The Anti-Kurdish Paradigm: From Sykes-Picot to the September 2017 Referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

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 with your thoughts

This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.

DemoSapiens: Freedom Under Threat

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.

Questions from Central Command on Achieving Peace in Afghanistan

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 with your thoughts. 

This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.

The Intersection of Faith and Politics

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 with your thoughts. 


This blog post is written by Zeena Mubarak, Fall 2018 Intern at HasNa, Inc.

Insiders/Outsiders: Nations, Borders, and Immigration

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!

Meeting with UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative

Rukmini Banerjee in conversation with students from the University of California, Irvine

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.

Saving Democracy from Ourselves

Rukmini Banerjee discusses the psychological wiring of dictators and their followers

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 examines the economic and socio-political challenges to liberal 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.

Ashok Panikkar facilitates the discussion following the presentations

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.

From Liability to Asset: Realizing Turkey’s Potential

Dr. Aykan Erdemir (left), Dr. Pelin Eralp Wolak (center), Mr. Cenk Sidar (right). Photograph by Jessica Sidar.

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. Our 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.

The Importance of Integration

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.

HasNa Summary of Arab Fractures Event

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.

Why is Collaboration Crucial for Democracy to Function?

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.

The Consequences of NGO Suspensions in Turkey

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 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


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

A Valuable Relationship: HasNa, Inc. and Arkadaşlar

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.

Community Town Hall with Garo Paylan, founding member of the HDP party in Turkey

Garo Paylan milletvekili seçildi mi?

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.


Turkey’s Kurdish Predicament



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

Anatolian Artist Gallery in DC

Anatolian Art

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.

Hard Work Pays Off

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


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.”

Power sharing

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.

There is also a broad, if incomplete understanding on how to tackle property disputes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who lost homes and land after Turkey’s military invasion of the north of the island in 1974. Other issues, notably territorial exchanges, security guarantees and the withdrawal of Turkish troops, are to be addressed in the final stages of the talks.

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.

Such events can seem contrived. But they have a role in Cyprus, where any settlement will fail unless concerted efforts are made to bridge the gulf of ignorance, suspicion and misunderstanding that divides the two communities. A profound sense of victimhood affects each side’s attitude to the trade-offs on political status, property and territory that will inevitably form part of any settlement.

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.

Turkey keeps an occupying force in northern Cyprus of 30,000-40,000 troops, making the island one of the world’s most militarised areas. Several tens of thousands of settlers from Turkey’s Anatolian heartland also live in the north.

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.

Unity dividend

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

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.

The Much-Needed Case for Profitable Peacebuilding

The Much-Needed Case for Profitable Peacebuilding

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. HasNa 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.

Phone: 202-223-1777


Education: A Promising Journey


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…

Turkish Festival 2014 (Washington, DC)


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.

HasNa Cyprus Programs Embark on a New Chapter with Eco-Journalism Initiative

Avi Blog 1


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!

HasNa Continues to Train Turkish Citrus Farmers


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.

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Amusement Under the Olive Tree: Finding the Pleasure Perspective in Conflict-Ridden Areas

Monica blog

 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.

Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA) Participants 2014

Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA) Participants 2014