial to Turkish stonemasons engaging in the restoration of historical buildings. Some of this needs-exchange process happens prior to when our programming takes place, but is more crucial during program implementation, when participants discover ways in which they can engage in mutually beneficial positive relationships.
Throughout the program, the participants probe problems and build scenarios together in which they begin to visualize the actuality of potential from their relationships. Upon program completion, our participants then go on to stage five, in which they act together implementing their ideas and further building their relationships. In this way, HasNa’s program model works to create a foundation for sustained dialogue through sustainable relationships. For more information on Sustained Dialogue, check out this link.
For the first time this year, HasNa participated in the Turkish Festival organized annually by the DC chapter of the American Turkish Association. We are extremely grateful to Turkish Airlines for providing us with this opportunity, which turned out to be a very pleasant change from our everyday program-related activities! We had free Turkish Delight (known as lokum) at our booth, along with freshly printed postcards with photographs from our programs. But the biggest attraction was the HasNa peace tree, to which numerous people added their personal messages of peace to send out into the world. Amidst all the conflict and mistrust that plagues the world today, watching these people from diverse backgrounds come together and collectively express their wishes for a better, more harmonious world reaffirmed our faith in our mission. We hope to be able to return next year!
In recent news coverage of the U.S. government’s response to ISIS, a news pundit asserted, “There has always been war. There will always be war.” This cynical assertion may seem the obvious response in combating the ruthless tactics of militant groups using violence to achieve their ideological conquests. It’s almost an “easy out” to accept this reality of war as ever present in our world. It alludes to apathy and willful acceptance of violence to fight violence. But war is never an “easy out”; just ask a veteran or a soldier’s family members, or civilians who have experienced “collateral damage.” We can’t ask the dead. Our challenge for humanity is to resist this acceptance of war’s steady state in our lives. Peace building is far more complex and difficult to embrace as unequivocally. What if I had argued this: “There has always been peace building; there will always be peace”? Many might disagree because peace does not prevail in war-torn places and does not capture our attention in the media.
Perhaps peace does not exist in vulnerable areas touched by violence daily—be it the Gaza Strip or inner-city Chicago. If we believe peace building will persevere, however small-scale the effort, we can retain hope that war does not always have to be. When we give in to war as a given reality, we desensitize ourselves to its brutality. Hold on to peace. Work for peace. That is why the vision and efforts of HasNa participants, partners, and supporters are critical. A small group of farmers working collaboratively keeps people fed. A small band of youth storytellers casts new light on an old subject. A small team of journalists unites an island with fresh perspectives. Albeit small scale, collectively these groups build communication across divides, and keep conflict at bay. As Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Grassroots work helps facilitate understanding that slowly spreads from neighbor to neighbor, village to village, country to country. Let’s not lose sight of a new paradigm in which peace is the predominant lens through which we view the world.
Muzafer Sherif was a Turkish-American social psychologist who helped develop the realistic conflict or ‘group conflict’ theory in 1961. To validate his theory, which states that inner group conflicts, negative prejudices, and stereotypes are a result of competition between groups for limited resources, Sherif carried out one of his most famous experiments known as the ‘Robber’s Cave Experiment’.
This field experiment comprised two groups of 12-year-old boys, and was conducted in Robert’s Cave State Park, Oklahoma, USA. The twenty-two boys participating in the study were strangers to one another, and came from white, middle-class backgrounds. The boys were randomly assigned to one of the two groups, although neither was aware of the other’s existence. At the camp the groups were kept separate from each other, and encouraged to bond as two individual groups through the pursuit of common goals that required teamwork and cooperative discussion. The boys grew attached to their respective groups over the first phase, and each group developed its own cultures and group norms.
The second phase of the experiment, known as the ‘competition stage’, intended to bring the two groups into competition with each other in conditions that would create frustration or ‘conflict’ between them. A series of competitive games (such as baseball, tug-of-war, etc.) were organized, with a trophy being awarded to the winning team at the end of each activity. No consolation prizes were offered to the ‘losers’. This created serious divisions between the groups, especially since situations were devised wherein one group gained at the expense of the other. Initially, the conflict began with verbal expressions of prejudice, but before long transformed into more direct expressions of hostility such as burning the rival group’s flag, or ransacking the competitors’ private property within the campsite.
The researchers then gave all the boys a two day cooling-off period, and asked them to list characteristics of the two groups. Each group had higher evaluations for their own group, and characterized the other group in extremely unfavorable terms. In order to effectively ease the prejudice and tension between the two groups, Sherif then provided them with common or ‘superordinate’ goals that encouraged the two rival groups to work together in order to accomplish something that was beneficial for both. For instance, when the water supply to the camp failed, the camp staff blamed it on ‘vandals’. Upon investigating the water lines extensively, both the groups found that the tanks were full. This turned their attention to an outlet faucet which appeared to have a sack stuffed into it. Almost all the boys gathered around the faucet to try to clear it. When the water finally came through, there was collective rejoicing. One group did not mind letting the other group get a drink of water before them. The two groups faced similar goals that helped them forget their differences and come together as a team.
Muzafer Sherif’s theory has often been criticized on ethical grounds such as deception of the participants, and lack of protection from physical or psychological harm. In many ways, the realistic conflict theory also comes across as being rather limiting, since it discounts additional factors such as racial, ethnic, or economic differences, and ignores the question of identity, which even in the case of this experiment is inextricably entwined with the ‘competition for limited resources’ (the reward). The negative prejudices between the two groups developed not only because of the desire on either part to win the trophy, but also because of the inherent tendency to consider one’s own social group to be unique and superior, regarding the ‘other’ as a threat to that status and viewing them with suspicion arising from unfamiliarity.
Despite the socio-cultural homogeneity of the two groups, what seemed to be an effective technique for bringing them together was the creation of a superordinate goal. By identifying a problem lying outside the realm of collective identity or competition for resources, such as environmental problems or – in the case of the Robber’s Cave Experiment – the breakdown of food delivery trucks and water supply, conflicting groups are able to come together and solve a problem that affects everyone. Many of HasNa’s programs are guided by this notion of a superordinate goal, whether it is eco-journalism, agricultural training, or helping women in businesses. We attempt to bring together individuals from different ethnic communities and give them a tangible skill, based on the assumption that in the long run, these skills will empower them to collectively combat an issue that has an impact on everybody’s lives. Over the years we’ve identified many such superordinate goals, but there are still many that can be addressed. We would love to hear your suggestions on what other superordinate goals HasNa can address through its programs!
