Ten days in Toronto that I will never forget

It is happening again! The annual course organized by the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies was announced last week.

This 2-week, fully accredited course features world-renowned genocide scholars and provides a structured forum for analyzing universal questions related to genocide, such as:

What is genocide and why does it take place?

What is the relation between genocide and human rights?

Why does genocide denial occur?

How does geo-politics impact human rights and can even lead to genocide?

Why should you study human rights and the prevention of genocide?

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Photo: A piece from the group picture featuring students and world-known genocide scholars such as Roger Smith, Eric Markusen, Taner Akcam. The person on the right is the Canadian major who volunteered to stay in Rwanda against the will of the UN headquarters. August 2005, Toronto, Canada.

It takes place every year in Toronto, Canada. This year it will be during July 31-August 11, 2006. I was lucky to be a participant of last year’s course, so now you can trust me more when I comment on genocide.

What can I say about the course? I learned so much that I returned a totally different person. I met people who had witnessed and smelled the genocides of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan. I met a Canadian major, who was one of the heads of the UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda during the genocide. He told us how the UN headquarters gave an order to leave Rwanda, while the Tutsi minority was being slaughtered. Indeed, many of the UN peacekeepers did not leave. They volunteered to stay, and because of them some thousands of Tutsis survived…

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Photo: my new friends and I at the Niagara Falls

The program was very powerful. We had world-known professors lecturing on genocide and human rights.

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Photo: Dancing Armenian kochari in the University of Toronto dorms

The best thing about the program were the friends I made. I never expected to have “good time” in Toronto while taking the course. But the kids were so great (I say kids, but all of them were at least a few years older than me), and we had so much fun after the classes. We hung out every single night; we went to the Niagara Falls, all kinds of crazy places. I learned a Swahili (African) song (Dugu Zangu Nifahamisheni), while our friend from Tanzania learned “Taleat pashan pakhav Berlin,” and we had Rwandan, American, Canadian and Armenian guys dancing Armenian kochari together.

Indeed, we had sad times too. Six family members of one of our Rwandan friends were murdered during the Genocide in 1994. During one of the conversations, he told us how he found the burial-site of his sister’s body. It was very shocking…

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Photo: Having breakfast at a University of Toronto cafeteria before the class starts

Anyhow, I highly recommend this course! This was an awesome experience, and I will never forget those ten days that I spent in Canada. Another good thing is that they provide many scholarships for students, so it is worth to try.

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Photo: rolleyes.gif I hope my friends don't mind me posting it here. There was no romance or something like that involved, just a friendly kiss (I got one too!) at the graduation party. The reason I post it here is for admitting that I ruined this wonderful photo with my biggrin.gif …finger. shy.gif

The official website of the program is www.genocidestudies.org. The press release on this year’s program is available at http://i-newswire.com/pr54251.html.