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GCSP hosts Georgetown University “Swiss Hoyas” Club for a talk by Associate Fellow and Georgetown Professor Honey Al Sayed

On Tuesday 3 July, GCSP had the pleasure of hosting members of Swiss Hoyas, the Georgetown University alumni club of Switzerland, to celebrate and promote the blossoming relationship between Georgetown University and the GCSP. This summer, three Georgetown students, Sofia Economopoulos (MSFS 2019), Juan Racionero (MSFS 2019), and Theo Symonds (BSFS 2020) have been selected as Young Leaders in Foreign and Security Policy fellows at GCSP, which add to the Georgetown alumni on staff, including Cluster Leader of the Security and Law Programme Tobias Vestner (MSFS 2016) and director Christian Dussey who completed an exchange program at Georgetown during his undergraduate education, an experience he described as life-changing.

Following Ambassador Dussey’s introductory remarks, in which he spoke on his Georgetown experience, his professional background and his vision for the GSCP, Tobias Vestner gave some background on the MoU signed with Georgetown’s Masters of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) programme this January. The MoU aims to solidify a tradition of MSFS students completing a fellowship at GCSP, which has been the case since summer 2017.

Additionally, the Swiss Hoyas were able to hear the incredible personal story of Georgetown adjunct Professor and GCSP Associate Fellow Honey Al Sayed. Professor Al Sayed chronicled her life and mission in trying to affect change in pre-war Syria first through her national morning radio show, and then, forced to leave Syria in 2012 to the United States, through an internet radio show “SouriaLi” (double meaning “surreal” and "Syria is mine" in Arabic.) Her approach in reaching the Syrian population was an overwhelming success and Professor Al Sayed was able to introduce previously taboo topics such as mental health and speaking to a therapist, as well as empowering women to recognize, identify and speak out against sexual assault on her radio show. With seven million daily listeners, Professor Al Sayed developed a kinship with her audience, a relationship which abruptly ended when she was forced to leave the country. After applying for asylum in the US, Honey and others began the online radio show, SouriaLi, to discuss current events in Syria, and to connect with listeners not only in Syria, but those in the diaspora. 

It was this experience that helped launch the course “Media, Arts, and Culture: Fueling War or Creating Peace?” in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service’s Culture and Politics program (CULP).  The ensuing discussion with the Swiss Hoyas in attendance delved into the role of positive media in preventing conflict, and the influence of media and arts in peacebuilding.

In this regard, the GCSP incubated a Media and Arts for Peace (MAP) Initiative, led by Honey Al Sayed, which seeks to establish a platform from which to explore, research, promote and build a community of practice around the ways in which media and the arts improve security and generate peace. Since 2016, the MAP Initiative has cultivated a network of more than 200 artists and media professionals working in conflict-affected countries. In the same vein, and with the production support of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the GCSP has developed an online course on MAP that was launched in Geneva, New York City and Washington, D.C.