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Historical Dialogue and Dealing with the Past - Summer School 2016


1 The annual summer training program of the Regional Network for Historical Dialogue and Dealing with the Past (RNHDP) took place in Istanbul during the week of June 13-18, 2016. Participants came from MENA and Caucasus region who worked with civil society organisations on issues related to dealing with the past. Organized by Truth Justice Memory Center (Hakikat Adalet Hafiza Merkezi) in cooperation with  the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Program(AHDA) at Columbia University and Columbia Global Centers | İstanbul, the training program was composed of seminars and workshops conducted by international experts. Below you'll find notes and full video coverage of the presentations made during the program.


  • Elazar Barkan - Defining Historical Dialogue: Truth, Narrative, Evidence
  • Mario Mazic - Theory and Practice of Transitional Justice
  • Özgür Sevgi Göral - Oral History, Truth Seeking and Gender
  • Marijana Toma - Documenting Human Losses and Transitional Justice in Serbia
  • Refik Hodzic – Truth Commission, Challenging the Conventional
  • Christian Axboe Nielsen – International Criminal Investigations and Analysis: The Experience of ICTY
  • Valeria Barbuto – The Impact of Memorialization Efforts in Argentina's Transitional Justice Process
  • Nelson Camilo Sanchez – Peace Building in Colombia: Justice vs. Peace?
  • Evren Balta- Turkey's Kurdish Question: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Sami Adwan – Learning Each Other's Historical Narratives: Palestinians and Israelis
  • Asena Günal - Sites of Memory Walking Tour - İstanbul


  Historical Dialogue is not a recognized methodology, but a combination of different ways of dealing with the past (e.g. historical commissions, textbooks, memory, manifestations) and analysing its influence on contemporary memory. The concept of historical dialogue mostly takes into account civil society and responds to the notion of truth as carrying changing values and meanings within different contexts. This refers especially to the different levels from which truth can be looked at and that sometimes may be conflicting: individual and the collective, group point of view. Those can also be referred to as micro- and macro levels of analsyis that needs to be adjusted according to our prime attention of analysis. In the case of historical violence, it is important to consider that violence is a legacy that is manifested in contemporary structural patterns. Hence relative to the extent of violence, all attempts of dealing with the past can only be symbolic, regression is impossible. This doesn’t mean, that dealing with the past is not important, but it allows us to take on a realistic consideration of the opportunities and limits of our work. Although the way we remember the past may change, what happened itself cannot be changed. Still, there is no situation too horrific to overcome and institutions such as truth commissions and historical commissions can function as facilitators for a peaceful present and future. While truth commissions, as the name indicates, respond especially to the “right of truth” of the individual after past atrocities, historical commissions focus more on the macro level and are based on the analysis of historical documents. Links: Mapping project:


The concept of “Transitional Justice” is used foremost in countries that are in the process of transition to democracy in the aftermath of authoritarian regimes and situations of conflict. It was developed as a tool to deal with past massive and systematic human rights violations conducted mostly through the state and its institutions. Transitional Justice involves Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice.  The former focuses on the victims and the community of past human rights violations and aims to provide for a future life in justice, while the latter focuses on the ones responsible and aims to guarantee that perpetrators are held accountable. The principles of Transitional Justice include Right to Truth, Right to Justice,Reparation and Non-Recurrence. Right to Truth Truth is a pre-requisite for justice. In order to ensure justice, the atrocities need to be investigated. The right to truth should be ensured both on the individual and the collective level. The families of the victims and the society as a whole should be granted the possibility to find out what happened during that period, who committed the atrocities, and the whereabouts of the victims’ remainings. Right to Justice The Right to Justice refers to the necessity of prosecutions of the perpetrators on a national, international or hybrid level. Reparation Reparation refers to the compensation of the victims for their sufferings. The reparation can be of material or symbolic matters. The most important symbolic reparation is the widespread acknowledgement of the crimes committed and of the harms done to victims. Non- Recurrence Justice entails non-recurrence. The state needs to guarantee that mass atrocities, and other kinds of human rights violations will not happen again. Since mass human rights violations are organized systematically and hence inscribed into the governmental structure, guaranteeing non-recurrence mostly implies institutional reforms.


