Participants Blog hosted by Center for Conflict Studies at MIIS

Category: Lamis Ahmed

No Reconciliation?

Prof. Elizabeth Cole taught us three informative challenging sessions about reconciliation. It made me self-reflect on my own views and my ability to be part of reconciliation efforts. We analyzed and discussed the different cultural and religious approaches of reconciliation and my view fits into the “Peace is Justice” perspective. I can’t think about reaching peace without the people implicating harm and violence receive punishment or some sort of consequences for their behavior. In the mainstream Egyptian culture, reconciliation between individuals is seen as a very positive thing and a lot of people work on encouraging and supporting reconciliation between people. On the other hand, reconciliation with big oppressive systemic groups is seen as a negative thing. One of the most shared modern poems in Egypt now is titled “No Reconciliation”. It is written to express that the level of injustice and violence from the government and especially the police can’t just be forgiven or forgotten. The poem starts by saying:


No Reconciliation

Even if they give you gold

Look, when I pluck your eyes out

Then put diamonds in their place

Can you see?

They take things that can’t be bought:

Childhood memories with your sibling


The poem goes on to count many things are taken by the government’s violence that can’t return back no matter what. Things like family members, friends, lost organs (eyes are a theme because the police forces target them in demonstrations), and most importantly, hope in a bright future. This attitude makes it difficult to achieve reconciliation and peace without a form of justice that makes people feel they can stop the same actions from happening to them again.

Recycling Water

Prof. Jeff Langholz gave us a very interesting active presentation about the future of water. He asked us first what we think it will be like in the future and we all had very bleak ideas about the future of water and water-based conflicts. He showed us a lot of great inventions and systems used now to recycle water and to produce on-site drinkable water. It is a very interesting concept of how he thinks that in the future recycling water will be as common as recycling paper now. I hope that his optimism and bright ideas become the reality of our world because the impact it will have on peace and stability will be great.

We discussed the women role in peacebuilding and how they are used in conflicts. Prof. Sujata Moorti led a very informative discussion about the UN and its role in promoting women rights around the globe. We discussed how most of the UN documents use a language that suggests gender equality and women rights rather than mandating them. We then watched the case study of the Yazidi women captured by ISIS in Iraq and used as slaves and how is that used by ISIS to recruit more men. It also showed the work done by other women trying to free the captured Yazidis. It gives a strong representation of women activists working in dangerous man-dominated conflict areas. 


Common Ground

During our visit to the Salinas Valley State Prison, we got to meet some of the prisoners at level 2. Some of the inmates are part of a group working on reconciliation and helping each other to not return back to jail after being released. They started by giving us a presentation about the survey they did and they used the survey to tell us some of their personal stories. The results of the survey are scary. More than 70% of the prisoners who participated were first in incarceration between the age of 9 to 19. And around 30% were incarcerated between the age of 9 and 12. Imagine the change that can happen if these inmates got help mentally and financially, got guidance when they were first jailed. Not only they were left to do the same crimes again, but according to their stories, the absence of a father and role models led to them joining a gang. Unfortunately, their children are now also at risk of joining gangs because of the absence of their fathers and the lack of support. Some of the prisoners said that their children started going to that direction and that they can’t help them to find their way. That is why organizations and groups like CASP trying to stop the youth from joining a gang are essential to reduce gangs violence.

I was impressed by the name of the survey “common ground”. It is a perfect name for the situation in the jail with the prisoners split over race and gang lines. It makes the prisoners see that the others are also the result of almost exactly similar circumstances. It humanizes the prisoners. Yesterday’s speaker from the Kingian Non-Violence organization used a similar approach. They organized an activity of choosing your values to show us how humans have a big common ground and that focusing on that common ground is the way to achieve peaceful change.

Partners Global – Disability Rights in Iraq

Last week my team received the challenge question from Partners Global. The question is “How can PartmersGlobal best address disability rights, and include voices of the disabled, in reconciliation and rebuilding programs in Iraq?” I am glad I chose this project because it is challenging and because I am interested in every aspect of the question. This project will help to expand my knowledge of Iraq socially and politically. Even though the Middle East is my region of interest, it is exciting to focus on one country and be culturally specific instead of thinking in a generalized way.

It is interesting how your knowledge of topics and issues, old and new, can connect and compliment each other for a new project. I have already started thinking about applying what I already know and what I am learning now at the Summer Peacebuillding Program. As a rising senior majoring in international studies and political science I took many courses about the Middle East and political Islam. These classes in addition to our discussion about terrorism with Prof. Richard Rubenstein will help the analysis of the role of the government and ISIS in the disadvantage of disabled Iraqis. There are many means to achieve peace that we discussed in SPP like storytelling, technology, and other ways. This is a good experience to try to apply these theories to the case of disabled Iraqis and how these techniques can help. I also hope that my personal experience as an Arab with a disability and as the vice president of a disability awareness student organization in Oklahoma will give me a closer look at this challenge.

