Campus & Community

International fellows find safe haven at Harvard

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Scholars at Risk provides oasis from persecution

A Turkish psychiatrist, a theologian from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a legal scholar from Rwanda joined the Harvard community this fall to undertake research through the Scholars at Risk Program, which offers visiting fellowships to scholars whose work is jeopardized by political persecution in their home countries.

Through the program, Harvard participates in a national network of universities and colleges that defends the human rights of persecuted scholars. Since 2001, Harvard has provided a total of 10 fellowships, which the University Committee on Human Rights Studies oversees. “We established these fellowships to encourage the Harvard community to concern themselves with the circumstances of colleagues less fortunate than themselves,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, executive director of the University Committee on Human Rights Studies. “The response has been excellent and we look forward to receiving a new set of nominations from any member of the Harvard community for next year’s selection.”

More information about the Scholars at Risk program at Harvard

Nominations for the 2006-07 academic year will be accepted by fax, post, or e-mail ( before Dec. 16.

Harvard’s Scholars at Risk Program, chaired by Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, recently received a major boost with a $1.2 million gift from a trio of supporters: Sigrid Rausing, who leads a philanthropic organization dedicated to human rights, women’s rights and advocacy, and minority rights and environmental justice; Peter M. Baldwin ’80, Ph.D. ’86, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Lisbet Rausing ’86, Ph.D. ’93, a senior research fellow at Imperial College in London. Lisbet Rausing, who was formerly a tutor at Dunster House and assistant professor in the history of science, joined the Harvard Board of Overseers this summer, and has also served on the Overseers’ Visiting Committee to the Harvard University Libraries for many years.

Each committed funds to enable scholars to pursue their academic work, utilize Harvard resources such as the Harvard University Libraries and offices, and interact with colleagues in their fields. “It is essential that scholars who suffer from political persecution find academic homes in other countries where they can continue their academic work,” said Sigrid Rausing. “It’s also important that they realize that they are not alone, but that the worldwide academic community supports them and can act as witnesses to their plight.”

The gift helps build the fellowship resources originally established with funding from the MacArthur Foundation.

“A university should be an oasis for open and honest development and exchange of ideas,” said President Lawrence H. Summers. “I am delighted that Sigrid Rausing, Lisbet Rausing, and Peter Baldwin, through their generous support, are making it possible for the Scholars at Risk to pursue their work at Harvard.”

While some in the program choose to remain anonymous, the following are members of the 2005 – 06 class of fellows:

Alp Ayan, a Turkish psychiatrist and psychotherapist, has dedicated his professional life to the treatment and rehabilitation of torture survivors. He will conduct his research primarily at Massachusetts General Hospital, focusing on the psychological effects of isolation, “care for caregivers,” and ways of conceptualizing and addressing trauma on a societal level.

Samuel Ngayhembako joins the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research from the Faculty of Protestant Theology within the Free University of Great Lakes Countries (ULPGL) in Goma, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he is also serving as rector. His research will include analysis of fundamentalist churches opposed to the pastoral ministry of women and the role churches play in crises.

Noel Twagiramungu also joins the Du Bois Institute, where he will prepare his thesis, “Gacaca or Grassroots Justice: Its Basis in International Law and Implications for Human Rights in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” for publication. Before coming to Harvard, he worked with legal organizations in Rwanda and earned an LL.M. degree at Utrecht University.

Mehrangiz Kar, a leading lawyer, writer, and human rights activist from Iran, was the recipient of the 2004 – 2005 Scholars at Risk fellowship. An active public defender in Iran’s civil and criminal courts, Kar was among several Iranians to be arrested and imprisoned in April 2000 on charges of acting against the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her fellowship was co-sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and she will remain at Harvard for the 2005 – 06 academic year as a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.