2018 marks the 7th year of the AHDA fellowship program. To date we have had over 59 fellows in the program representing over 30 countries. Below find information regarding the professional interests and accomplishments of select 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. Click here to read more about the fellows' projects.
Click here to read about more about the work of our Fellows.
Bonita Bennett is Director of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to this, Bennett worked as a youth worker for the Diocese of Cape Town, a high school teacher, a project manager for the South African Institute of Race Relations, and as a research and project manager for the African Tenants Verification Project of the Western Cape Land Claims Commission. Bennett’s work in the non-profit and public sector has sought to bring together her pedagogical training and her political activism, and she has combined skills gleaned during the days of the anti-apartheid struggle with her formal training to inform her approach to her position as Director of the District Six Museum. As an AHDA fellow, Bennett will develop school curricula that use moments in South Africa’s national history—employing storytelling, performance, creative writing, the arts, and history—to illuminate current realities and link the past to the present, with the overarching message that the past matters.
Benji de la Piedra is an independent oral historian and writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. He is currently at work on an oral history project that explores the biography of Herbert Denton Jr (1943-1989), a little-known but legendary journalist at The Washington Post whose life and work provide a window onto issues of race, sexuality, and political culture in the second half of American twentieth century history. Previous work includes his M.A. oral history thesis project, entitled “That Something Else”: Botkin, Portelli and Ellison on Democratic Pluralism and the Dialogical Encounter. During his time as an ADHA Fellow, de la Piedra will be developing a project that gathers and interprets oral histories from current graduate students at Columbia. The project aims to explore perceptions of race, gender, and identity on an American college campus, with the goal of initiating a restorative campus-wide dialogue about the ideal of diversity and feelings of institutional disavowal.
María José Kahn Silva holds a degree in Art History (Universidad de Buenos Aires). Since September 2015, she has been responsible for Educational, Artistic and Museographical Development at ESMA Memory Site, where she is working to develop International Cooperation by building networks between the Site and the international community to promote human rights, memory and museums. Prior to this she coordinated the Educational Department at MALBA -Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, developing educational programs and collaborative actions between the museum and social organizations and worked as a Bilingual Museum Educator. She has assisted investigators and cultural agents at Fundación Proa and the Latin America Research Center of Harvard Business School in Argentina. In addition to these activities, Kahn Silva teaches Art History at Escuela Motivarte. As an AHDA fellow, Kahn Silva will develop an education program that invites security and military students to visit the ESMA Memory Site, as a way to learn about and understand the human rights violations committed during the last military dictatorship in Argentina.
Simon Kaneneka, born in Uvira, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a survivor of the two wars that ravaged the country. After studying Communication Sciences at the Université Lumière de Bujunbura in Burundi, he began working as Director of Communication and Engagement at IMPACT NGO in 2011. At IMPACT, Kaneneka manages a team of 8 staff to design and develop initiatives that make use of documentation to promote dialogue and reconciliation for survivors of sexual violence and former combatants within communities affected by war. Prior to this, he managed civic mass education on general elections in Eastern DRC and was an observer from the civil society delegation for the 2006 general elections in the country. As an AHDA fellow, Kaneneka will develop a project that seeks to use the thousands of stories from perpetrators and victims to initiate reconciliation through the traditional method of “BARAZA” and to work towards the reintegration of combatants into the community.
Miraji Magai Juma Maira is a Programme Officer at the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, the Foundation founded and named after the first President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Maira also serves as Secretary of the National Committee for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities of the United Republic of Tanzania. Prior to this, he served as Regional Coordinator of the Regional Civil Society Forum Provisional Secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in its establishment phase. His work at the Foundation and the National Committee seeks to contribute to conflict resolution and reconciliation, peace building, and promoting human development by developing and implementing pertinent programs and projects. As an AHDA fellow, Maira will develop a project called “Prevention of land conflicts in Tanzania: A case study of the land conflict between farmers and pastoralists in Kiteto”, which seeks to address this more than 10-year conflict through historical dialogue processes.
