2021-2022 marks the 10th year of the AHDA fellowship program. Since 2012, the fellowship has hosted at least 107 fellows who represent over 48 countries and territories. Below please find information regarding the professional interests and accomplishments of fellows and alumni. While at Columbia, fellows design individual projects that address some aspect of a history of gross human rights violations in their society, country, and/or region.
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Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellow
Besiana Xharra is a senior journalist for Zeri, a newsroom dedicated to investigative journalism in the public interest. Her areas of focus include politics, social issues, and topics relating to human rights. She is particularly interested in the areas of radicalization and terrorism, how radicalization has taken root in Kosovo, with a particular focus on young people from Kosovo who have joined terrorist groups and have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. In addition to these topics of interest, Ms. Xharra is the senior journalist at Zeri to write on topics relating to the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, and the political and social challenges that have arisen in the fifteen years since that war concluded. Ms. Xharra’s areas of expertise include accountability and transitional justice, conflict resolution, and historical dialogue, and her background includes extensive experience in documentation activities and policy work. Prior to working at Zeri, Ms. Xharra worked for Radio Free Europe as the Editor for the Kosovo desk. She’s worked at a number of other news agencies including Express Newspaper, Ekobiznesi, Pristina Insight and Balkan Investigative Reporter Network.
As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Xharra’s project will examine two intersecting challenges facing post-conflict Kosovo: first regards the coexistence between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, and addressing the failures of the recent EU initiative to encourage dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. Second is to understand and address the radicalization movement in Kosovo and the region, which is closely linked to the Serbian occupation of Kosovo, its treatment of Kosovo Albanians and the stereotypes it perpetuated about this population.
Bosch Stiftung Fellow
Ines Amri is the Founder/CEO-President of Organisation Volonté et Citoyenneté (Will and Citizenship Organization), a Youth-led and Post-Revolution NGO founded in Gabes, in the southeast of Tunisia. It has as objectives defending Human Rights, training and empowering youth leaders and women, and promoting cultural and social projects. Ines is a trainer in Strategic Planning and social entrepreneurship. She manages a local team and has significant experience designing, leading programs and training workshops. She has been a member and Alumnus of American Islamic Congress (AIC) and the Cultural Innovators Network (CIN). She has been also a certified ESL teacher since 2008 at the Tunisian Ministry of Education. She has been a Legislative Fellow, one of the four Tunisian delegates to work for the US Congress for a month. She has been placed at the office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (Minnesota-4). Ines was appointed to serve as a member of the International Jury of the Plural+ Video Festival 2013, put on by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ines is an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) as she was nominated to represent Tunisia in “The Role of NGOs in Promoting Global Women’s Issues Program”.
Coming from a country that is currently living the tensions between sectarian and religious ideologies, and where identity is used as a political weapon for propaganda, Ines has also led several initiatives that explore and embrace the multiplicity of Tunisian identity, and that seek to use the memory of Tunisia’s history to ensure that religious and national identity are not co-opted by a single narrative. As an AHDA fellow, Ines seeks to develop a project that addresses the growing sectarianism and ideological conflicts developing in Tunisia, by exploring Tunisia’s past and its identity as a nation with “multiple” selves.
Raba Gjoshi is the Executive Director of the NGO Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Kosovo (YIHR KS). Since 2007, Raba has led a range of public actions and campaigns that address issues related to missing persons, freedom of expression, right to information, rights of minorities, antiracism and antisemitism and active citizenship. Working with an organization which combines different approaches, Raba has also been engaged in the monitoring of human rights legislation, institutions and mechanisms, documenting and reporting on human rights abuses and promoting human rights values through education and activism. More generally, as executive director, Raba Gjoshi is responsible for overall programmatic, financial, and administrative work of the organization, including fundraising, project development and implementation, general operations on the day-to-day level as well ensuring the implementation of longer term goals.
In the historical dialogue arena, Raba’s work has concentrated on dialogue and exchange amongst young people; building projects that initiate public dialogue and acknowledge victims; and projects that support initiatives for documentation, justice, healing and memory. The project Raba intends to develop as an AHDA fellow will focus on the issue of deportations during the war in Kosovo, and in particular the collection and documentation of facts. Her intention is to engage local communities in this work in order to create a space for dialogue and collective memory.
