2017 marks the 6th 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.
Mario Mažić has been the director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Croatia since late 2008, and he has worked with human rights organizations since 2006. As the director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights—Croatia, Mr. Mažić’s role is to coordinate the work of the organization and to overlook the implementation of its programs and projects, as well as to monitor research on wartime human rights violations. Mr. Mažić is currently enrolled at Zagreb University, where he is studying in the Faculty of Political Science and expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2013. In addition, Mr. Mažić studied International Politics and Contemporary problems in Government at the International Summer School, University in Oslo in 2008, and in 2010, he studied the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia and Contemporary Literature at a Summer Study-Abroad Program in Croatia organized by Northwestern University. Mr. Mažić’s project as an AHDA fellow focuses on young Croatians who have grown up in Croatian towns without any contact with peers from other ethnic groups. He seeks to connect these groups of youth with those who fled the same towns in the early 1990s, and to create an interactive seminar that explores the nationalist politics of the 1990s and early 2000s that have continued to leave a deep mark on both Croatian and Serbian communities.
Click here to learn more about Mario
Sandra Orlović is the Deputy Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Belgrade, and is currently leading a team to work on the Kosovo Memory Book project, which is an unprecedented fact-based testimony about each person who died or disappeared during the armed conflict in Kosovo. Prior to her position there, she worked as a researcher of human rights violations, and she led a team of researchers and lawyers in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo on a project whose aim was to reinforce the international obligations of the state with respect to human rights violations committed by state actors through reparation measures and court cases. Ms. Orlović obtained her Law degree from the University of Belgrade (Serbia) where her main focus of study was International Relations. As an AHDA fellow, Ms. Orlovic will research victims of the armed conflict of the former Yugoslavia and how support to victims on the part of successor states is measured, with the goal of establishing an institutional framework which can facilitate debate about the content and form of a regional fund for victims, and the many questions and challenges that such a fund presents, from methodology to acknowledgement and participation.
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Jolanta Steciuk works as an NGO analyst at the Polish-American Community Assistance Fund in Warsaw. Since 2008, Ms. Steciuk has played a central role in the Fund for Civic Initiatives, for the Grant Program of the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. She has been involved in a number of projects involving Poland, the Caucasus and the Balkans that have taken up issues of historical dialogue, accountability and the development of local communities and the NGO sector. Ms. Steciuk is also a Member of the Young Journalists Association POLIS and the author of the book All Shall Be Different, which received Book of the Summer Award from the BibliotekaRaczynskich in 2010. Ms. Steciuk has conducted a series of interviews with Polish human rights activist and publicist HalinaBortnowska. JolantaSteciuk obtained a degree in Law from Warsaw University, Law and Administration Faculty and was a fellow in the “Human Rights and Religious Freedom Program” at Columbia University in 1997.
Ms. Steciuk’s project at AHDA seeks to explore the aftermath of World War II in Poland and neighboring countries, with a particular focus on the redrawing of national borders and the forced transfers of populations. Ms. Steciuk is investigating how these shifts contributed to the narratives and memory that has since been developed in Poland, Germany and Ukraine. She is interested in models of building shared narratives.
Irena Stefoska works as an Associate Professor of Research at the Institute of National History, University Ss. “Cyril and Methodius” in Skopje. Her main areas of research include the theory and methodology of history, and the modern phenomena of nation and nationalism related to the Macedonian historiography. In the last decade, Dr. Stefoska has participated in various national and international projects related to the teaching of history. Dr. Stefoska holds a bachelor’s degree in Classical Philology from the University of Cyril and Methodius (Skopje), a master’s degree in Medieval Studies from the Central European University (Budapest), a master’s degree in Byzantine Studies from Belgrade University (Belgrade) and a doctorate from the University Ss. “Cyril and Methodius” (Skopje). She was also the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, for which she was a visiting research scholar at Brown University. Dr. Stefoska’s project while an AHDA fellow, entitled “The Burden of the Past: Teaching Macedonia (1945-1991),” offers an innovative approach to teaching history in the multiethnic society that defines Macedonia that stimulates peace, diversity and understanding.
Click here to learn more about Irena
“I experienced discrimination on a low scale within my own family,” he says. “My father, who was a polygamist, needed to separate from my mother when I was 10 years old simply because having a Rwandese wife could not serve his political ambitions. I was therefore raised by my stepmother, who had her own kids. In such a situation, it was hard to expect equal treatment.” The discrimination he experienced as a Rwandan knew no borders. Simply because his name does not sound Rwandese, Elvis always needed to provide details on his family to get services provided to Rwandans even though he holds a state-issued ID from Rwanda. He was denied a passport by the Rwanda immigration office due to his father’s Congolese name. “This was the law in 2005,” he explains, “for children born of a father who was a foreigner. I was not considered a citizen with the same rights.”
During his troubles at the immigration office, Elvis discovered that there were many other people in similar situations and decided to do something about it. “Together we wrote a letter to the minister of justice denouncing the law,” he recounts. This advocacy effort succeeded as the law was finally changed in 2008 to grant full citizenship to children born to at least one parent who was a citizen. Meanwhile, Elvis came to a strong realization: “The event triggered in me the thought that others in different situations may be victims of other kinds of discrimination, too, so I should do human rights advocacy.”
In 1997, he helped to form the organization, Assez!, which advocated for the rights of children, especially those experiencing domestic abuse. With other young people facing similar discrimination and exclusion in Rwanda, Elvis co-founded a platform called Forum d’Echanges pour la Cohésion Sociale to offer all persons facing identity issues due to having parents from different countries an opportunity to share their frustration and experiences as a way to find personal relief and mutual support. He also served for three years as the Deputy Coordinator of the Access to Justice and Human Rights Education Project at another organization that he co-founded, Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights, before becoming the organization’s President in August 2011.
For Elvis, human rights is not an abstract topic, but a powerful force that can change the world. “Human rights are like drugs,” he says. “The more you work in it, the more you get addicted. People may know human rights exist, but change can only happen when human rights are lived and promoted.”
February 2017 Update: Elvis received a PhD in Law from Utrecht University in 2015.