The American Turkish Association of Washington D.C. (ATA-DC) is proud to announce the 3rd Annual Turkish Cultural Heritage Month taking place this September in Washington D.C . HasNa’s staff are in conversation with festival sponsors such as Turkish Airlines to identify how HasNa might have a presence at the festival. More information to come on that, but we welcome your ideas on what HasNa can/should do for the festival.
The media plays an important role in every society. Journalists, through their discretion, tell us stories of collective importance – exposing the voice of struggles and tragedy, carrying us through important social and political moments, celebrating achievements both large and small. The journalists who report the media document and narrate our history and inform our collective calls to action. Ongoing changes in our global environment create a need for the media to give greater attention to the interconnected ways climate change is impacting our planet—hence the emergence of “eco-journalism.”
It is crucial then that journalists understand the role of the environment in our lives. The intellectual approach and “truth” that a journalist chooses to portray regarding environmental issues directly impacts, and often shapes, public opinion and dialogue surrounding such issues. In societies that are divided, such as Cyprus, the challenge is even greater. Though Cyprus is politically divided, the environmental issues impact the ecology of the entire island and require cooperative action. Thus, it is vital for media on both sides of the island to work collaboratively with a shared understanding of common issues facing the environment and the collective responsibility to address them.
HasNa has been involved in a number of different programs on the island related to the media and environment, and for the first time, we are combining the two in an eco-journalism program to add to our range of projects in place on the island.
In the early 2000s, several HasNa programs trained both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot journalists on the island and one program even resulted in the island’s first bi-communal radio station. At this stage, our goal was primarily to have media on both sides of the island working together – a major step given the continuation of political division.
Beginning in 2012, we embarked on a series of bi-communal programs on the island to address the issue of illegal hunting on the island. The first educated environmental non-profit leaders on ways to address environmental conflict and establish a network of leaders devoted to this cause. This network has gone on to complete a further two-part project:, 1) educating children on the importance of conservation and 2) training legal and law enforcement officials to combat wildlife crime.
It may seem surprising that illegal hunting greatly impacts the entire country’s ecology. Since the sport of hunting is grounded in tradition, highlighting the negative impacts of widespread poaching as a political issue to be taken seriously presents a great challenge to conservation efforts. The more journalists are able to draw attention to this issue and document the detrimental impact of eschewing conservation has on the island, the more lively and productive the discourse can be, resulting in proactive measures to protect the island that is home to all Cypriots.
With several successful bi-communal programs training journalists and also environmental leaders, we have decided it is time to bridge the two areas. Working with partners from our first environmental program, Collaborative Solutions to Shared Environmental Problems, this November we will hold a workshop in Cyprus for university students studying journalism with a strong and demonstrated interest in the environment for a workshop on eco-journalism. The workshop aims to establish a network of environmentally sensitized journalists, who understand the relevance of environment as an issue in our daily lives, as well as the need to protect and defend the integrity and sustainability of the shared environment. Currently, our partners are spending the end of August and early September recruiting from the universities around the island for this program. Keep an eye out on HasNa’s website and social media for more information regarding this program!
After a successful training program in 2011 for Turkish citrus farmers in Florida, HasNa is bringing another group of Turkish citrus farmers from Mersin to the United States for training. HasNa’s second Citrus Farmers’ Training Program will take place between August 31 and September 14, 2014.
Citrus is among the top exports in Turkish agricultural sector and it is also Turkey’s leading fresh fruit export according to the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. Neighboring countries such as Russia, Iraq, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia are the main export destinations. According to the statistics, the production of citrus in Turkey has been increasing steadily in the past 20 years. Despite this increase in citrus production, there are still important problems faced by Turkish citrus producers which prevent them from becoming competitive players in the global market, particularly with regards to processed products such as orange juice. According to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Cukurova University, the lack of different citrus varieties and poor agricultural practices are the two major problems in the citrus sector. Yet, there are still no citrus-specific production support programs in Turkey. In order to increase the export potential of Turkey, the USDA has also recommended in a 2012 citrus report that Turkish agricultural researchers should help identify better varieties for export and improved horticultural practices for citrus growers.
Given Turkey’s citrus export potential, it is essential to invest in the education of citrus growers. The Mediterranean region of Turkey accounts for the 90 percent of citrus production in Turkey while the Aegean region produces the rest. Within the Mediterranean region, the primary production zone is Cukurova which is composed of three provinces: Adana, Mersin and Hatay. Investing in the training of citrus farmers and collaborating with local citrus grower organizations in order to improve current agricultural practices will not only increase the income level of Cukurova population but it will also enable Turkey to become a major player in the global citrus market. Thus since 2010, HasNa has been collaborating with citrus growers in Mersin and Adana who are also participating actively in local citrus organizations to improve both the production and marketing strategies of local growers.
HasNa’s 2011 training in Florida was successful in introducing a small group of Turkish farmers to modern horticultural techniques in the United States. Both the success of the 2011 training and the continuing demands of other citrus growers in the region motivated HasNa to design another citrus farmers’ training program in California.
This year’s citrus farmers’ training will take place between August 31 and September 14. Twelve citrus farmers from Mersin will spend their first five days in Washington DC. First, they will receive a training on communication & conflict resolution skills which is the trademark training provided by HasNa to all of its program participants. After that, the group will visit the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Academies and hear presentations about the most recent research on citrus production and citrus diseases in the United States. A special session on marketing strategies is also designed for the Turkish citrus growers in order to expand their vision on marketing their products domestically and internationally. Before they leave Washington DC, the group will visit the National Arboretum and national historical sites in the US capital.
Starting from September 6, the group will spend 9 days in central California visiting big and small size orchards, orange juice plants as well as citrus research labs of UC Davis and UC Riverside. For this second and more technical part of the training program, HasNa collaborated with the California Citrus Research Board experts and the University of California Cooperative Extension agents. Thus, during their field trips, the Turkish citrus farmers will be trained and lectured by academics, citrus experts, and farm extension agents working within the UC Cooperative Extension system.
