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Connecting Past to Present: An Exchange with the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (MMDH)

Start Date: 15.06.2023

End Date: 15.04.2024

In January 2022, Hafıza Merkezi became a member of the International Coalition for Sites of Conscience (ICSC). Founded in New York in 1999, the Coalition is a network of museums, initiatives, and memorialization organizations and initiatives that are considered sites of conscience and memory. 

The Coalition consists of 350 organizations from more than 65 countries, each working to connect the past with the present and memory with action. The Coalition develops innovative social programs that lead people from memory to action through training programs and project support funds and brings together spaces of conscience in different regions to develop global collaborations, regional networks, and online connections. In 2023, Hafıza Merkezi had the chance to receive one of the support funds given for this purpose. We received a Project Support Fund to share experiences with the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (MMDH), a member of the Coalition operating in Santiago, Chile.


The overall goal of the exchange is to build on MMDH’s experience and expertise to foster intergenerational dialogue and awareness of past and present human rights violations among different generations in Turkey. The specific objectives are:

  • Develop new methods to actively involve several generations in sharing their experience and perceptions of past and present human rights violations, trauma resistance,
  • Integrate a gender perspective in this intergenerational dialogue and ensure that gender mainstreaming is part of Hafiza Merkezi’s approach to dealing with past and present violations,
  • Develop new international exchanges with overseas like-minded initiatives.


In recent years, one of the most important areas of work of our Memory and Peace Studies Program has been working with young people between the ages of 18 and 30 who are affected by political repression against educational institutions, economic uncertainty, and the shrinking of civic space in Turkey. So far, our work has centered around the Memory and Youth project, which focuses on collective memory and confronting the past. Many young participants from different fields of experience and knowledge expressed the need to make their own experiences of conflict and rights violations more visible in this work. As Hafıza Merkezi, we try to focus on both supporting human rights defenders and working in the field of memory and peace, trying to find effective models to integrate past and present violations with the same approach to fill the gap between contemporary human rights activism and memory studies. Yet, we have struggled to find effective regional models to integrate past and present violations in the same approach. 

Sites of memory in Latin America, and particularly in Chile, have developed original approaches and methods to articulate the past and present. Our partner MMDH, was created to commemorate the violations of the right to life and human dignity committed by the state of Chile between 1973 and 1990. Yet its activities are not limited to the memorialization of the past but aim to foster intergenerational dialogue and stimulate critical thinking and discussions on citizenship, human rights, and democracy today. We were particularly interested in its recent work on gender issues and equality across generations, connecting different generations affected by rights violations and involved in feminist activism through exhibitions, workshops, and public events. In addition, as a central actor of the memory field in Chile, the MMDH could introduce us to a wide range of memory initiatives in Santiago.


The following activities were held between June 2023 and April 2024.

1. Online workshops

Workshop with the Hafıza Merkezi team, the MMDH team, and young activists from Turkey - 21 August 2023

MMDH provided general information about the museum, presented its activities in the area of gender and intergenerational dialogue, and showed examples of the campaigns they ran and the videos they produced. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session. 

“Mainstreaming Gender in Memory Work” workshops with local CSOs from Chile and Turkey - 21 November and 19 December 2023

These two workshops brought together experts and activists who work on gender, collective memory, and peacebuilding in Chile and Turkey, to exchange their work and experiences. Participants were invited to briefly present their approach, before discussing the methods and challenges of gender mainstreaming in their area of work. Information about the participants' organizations was shared beforehand so that everyone could share their questions, comments, and insights on each others’ work. The following organizations were invited:

2. Field visit to Santiago

Noémi Lévy-Aksu and Merve Bakdur from our Memory and Peace Studies Team conducted a field visit to the Chilean capital Santiago between 7 and 13 January 2024.

The itinerary of the visit was prepared by the MMDH and included the following activities:

  • A guided visit to MMDH and meetings with the museum’s different teams,
  • Visits to places of detention, torture, and execution that were later reclaimed and turned into sites of memory following the end of the dictatorship,
  • Meetings with local activists and initiatives who have been involved in the processes of reclaiming, managing, and bringing these sites back to the field of memory.

Click here to read our field notes compiled by Noémi Lévy Aksu.

3. Interviews

We decided to conduct a series of interviews with activists and initiatives whom we met during our field visit to Santiago. The interviewees recounted the methods and activities employed by their organizations and shared their insights on intergenerational dialogue, restorative justice, and the relationship between memory work and social activism.