Since 2012, in cooperation with Columbia University’s Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA) program, Truth Justice Memory Center (Hafiza Merkezi) has been working on the building of a regional network on historical dialogue and dealing with the past. To this end, we have carried out periodical thematic workshops and summer schools, with participants from Middle East, North Africa and Caucasus regions. During this process, we have taken the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability – AHDA within the Columbia University’s Human Rights Studies Institute as a model for this collaboration.
The first workshop we held for the establishment of a regional network on reconciliation and historical dialogue was held on October 24-26, 2013 in Istanbul. Fourteen institutions from Cyprus, Armenia, Lebanon, Croatia, Palestine, Israel, as well as Turkey whose work relates to the fields of historical dialogue, reconciliation, accountability, peace, conflict resolution, human rights and transitional justice participated in the workshop. In this first workshop, as the initial members what we named as Regional Network for Historical Dialogue and Dealing with the Past (RNHDP), the participants have agreed to plan and organize a set of activities in 2014 to initiate the process to reach our goals, which were accomplished during 2015:
- Website: One idea of the meeting in 2013 was at the to develop a website that would introduce the network and its work. Accordingly, the website http://dealingwiththepast.org/ was published in 2015, which currently includes sources on the status of the conflicts in the region and the reconciliation and peace processes underway, as well as information on the network members, their work and approach.
- Thematic workshops: It was agreed to hold regular thematic workshops within the scope of regional network activities. The purpose of these workshops would be to create spaces of discussion and cooperation between NGOs working on peace, reconciliation, human rights or transitional justice in the Middle East, Caucasus and North Africa. We organized 2 workshops to this end. The first one, “Truth Telling and Encounters: Dynamics in Sites of Dialogue”, was held on January 15-16, 2015 in Istanbul. The second workshop titled “Enforced Disappearances and the Missing in the Caucuses, Middle East and North Africa” was also held in Istanbul on January 27-28, 2017.
- Summer school training programs: Finally, conducting one-week long, concentrated training programs was another suggestion made in this meeting. Accordingly, another component of the regional network has been determined as a summer school training program targeting young NGO professionals living in countries of the region. The program of the 2 summer schools we held in 2015 and 2016 include topics on the theory and practice of historical dialogue and transitional justice.
Today, we no longer hold regular workshops and summer schools as part of our RNHDP activities. The biggest reason for this is the difficulty of finding sustainable finance. However, we continue our activities for building regional solidarity, learning and networking. Our current strategy is to deepen our focus on one issue and build a regional network around that. The start of this approach was on January 27-28, 2017 when we held our second thematic workshop on enforced disappearances and the missing persons. In this workshop, a comparative analysis on enforced disappearances and the missing as a knowledge basis for future development was identified as an important gap. Accordingly, we decided to produce a publication on the issue with mutual agreement of the workshop participants.
As a result of this process, in 2018 we have published the book Any Hopes for Truth? A Comparative Analysis of Enforced Disappearances and the Missing in Middle East, North Africa and Caucasus. Today, we continue our efforts to support solidarity and learning in region countries, using this book and it’s findings as a knowledge basis. In this scope, right now we are in the process of conducting study visits to some of the countries covered in this publication. The first of these visits took place in Cyprus in November 2019.