This training will expose Turkish citrus farmers to the most recent citrus growing techniques in the U.S. and improve their knowledge of how to deal with citrus diseases. HasNa believes that empowering farmers through training is one of the most effective ways to facilitate economic development and sustainable agriculture in Turkey. Thus, HasNa selects leader farmers who are willing to take on the responsibility of showing what they have learned in the United States to other farmers in their region. These participatory and collaborative learning methods do not only improve agriculture and regional economy but also increase social capital in developing countries like Turkey.
We don’t generally equate pleasure or humor with war-torn areas like Gaza and the West Bank, and yet photojournalist Tanya Habjouqa manages to give us an alternative perspective in this image of three boys cooling off in a kiddie pool. The metaphors in this image are noteworthy—a respite from the heat of war in the shade of an olive tree, the symbol of peace. Does this image detract from the severity of the region’s war—seemingly making light of daily struggles?
Habjouqa’s compilation of photographs shared in a New York Times article entitled ‘Palestinian Pleasures‘ humanizes the region in a meaningful way. Images of young people doing yoga and surfing were a jolting reminder that Palestinian life is not all about death and destruction. Her artistry reawakened my perspective of Palestine as a people as opposed to a warring region. Rather than making light of their situation, Habjouqa draws the viewer into the connection that we all experience enduring hardship – casting about for some levity and pleasure to survive what might otherwise become unbearable. Peace building is just as much about tranquility and freedom from oppressive emotions as it is a state of cultural and political harmony.
Our HasNa programming creates a “space” for that dual peace building by bringing participants to a new environment and inviting exploration through team building. Photos of our training teams depict laughter and camaraderie, shedding light on the emerging bonds of cooperation and mutual respect as individuals and not cultural stereotypes. In experiencing a sense of personal peace, each is able to open their perspective to an “other” and see him or her as a kindred spirit. One by one, those connections create community.
In many ways, intercultural exchange serves as a cushion or catalyst for peace. When two ethnic groups are in a state of conflict, there is a breakdown of communication between them. In such situations, inter-cultural activities provide them with a common space to meet, communicate, and interact. Communication includes both listening and expressing oneself so that the other can hear. Understanding is the first step towards developing empathy, and to be able to empathize with the other is a large step towards reconciliation.
Language is often considered to be one of the most tangible manifestations of culture. By speaking and understanding the language of the other, different ethnic groups are able to expose themselves to each other’s songs, theater, cinema, literature, folklore, and other cultural indicators. They are able to exchange ideas, and express their own feelings with greater ease.
Recognizing this unifying power of language, the NGO Support Center – one of HasNa’s local partners in Nicosia – will offer Turkish language lessons to Greek Cypriots starting from September 3rd, 2014 until May, 2015. Classes will take place every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 PM for Greek-speaking students, and every Thursday, from 5 to 7 PM for English-speaking students. These language classes aim to prepare students for the European Language Framework examinations.
Is the goal of reconciliation merely to repair a relationship that has been damaged or broken, or should it also seek to ensure that there is no further escalation or outbreak of conflict in the future? How else can language skills help towards the mitigation of conflict? It’s an interesting thought, especially in the context of Nelson Mandela’s famous words:
‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’
There was an article in the Washington Post newspaper about the New Story Leadership Program that brings young men and women together from Israel and Palestine to the US with the hope that they will build lasting friendships. Although the article began with photos of a pair who seem to get along greatly, the main message of the article was that, in spite of this friendship, the two communities were still at war.
Yes, it is correct that war still exists, but why don’t we acknowledge another program where the same method is working? We at HasNa, have been running the Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) for 5 years and the mood of the Island has improved as evidenced by the growing cooperation and interaction among the youth in Cyprus. CFP was modeled after the Children’s Friendship Project for Northern Ireland (CFPNI) and today, the communities are addressing needs for cooperation.
What propels us to seek peace is finding hope that arises from successful efforts of ordinary people. Let us look with determination and when we find any grain of success, let us share it with everyone, just as much as we share our failures. In the comments, let us know other examples where this method of building peace is working?
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
How do we serve?
With these famous words, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shed light on the importance of serving others – no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, and no matter your race, education level, or socioeconomic status. The only thing necessary to serve is to have a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
It is in this spirit of grace, love, and serving others that the VITA Program has been developed. Since HasNa has from the very beginning worked with promoting constructive dialogue between diverse ethnic groups within Turkey, Armenia, and Cyprus, this program is a natural extension of our mission.
What are our objectives?
We have two main objectives in engaging young people from both Turkey and Armenia in a volunteer-based program.
Firstly, this program will create links between Turkish and Armenian youths to construct cross-cultural networks among their communities. As relations between Turkey and Armenia remain contentious, the political tension impacts individuals on both sides of the border. With this program, which will engage youths in activities where they will be working constructively together, we will bring together individuals from a variety of ethnic, gender, and income backgrounds to gain a better understanding of people coming from different backgrounds and to use these connections to build projects together.
Secondly, we aim to give the students the practical experience necessary to create and develop their own community service projects back at home. What the students learn in their two weeks in DC will give them both the training and the practical, hands-on experience to engage and develop ideas about volunteerism when they return to their home countries. We hope that their ideas will spread as they engage others in their projects back in their own communities.
Keep checking back to see photos and stories from when the participants arrive this Saturday. And leave a comment of encouragement for our participants or any advice you may have on volunteerism, cross-cultural communication and cooperation, and peacebuilding!
HasNa is back to blogging! We’re excited today to bring you the first of several installments detailing our upcoming VITA Project. VITA, which stands for Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia, will be bringing together 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia here in DC this weekend. For more information, please check out our official press release below. We will be posting updates, photos, and stories from the wide range of activities that the students will be working on over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out!
Program on Civic Engagement brings Armenian and Turkish Youth together in Washington
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2014 – HasNa’s Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia (VITA) starts on January 18th with the participants’ arrival to Washington, DC. The VITA participants are 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia from various ethnic, gender and educational backgrounds, united by the idea and the desire to act for the benefit of their communities.
Commenting on the program, Nevzer Stacey, HasNa’s president, said: “The main goal of the program is for the participants to gain an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and civic engagement, so they can become active participants in the development of their communities.” She also added: “Through training and activities, we hope to create links between Turkish and Armenian youth and to construct cross-cultural networks among them and their communities.”