Elena Monicelli has been a Coordinator at the Peace School Foundation of Monte Sole, in Bologna, Italy, since 2009, having joined the School as a Senior Officer in 2004. As Coordinator, Monicelli develops educational workshops and conducts historical research on the link between memory and citizenship education, memory and post-conflict reconciliation, and memory and public political discourses. She also coordinates the School’s finances, fundraising, research projects, and other activities. In addition, Monicelli is a founding member of the “International Coalition of Sites of Conscience – Europe”. As an AHDA fellow, Monicelli will develop a project on the dehumanization of migrants and victims of torture by analyzing which kinds of political, social, and anthropological discourses delete the adjective ‘human’ from a being in order to let some behaviors and attitudes apply to him or her without perceiving it as an injustice, a violation, or a crime.
Natalia Petrova is Director of Public Relations at Memorial International Society in Moscow, Russia, where she develops PR strategy, designs campaigns, and organizes art projects designed to present historical memory. Prior to this, she worked as a researcher at All-Union Rehabilitation Center, and later moved on to work at the Carnegie Moscow Center, Nature Magazine, Google, and the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Among her interests are the problems of preserving the memory of the past, personal memory, and art projects related to the preservation of memory. As an AHDA fellow, Petrova will work on a project called “Burying the Dead and Ghosts of Soviet/Stalin’s Past”, which aims to promote intensive discussion of what happened in Russia starting from the October Revolution of 1917.
Velma Šarić is Founder and Executive Director of the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Šarić has extensive academic and professional experience in the fields of sociology, genocide studies and international law and war crimes. As a graduate of the BBC reporting school, she has dedicated her 14-year career to investigative reporting in the Western Balkans. Šarić has worked as a journalist for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and as a researcher on numerous publications and films about the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including “Uspomene 677”, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” by Angelina Jolie, and “I Came to Testify” and “War Redefined” from PBS’ Women, War & Peace series. She is also the founder of Balkan Diskurs, a non-profit, multimedia platform dedicated to challenging stereotypes and providing viewpoints on society, culture, and politics in the Western Balkans. In 2014, Velma and the Post-Conflict Research Center were awarded the Intercultural Innovation Award by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). As an AHDA fellow, Šarić will work on a multimedia education project called ‘Ordinary Heroes’, which utilizes stories of rescue and moral courage—through workshops, a photography exhibit, and a documentary series—to promote tolerance, reconciliation and interethnic cooperation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Louisa Slavkova is a founding member and director of Sofia Platform, an organization that focuses on dealing with the past and promoting democracy in Bulgaria, as well as in EU’s Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods. In addition, she is programme manager at the European Council on Foreign Relations, supporting the organization in managing activities and its cross-programme work. Between 2011 and 2013 she served as an advisor to the Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs Nickolay Mladenov and to the caretaker minister of environment Julian Popov. She is co-editor of the 2015 book “Unrewarding crossroads? The Black Sea Region amidst the European Union and Russia”. Louisa is a PhD candidate and holds an MA in political science and history from the University of Cologne in Germany, and her research interests include looking at EU’s foreign policy towards its neighbours to the East and South. As an AHDA fellow, Slavkova will develop a project that examines the response on the part of many Cenral and Eastern European countries to prevent predominantly Muslim refugees from entering their respective countries, and the connections that exist between this response and the failure on the part of many of these countries to fully and properly confront their communist past.