Writing history through oral sources can be considered a post-Holocaust phenomenon: Since in the aftermath of the Holocaust testimonies became a valuable source for knowledge, a new regime of “witnessing” emerged. Adolf Eichman’s trial can be viewed as the first result of it. Oral History established itself as a movement in historical research in 1948 when Alan Newins from Columbia University carried out interviews with white male elites in US. Those interviews provided information about how people experienced and responded to what happened. It took a turn when British Marxist historians carried out interviews with people belonging to the working class. Those historians had a political agenda: giving voice to those unheard, silenced, oppressed. Oral history has been strongly criticized by mainstream historians as referring to sources supposed to be subjective and biased. However, oral historians acknowledge exactly this subjectivity of knowledge and consider it as its strength;

  1. Providing information about people at the “margins”, who were not part of official history
  2. Exploring until then ignored topics such as personal relationships, domestic life, intimacy
  3. Opening a new perspective on the subjective, personal and political meanings of past events.
  4. Enabling dialogue with the source, to question and double-check.

Oral history is an important tool for documenting grave human rights violations. It provides sophisticated understanding of the patterns of grave human rights violations since it looks into how they affect social, political, economic and everyday life, everyday life and how people of different sexes, ethnic origins, and religious beliefs are affected. This quality gains especial importance in the field of gender since conventional history tradition did not take any account of women and their experiences. This resulted that even women themselves did not conceive of their stories as being worth to be told. The case of Turkey: Forcibly disappeared persons’ wives According to Özgür’s experience gained through the work with women in the context of enforced disappearances in Turkey, she states that women start talking by saying: ‘Let’s talk about the disappeared and not about us. Our stories aren’t worth to tell.’ However, there are various reasons that make the listening to their stories very important and unique since…

  1. Only women talk about sexual violence.
  2. Their accounts of the conflict are detailed and told in a meta-narrative of daily life
  3. They highlight the gendered nature of grave human rights violations

It is important that while conducting an interview one should

  • Recognize the dignity of the person,
  • Be prepared and adequately informed about the issue,
  • Not force the person to talk,
  • Not manipulate and direct the person in order to get the answers,
  • Not reveal the information that the person wants to keep off the record.


 Three principles of transitional justice have been acted on in Serbia after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Even though it seems like Serbia has taken a step further to reconcile with the past and to ensure justice and peace, in practice Serbian case can only be an example of how a process of transitional justice should not work. Serbian case is the indicator that “ the evil is in details.” Problems with Serbian Case:1. Prosecution of War Crimes 188 people have been prosecuted in Serbia. Even though the number of people prosecuted in Serbia is significantly high, higher than the number of people prosecuted in The Hague related to the crimes committed during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, we do not have a sense of justice. Why? One should look at the profile of the people who were found guilty. In Serbia, the majority of people who have been trialed are the low level perpetrators. Whereas in The Hague, the head of the sates and the military leaders have been convicted of war crimes. By punishing only the people who held low level positions, the Serbian courts covers the role of state institutions and provides impunity for commanders. Moreover, during the trials, the security of the witnesses was a major concern. As the victims were mostly dead, witnesses in general were people coming those very institutions of the perpetrators. 2. Truth A truth commission was established to investigate what happened during the war and reveal the truth about atrocities committed by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. However, people who were appointed for the truth committee were only ethnic Serbs. It raised doubts about the objectivity and impartiality about the information gathered and presented by the truth committee. Secondly, history textbooks have not been revised. Schoolbooks continue to reproduce the nationalist discourse. The Serbs were described as the only victims of the war. Even though the Srebrenica Genocide was mentioned in most of the schoolbooks, no relation has been demonstrated between the large-scale massacre and the Serbian state and the army. Moreover, most of the documentation has been destroyed, the archives are missing loads of information. So, the scope of information that the committee can reach to is very limited, and when the access to information is li limited one cannot talk about truth at all. 3. Reparations Serbian courts guaranteed that reparations would be made for the victims. Even though it sounded promising, the definition of the “victim” was problematic for the below reasons; You are recognized as a victim by the Serbian courts only if:

  • more than 50% of your body was injured
  • your family member is killed
  • you were subjected to violence within the territory of Serbia.

This definition of victim excludes:

  • sexual violence victims
  • people who has been disappeared.
  • People who were subjected to violence outside the territory of Serbia, whether they were given harm by the Serbian Army or Serbian paramilitary groups or not.