Hripsime (Sime) Amirkhanyan, HasNa’s program associate managing VITA, explained that the program is two-fold. “The first phase will last two weeks and will take place in Washington, DC. While in Washington, the participants will be exposed to volunteerism in the United States through training and service learning activities,” Amirkhanyan said. She concluded that the project is unique because it doesn’t stop there. She explained that “during phase two, the participants will embark on implementing a number of community service initiatives in their own communities across Turkey and Armenia. They will engage other youth to participate in various projects and activities that focus on community service, as in assisting their neighbors, fellow community members, and the elderly, as well as helping other organizations throughout their communities.”
The VITA program is the fourth collaborative program that HasNa has implemented with groups from Armenia and Turkey during the past two years.
This January, Cypriot radio stations Radyo Mayis and Radyo Astra were chosen to receive the famed Kutlu Adalı Award for Talk of the Island, a bi-communal radio program broadcast across Cyprus in both Greek and Turkish.
The Kutlu Adalı Award was created in memory of Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı, who was assassinated in 1996. The award is given every year by the Cypriot Press Laborers’ Union in recognition of media professionals working to promote peace in Cyprus.
Talk of the Island is the result of HasNa’s 2005 program implemented with the Management Centre located in north Cyprus and the Future Worlds Center (formerly the Center for Neuroscience and Technology Institute) in the south. Talk of the Island aims to foster communication, understanding, and respect between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots by covering issues that affect both communities. Through bilingual news, music, and discussions that include listeners from the north and south, the program uniquely enables Cypriots to interact and learn about one another across the “Green Line”.
Osman Kalfaoğlu (Radyo Mayıs) and Aral Moral (Radyo Astra) received the award in recognition of the bi-communal broadcast. Speaking about the award, Osman Kalfaoğlu stated: “This is the first time [the Press Laborers’ Union] has awarded a bi-communal program. We should encourage more bi-communal cooperation between journalists and explore ways to allow journalists to be able to exchange information daily across the divide. There is a lot of misinformation about both communities reported in the media and if there was more cooperation between journalists, this could be prevented.”
Visit the Talk of the Island website to listen to live and past recorded airings of the award-winning program.
HasNa has implemented peacebuilding programs in Cyprus focusing on media and communications since 2002. Click here to find out more about HasNa’s related Cyprus programs.
“What happens when you bring diverse individuals from Turkey and Cyprus to the U.S. for training in professional skills, communication skills, and conflict resolution? As HasNa, Inc. has discovered over the last thirteen years, lives change, communities transform, and peace grows…”
With all the attention that HasNa’s programs are receiving in Cyprus and Turkey, it is clear that HasNa plays an integral role in the international peacebuilding community. The Alliance for Peacebuilding, an association of organizations that promote collaborative action for peace and security world-wide, selected an article on HasNa to appear in the initial 2012 online publication of the Peacebuilding Post. The article highlights the experiences of participants in HasNa’s successful water and agriculture programs and captures the impact that our conflict resolution training has had on their lives. HasNa has been an active member of the Alliance for Peacebuilding since 2007.
“This is not a story about the Cyprus problem. It’s a story about the solution.”
Writing in the Cyprus Mail, a leading Cypriot newspaper, journalist Poly Pantelides commended HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) as part of the solution to the ongoing conflict in Cyprus. The author of the article, titled Teen Turnaround, purports that amid the usual political banter of the Cyprus conflict, CFP rises above as a model for peaceful engagement. HasNa board member Warren Muir founded CFP in 2008, which since then has become so successful that a new volunteer-run organization is being created to operate the program.
You can’t fly very far in Turkey without spotting a HasNa project.
“Natural Histories: A journey into the shadow of Ararat,” appears in the October 24, 2011 edition of The New Yorker and follows avid birdwatcher Çağan Şekercioğlu, founder and president of the Turkish environmental NGO KuzeyDoğa. One of HasNa’s partners in eastern Turkey, KuzeyDoğa works to prevent species extinction and ecosystem collapse while ensuring that humans also benefit from wildlife conservation.
The feature mentions HasNa’s ecotourism projects implemented by KuzeyDoğa around Lake Kuyucuk in Kars, Turkey. These projects in 2010 and 2011 trained local residents in environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, conflict resolution, hospitality, and other aspects of ecotourism. The most recent of these trainings helped 20 Turkish women from diverse backgrounds attain the management skills necessary to run bed and breakfasts in the region in order to attract more domestic and international tourism. Elif Batuman’s article in The New Yorker describes the many socioeconomic challenges that remain in the region, but projects such as these provide hope for real environmental and economic improvement.
By highlighting these efforts, the article shows that advancing sustainable and inclusive development in the region is a shared goal. Through our relationships in the U.S, Turkey, Cyprus, and beyond, HasNa aims to make this goal a reality. When it comes to building peace, saving habitats, and improving livelihoods, birds of a feather do flock together.
To read a preview of the article online, click here!
HasNa’s third annual Happy Hour Fundraiser at Madam’s Organ went off without a hitch. The evening began at 5:00 and the bar was packed by 6:00. We were delighted to spend the evening enjoying great conversation, food, and drinks with everyone.
Click to view photos:
This year we had four special guests at the event. The English teachers from HasNa’s English Training for English Teacher’s Program were here in Washington, DC studying at Georgetown University. They had a wonderful time at Madam’s Organ and expressed how impressed they were by Americans’ spirit of volunteerism.
Our supporters play an integral role in HasNa’s work. The money we raised will help us achieve HasNa’s mission to promote cross-cultural understanding and economic empowerment in culturally divided areas of the world.
We would like to thank all those who attended. And to those who didn’t—we hope to see you next time! We are already excited for next summer’s happy hour at Madam’s Organ.
By Alexsandra Fischer
“You know when you came here I couldn’t express myself and now I’m talking!” The goals of HasNa’s English Language Skills for NGOs were not only to improve comprehension and grammar skills but also to help participants gain confidence using English.
We inaugurated HasNa’s English Language Skills for NGOs in Diyarbakir, Turkey on May 9th, 2011. We were English teachers in Turkey as Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s. Our Turkish was rusty, but we welcomed the chance to teach again in Turkey, to see some of the southeastern region, and to further the goals of HasNa.
