Introducing the participants of THO’s Summer 2018 Research Program in Turkey

In July and August, THO will take eight young American researchers to Turkey to explore approaches to the refugee crisis.

Image design: Danielle Ternes, THO graphic designer

In July and August, THO will carry out its first Summer Research Program in Turkey. The theme for this inaugural year is “Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Turkey: Challenges, Opportunities, and Approaches.”

Throughout the program, eight young American researchers will meet with government agencies, private sector representatives, and civil society organizations in Washington, D.C., Istanbul, Ankara, and Gaziantep to carry out individual research projects exploring the refugee and displacement crisis.

The researchers will be guided in their projects by Dr. Juliette Tolay, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. Dr. Tolay is an expert on asylum and migration, foreign policy, and public attitudes, and her research and publications focus on Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East.

Read on to learn more about each of our researchers!

LYDIA WILLIAMS, 22

My name is Lydia Williams (no relation to THO Program Officer Audrey Williams, haha). I am an undergraduate student and senior studying political science and American studies at Penn State Harrisburg. As a Schreyer Honors College Scholar, I am gathering research on this trip for my thesis on the evolution of Turkish policies towards the Syrian refugee education.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? I strongly believe that research on refugee response and humanitarian aid is necessary so that we can better understand, empathize, and help. I’m particularly interested in the ‘lost generation’ aspect of children falling through the cracks of society during crises. Having up-to-date information on my research project is the best and most credible way to make a positive impact for future change and resolution.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Besides conducting interviews with Turkish government officials, NGOs, and hopefully refugees, I am looking forward to the cultural immersion activities. I’m especially excited to see the Hagia Sophia because it has been on my bucket list for years; I’m in love with its architecture and history. And of course, there is no better place to eat my fill of Turkish delight than in Turkey!

Read Lydia’s blog post here.

MERIAM SALEM, 22

My name is Meriam Salem, and I am a recent graduate from American University in Washington, D.C. Throughout my time in university, I explored postcolonial and critical social theory through my international relations major, and brought my research to the screen with my film and media minor.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? Vulnerable communities are impacted by policies and humanitarian aid. I believe strongly that it is important to research the effects of these policies to avoid and actively work against further traumatizing and exploiting vulnerable populations.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Without filtering my quirks and enthusiasm, here’s a list of things I am excited for:

→ Learning more about the art behind the architecture, and paying my respects to the communities that have contributed to the history of the arts in Turkey.

→ Photographing everything — I’m a professional photographer, so my camera and I will be inseparable, no doubt.

→ Experiencing the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque).

Read Meriam’s blog post here.

JUDE ALAWA, 21

Hello! My name is Jude Alawa, and I’m an undergraduate student at Yale University studying Global Affairs and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. My interests primarily lie at the intersection of medicine and public policy, specifically improving clinical standards and increasing access to healthcare for marginalized populations.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? As a first-generation Syrian-American, the Syrian refugee crisis has been particularly personal to my family and me. Given the massive influx of refugees into neighboring countries and the duration for which refugees are expected to stay, there is immense pressure on host countries to provide essential services for displaced populations to survive, successfully integrate, and thrive in their new communities. Such an undertaking is extremely challenging, and with limited resources, refugees often struggle to access necessary health services, especially for chronic illnesses. With the hope of improving the health situation of refugees and the humanitarian response to this crisis, I plan on evaluating cancer awareness and barriers to medical treatment among refugees in Turkey this summer.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Outside of my research, I am thrilled to be visiting Turkey again, and I am looking forward to a rich cultural experience filled with delicious food, beautiful sights, and incredible people!

Read Jude’s blog post here.

SAMANTHA HUNT, 22

This is me in the White House West Wing while spending a semester interning in the House of Representatives through the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

My name is Samantha Hunt, and I recently graduated from Dominican University of California as an Honors Program student with dual degrees in International Studies and Political Science. Now, I work as a case handler in the family law division of an Immigration law firm in San Francisco, where I am exposed to the intricacies of the immigration system in the United States and abroad. My research focuses on civil society organizations and how they are specially positioned to address the specific issues female refugees face.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? Researching policy change and humanitarian aid for refugees in Turkey is a critical aspect of being a globally informed citizen, and of being a citizen who can use their skills to elevate the work of organizers who are generating positive change. I am humbled to have the opportunity to participate in the Turkish Heritage Organization’s summer research program to stand in solidarity with the refugees in Turkey, and to be part of an important conversation about female refugee issues in the academic community.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? In compilation with my research, I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel in a cultural hotspot like Turkey. My entire life, I have read about the different empires and peoples who have traveled through Turkey and sculpted the nation’s heritage. I am looking forward to seeing historical landmarks while immersing myself in the culture and having meaningful conversations with those living in the country. And, of course, I am looking forward to the food.