Besides the establishment of facts such as the names of victims and perpetrators etc. in the aftermath of massive human rights violations, truth commissions are created with the major purpose of two social impacts: First of all they contribute to the acknowledgement of past crimes and open up space in society for the victim’s voices to be heard. Furthermore, they can be regarded as “shrinking the space for denial” and preventing massive human rights violations to become subject of denial as a tool of creating sound political narratives. While the first truth commissions were set up especially in post-authoritarian and post-dictatorial societies, they have come to be used in all kinds of post-conflict situations in order to face past human rights violations. The Right to Truth as a major basis for the establishment of truth commissions was given birth to especially by the issue of enforced disappearances that was first responded to by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights deciding that governments had the obligation to tell the truth about the whereabouts of forcibly disappeared persons. The process of Truth Commissions can be summed up in five steps:

  • Establishment of the Truth Commission within Peace Agreement
  • Within the codification of the Truth Commission in law, the commission’s objectives, its scope of inquiry, duration and structure, the patterns of crimes and geographical areas that are to be investigated and the legal powers required for the commission’s functioning are built into law. There are two ways of codifying the truth commission within the law: Firstly there is the option of a legislative process. By generating parlamentary debate this procedure is likely to increase the legitimacy of any kind of final solution concerning the truth commission, but can be very long-lasting. The other possibility is codification of the commission through a decree which is advantageous in the sense of strong institutional and political support, but can face the problem of lacking legitimacy.
  • The Appointment of Commissioners is essential for the success of a truth commission since they carry the burden of being trustful to society. Although national commissioners are mostly favourable, international commissioners can sometimes contribute to the legitmacy of the truth commission since they are not part of the polarized post-conflict society
  • In operating and reporting the truth commission special attention needs to be paied both with regard to investigation and outreach of the commission, as well as its management in general. The point of investigation and outreach refers to building a sense of legitimacy regarding the commission within society, while the management practices are important in the light of not making mistakes such as over-spending e.g. in inappropriate salaries of commissioners which can become a subject of critics in media and erodes the people’s trust in the commission’s work.
  • For the final report and recommendations of the truth commission to succeed there are two crucial steps: First of all there is a need for trained staff in the writing and production process of the report. Furthermore it is important to take special care of the dissemination and acceptance of the commission’s recommendation both on a societal as well as a political level.

Key Challenges of Truth Commissions Although truth commissions are sometimes regarded as a panacea, many of them are set up to fail from the very beginning. One of the main reasons for failure is overly ambitious mandates of the commission that can result in very long consultation processes with civil society that leads to the ineffectivity of the commission. Although transitional justice processes need extensive consultation with civil society, they need to be defined in their scope and time before. Another factor that can complicate the success of a truth commission is its timing: Enacting a truth commission in the direct aftermath of a conflict can lead to great difficulties in navigating the political landscape. Hence all in all, it is important to manage expectations concerning truth commissions: Besides looking at their social impacts such as facilitating acknowledgement of past human rights violations and preventing their denial, it is also important to be aware of the limits of truth commissions. They are not designed to achieve a complete transformation of society which is only possible with the support of political leaders that have the power to shape education, etc.


The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) which was set up in the mid 1990’s by the UN Security Council is considered to be the largest and most successful criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials in Germany. Its investigations and prosecutions are based on the International Criminal Law that divides the crimes to be investigated into three categories according to its guideline “Elements of Crimes”[1]:

  • War Crimes are committed during war and victims typically stem from the “enemy” side. Those crimes can be committed discretely and mostly focus on military objectives. The law on War Crimes is based on the grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of 1949.
  • Crimes against Humanity occur both in times of war and peace and must be widespread and systematic targeting wider groups with a particular focus on civilian victims. Crimes Against Humanity include murder, extermination, slavery, deportation, illegal detention, torture, rape, sexual violence, etc.
  • Genocide according to the UN Genocide Convention 1948 responds to crimes that have been committed with genocidal intent, hence with the special goal of exterminating a particular protected group. However, it is impossible to commit a genocide without committing other crimes such as Crimes against Humanity, etc.