We taught English for three weeks to 20 staff members of the Development Center, one of HasNa’s local NGO partners in the region. Class was held nightly from 6-8:30 PM at the English First language school following a full day of work by the participants. The classroom setup presented a challenge to the interactive style of U.S. language teaching, resources were limited, and the students were tired. Nevertheless, the participants caught on quickly to exercises with partners and team work and responded to the active communicative goals of the course. We used dialogues, role play, word bingo games, the phonetic alphabet—all to get the students using English.
We planned lessons daily at the Development Center offices and were taken sight-seeing in the historic area on the weekends. We had a chance to visit historic sites and Philosophy in Diyarbakir—the six kilometers of 3rd century volcanic rock walls encircling the old city were quite impressive as was the centuries old and still active Assyrian Orthodox church. The nearby cities of Sanliurfa, Harran, and Mardin were wonderful to visit with participants in the course. The Turkish elections were an added bonus. Sound trucks blaring music drove throughout the city. Flags from the various political parties decorated the streets. The Development Center was next door to the headquarters of the most popular political party in Diyarbakir, so we even saw some candidates walking the neighborhood.
The students and the host families were all warm and welcoming and the food was delicious. We are now communicating with some of them by email—in English. We made good friends and after three weeks it was hard to say goodbye.
By Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs
HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) is in its 3rd year!
CFP focuses on fostering trust and understanding through friendships between Turkish Cypriot teens and Greek Cypriot teens. CFP prepares these future leaders to find bi-communal solutions for living harmoniously together in Cyprus.
This year the program is expanding tremendously. The group of 60 young, future leaders from Cyprus will live in Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, DC and Northern Virginia for a month of leadership training, team building, and community service. This is a big step forward since CFP began in 2009 with 20 teens living in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.
The enthusiasm for the Cyprus Friendship Program continues to grow as well, as both teens and host families prepare for the arrival in the U.S.
HasNa would like to recognize the extraordinary efforts of the volunteers that made CFP 2011 possible:
Warren Muir, Executive Director and Chair
CFP IN THE U.S.
Cheron Calder, Portland, OR Coordinator
Cassie Cleverly, New Hampshire Coordinator
Tom McCarthy, Maryland Coordinator
Mike Messinger, Northern Virginia Coordinator
Liz Swenson, Connecticut Coordinator
Priyanka Komala, Webmaster
Kim Bell, Transportation Coordinator
Don Guziewicz, Transportation Coordinator
CFP IN CYPRUS
By Ciara Masterson
The ways we conduct journalism, activism, and storytelling have changed drastically in recent years.
HasNa’s Citizen Journalism Training Program—or “Gorilla Activism” as it is being called in Cyprus—is an 8-day workshop that began June 20th. The program was developed in conjunction with the Management Centre and Cyprus Community Media Centre in Cyprus to empower Cypriot youth with innovative and fun tools and skills to engage in citizen journalism and digital storytelling.
Biased journalism is a major influence in Cyprus and has furthered misunderstanding between the two communities. There is a growing need for news that is prepared by and for youth, using digital social networking as an effective media platform. This program trains young Cypriots on the techniques of digital storytelling and the principles of citizen journalism to enable them to produce bi-communal news stories and increase interaction between the communities.
Check back soon for more information on this exciting new program!
By Ciara Masterson
Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs were seniors in college when they were moved by President Kennedy’s call to service with the Peace Corps. They applied, took the exam, and reported to Peace Corps training at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, they studied with about 100 other volunteers to become English teachers in Turkey.
It was terribly hot and humid that summer in 1963. There was no air conditioning in the dorms. They studied Turkish every day for 3 hours, took classes on American studies, ESL teaching, and rigorous physical education. There were inoculation clinics and most of the trainees had their wisdom teeth pulled as a precaution.
Pat and Kathy became friends soon after they met. After a week in Ankara they traveled to their sites: Pat to Bursa and Kathy to Bandirma. Their second year Pat taught in Adapazari and Kathy in Ankara. It was difficult to be new teachers without family and old friends but the volunteers relied on each other and new Turkish friends at their schools. Adjusting to a new culture and language and dealing with homesickness was a challenge, but the kindness and hospitality of the people in Turkey made the two years a remarkable experience.
Since then, Turkey has held a special place in their hearts which is true for all the rest of their Peace Corps group, known as “Turkey II.” It was their home away from home. In 2009 there was a reunion for the group in Washington, DC and they immediately bonded with folks they had not seen for 45 years because of their shared experiences in Turkey. They traded stories of the various recent volunteer projects they had been involved with in their communities across the US.
Pat and Kathy have known Nevzer Stacey for over 40 years and admire her for founding HasNa. They have been glad to volunteer in the past, helping with museum and shopping tours for program participants. Since they are both retired ESOL teachers, it was natural to volunteer to teach English.
This project–teaching English to people working in non-governmental organizations–particularly resonated with them. They are a little apprehensive, especially since their once-fluent Turkish is almost non-existent, but excited as well. They set about writing lesson plans and dialogs. When they learned that HasNa’s budget could only fund the purchase of one set of textbooks, Kathy reached out to the Turkey II members for donations. In a short time, dozens of new textbooks were donated as well as over $500 to purchase additional books.
Pat and Kathy will keep journals while they are in Diyarbakir in May so they can regale their Peace Corps colleagues at the Peace Corps 50th celebration in September 2011.
By Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs
Kathy Scruggs and Pat Lowther were Peace Corps volunteers in Turkey during the 1960s. After more than 4 decades, they are returning in May to lead a 3 week HasNa English language program. Kathy and Pat will travel to Diyarbakir, Turkey to train 16 NGO professionals, including board members and volunteers.
English language training is one of HasNa’s priority program areas for 2011. It is at the top of the list of HasNa alumni requests for new skills and knowledge. “If I am able to improve my English, it will bring various opportunities for both me and my co-workers,” one graduate from HasNa’s Program Management Training 2010 said when asked what skills would be most beneficial to him in the future.
According to a needs analysis conducted by one of HasNa’s local NGO partners, lack of adequate English language skills is hindering communication between local NGOs and international organizations. Local NGOs feel that this prevents adequate cooperation and the exchange of expertise and knowledge.