Read Samantha’s blog post here.

KINGA KARLOWSKA, 22

Hi, my name is Kinga. I am a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Boston working towards my M.A. in International Relations. Last year, I finished my undergrad at UMass Boston, majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Relations.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? I think research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid is important because too often these policies are shaped out of political narratives rather than comprehensive and substantive research. We risk too much in dehumanizing policy, and research is a way to counteract that by listening to the ones affected by policies.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Besides exploring Turkey and trying lots of new things, I would say I’m most looking forward to meeting people and hearing their stories and experiences. My favorite thing about traveling is making friends from all over the world that I can learn from and see again in the future.

Read Kinga’s blog post here.

LAWRENCE CENK LAWS, 30

My name is Lawrence Cenk Laws. I currently hold a B.S. in International Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a J.D. from The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, and most recently an L.L.M. in Public International Law from Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. My research areas have thus far primarily been centered on international human rights law and minority rights.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? Although there is significant debate on whether international humanitarian law should be considered a subset of international human rights law or something completely distinct, there is no denying that both fields seek to protect people along with certain fundamental and basic rights. Therefore, I believe it’s imperative to research policies governing refugees and humanitarian aid to ensure that the effects of armed conflict are mitigated as much as possible and do not create new crises in their wake. I also believe that examining current policies in-depth and highlighting potential areas of development and growth can help governmental and nongovernmental bodies better address the needs of people suffering from armed conflict both on a national and international level.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Although I’ve been to Turkey on numerous occasions, our trip to Gaziantep will be my first time going to the southeastern portion of the country. Outside of the main scholarly purpose of this trip, I am most excited to have a chance to experience the culture of this particular region.

Read Lawrence’s blog post here.

JOSHUA EBINER, 23

I am a recent graduate from Cal Poly Pomona with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? Research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid is important to me because I believe there needs to be more assistance and resources made available by the international community. The UN Refugee Agency estimates there are over 22 million refugees in world, of whom only 190,000 have been successfully resettled. These are daunting statistics, and I want to learn more about ways in which I can contribute to assisting this group of people to ensure everyone has access to their inherent human rights.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of your research)? Outside of research, I am most looking forward to immersing myself in the culture, tradition, and history that Turkey is renowned for.

Read Joshua’s blog post here.

RYAN MCCARTHY, 27

I am a New Jerseyan living in Chicago, in love with the majesty of the city, confused by its pizza, and gravely disappointed by its bagels. I am a full-time student at DePaul University pursuing a Master’s in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a no-time user of Pinterest. Fun fact: I was Time Magazine’s 2006 person of the year.

Why is research on policies for refugees and humanitarian aid important to you? 2017 was a milestone year for the human species — and we barely noticed. For the first time more than 50% of the world was connected to the internet. More than half of our species is instantly connectable, sharing information, money, culture, and propaganda, exchanging goods, getting jobs, and providing services with indifference to national borders. Nation states, according to Benedict Anderson in his book Imagined Communities, took hold with the development of the printing press, allowing people who never met to feel connected and part of a community. Today, cohesive communities are arising on the internet, connecting people who never met to imagine they are part of the same whole.

While information speeds across physical borders, these boundaries are excluding and expelling people at unprecedented rates; over 65 million people are displaced around the world. These 65 million are physically excluded but are as visually included as ever as they upload their experiences to their internet communities. Their internet lives are filling screens around the world: a passport of horrors, accepted everywhere visa-free.

This discrepancy, I propose, is due to political institutions built for the 19th Century that have not kept up to the 21st. The binary solutions offered today — inclusion and assimilation, or expulsion and exclusion — are not bold enough for a globalized world. Amelioration in a refugee camp — confine and feed — is a lazy answer.

Refugees and humanitarian aid must be further studied and understood, debated and researched, with space given for innovative solutions. There are great forward-thinking ideas already being adopted: using block chain to preserve identity, so often lost or destroyed when displaced or trafficked; or moving from problematic food distribution to biometric cards that can be used like cash at local stores. We’ve got a long way to go; I’m grateful the Turkish Heritage Organization is helping us get there.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Turkey (outside of research)? Being humbled by the incredible hospitableness of the Turkish people.

Read Ryan’s blog post here.

Meddah: A U.S.-Turkey Storytelling Project

Meddah is a storytelling blog at the intersection of U.S.-Turkey relations, managed by the Turkish Heritage Organization in Washington, D.C.

Turkish Heritage Organization

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THO is a young, independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization in Washington, D.C. dedicated to supporting the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship.

Meddah: A U.S.-Turkey Storytelling Project

Meddah is a storytelling blog at the intersection of U.S.-Turkey relations, managed by the Turkish Heritage Organization in Washington, D.C.

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