Three Lives

One of my favorite sessions so far is Veterans for Peace by Mr. Phillip Butler. Hearing such a story from the person who experienced it was very interesting. Mr. Butler shared with us his life before the Vietnam War, his life during the war as a prisoner in Vietnam, and his life after coming back to the United States. Hence, the title of his book “Three Lives of a Warrior”.

His story and the way he split his life time into three different parts made me think a lot of my own life and the lives of people affected by trauma. We have the same three parts: our life before the trauma, our life during the trauma, and our life after the trauma. In my short life, I got to discover that the transition from the life of trauma to the post-trauma life is the hardest. It is difficult to accept that your life before the trauma is gone, and it is hard to convince your brain that the trauma event is over. I spent a lot of time trying to take myself back my first life. I focused all my efforts on becoming my old self which failed and made my life worse. I hope to make my third life as productive as Mr. Butler. He took the pain he went through during his second life to ensure it doesn’t happen again to other people. It is a positive example of dealing with the trauma. He didn’t try to act like he didn’t go through one and he didn’t cling to his past life. He accepted the fact it happened and dealt with it in an active way. I would like to know more about his transition process and how he dealt with his trauma stress.

First Day… too many things to reflect on

The first day of the program was long but I have enjoyed it and learned new things.  The reading about the origin of peacebuilding and its history during and after the Cold War is very informative! The ice-breaking activities we had at the start of the day were entertaining. The little book activity where we had to identify our own definitions and our strengths was my favorite and I am waiting to see the changes that will happen at the program.


We figured out our conflict managment style with cute animal


The TED Talk video about using jobs as a way to stop conflict left me with a lot of thoughts. Jobs and economic opportunities may suppress conflict but does it really build peace? If the fighting stops but the roots of the conflict, whether cultural or structural, are still in effect then we are only pausing the violence not really stopping it. It might work in some cases of political conflict over power but conflicts based on identity can’t be solved this way. Can the Palestinian-Israeli conflict be solved by giving the Palestinian youth more jobs? -Probably not because the root of the conflict is ethnic, religious and all the other aspects of identity. Of course, the Palestinian youth want jobs but that won’t solve their identity crisis.

The discussion about the Gujarat massacre in 2002 was very interesting. The discussion involved the definition of justice and the ability of the “victims” to forgive.  As a person who lived through violence and lost many loved ones in the conflict over the last 6 years, I find these two questions very critical. I understand that punishing the abusers will not bring the sense of peace and justice to every victim but I think it is important to happen. It doesn’t only send a message to future abusers that this behavior will be punished but it also makes the “victims” feel supported by their society.

My classmate (17 y.o.) was shot by the police in a demonstration 4 years ago, the police stopped the doctors from treating him, and made most of my class helplessly watch him die. It is impossible for any of us to forgive that while seeing this happen over and over again to other people and while witnessing these police officers getting promoted. It is unfair to put the weight of peace on the shoulder of the victims and ask them to “forget and forgive” and to “let it go”. Most of my generation in Egypt mocks the word peace because of that. They usually mock “peacebuilding programs” by describing them as a “give up on your rights” programs. It doesn’t helpthat the two words come from the same root in Arabic.

I can’t wait to learn and discuss more about peacebuilding from the professors, speakers, and my smart classmates.


Peacebuilding and Change

My name is Lamis Ahmed and I am a Senior majoring in international studies and political science. My interest in conflict studies comes from the region where I grew up, the Middle East.  Conflict with its various levels and types has been always part of my daily life, whether directly in my hometown in Egypt or indirectly through news about our neighboring countries. Because of the circumstances and the long period of continuous conflict most if not all people surrounding me believe that peacebuilding is a joke. I grew up hearing people scoff whenever the term “peacebuilding” was mentioned. Despite my firm belief in peace and change, this habit grew on me. I became very skeptical about the mechanism and efficiency of any peacebuilding program. My time in the United World College and my classes made me even more skeptical of the possibilities of transforming conflict areas into peaceful ones. The number of conflicts and structural violence cases I personally experienced, heard about from my classmates and studied in college made me see peace as an impossible-to-reach dream.

A reminder of why taking actions matter.

I applied to SPP because I felt I am being a hypocrite saying I want to help reach peace and stability in my country while doing nothing to learn about the process. I started reading more about peacebuilding in my free time because my college courses are more focused on exploring the source and reasons of the conflict and not the solutions to reach peace. I am expecting SPP to be my first major step in learning about the possibilities of being an effective force in peacebuilding programs in the future, in my country and abroad. In addition to generally reducing and eliminating the violence of conflict, I am an advocate for human right. I am the vice president of an Organization called Disability Inclusion and Awareness at the University of Oklahoma and participated in many events against gender inequality, forced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests against political oppositions.

The Carol Mason Student Activism award.


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