Kathy and Pat are now retired after careers as English language teachers. Kathy says that, “This will be a good way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and to get to know Diyarbakir too.” Kathy and Pat have been supporters of HasNa and are excited about the opportunity to teach in Turkey again.
By Duygu Soyer
HasNa has been working in Turkey since 1998, applying its unique model to promote peace through understanding. Our projects are the result of dedication to our mission and also hard work and commitment from local partners and project participants. Successful projects require input from local organizations and individuals. They also require passionate participants who take what they learn in training and apply it to their professional work and personal relationships.
Nevzer Stacey, HasNa’s Founder and President, is currently traveling in Turkey to accomplish two main goals: to strengthen partnerships with local organizations and to follow up with alumni from previous HasNa projects.
HasNa is searching for more local organizations that it can partner with to implement new projects. Input from knowledgeable local partners that have established trust within their communities is a vital component to HasNa’s model. HasNa is also meeting with organizations it has worked with in the past to explore future opportunities to work constructively together. Among other things, HasNa is exploring partnerships for programs that will bring people together from Turkey and Armenia.
HasNa is also working to strengthen its relationship with alumni from previous projects. We recently surveyed our alumni to assess the impact that we have made in the last decade. HasNa is following up this effort by meeting face to face with many of them in Turkey. We hope to be a catalyst in strengthening the connections between the different alumni groups. We also hope to continue the dialogue that began with the alumni survey to help us improve our projects and generate ideas for the future.
By Ryan Olivett
In Turkey, all sweet, juicy oranges are called Washington Oranges. When we received a project proposal to help improve citrus production in Turkey we learned that the Washington Orange is originally from Brazil and produced in California and Florida. But since it was originally imported from the U.S., now all sweet, juicy oranges are simply known as Washington Oranges in Turkey.
HasNa is developing a training program for citrus producers that will take place in Florida and Washington, DC. Because oranges are not actually grown right here in Washington, participants will travel to Florida for technical training on citrus production, pest management, and juice processing. They will also visit farms in Florida where they can observe best practices. During this program, participants will develop action plans based on the knowledge they acquire in the U.S. to implement after returning to Turkey. In Washington, DC they will learn communication, marketing, and management skills.
We are modeling the program after our Pistachio Farmers Training Program 2010. Feedback from the participants showed us that technical trainings for agricultural producers and suppliers have a large impact in the quality of their business and production. This year, one of our alumni approached HasNa with an idea to extend and improve the production and processing of oranges in Mersin, Turkey where producers are interested to learn more about new types of citrus. HasNa is developing a two week program for 15 people including citrus producers, suppliers, and government officials.
By Duygu Soyer
The Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) alumni are continuing to build on their experience with CFP to spread the message of building trust and understanding through interaction.
On Tuesday, February 8th, the official launching of The Elders** documentary, Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future was held at Chateau Status in Nicosia, Cyprus. The documentary features four of our CFP alumni, Idil, Tayfun, Thalia, and Michael, as they accompany three of the Elders, Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Jimmy Carter, on a journey to learn about the search for the remains of missing persons in Cyprus.
The documentary will air on television in Cyprus later this year. We hope that this film will help Cypriots to realize their shared experiences and to open a dialogue that will foster mutual understanding. We are very proud to see CFP alumni making a positive impact on the future of the island.
Michael, one of the CFP alumni featured in the film, is blogging on The Elders website. To read his article, Crossing borders with friendship, click here. To view a trailer for Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future on The Elders website, click here.
By Ciara Masterson
**The Elders are a group of eminent global leaders working to support peace building, to help address major causes of human suffering, and to promote the shared interests of humanity
These are questions NGOs must ask themselves time and again to ensure that they are indeed making a difference.
HasNa completed a comprehensive survey of our program graduates to assess the impact we have made in the last ten years. We received an impressive 47% response rate from our graduates–graduates who may live in remote regions of Turkey or participated in one of our first few programs a decade ago. The results confirm that our model–bringing diverse groups together to learn communication and conflict management skills–transforms the relationships our graduates have with people in their families, communities, and careers.
HasNa’s work depends on the support of donors and the reputation we build with graduates and partner organizations. Assessing the impact of our efforts helps us remain accountable to achieving our mission and it also helps us improve as we move forward.
Here are some of the survey highlights:
• 90% of graduates said that HasNa’s training had a positive impact on their careers
• 81% of graduates said that HasNa’s training had a positive impact on their family relationships
• 86% of graduates said that HasNa’s training had a positive impact on their community involvement
• 39%, the largest portion of graduates’ responses, mentioned that the part of their HasNa experience that was most useful to them was the communication training
“Your point of view changes. The communication course was very important. I started to understand people.”
-Graduate from HasNa’s Leader Farmers Training Program 2007
Another highlight from the surveys was the enthusiasm graduates had to visit the United States and to meet Americans. Their enthusiasm is significant especially at a time when global perception of the U.S. is low. When asked what part of their HasNa experience they liked most, 38% of graduate graduate responses mentioned visiting the U.S. to learn about American culture and to meet Americans.
“I have started making plans to take my family to the U.S. I especially want to introduce the U.S. to my son.”
-Graduate from HasNa’s Program Management Training 2010
Based on the survey responses we identified areas for future improvement and growth. The survey has provided us with a wealth of information to help us as we continually improve to maximize our impact.
To read about all of HasNa’s programs click here to visit our website.
By Ryan Olivett
Everywhere you look, on TV, in print, online… Turkey’s resurgence as a regional and economic power is making headlines. Last October’s edition of The Economist included a special report on Turkey, detailing the successful strides the country has made in the last decade and also the unresolved issues that still need to be addressed.
One of these issues is the economic and social underdevelopment in the southeastern part of the country. Income per person is less than half that found in some western areas.* Agriculture is the main industry in the southeast, so income is primarily derived from farming. The southeast also lacks the same levels of educational opportunity of other regions. In 2007 there was 1 teacher for every 30.1 school students in southeastern Turkey, compared to 19.2 in the western, Aegean coasts region.** This also leads to higher levels of illiteracy which is problematic throughout the entire country, especially for women. Women make up 84 percent of those who are older than 15 years of age and who do not know how to read or write.*** Disproportionate levels of development for women prevent them from having the same opportunities that many men have.
