Interview with Hakan Karahasan
Hakan Karahasan is Vice President of Cyprus Academic Dialogue, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote dialogue, greater understanding, mutual respect, and cooperation amongst Cypriot, Greek and Turkish academics and intellectuals.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Nicosia and raised in Cyprus. I received my BA in Radio-TV, and Film in 2000, and my MA in English Studies in 2003 with a thesis entitled A Levinasian Reading of Cypriot Poetry. At the moment, I am a PhD candidate in Communication and Media Studies and a senior lecturer of Film Making. In 2009-2010, I was a guest researcher in the Department of Philosophy and Communication at the University of Bologna. Since 2002, I became involved in different bi-communal projects. Beginning 2004, I have been involved in Education for Peace projects with POST Research Institute and have taken part in analysing Cyprus history textbooks in the northern part of the island from the primary school to the upper secondary school level. I now also act as the Vice President of Cyprus Academic Dialogue, which is a multicultural NGO.
How did you join the Cyprus Academic Dialogue (CAD)?
Two of my friends were there. We used to discuss the Cyprus issue and the importance of bi-communal initiatives quite often and once one of them asked ‘Why don’t you become a member of Cyprus Academic Dialogue (CAD)?’ Being a member of various other organizations in Cyprus, I thought that it was a nice idea. That is how I found myself at CAD.
What type of work does CAD do?
CAD has been involved in several major projects: for example, in November 2013, in collaboration with the University of Nicosia’s Cyprus Center for Intercultural Studies, CAD organised “The Role of Education in a Multicultural Cyprus” conference; in 2014, following our General Assembly, CAD members held meetings and consultations with key political figures as well as with intercommunal negotiators and their advisors; CAD also organised a roundtable discussion among academics and intellectuals from Cyprus and Turkey in Istanbul (the meeting was hosted by the Istanbul Policy Center); in addition, a member of the CAD Board met the US VP Joe Biden at a meeting with Cypriot civil leaders and explained CAD’s positions and aims. Basically, CAD has been involved in enhancing dialogue among academics and contributing actively in the decision making process for the ongoing Cyprus problem.
What are some ongoing or upcoming activities of CAD?
We would like to continue with our efforts to establish dialogue between academics and policy makers. In addition, we are now working on the publication of the papers that were presented in “The Role of Education in a Multicultural Cyprus” conference, co-organised with CCIS. Also, we would like to develop a clearing house for the exchange of ideas, information and knowledge about existing policies, issues, events and resources, creating forums where important issues and new ideas can be discussed. For more information on CAD and its activities, you can follow us on Facebook at:https://www.facebook.com/CyprusAcademicDialogue.
What is peace education? Do you believe this is important for Cyprus?
According to Teachers without Frontiers, “Peace education empowers learners with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to end violence and injustice and promote a culture of peace” (https://teacherswithoutborders.org/page/what-peace-education). This definition indicates what is missing in Cyprus. In Cyprus, education is mostly seen as ‘a tool that creates national subjects.’ However, I think peace education has a critical importance in Cyprus because education here has not changed that much since the 19th century. Our education systems ‘show pupils’ what ‘we’ educators know, but instead, peace education empowers learners and at the same time avoids the promotion of any kind of violence and injustice, encouraging a culture of peace. By the way, an example of a positive development in Cyprus regarding peace education is the new project of POST Research Institute (POST RI) and Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) entitled Education for a Culture of Peace as a Vehicle for Reconciliation in Cyprus. For more information regarding this project, you can have a look at POST RI’s website at:https://postresearchinstitute.wordpress.com.
Have you personally experienced any prejudice in Cyprus?
I have not experienced that much prejudice but from time to time, this is something that you feel in Cyprus but cannot tell it. I recall an instance where I was participating in a multicultural group but at the moment that I spoke my name, some people’s faces in the group changed. They did not say something negative but you can understand from the way they look at you. Also, one day a police officer complained to my Greek Cypriot friend that since I was Turkish Cypriot—although I prefer to say that I am Cypriot only—I had to show my ID at the checkpoint even though I was crossing the checkpoint in my friend’s car. Unfortunately, showing our IDs on both sides of the divide can often cause tensions. Other than that I must admit that people around me are really open-minded and they never let me feel that there is any kind of problem regarding these sorts of things.
What would you like to achieve over the next five years?
I would like to complete certain projects that have been on my mind, including a novel or a short story book. Other than that I would like to continue with my academic career, produce new works, and travel a lot.
Name three of your favorite authors.
Orhan Pamuk, Italo Calvino, and Umberto Eco.
Name your top two restaurants on the island.
El Sabor Latino and Il Forno.