International Criminal Investigations at ICTY In the aftermath of any armed conflict or mass repression it is important as an investigator and prosecutor likewise to not start the investigations with a fixed mind-set on who is responsible for the crime, but to rather think of the process as solving a puzzle of which some pieces are missing, lots are unnecessary and which you don’t have the cover of. Criminal investigations at the ICTY are led by the Head of Investigations and conducted in cooperation with the Prosecution Division. Since the end of the 1990’s the Investigations Division itself consists of different dedicative teams with team leaders, investigators, analysists and experts that focus on different research areas such as demography, leadership and military. Their investigative strategies can be divided into six different categories: First of all there is Target Based Investigation which generally should be avoided since it often takes for example a well-known political leader of the time for granted as being responsible for the crime committed which then easily results in erasing other possible perpetrators from being investigated. In this regard a better option is Evidence Driven Investigation that starts for example by making a list of all the massacres that happened in a certain period and place and of who was present at those places at this time rather than focussing on investigating one single person. Both of those strategies can be conducted as Team Based Investigation, however it is important to assure that continuous communication exists among the teams in order to render the investigations effective. Flipside Investigation stresses the need for the neutrality of the investigators who should be able to investigate various groups of the same conflict without any difficulties. The fifth investigative strategy Exculpatory Investigation, that is also referred to as “Rule 68” responds to the need to collect and take into consideration any evidence, especially evidence that points to the innocence of the suspect. Finally, there is an investigative strategy dealing with Information for Lead Purposes Only (Rule 70) which implies that information can be used in order to advance the investigation process but is not to be used in court. The investigation process at ICTY can also be thought of as an investigative cycle consisting of four different steps recurring continuously: decision on the direction of the investigation, collection of information, analysis of the collected information and dissemination of the findings in order to avoid doing things twice. In order to put the investigation into a bigger framework it is also important to provide a Leadership Analysis that attempts to explain to the court how a regime and its leadership generally functions and how it was connected to armed forces. This analysis takes into account among others the historical background of a country, the system of reporting at the time of the commission of the crime, law etc. For the investigation in general there are two main sources of information: documents, such as newspapers, phonebooks, demographic records, insurance information, documents of command units etc. on the one hand and witnesses on the other hand. The latter can be victims of the crime, insider witnesses such as ex members of armed forces who have decided to cooperate with the judiciary or international witnesses such as UN-Peacekeepers, NGOs, journalists, etc. who were present. Dealing with witnesses can sometimes be very challenging, since not only a long time has passed by since the commitment of the crime, but they are often also some of the most traumatizing moments of the witness’s life which can lead to a very bad, selective and biased memory.[2] Furthermore when it comes to witnessing in court, people can get additionally stressed by the unknown environment and new experiences such as communicating via translators. All in all, the information provided on International Criminal Investigations is not only applicable to the ICTY, but also to other Criminal Tribunals such as in Rwanda or Lebanon. Although those cases are all unique, there are still common points to be made and similar difficulties such as choosing the period of time investigated to be faced. [1] (; last access 5th August 2016 [2] For a detailed textbook on this: Combs, Nancy, 2010 “Fact-Finding without Facts: The Uncertain Evidentiary Foundations of International Criminal Convictions” New York, Cambridge University Press


For the 6th time in the 20th century on 24th March 1976 there was a military coup that installed a period of state terrorism in Argentina lasting until December 1983. Within this period the country was not only divided into military zones, but also centres of detention and torture were established. During the dictatorship practices such as enforced disappearances, murder, torture, children being taken away from their parents, born in captivity and their identity stolen, gender violence, political imprisonment, political proscription, exile and robbery became daily life. In the aftermath of the dictatorship the dealing with past human rights violations was alternating between imperatives such as justice, impunity and the right to truth put into practice for example through trials such as the 1985 Junta Trial which was holding high military officials responsible for homicide, illegitimate arrest and torture. Also many places of past human rights violations and resistance to them such as ESMA (Ex Navy School of Mechanics) in Buenos Aires were turned into sites of memory. Memorialization Memorialization efforts such as the creation of sites of memory contribute to social appropriation of the past through discussing different versions of the crimes committed, as well as establishing common knowledge and social acknowledgement of past human rights violations. They also serve as grounds for policy-making, in order to break the rule of impunity and to symbolically punish past perpetrators. However, the memorial sites do not only function as guards of memory and cultural hereditary, but also engage with current human rights issues connecting past experiences to the present. This also takes place through educational collaboration with schools and universities. Since the sites of memory are based on a complex relationship between the needs of civil society and the government, in Argentina there has been introduced a management model based on mixed authority. Similar efforts of memorialization have also been made in other South-American countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile which is also responded to by the public policies of human rights of MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur, English: Southern Common Market) Memoria Abierta (Open Society was founded in 1999 and brings together eight human rights organizations in Argentina campaigning for a democratic society through memory work. Among others they are involved in collecting, classifying and disseminating testimonies, providing documentary records at the request of courts dealing with past human rights violations and also safe-guarding sites of memory. The latter includes updating the places since up to today for example not all victims of enforced disappearances have come to being represented in memorial sites such as “El Olimpio” or “ESMA”.