HasNa decided a decade ago—upon the advice of experts from Turkey—that one of the best ways we could help in the country was to bring people together from diverse backgrounds and train them in areas that help them acquire important skills.
HasNa has implemented 18 programs in the last decade focused on teaching farmers agricultural skills to help them increase their productivity and overall income. HasNa has also implemented 5 microbusiness programs for women to empower them to become productive members of society. All of our programs have also focused heavily on teaching communication skills to help individuals develop positive relationships within their communities.
The Economist proposes some important political measures to address the unresolved issues in Turkey. But what HasNa has found with experience, is that it is most important to transform peoples’ perceptions, allowing them to work peacefully with others, and to help people acquire skills, creating better opportunities for them to provide for themselves and their families. Indeed, these are long term goals and change does not occur overnight. We know that with continued effort, substantial progress can be made.
To read more about HasNa’s past agricultural programs click here
To read more about HasNa’s past microbusiness programs for women click here
HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program is not merely a month long program in the U.S. The goal of CFP is to instill a lifelong commitment of promoting peace in the CFP teenagers and encourage them to participate in activities after they return to Cyprus.
On November 21, 2010, CFP teens met with a group of students aboard the Peace Boat. Peace Boat is a Japan-based, international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development, and respect for the environment. Peace Boat carries out its main activities aboard a chartered passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages.
8 CFP teens met with about 25 passengers from the Peace Boat in the city of Nicosia, Cyprus. The CFP teens gave joint speeches to explain their experience with CFP and how it had impacted their lives and the lives of their families. George and Halil, CFP 2010 teens, expressed that their experience in the program had ultimately given them, “…a different outlook on life and the importance of peace.”
The Peace Boat friends had many questions about whether others share the CFP teens’ opinions, what difficulties they face as young peace builders, and what hopes they have for a solution to problems in Cyprus. Natasa and Buse, also CFP 2010 teens, emphasized: “We got so used to each other that we forgot who was Greek Cypriot and who was Turkish Cypriot. That didn’t matter. The most important thing was that we were and still are friends…” Indeed, friendship has great potential to build mutual respect and erase distinctions that people feel they have with others. The simplicity of this message is powerful. CFP Coordinator, Nicos Anastasiou said that, “the strength of the applause in the end clearly indicated how valuable the experience was for our guests”.
Later, the teens and their new friends headed toward the port in Limassol, Cyprus for dinner aboard the Boat. A total of 40 members of the CFP family were invited to the Boat for the evening event, including teens, parents, and coordinators from the 2009 and 2010 groups.
The CFP teens continue to impress, showing a true commitment to the values of the program and the greater peace movement.
To read more about HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program click here
By Ciara Masterson
We are developing a citizen journalist program in Cyprus to provide training for youth that want to facilitate dialogue and cross-cultural interaction between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Individual citizens have the potential to use digital media to reach others and broadcast their message to a wide audience. The program will take place the end of May in Cyprus and encourage individuals to promote peaceful relations between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
We are exploring potential environmental programs in Cyprus as well. There are many environmental NGOs in Cyprus trying to preserve the island’s natural ecosystem and promote sustainability. We are organizing a program to bring NGO workers from Cyprus to visit U.S. environmental organizations to learn best practices and to learn how to manage conflict arising from environmental problems.
We are also looking at ways in which we can build stronger bridges with local communities and potential partner organizations in Turkey. Our experiences thus far have convinced us that sustained dialogue is very important to prioritize the types of programs that we implement. Local needs shift and we discover new needs when we continue to listen to our partners and graduates from previous programs.
There are two areas that we would like to expand: one, training local organizations to evaluate their programs and measure outcomes more effectively, and two, training local organizations on how to implement the frameworks and processes needed to improve transparency and prevent corruption.
English language training is always a priority for us because graduates consistently express the desire to learn English. We are planning an English language training program for the spring in Diyarbakir, Turkey.
HasNa has some very exciting plans for 2011 so make sure to check in with us to see how these programs unfold and what new program opportunities arise.
During spring and summer we were busy running projects. This fall and winter we are busy building for the future.
We are diligently working to establish partnerships with in-country organizations, surveying previous HasNa graduates, and upgrading technology in order to build a foundation for achieving our future goals.
HasNa’s programs depend on strong coordination with capable NGO partners. Indeed, partnerships are critical for our unique model to succeed. Two of our interns, Duygu Soyer and Ruken Isik, have extensive networks in Turkey’s NGO sector. They are both working to establish partnerships with NGOs in Turkey that share HasNa’s values. We have a number of important programs in development: Turkey-Armenia Building Bridges, Beekeepers Union Strategic Plan Development, and a follow-up project to our Eco-tourism training project. HasNa is also developing new women’s projects in Turkey. Ruken is enrolled in a graduate program focused on women’s issues and is helping to design the programs. We will keep you informed as these programs continue to develop.
Sustaining long-term relationships with program graduates is also an integral part of our model. We are in the midst of surveying our graduates to maintain these relationships, assess the impacts of our work, and look for future project opportunities. It’s a big task but we hope for an even bigger payoff. Many of our projects originate from the ideas of graduates. They have unique knowledge and experience that helps us identify different opportunities and make connections with new people. More importantly, gauging the impact of our previous work helps us improve as we move forward.
Technology is a critical component of any modern organization and we are implementing big changes in our internal network. In the last six months we have upgraded our computer software, network hardware, and we are currently installing a virtual private network. Improved technology gives us the ability to collaborate more effectively and create higher quality documents. We have identified adding more staff members to the HasNa team as an important part of achieving our long term goals; a larger staff of qualified individuals will expand the skill-set of our organization. Improved technology allows us more flexibility in our work environment to deal with a larger staff and higher workload.
By Ryan Olivett
The Cyprus Friendship Program is uniquely designed to spread the message of peace and understanding through the relationships between the participants and their families, friends, and acquaintances.
This “multiplier effect” generates a growing belief that peace and understanding can be achieved in Cyprus.
Throughout the Cyprus Friendship Program, teens from northern and southern Cyprus meet regularly to dispel the stereotypes and mistrust that afflict the two communities. The program begins in Cyprus, where the teens meet several times before a month long stay with American families in the U.S. The teens return to Cyprus determined to spread the message that Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriots can live peacefully together.