Open Society Foundation – Turkey Fellow
Trained as an historian, Asena Günal currently works as program coordinator of DEPO, a center for arts and culture in Istanbul. DEPO was founded in 2009 by Anadolu Kültür, a civil society organization working to create open spaces for artistic collaboration believing that cultural exchange and cooperation can lead to dialogue and mutual understanding among individuals with different social backgrounds and national or ethnic identities. Aside from its artistic program (exhibitions, installations, film screenings), DEPO organizes conferences, workshops, lectures and panel discussions on topics relating to historical, political and social issues. It also publishes an e-journal on contemporary art practices in Turkey and the surrounding region, and is considered an alternative space that is open to politically critical exhibitions and events. Asena is responsible for the organization and coordination of all activities that take place at DEPO. Last year, for example, she coordinated an exhibition and edited a book entitled Bir Daha Asla!: Geçmişle Yüzleşme ve Özür (Never Again!: Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past, İstanbul, 2013), which explored eight cases of political apologies from around the world.
Asena became an advocate of historical dialogue and accountability first as an editor of social science texts at a publishing house known for highlighting politically taboo and controversial issues (she co-edited, for example, 90’larda Türkiye’de Feminizm (Feminism in Turkey in the 1990s, İstanbul, 2002) and then as a doctoral student of history. Having a PhD degree in history and collaborating with various civil society institutions, Asena focuses on projects that deal with the past, but that also seek to make individuals explore what kind of society they live in today, and what future they would like to build. As an AHDA fellow, Asena plans to develop a proposal for a new exhibition and publication project that focuses on eight state crimes in Turkey, all of which need to be acknowledged and reckoned with to solve ongoing ethno-religious and political conflicts. Crimes such as the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the 1938 Dersim Massacre, the forced disappearances of the 1990s and the 2011 military attack on civilians in Roboski were crimes committed by the state or by state-sanctioned proxies. A discussion regarding possible redress with regard to these acts of violence will transform the rhetoric of protest to more constructive and future-oriented policies that have the potential to impact the general public and policy-makers.
Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) Fellow
Nayat Karakoseoglu is a program officer for the Strategic Fund for Turkey Program (SFT) of the UK based charity Global Dialogue. The SFT Program aims to improve the capacity of grass roots NGOs and vulnerable groups; to empower human rights activists, and to enable NGOs to implement projects that target raising awareness on human rights issues. Ms. Karakoseoglu works with NGOs and individuals to develop new projects and to promote projects currently under development. She recently contributed to SFT’s specially designed program entitled, “Facing the Past and Transitional Justice”. Ms. Karakoseoglu is also a volunteer at the Hrant Dink Foundation, and a part-time editor of a section of the Turkish-Armenian AGOS Newspaper, which covers issues relating to politics and culture in Turkey. She received her MA degree from the University of Essex in Human Rights.
Ms. Karakoseoglu is particularly interested in sites of memory as a means for remembering, raising awareness, creating empathy and dealing with violent pasts. As an AHDA fellow, she plans to develop a site of memory project relating to the figure of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2007, in front of the Agos newspaper, which he had founded and edited. Ms. Karakseoglu thus hopes to create a model for how the location of the Agos newspaper at the time of Dink’s murder could be turned into a site of conscience and memory, and in so doing nurture the reconciliation efforts of Armenians and Turks that Hrant Dink himself invested much of himself in doing.
Oriol López-Badell is the coordinator of the “European Observatory on Memories” project, which is supported by the University of Barcelona Solidarity Foundation. The Solidarity Foundation seeks to encourage social responsibility, to foster initiatives for defending democracy, peace and human rights, and to promote social action through various projects and community outreach. Previously, Oriol worked as an historian and officer of international relations in the Memorial Democratic, a public institution devoted to implementing policies to recover democratic memory in Catalonia (Spain). Oriol also coordinated the project www.memoriabcn.cat, a website and an app for smartphones designed to disseminate information about sites of memory in the city of Barcelona. This project was led by the Knowing History Association with the support of the Spanish government and Barcelona City Hall. Oriol is the author of Transitioning: Five Citizen Initiatives to Achieve Full Democracy, (published in Spanish and Catalan languages); and he has participated as a lecturer in conferences and workshops worldwide. He is a graduate in History and postgraduate in History and Communication from the University of Barcelona. He also followed an intensive course on Truth Commissions through the International Center for Transitional Justice.
