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.
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.
Dogu Eroglu is a human rights and ecology activist, a writer, and an investigative reporter for the Daily Birgun, an independent Turkish newspaper. When he first began working at the Daily Birgun, he focused largely on environment and energy issues: from urban rights to environmentalist perspectives, Mr. Eroglu worked closely with local groups who resisted the mega energy and construction projects that the central government planned. He also covered –and continues to cover—issues such as systematic human rights violations in Turkey, ranging from (among many topics) the discrimination of minorities to the state’s actions regarding ill treatment and torture to the oppression of civic rights. As the violence of the Syrian Civil War began to spread in the Middle East, Mr. Eroglu’s focus shifted to the field of conflict journalism, and his current work focuses on recruitment dynamics of radical Islamists, the logistics of armed conflict, migration policies, and other components to the unrest that has defined the Middle East in recent years.
Mr. Eroglu has an MA in Economics, and began his career as a reporter at Turkey’s iconic Cumhuriyet Daily, where he worked from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, he initiated an independent journalism project entitled Violence Stories from Turkey. This project focused on human rights violations in Turkey, and sought to press state actors for greater transparency through exposing personal stories of victims of state-led human rights violations. In addition to being a regular contributor to numerous Turkish newspapers and periodicals, Mr. Eroglu’s work has been published by Newsweek and Vice.com. His first book, which explores the history of local struggle against a proposed coal-based thermal power plant in Gerze, Turkey, is expected to be published in the fall of 2015. As an AHDA fellow, Mr. Eroglu will develop a project that examines the historical movement of jihadists from country to country. The project not only expects to reveal the historical connections between current and past jihadist recruitment practices and patterns of joining, but will be helpful to societies who suffer from jihadist recruitments by enabling them to predict future patterns of joining. The project will also enable societies to design measures for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of potential and actual recruits upon their return to their home communities.
As a Program Officer at the Forum for Building Civil Society Capacities, Chantal Gatore manages a team of 170 personnel and oversees capacity building initiatives with regard to transitional justice projects as well as the development and implementation of other human rights related projects. Currently she is developing the foundation for a documentation center which will serve for the collection of evidence and thus the preservation of the memory of the history of Burundi. She is also creating and coordinating a network of groups who will contribute to the upcoming Truth Commission in Burundi. In addition to overseeing these larger projects, Ms. Gatore oversees advocacy for the establishment of laws that meet international and UN standards; communications, publicity and budget oversight for ongoing projects; training, evaluation and project monitoring.
Ms. Gatore holds an MA in International Peace Studies from the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica; she holds a second MA in Human Rights and Peaceful Conflict Resolution from the UNESCO Chair and the University of Burundi. She has worked as a consultant for numerous projects and programs, including the NGO Burundi Leadership Training Program and the Gender and Transitional Justice, Reparations Programs, under the auspices of Reseau Femme et Paix. She also contributed to the production of a radio soap opera in peace, reconciliation and transitional justice in collaboration with a Dutch NGO, La Benevolencija. Ms. Gatore has worked as an assistant visiting professor at the UNESCO Chair and University of Burundi and in the Graduate Diploma Program in Human Rights and Peaceful Conflict Resolution at the UNESCO Chair and University of Burundi. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Gatore seeks to work further on developing a documentation and archive center in Burundi. The center will act as a central site for documents related to Burundi’s recent civil war—documents that are currently at risk of loss or destruction. Issues such as the preservation, protection and dissemination of such documents must be addressed, and the ways in which this center can serve to support education, research, memory work and reconciliation efforts must be further developed as well. Finally, Ms. Gatore hopes to be able to explore the necessary legal framework for facilitating the work of a documentation and archiving center.
Nayla Hamadeh is a founding member of the Lebanese Association for History (LAH), an organization that aims to support history teachers and to promote the learning and teaching of history as a discipline in Lebanon. In particular, the organization seeks to raise public awareness about the importance of history, and to ensure that history education in the country is inquiry based and critically engaging. Ms. Hamadeh’s roles at the organization are two-fold: Since 2005, Ms. Hamadeh has been facilitating teacher training workshops all over Lebanon on active teaching strategies. To this end, she currently manages an extensive professional training program for history teachers entitled, “Developing History Teachers Capacity to Foster Historical Thinking”. The project aims to introduce and apply the concepts of historical thinking and to empower learners to think critically about the past. Ms. Hamadeh also works closely with the LAH president on fundraising and strategic planning for the organization.
In terms of her background, Ms. Hamadeh has worked in the Educational Resources Center at International College (IC), Beirut, from 1998 to 2013, where she coordinated the curriculum guide project as well as teachers’ professional development programs. During this period, she also held a teaching position at the Social Studies Department and worked as the coordinator and trainer for the SPEC program proposing a student-centered, problem-based, experiential and collaborative classroom model. Ms. Hamadeh has presented at numerous conferences, including the LAES conference on History education, Euroclio, and the KAICIID Global Forum. She holds an MA in Educational Foundations and Policy Studies from the American University of Beirut and in 2010 she was awarded the “Randa Khoury Innovation in teaching award”.