Marijana Toma is Deputy Executive Director at the Humanitarian Law Center, where she works on documenting war crimes, oral history, forced disappearances and transitional justice. During the past 13 years, she has been involved in numerous transitional justice projects in the region and internationally. She was the Coordinator of the task force for drafting the mandate for the Regional Commission for establishing facts about war crimes and other violations of human rights in Yugoslavia (RECOM). Prior to this, Toma was a Serbia Programme Coordinator at Impunity Watch, where she worked on the promotion of accountability for atrocities in countries emerging from a violent past, and as part of the International Organisation for Migration Mission in Serbia she worked on the issue of legal migration. During her time in South Africa completing her Masters studies in transitional Justice, she worked as a consultant for the International Centre for Transitional Justice. Toma writes and lectures on transitional justice in numerous regional and international informal and formal educational programmes. As an AHDA fellow, Toma will develop a project that seeks to bring educators and youth in schools into the debate on the responsible and factual representation of the former Yugoslavia’s past, with the aim of reforming the formal history education curriculum.
Bosch Foundation Fellow
Nora Ahmetaj is a founder and director of the Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP), which was established in 2010. Its foundation was inspired by a profound need to seek transitional justice, reconciliation and right to truth for victims and former adversaries of the Kosovo conflict. The mission of CRDP is to develop mechanisms related to Dealing with the Past through research, documentation, publication and advocacy. In some ways the work of CRDP came out of Ms. Ahmetaj’s experience during the armed conflict in Kosovo, when she conducted investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the Humanitarian Law Centre. Ms. Ahmetaj’s work at CRDP includes developing projects in line with the mission and vision of the organization, as well as focusing on the organization’s strategic initiatives. Her responsibilities include communication, status reporting, risk management (contingency planning), fundraising, networking, lecturing and advocacy.
Prior to working at CRDP, Ms. Ahmetaj was engaged as a consultant for the European Commission, and worked for a variety of international organizations such as HLC, UNDP, ICG, AI and HRW. From 2010-2012 Ms. Ahmetaj was a member of the Regional Coordination Council of Coalition for Regional Truth Commission (RECOM) for war crimes committed during the years 1991-2001 in Former Yugoslavia. Her specialization throughout her career has been human rights, peace and conflict transformation, and transitional justice. In terms of her education, Ms. Ahmetaj was trained in human rights and international relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy which she attended in 2000. She earned an MA in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies from the University of Tromsø, Norway in 2005, and in 2008 she attended a Tufts University workshop on Solving Non-violent Conflicts. In 2010, she was selected to attend an Advanced Learning Course for Professionals on Dealing with the Past in Switzerland. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Ahmetaj will take up issues related to Dealing with the Past: she will develop a project that explores conceptual and practical applications regarding what reconciliation means for stakeholders within the context of Kosovo and the Western Balkans.
Dr. Niđara Ahmetašević, is an independent scholar who works in the areas of democratization and media development in post conflict societies, transitional justice, the process of facing the past, media and political propaganda, and human rights. She has had a long career as a journalist working for various local, regional and international media on human rights, war crimes, and international affairs. Her work has been published in The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, the International Justice Tribune, and Balkan Insight (among others). In 2013, together with two colleagues, Dr. Ahmetašević established the Open University Sarajevo, a platform for public discussions, social, artistic and political alternatives, and informal education.
Dr. Ahmetašević received her PhD from the University of Graz, Austria in the Program on Diversity Management and Governance. She holds an MA in Human Rights and Democratization in Southeast Europe from the University of Sarajevo/University of Bologna. Aside from the numerous awards she has received in Bosnia and internationally for her journalistic work, Dr. Ahmetašević has been recognized with a number of fellowships and academic awards, including the Chevening Scholarship, the Ron Brown Fellowship for Young Professionals, and the UNICEF Keizo Obuchi award. Dr. Ahmetašević has an extensive list of online publications, and her article “Media and Transitional Justice: Reporting on ICTY War Crimes Trials in Serbia,” appeared in the printed volume, Beyond Outreach: Transitional Justice, Culture and Society (New York: ICTJ, 2013). As an AHDA fellow, Dr. Ahmetašević is interested in employing oral history methods to examine the stories of people who were sentenced for war crimes they committed in Bosnia and Croatia, and who returned to cities where their victims, as well as families and friends, live. There are few studies that address the relationship among citizens of individual communities where perpetrators have been reintegrated into Bosnian and Croatian society, and this project will seek to open this field for further investigation of topics such as victim acknowledgement, accountability for past actions/atrocities, and the differing perceptions of the past that often continue to divide communities.