Oriol’s project for the AHDA Fellowship will focus on creating intergenerational dialogues with witnesses of Spain’s military dictatorship following the Spanish Civil War. He will bring together Civil War combatants of different ideologies, exiles and activists who participated in the transition to democracy. These dialogues will be accompanied by a guided tour of memory sites in the city of Barcelona, with the objective of giving the community the tools to remember the origins of today’s democracy and by doing so reinforce the foundations of a democratic society.
Lynn Maalouf is a Beirut-based writer, activist and trainer whose work focuses on the issue of the missing and disappeared persons in Lebanon. She is the co-founder and senior researcher at Act for the Disappeared, Lebanese human rights NGO. Prior to that, she headed the country program of the International Center for Transitional Justice for five years, during which time she co-authored a handbook on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, conducted a process that led to the development of the Draft Law for the Missing and Disappeared Persons in Lebanon, and conceived and implemented an oral history project, Badna Naaraf (We want to Know), with high school and university students, about citizens’ daily life during the Lebanese conflict. She is the main author of “Lebanon’s Legacy of Political Violence, a mapping of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Lebanon 1975-2008,” released in 2013. She is a member of scientific committee of “Beit Beirut” and a board member of R-Shief, and a regular contributor to the International Justice Tribune.
In Lebanon, where the consequences of impunity coupled with memory erasure are both severe and multi-faceted, Lynn has focused on collecting facts about the conflict, developing platforms to share narratives of the conflict, and developing tools to increase knowledge and strengthen stakeholders’ advocacy efforts. As an AHDA fellow, Lynn plans to develop a project related to memorialization of the missing that raises the profile of the victims and their families—a project that is complicated by the fact that it will take place in a society still in the grips of forgetfulness.
Kelen Meregali currently works at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Her organization seeks to help societies in transition to address legacies of human rights violations and build civic trust in state institutions through transitional justice mechanisms. Kelen joined ICTJ three years ago as an Associate for the Truth and Memory Program, assisting with the support and advice for truth seeking initiatives processes in a variety of countries to advance the right to truth and to enhance society’s discussion about the past, and now also as a Program Office Manager assisting with the overseeing of programmatic work for the organization. Prior to moving to New York, she has worked at the Amnesty Commission of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice since 2007 and as a consultant for UNDP since 2009. During this time she was part of a team that helped to strengthen and reorganize the commission, as well as design and implement the Commission’s innovative “Amnesty Caravan” outreach program throughout Brazil, relating to the national reparations program and public policies on education and memorialization.
As a fellow in the AHDA Program, Kelen seeks to explore the devastating legacy of forced assimilation in Indian Residential Schools in Canada stemming from the 1870s, when children were ripped from their families and forced to learn new languages and religions. She will focus on a project featuring a multimedia web-based platform encouraging active engagement, especially by young people, with the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The project aims to show the multi-faceted, inter-generational nature of harm and its impacts, to foster trust by breaking down the stereotypes that beget discrimination, while also encouraging dialogue among citizens about future policymaking options for addressing the past. Kelen sees this as a pilot project that could serve as a model for other truth-seeking bodies, including those in Guatemala, Peru, and soon Brazil and Tunisia. Kelen received her law degree from the Pontific Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (2007) and holds a post-graduate degree on International Law from the Superior School for Federal Prosecutors (2010).
Robert Bosch Stiftung Fellow
Munini Mutuku works at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in Kenya. This body was established in 2008 after the 2007/’08 post-election violence in Kenya. It is one of the Government agencies recommended in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commissions Report of 2013 as key to spearheading dialogue and reconciliation initiatives in the Country. Among other programs, the Commission works to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation initiatives around the country. As a Senior Program Officer in the Reconciliation and Integration Department, Munini works on the promotion of reconciliation dialogue initiatives in conflict affected communities, project development, mentorship programs and project supervision.