As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Hamadeh will develop a study tour for students, academics, and media experts that explores commemorative sites and culture in Lebanon, and how memorial processes enable participants to acknowledge different cultures and perspectives within their own communities.
As the Technical Advisor of Arts and Culture for Social Integration unit in FLICT (Facilitating Initiatives for Social Cohesion and Transformation) project, Ms. Haputhanthri oversees a program that focuses on reconciliation and social integration in post-war Sri Lanka. She heads the cultural component of the project, dealing with history, memory and education as well as arts, film and theatre projects. She played a lead role in conceptualizing the program and securing funds at a global proposal call by the European Union entitled, 'Investing in People: Culture as a Vector for Democracy' in 2013, and she presently leads a team and a cluster of partner organizations for the implementation of the project. She is responsible for overall concept and strategy development, networking, financial project management including HR and reporting functions. She is also developing a project on “Memory Work in Post-War Settings,” the ground work for which will occur in the coming months.
In addition, Ms. Haputhanthri is a translator, writer, and arts manager. She is author of a handbook for social activists entitled Cultural Fluency: A Transformative Agenda for Caring Communities. She has worked on developing new knowledge and creative methodologies in promoting social inclusion and has worked from policy to community level, in the areas of education and arts for reconciliation. Ms. Haputhanthri has an MA in Asian Studies from Lund University, Sweden and a BA Honors in Sociology from the University of Delhi, India. She further specialized in History and Anti-racist education at York University, Toronto, Canada. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Haputhanthri will work on a project proposal on Memory Work in post war Sri Lanka. The multimedia project hopes to support a ‘traveling museum’ on social memory and modern history with a story telling approach; it aims to address the trauma and reflect upon the experiences and root causes of the conflict in Sri Lanka by tackling some of the deep cultural and structural issues embedded in a divided, hierarchical society.
Deo Okot Komakech is a Research and Documentation specialist who believes in dealing with the past in order to move forward. Deo has a passion for post conflict/war development, community empowerment, and enjoys working in multi-cultural and challenging environments. Currently Mr. Komakech works at the Refugee Law Project (RLP), which is affiliated with the School of Law at Makerere University. In his position as the Research and Documentation Officer, he works directly under RLP’s National Memory and Peace Documentation Center (NMPDC) in Northern Uganda. In this capacity, his responsibilities include promoting and tracking the impact of NMPDC’s work within communities and among stakeholders; promoting awareness regarding ongoing debates about truth, reconciliation and accountability monitoring; supporting community memorial initiatives; and working on different documentation initiatives including oral history testimonies, mapping, conflict and historical event documentation.
In terms of specific projects, Mr. Komakech is currently engaged in the documentation of the voices of victims and survivors of massacres that never caught media attention or any form of acknowledgement. After four year in his current position, international and local media houses have nicknamed him “the massacre scooper”. As an AHDA fellow, Mr. Komakech seeks to develop a project that will provide Ugandans in war-affected communities with a digital documentation platform for the collection and dissemination of information. The platform will enable citizens to share their memories and experiences and receive unbiased information about their history; it will also enhance the use of documentation as a means for reconciliation and accountability, and in the longer term could be used to develop a warning system with which to predict and prevent future conflict.
Pawel Nowacki joined European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS) in 2012. ENRS is an international organisation that seeks to facilitate the documentation and promotion of the study of 20th century European history with special emphasis on how it is remembered. ENRS's fields of interest center on dictatorial regimes, wars, and resistance to oppression. Through supporting academic research, educational, and promotional activities with international partnerships, the Network contributes to building better relations between European societies and facilitates historical exchange and debates. Mr. Nowacki’s responsibilities include organising and implementing international projects that contribute to these larger goals. At the moment he is responsible for key ENRS’s projects such as: European Remembrance International Symposium of European Institutions dealing with 20th Century History, Sound in the Silence Youth Project, and Remembrance and Solidarity - Studies in 20th Century European History.
Mr. Nowacki graduated from the University of East Anglia in Political Science in 2004 and Collegium Civitas in International Relations in 2007. He specializes in project management and grant programs, and has had extensive life and work experiences in England, Germany, China, and Taiwan. Prior to joining ENRS, he served a secretary to the Polish Year in Israel 2008–09 and later worked on the national cultural programme during Poland’s EU Presidency in 2011. As an AHDA fellow, Mr. Nowacki will develop a project that explores how European countries use 20th century history as a policy making tool during identity and financial crises. He is particularly interested in enabling younger generations to understand the ways in which collective memory is used to explain historical trauma, and the impact that these explanations have on contemporary society.
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.