One of the CFP coordinators in Cyprus estimates that in addition to the 38 teens from the 2009 and 2010 programs, 565 family members and friends (15 per teen) have been touched by the message of CFP. The teens have made presentations in schools and youth clubs, extending CFP’s reach to perhaps another 1500 people. Moreover, the teens have been interviewed on radio and television about their CFP experiences, reaching countless other people.
The exact impact may not be measurable, but the CFP Multiplier Effect is truly significant.
by Ciara Masterson
Hello, I am Duygu Soyer from Ankara, Turkey. I have worked in the non-profit sector voluntarily and professionally for ten years.
I first met HasNa in April as a participant of Program Manager Training 2010. It was a well-designed, comprehensive training program aimed at helping to develop NGOs and managers. The program taught us about the defining characteristics of successful and institutionalized NGOs and effective leadership. One of my inferences from the training was that Turkey needs more motivated, open-minded, and experienced young leaders in Turkey to strengthen the non-profit sector.
I am very excited and happy that I will be working with HasNa. HasNa has a strong interest in helping to strengthen NGOs in Turkey and I plan to do my best to contribute to the effort. I believe that this experience will be a milestone both in my life and my career.
Duygu is participating in the Atlas Corps Fellowship and will be serving at HasNa for one year.
Volunteering, in any capacity, has beneficial effects on one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, “volunteering leads to better health” and…”[t]hose who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t volunteer”.
HasNa relies on its dedicated group of volunteers to make every program a success. Our volunteers make a positive change in people’s lives and communities and they have fun and improve their own lives while they’re doing it! They work with us on every program to make the experience unique and meaningful for our training participants. They guide our trainees through Washington, DC and surrounding areas for training sessions and cultural outings. They also translate training documents and sessions for the participants and even volunteer to host dinner parties for the trainees. Our training participants from Turkey and our Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) members value getting to know the people they meet and experiencing the warmth of the spirit of volunteerism in the U.S.
We had an incredible group of volunteers for this year’s CFP. In addition to our host families, the CFP volunteers planned the farewell dinner, pool parties, museum tours, and assisted during the Bikes for the World community service activity. Their motivation and belief in the program helped to move CFP forward. At the CFP farewell dinner each pair of teens and their host families spoke about their experience with the program. The teens’ respect and gratitude for everyone that helped during the program was evident during their heartwarming and inspiring presentations. Each host family expressed how they were forever moved by the teens and the experience of CFP, as one host parents said, “I want you to know that every one of you has touched every one of us…Thank you for coming over and opening your hearts and your souls to us.”
The experience of meeting volunteers in the U.S. is always a meaningful one for HasNa trainees and volunteers. It is really no surprise that volunteering has positive effects on one’s health. Our CFP volunteers finished the program feeling the love and excitement of the teens and thankful that they had participated in the program. We hope that if you are interested in adding to their experience and contributing to peace in our world, you will contact HasNa to get involved! We’d be happy to have you!
To volunteer with HasNa: https://hasna.org/Volunteer.htm
by Ciara Masterson
HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) is underway again! For a 2nd year, HasNa has brought a group of young, future leaders to the United States for a month of leadership training, team building and community service. CFP focuses on fostering trust and understanding through friendships between Turkish Cypriot teens and Greek Cypriot teens to prepare these future leaders to find bi-communal solutions for living harmoniously in Cyprus.
The teens’ journey to the U.S. began in Cyprus several months ago when these passionate and motivated young people were selected to participate in the Cyprus Friendship Program. In the weeks before their departure to the States, the teens participated in many activities and workshops to build their relationships with one another and to bring together their friends and families as well. The teens were also placed in pairs, one teenager from each community, to strengthen their individual friendships.
The 9 pairs selected for the 4 week stay in the U.S. (7 pairs in the D.C. area and 2 in New Hampshire) will live with American host families, they will sleep in the same room, eat at the same table, and build their friendships in a politically neutral environment. The aim of the residential is to promote understanding through interaction between the pairs so that they can form a bond between them that will last beyond the program dates.
Tomorrow the teens will have their FIRST team building activity at The Mason Center for Team and Organizational Learning! http://www.edgeatmason.com/
by Ciara Masterson
All over Turkey, non-profit organizations work vigorously to meet the needs of individuals and communities in a diverse set of areas. Organizations are promoting human rights, improving access to education and healthcare, addressing environmental damage, promoting gender and ethnic equality, fostering economic and social development… The list goes on. Good intentions are always admirable, but the endurance and effectiveness of an organization depends on successful management.
Managing the day-to-day activities of an organization and implementing projects are complex and challenging. Successful management is crucial to sustaining an organization and implementing projects effectively and efficiently.
HasNa invited eleven passionate leaders for the Program Management Training 2010 held in Washington, D.C. between April 2nd and 24th. During the two-week program the participants developed their skills in strategic planning, collaborative communication, leadership, and conflict resolution. Program Management Training stresses the importance of managing day-to-day activities—recruiting volunteers, hiring employees, fundraising, running payroll, recordkeeping—as well as long-term strategic management to remain effective and flexible in an ever-changing environment.
During the program participants visited a number of non-profits in the D.C. metro area to learn best practices in running successful organizations, including the Latin American Youth Center, D.C. Central Kitchen, and N Street Village. In addition, they spent two days with Edna Povich from the Center for Dispute Settlement, learning about the differences between collaboration and competition and taking part in realistic simulation scenarios to develop their collaboration skills. Participants also spent a day at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to learn more about the day-to-day responsibilities of management.
Participants were continually encouraged to think about how they could apply the tools and knowledge they acquired to their current and future work. During the last day of the program, participants presented program action plans that they will implement in Turkey. Topics ranged from organic beekeeping techniques to helping farmers diversify their income to establishing a women’s development center. The presentations reflected not only participants’ passion and commitment to their work but also the valuable skills they developed over the course of the training.
The program participants overwhelmingly expressed how beneficial the Program Management Training was for their skill development. They also expressed that the training had made an immediate impact on how they view their leadership roles in their respective organizations. HasNa’s Program Management Training is unique and challenging, collaborative and inspiring. The participants continuing work will be a testament to the effectiveness and endurance of HasNa’s Program Management Training.
by Ryan Olivett