Context and Nature of the Conflict The main parties involved in the conflict that has been going on in Colombia for the last sixty years are the guerrilla movement with its main actors FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (National Liberation Army), the state itself and paramilitary groups which were first created as self-organized groups of defence against the guerrilla and only later gained support of the state in fighting the guerrilla. The issue of drug dealing as one of the main financial sources besides kidnapping of both guerrilla and paramilitary groups implies also an involvement of international actors such as the USA and the international community in general in addition to the domestic parties named above.  Justice and Peace Act After various failed attempts to start a peace process, in 2002 the newly elected President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, started an eight year war against the guerrilla. During this period, in 2005, the Colombian congress launched the “Justice and Peace Act” in order to deal with the paramilitary groups. The initial idea was to promote a truth commission and amnesty for paramilitary group members. However since this didn’t comply with the standards of International Criminal Law, an alternative mechanism was decided upon that provided the members of paramilitary groups with alternative sentences varying from five up to eight years of prison. The Justice and Peace Act also included the collective demobilization of paramilitary groups accompanied by an attempt for individual demobilization of guerrilla members through offering the latter money and amnesty concerning their political crimes in return for laying down their weapons. Although the Justice and Peace Act seemed to be very promising in regard to the treatment of paramilitary groups in theory, it was less successful in practice since its aim to try every participant in the conflict individually was impossible to fulfil due to the sheer number of perpetrators. At the same time in reaction to the government’s negotiation with the paramilitary groups a victims’ movement was formed within civil society fighting for rights such as truth, justice and reparations and pushing for a victims’ law. However, since recognizing all victims would have included anyone, also those hit or illegally detained by state forces, as suffering from the conflict, the law was prevented from passing the congress in the last instance. Current Peace Process When the current President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, came into office 2010 he declared a change in direction concerning the government’s relationship with the guerrilla. After implementing a constitutional amendment of the Justice and Peace Act revising its aim of individual trials and providing for a system of prioritization and selection instead, the guerrilla accepted to negotiate with the government. On the agenda of the negotiations that have been going on until today there are four main topics: Land reform and political participation of the rebels as triggers of the conflict, illegal drug trading as what happened in the conflict and finally transitional justice as a way how to solve the conflict. On September 15th 2015, the negotiating parties signed the “Victims and transitional Justice Accord”, a partial agreement, which included a Truth Commission, an Office for Missing Persons and reparation measures as transitional justice mechanisms, as well as a jurisdiction for peace. The latter implied the creation of a domestic court working similarly to the International Criminal Court and implementing for example amnesty for political crimes, the creation of an entirely new special jurisdiction and also a different understanding of punishment which was especially important for the guerrilla in order to emphasize their identity as political rebels and to differentiate themselves from the paramilitary groups. However, since the negotiations’ first rule is “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, in order to put the partial agreements have been decided upon into power and to open the way to peace, the final peace agreement is still to be signed. In the meantime, although an official cease-fire was only declared by the guerrilla, also the government forces have at least stopped bombing the guerrilla which was one of the most devastating means in their fight against the rebels.


Turkey’s Kurdish Question has taken a radical turn within the last year, shifting from the hopeful perspective of a solution process (Çözüm Süreci) to one of the most intense periods of the internal conflict since its beginning in 1984. Looking at the Turkish-Kurdish conflict from a theoretical point of view, the period between 2013 and 2015, the so-called solution process, can actually be defined as conflict-management, hence an attempt to contain and limit the effects of an ethnic conflict, though it is using the language of a peace-process. What is remarkable is the rapidness of the failure of this process. Turkey’s Kurdish question during AKP-Government AKP government’s policy towards Kurdish political actors including political parties such as HDP and the latter’s reaction to those policies likewise is influenced by various factors on three different levels: the domestic level, the regional level and the international level.