Previously, Munini worked at the Centre for Minority Rights and Development working on projects advocating for the rights of minority and indigenous peoples in Kenya and other African Countries. Munini is a social scientist by training, with extensive work experience in peacebuilding, human rights, and social justice. She holds a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Conflict Management from Alice-Salomon University of Applied Sciences (Berlin) and a Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democracy from the European Inter-University Center (Italy) and University of Vienna (Austria).
Munini’s proposed project for the AHDA Fellowship seeks to engage young people in historical dialogue processes. In particular, her project will focus on the Turbi massacre, which occurred in July 2005 in the Marsabit District of Northern Kenya. This massacre, which involved communities with a history of antagonism and conflict, continues to evade redress and reconciliation efforts, and Munini’s project thus seeks to support community dialogue initiatives in an attempt to promote reconciliation and healing between this two communities.
Subha Ghale works as a project coordinator for the National Indigenous Women’s Federation (NIWF) in Kathmandu, Nepal. She has worked with various other organizations such as Heifer International Nepal, and the National Human Rights Commission Nepal/UNDP, and the Asia Foundation, primarily on issues related to gender, indigenous women’s rights, and human rights. She has a Master's in Rural Development from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and a Master's in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Sydney Australia. Subha's association with NIWF has increasingly sharpened her awareness about the situation of indigenous women in Nepal. Indigenous peoples make up over one-third of the total population of Nepal.
She is keen to deepen her knowledge about the experiences of indigenous women in Nepal and the history of discrimination against them. A question she seeks to address is how to strengthen their voices and move beyond tokenism to ensure their inclusion. As an AHDA Fellow, Subha plans to to develop an oral history project on the personal narratives of indigenous women who were affected by the decade-long armed conflict (1996-2006) in Nepal. How do they understand their experiences, and how do they define truth and justice? How are their wartime experiences intertwined with their social and cultural identity? Subha will use oral history as a tool to uncover an alternative history of the conflict, and hopes this will help bring about policy attuned to the experiences of historically marginalized groups.
Petar Subotin is the Regional Development Officer of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Regional Network, BIRN Hub, and has held this position since 2010. The BIRN Network aims to build and strengthen media capacity in the Balkans, in the belief that better reporting, and the scrutiny and analysis that such reporting entails, contributes to political, social, and economic reforms and transitional justice efforts. Petar’s role is related to the development of the BIRN Network – expanding the Network’s influence within and beyond the Balkan region. He works closely on the Balkan Transitional Justice program that aims to improve the general public’s understanding of transitional justice issues in former Yugoslav countries. Aside from designing the program and securing funds for its continuation, he oversees monitoring and evaluation of the program’s activities that include publishing and broadcasting balanced reports (online, radio and TV) in a variety of different languages (Albanian, Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian, Macedonian and English). Petar graduated from media studies as the top student at Philosophy Faculty in Novi Sad, University of Novi Sad, Serbia. After graduation he participated in the Professional Development Year program organized by Voice of America, where he studied journalism for a year at University of El Paso, Texas, US. In 2011, he studied cycle management and European integrations at the College of Europe in Bruge, Belgium.
Petar’s professional involvement in dealing with the past emerged from his experience as a teenager, during the wars and violence that occurred in the Balkans during 1990s. Although history was taught in schools, there was almost no opportunity to understand or contextualize the events being taught due to intense media pressure and the nationalist narratives that defined that period. While media played a crucial role in the wars of the 1990s, TV, radio and print also served as main sources of information (as opposed to textbooks). Taking part in shaping the public’s discourse has inspired Petar’s awareness of the importance of dealing with the past, and the responsibility that lies with younger generations to open the public discussion by exposing the crimes that were committed in the name of a people or a country. As an AHDA fellow, Petar will develop a multi-media project that examines the acts of one of the most notorious military units, the “Serbian Volunteer Guard”.
Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL) Fellow
Rana Tanveer works as a Senior Reporter with The Express Tribune daily (tribune.com.pk), a publishing partner of International New York Times. As a journalist, Rana is passionate about covering issues relating to religious minorities and human rights. He has become particularly interested in the Ahmadi religious minority and the discrimination this community faces. Writing about the activities of extremist religious organizations; issues related to terrorism among religious extremist organizations; and cases under review within the Pakistani court system are topics he covers as well. As head of a reporting team, Rana’s role at The Express Tribune also includes supervising the reporting team in Lahore to ensure coverage of all important issues of the day.
Ahmadis, who identify themselves as Muslim, but who are considered a heretical sect by the Muslim majority, face a particularly unique set of issues because of their self-identification as Muslims. The Pakistani media, for example, does not give proper coverage of atrocities suffered within their community, and censorship of publications relating to the community is widespread: it is a crime for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim; the leadership of the Ahmadia community is forbidden from visiting Pakistan, where the largest community (approximately 2 million) of Ahmadis in the world resides; violence against members of the Ahmadiyya community is regularly committed with impunity. As a professional journalist, Rana strives to publicize both the discrimination suffered by the Ahmadi community, but also the lack of redress and tolerance within the community at large. Addressing the historical roots of this violence and the conflicting narratives about the Ahmadi identity are central to reducing discrimination towards the Ahmadiyya community, and allowing members of this community, like those of other religious minorities, to practice their religious beliefs without fear of being attacked. As an AHDA fellow, Rana will develop a project that seeks to address these issues, and that seeks to open up discussion of Ahmadi identity and place in Pakistani society.
Dr. Alfaleet is currently the Director of International Affairs and Quality Assurance at Gaza University, a private university located in the Gaza Strip. He is responsible for managing all social and public activities between the university and the local and international communities, with particular emphasis on local universities and NGOs. Dr. Alfaleet is also a professor of political science with a strong interest in teaching political & historical courses at various Palestinian universities, with a particular emphasis on the Israeli-Arab conflict and Human Rights. Among his many projects, Dr. Alfaleet organized a ‘Model United Nations’ conference in Gaza that included four UN organizations and sought to develop young people’s capacity in leadership and diplomacy. His research projects include work on the history of the Palestinian Liberation Organization; the history of Islamic radical movements; and the changing nature of European attitudes toward the Palestinians. He has also produced a number of documentary films in Gaza to highlight the challenging economic situation, the tunnels economy, and the sewage and pollution problems that threaten to spill over into the Mediterranean. As an AHDA fellow, Dr. Alfaleet seeks to create a network of local and international NGOs and universities that pursue public discussions of peace perspectives and peace-building policies in the Middle East, and that create projects that increase the capacity of citizens in the region to do the work of peace-building. Dr. Alfaleet received his PhD in Political Science in 2010 at the Institute of Arab Research & studies, Cairo, Egypt.
Sadiah Boonstra is currently a Project Associate at the International Institute for Asian Studies, in the Netherlands. In addition Sadiah is a freelance museum curator and previously worked as an exhibition maker and curator in various national museums in the Netherlands. She is also finishing her PhD at the Department of History at VU University in Amsterdam, where she has worked as a lecturer. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Boonstra will develop a project that examines the mass killings that followed the violent coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965-66. Official historical discourse on the period was controlled throughout the rule of Suharto, and academic discussions have had limited success in terms of opening discussion. This project seeks to use audiovisual technology to collect the testimony of victims and their families and to create a platform for alternative histories that maps sites of violence; that opens up discussion of these events further; and that convinces the government to consider more openly the events of this period.
Serhat Çaçan is a historian, with a particular interest in oral history. He is one of the founders of the Mulberry Tree Collective which focuses on oral history research. His work in this collective is mostly about the violence of the past and its impact on different communities within Turkey. His most recent oral history work focuses on Kurdish oral traditions. In the AHDA program, he is going to implement an oral history project which focuses on the massacres in Northern Mesopotamia in the first half of the 20th Century, and more specifically the Armenian massacre. In this research project, he will collect the oral narratives of Kurdish people about "filleh"s, namely, Armenian, Assyrian, and other "non-muslim" people, then analyse them to understand how these massacres are remembered and memorialized by Kurdish people. In so doing, he seeks to initiate a dialogue between Armenians and Kurds about their shared history.