Historical Dialogue and Reconciliation

Columbia Global Centers | Turkey

Spearheaded by Professor Elazar Barkan of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA) brings together academics, representatives of civil society organization, journalists, educators and artists as well as policy makers who all pursue historical dialogue in conflict, post-conflict and post-dictatorial societies. They address the political ramifications of the historical legacy of conflicts, as well as the role and impact of the memory of past violence on contemporary politics, society and culture. As a leading scholar of  human rights and on the role of history in contemporary society and politics and the response to gross historical crimes and injustices, Prof. Barkan's human rights work seeks to achieve conflict resolution and reconciliation by bringing scholars from two or more sides of a conflict together and employing historical methodology to create shared narratives across political divides and to turn historical dialogue into a fundamental tool of political reconciliation.  Prof. Barkan's other current research interests include refugee repatriation, comparative analysis of historical commissions, shared sacred sites, and the question of human rights impact, specifically with regard to redress and transitional justice.

Plans for 2015

The Center’s focus on historical dialogue will continue in the next years through several events and collaborations. Together with AHDA the Center will organize a workshop in Istanbul in the winter of 2015. A summer school for civil society professionals and graduate students is planned to take place in summer in collaboration with Hafıza Merkezi.

CGC | Turkey and Prof. Barkan have been working together to establish a regional network on historical dialogue and reconciliation to enable regional cooperation between academia and civil society and facilitate the exchange of case studies, methodology and practices of historical memory, dialogue and accountability. The network is led by Hafiza Merkezi (Truth, Justice and Memory Studies Center) and currently includes other partners from Turkey (Hrant Dink Foundation, History Foundation, Helsinki Citizens Assembly, Diyarbakır Political and Social Studies Association), Cyprus (Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, Peace Research Institute of Oslo Cyprus Center), Israel (Zochrot), Palestine (Wasatia, Parents Circle Families Forum), Armenia (Caucasus Institute) and Lebanon (UMAM Documentation and Research Center, Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile). Additional organizations from the region will be able to join the network as it expands in the future.

The launch of the network was held on October 25-27 at Columbia Global Centers | Turkey with the participation of Prof. Elazar Barkan as well as other members of the network. During the workshop Prof. Barkan put forward the need to form a new intellectual and advocacy field by leveraging the past to move forward with peace for the future. He briefly defined historical dialogue and transitional justice as different (although often complimentary) tools for conflict resolution and peace building; he also explored the difference of perception in current efforts between transitional justice and historical dialogue. Five areas pertinent to the activities of institutions working on historical dialogue are: Documentation, Memorialization, Education, Dialogue, and Judicial Processes. As individuals introduced the work of their organizations, it became increasingly apparent that certain obstacles and challenges are shared, and joint solutions to these challenges could be produced within this network via workshops; annual meetings, and where successful experiences could be shared, modelled and mapped and co-projects could be developed.

In the spring of 2014, Professor Elazar Barkan was in Istanbul together with Liz Sevcenko of International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. Attended the opening of "Compressed: Guantanamos" Exhibition, Prof. Barkan and Sevcenko conducted a workshop with students and professors from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul University, Istanbul Bilgi University, and Sabancı University on the sitaution of memory sites in Turkey. Both the exhibition and the workshop built on the existing data collected within the framework of Guantanamo Public Memory Project