  • The 1st period (2002-2005) can be defined as a period of engagement, democratization and limited openings. This responds to Turkey’s intention to join the EU which is not only important due to democratization packages etc., but also for its alteration of trust in negotiations with the Turkish Government from the Kurdish point of view. Another factor limiting the repertoires of action of the Turkish Government was the US invasion of Iraq that called into presence in the region a very strong international actor.
  • The 2nd period (2005-2009) can be referred to as disengagement of the Turkish Government with the Kurdish question due to domestic factors such as the intensified conflict of AKP with the Turkish military. In order to limit the presence of military forces in domestic policies, it was important to decrease internal conflicts such as the Kurdish issue as much as possible. This was supported also by regional and international factors such as Turkey’s engagement in Iraq, the Washington Agreement, etc.
  • The 3rd period (2009-2011) started with the first peace negotiations between the Turkish Government and Kurdish political parties that were surveyed by international mediators in Oslo. After the negotiations failed, the government’s policy towards Kurdish political actord turned into repression by mostly judiciary means. In the KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan) -Trials around ten thousand Kurdish politicians were arrested.
  • In the 4th period (2012-2015) the AKP government announced in 2012 that they were holding negotiations with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The negotiations between Kurdish political actors and the Turkish government were concerning constitutional reforms in the issues of definition of citizenship, cultural and especially language rights, territorial rights and Other points of discussion were disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of insurgents (PKK) and militias (village guards), as well as internal displacement and restorative justice, although the discussions never went that far. On March 21st 2013, Abdullah Öcalan called for a cease-fire that included disarmament and withdrawal of all its forces from Turkish soil which was fulfilled on 25th April 2013. This period is commonly referred to as Solution Process.
  • After the failure of the solution process with the elections in 2015, the conflict has become more intense and changed especially concerning its place of happening: While in another intense period of the conflict, 1993 and 1994, most battles had taken place in the mountains, in this period of renewed conflict the field of battle has moved to the cities with entrenchments and barricades built and a result of a very high number of civil victims and government measures such as curfews that turn people’s life into hell.

Why did the Solution Process fail? There are many different factors that triggered the failure of the peace process in Turkey’s Kurdish question:

  • Process based explanation: The Solution Process especially lacked of a solid institutional base to rely on. Furthermore there was a lack of dialogue between the different parties, a lack of transparency of the whole process which is connected also to a lack of trust and commitment on the part of both sides. Another crucial point for the failure of the process was that not all social actors were included in the process which left spoiler problems
  • Domestic explanation: The major change in commitment and trust to negotiate among the various parties took place just before the June 7th elections, when HDP campaigns were bombed and there was a general anti-democratic turn with a trend to presidentialism in the formation of the government. HDP reacted to those developments by stating that “This will not make you the President”. In the elections AKP lost its ability to form a single-party government in the elections which made it realize that instead of gaining votes of conservative Muslim citizens in the southeast of Turkey through the solution process, the liberal political climate was actually strengthening the Kurdish political parties. These developments contributed to bringing the solution process to an end.
  • Regional explanation: While the solution process was proceeding, at the same time the Syrian conflict intensified triggered through the rise of ISIS. The siege of Kobani by ISIS and the Turkish Government’s refusal to let other regional (Kurdish) actors send help to the rebels in Kobani spurred widespread protests in Turkey with a death toll of around 50 people. The events in Syria can be considered as a turning point in the Turkish-Kurdish Solution Process, since it created a Kurdish transnational identity of “brotherhood and sisterhood” and expanded the factions involved in the Kurdish Question. Also, in reaction to the USA’s use of its military base in Turkey in order to fight against ISIS, the Turkish Government began bombing the PKK legitimizing its action as being part of a war on terror and hence taking up the international discourse on terrorism.

This last point on a transnational Kurdish identity also allows another perspective on the current developments in cities close to the Syrian border such as Nusaybin: It can be argued that government policies such as curfews that provoke internal migration actually follow a strategy of clearing the border-regions of civilians in order to not facilitate the spilling over of autonomous Kurdish regions such as Rojava into Turkey.