Margarita Akhvlediani started working as a journalist in the late 1980s, at age 16, and she has been working ever since as a journalist, editor and producer at local and international newspapers, radio and TV stations ever since. She has worked in the field of journalism through several wars and civil confrontations, and in 2009, she co-founded the Go Group Media/ Eyewitness Studio, where she currently serves as the organization’s director and editor-in-chief. In this position she is responsible for strategic development of the organization; coordination of its cross-Caucasus network of journalists; research within the organizations political analysis department as well as other responsibilities relating to reporting, media production, and education. In these different capacities, Ms. Akhvlediani seeks to contribute to the mission of Go Group Media in transforming the conflicts in Georgia and the South Caucuses by enhancing the quality of media and citizen journalism throughout the region.
Before founding Go Group Media, Ms. Akhvlediani served as the Caucasus Programme Director for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), where she was responsible for managing and training journalists in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the North Caucasian regions of Russia. For several years, she has also taught courses on News Reporting, Conflict Reporting and Media Management to graduate students at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. In 2011, Margarita earned an MA in Political Philosophy, from the University of York. Ms. Akhvlediani was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the Dart Society at the Columbia University and was a Knight fellow at Stanford University. Her publications include a chapter on the information war between Georgian and Russian media during the August 2008 war, which appeared in Crisis in the Caucasus. Russia, Georgia and the West published in 2009.
Ms. Akhvlediani’s professional interests in the social and political aspects of post-Soviet history, the challenges and issues relating to self-determination in the region, and the way ordinary people are affected by this history are components that continue to define her work. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Akhvlediani seeks to develop an oral history project that focuses on people trapped in the aftermath of violent conflict. By gathering eyewitness stories from different kinds of witnesses and former adversaries, she hopes that participants in the project will better understand and empathize with the multiplicity of perspectives that exist about the memory of violence, particularly in thinking of those who for years they regarded as enemies.
Whitney M. Young Fellow
Friederike Bubenzer is Senior Project Leader in the Justice and Peacebuilding Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. In this capacity she contributes to the building of peacebuilding, social cohesion and reconciliation processes with policy makers and civil society leaders in South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya. She also coordinates IJR’s Transitional Justice in Africa Fellowship and Alumni Programme. She is the co-editor of ‘Hope, Pain and Patience: The Lives of Women in South Sudan’ (Jacana, 2011) and is passionate about furthering inclusive dialogue and action around social justice issues across Africa.
She is currently working on a research project on the interconnectedness between mental health and peace building. This is a collaboration between IJR and the War Trauma Foundation and feeds on from an international conference and its outcome report. The hypothesis underlying this study is that communities are likely to continue to be caught in cycles of pain and conflict if historical and intergenerational trauma is not acknowledged and integrated into long-term post-conflict reconstruction and social transformation efforts (including historical dialogue). Ms Bubenzer is also the IJR coordinator of a collaborative project between IJR and Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela at the University of Stellenbosch titled ‘Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past’ which seeks to understand manifestations of intergenerational trauma in South Africa.
Ms. Bubenzer holds an MPhil in Development Studies and Social Transformation from the University of Cape Town and undergraduate degrees in International Relations from the University of Stellenbosch.
Harout Ekmanian was trained as a lawyer in Aleppo, where he also wrote for a number of local and international journals and publications. Afterwards, he worked at the Civilitas Foundation in Yerevan, Armenia for several years, where his work was centered around human rights, public policy, international law and conflict resolution. In 2014, he was an O'Donnell Visiting Scholar in Global Studies at Whitman College. As an AHDA Fellow in 2015, his work focused on the role of mass communication in transitional justice in the South Caucasus and the Middle East.
Harout is fluent in Armenian, Arabic, English and Turkish, and proficient in French and Spanish.