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May 25, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Introducing Geysar Gurbanov (2013-14)

 “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
                                                                        ~ Nelson Mandela

We are very pleased to offer visitors to the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation-USA website the chance to meet some extraordinary young people who are in the newest group of Peace Fellows sponsored by the Rotary Organization.  There are five Rotary Peace Centers within these universities:

It is particularly poignant now, as the world remains in mourning at the passing of Nelson Mandela, to see the reflection of this great and wise leader’s inspiration in the work of the Rotary Peace Fellows.

We remember President Mandela as a truly great leader for our time and for all time.  President Mandela’s life of extraordinary courage and accomplishment changed the world.

Introducing Geysar Gurbanov, Rotary Peace Fellow (2013-14)

As a Rotary Peace Fellow, Geysar is based at the Duke-UNC Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution.  He is enrolled as a Graduate Student at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies.

Geysar Gurbanov was born in Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. By the time the country became independent in 1991, it was a war-torn unstable state drowning in political chaos, economic crisis, and military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict gradually grew into an increasingly violent war between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis, which resulted in ethnic cleansing and other atrocities. His early childhood memories were formed by Russian tanks invading his town, pogroms, armed coup d’états, poverty, crime, and food shortages caused by a large influx of refugees.

After graduating from high school, Geysar studied law at Baku State University, and in 2005-2006, he studied Administration of Law and Justice in the United States on a U.S. State Department-sponsored fellowship. Before running in the 2009 Municipal Elections, he was a director of the NATO Information Center. His professional portfolio includes work with OSCE-ODIHR, EPF-CRRC, British Council, and IREX. He served as an advisor to the Council of the European Union in matters concerning human rights and political issues in Azerbaijan from 2008 to 2011.

During summer 2009, Geysar spent a month in Poland with the European Volunteers Service as a volunteer in the Chechen refugee camp located in Warsaw, Poland. In 2011, shortly after moving to the United States, he started “The South Caucasus Diary,” a blog devoted to political and human rights issues in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. It also advocates for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In a short period of time his blog attracted more than 100,000 readers from 197 countries.

In 2013, he became a Rotary Peace Fellow. The program was created as part of Rotary’s ongoing effort to promote greater tolerance and cooperation among nations.  As a Peace Fellow, Geysar was admitted to the Duke-UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies (CSEEES). He is also working on his professional certificate in peace and conflict resolution at the Duke-UNC Center for International Studies. He is fluent in English, Russian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and also studies Polish and Persian languages.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questionsHere are Geysar’s answers:

1. What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

Realistically speaking, it is not possible. You can neither disarm all nations, nor solve all of their problems that eventually lead to those armed conflicts. Nonetheless, what is possible is to make future armed conflict less violent and destructive, more controllable and predictable. While these measures will decrease the negative consequences of armed conflicts such as civil casualties, destroyed infrastructure, refugees and internally displaced people, the international community should work together to prevent armed conflicts when and wherever possible.

By promoting greater religious tolerance and intercultural dialogue among nations, and by supporting democratic changes with open, accountable governments, we can achieve this goal. Also by closing the gap between the rich and poor, the fortunate and less fortunate people, with the  development of viable, sustainable economic policies beneficial to all concerned, we can contribute to preventing violent conflict across the world. This will require strong effort on a global level.

2. What do you believe are the three most important factors to foster peace within and among nations?

Liberal education, political democracy, and cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:
rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.