What can be done to build a peaceful future when the past and present have been marked with violence and conflict? For Sami Adwan, education plays an important role in peace building. He proposes “Peace Education”, an educational model that enables both Palestinian and Israeli educators to create school history curricula that includes both parties’ historical narratives. “Peace Education” requires teacher training and the revisions of schoolbooks. An analysis of current schoolbooks in Palestine and Israel showed that the content is problematic because:

  • It reproduces the culture of conflict. It demarcates two oppositional sides.
  • Each side defines the other as the “enemy” as the “wrong doer.”
  • There’s no geopolitical recognition from both sides therefore there is no inclusion of the “other” culture.
  • Each country’s narratives dehumanize the other country’s people and is blind to the their sufferings.

Therefore, one should write new historical narrative. But it comes with many challenges:

  1. Where do you start from?
  2. What history? Social, political or cultural?
  3. Will it be possible to write a joint history, especially when Palestine wants its own independence?
  4. Will it be possible to write a bridging narrative?
  5. Is it possible to write an acceptable narrative when both sides have their own narratives? Moreover, you cannot assume that each side has its own singular narrative. Even though there is a dominant, a “master narrative” of both sides, there are still, multiple narratives differing from individuals, communities, ethnic and political groups.

What did PRIME do to overcome these challenges? Israeli and Palestinian schoolteachers were asked to work collaboratively in the project, in the process of rewriting historical narratives. Groups of four were formed. In each group there were two Israelis and two Palestinians. Each group was asked to indicate several moments, which they found important to talk about. The dates and events which where common to all were:

  1. Balfour Declaration
  2. 1947 War
  3. 1987 War

The Balfour Declaration is important for

  • Palestinians because it is the first time Palestinians were denied of their own land. It is the betrayal of the West, the cruel result of imperialism and Zionism.
  • Israelis because it was the first time the Jewish were entitled to a land.

The 1947 War is important for

  • Palestinians because it is a “catastrophe”. It meant losing everything.
  • Israelis because the dream of independence finally came true.

The 1987 First Intifada is important for

  • Palestinians because it was the first time Palestinians spoke for themselves. It brought the Palestine- Israel conflict to the international focus again.
  • Israelis because it created a reaction against Palestinians as they did not appreciate what Israel had offered to them, the healthcare, the jobs.

Both sides’ narratives were printed on the same page with an empty space in between, which will allow reader to reconstruct its own one. It should be emphasized that having the two narratives side by side does not mean accepting or legitimizing the “other” narrative, it just means deconstructing your own narrative. BUT the revision of the schoolbooks is not enough; news books should be made available to the children in Palestinian and Israeli schools. What happened after PRIME published the book? Ministry of Education from both sides rejected the book; it did not replace the current schoolbooks neither in Palestine nor in Israel. Do we consider this outcome as a failure? It is not a failure, if you look to “change” from a bottom-up approach. It’s starting point is people, not political leaders, not institutions, not laws. Bottom-up approach is not product oriented but process oriented. Even though the book has not been officially recognized, the process of writing this book, the workshops where the book has been used created a motivation among teachers and children to learn more about both sides’ narrative, to question their own.


18.06.2016 Saturday The tour aimed to map the city through its political past that is both inscribed in the urban fabric, and yet often suppressed in public memory. The group has walked from Taksim to Tünel and then to Sultanahmet, pausing in front of buildings and certain squares that have special social and historical significance. These spaces tell stories of the social and cultural life of non-Muslims, of minority and human rights violations, as well as those of social movements for democracy and reconciliation. The group started with Gezi Park and Taksim Square, as both have symbolic importance for democratic rights struggles, and then visited the gathering of the Saturday Mothers, who hold a vigil for the forcibly disappeared every Saturday. As we walked all the way along Istiklal Street, we stopped at sites that spoke of non-Muslims’ lives and their place in the once cosmopolitan city. The tour was planned to finish in Sultanahmet, at what is now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, but due to hot weather finished early. The museum building was once a detention center, where Armenian intellectuals were held before being deported on 24th April 1915, the date of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. And yet, only a few of these sites are recognized as memory sites. The tour helped us to mobilize silenced memories to commemorate past suffering and appreciate current struggles.