This project is focused on strengthening and increasing local communities’ capacity, particularly crisis centers, to render help to women and children who suffer from PTSD. The project was designed to allow the sharing of experience between professionals from Kyrgyzstan and professionals from the project’s partner countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ingushetia, Israel and Chechnya.

Our Kyrgyz partners are currently working on setting up training programs for graduate psychology students from the leading higher educational institutes of Kyrgyzstan including the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, American University in Central Asia, and Osh State University. The training programs will be focused on the organization of psychological aid delivery during and after emergency situations.

PCRC attended a Seminar in Osh, Kyrgyzstan where it met with specialists and experts in the field of psychology, medicine, PTSD treatment, education, and other relevant fields. Our organization is also responsible for organizing a 6-day site visit to BiH for 12 Kyrgyz professionals aimed at connecting Kyrgyz and Bosnian organizations working in the field of PTSD treatment and psychological care.

This project was supported by the Soros Foundation’s “East-East” program.

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Seminar in Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Study Tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) organized an educational study tour for fourteen Kyrgyz civil society representatives to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in cooperation with the Open Society Foundations in Sarajevo during the period from 10 to 16 March 2013. This study tour was part of the multilateral, international project “Creation of sustainable forms of psychosocial support to victims of disasters and ethnic conflicts”. The project operated within the framework of the “East East: Partnership Beyond Borders” program of the Soros Foundation in BiH. The main objectives of the study tour were to exchange professional experiences for the preparation of joint programs between BiH and Kyrgyzstan, and to begin developing common measures in providing psychosocial support in emergencies.

Fourteen individuals from Kyrgyzstan representing various organizations and crisis centers that take active part in the arrangement and delivering of psychological aid upon emergencies participated in the study tour. During their time in BiH, representatives visited different cities and organizations with a goal to better understand the existing system of psychosocial support, as well as to develop future cooperation between BiH and Kyrgyzstan.

During the six-day study tour to BiH, Kyrgyz representatives took part in the following site visits and activities:

Sarajevo (11 -12 March):

  • The Sarajevo Tunnel, Jewish Cemetery and Memorial to the Victims of the Siege of Sarajevo
  • Trauma Center – The Trauma Center in Sarajevo was developed under the auspices of the humanitarian organization ‘Bread of St. Anthony’. The Center carries out the eduction of persons who work with traumatized individuals. Educational workshops are most often organized for psychologists, social and health workers, religious officials, and others that work with people with PTSD and victims of violence and torture. Individuals are educated on the role of mourning in the reconciliation process and on the proper ways to provide therapeutic services.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – The ICRC is a voluntary, non-profit humanitarian organization that is committed to responding rapidly and efficiently to the humanitarian needs of people affected by armed conflict or by a natural disaster occurring in a conflict area. During a meeting with Red Cross officials, Kyrgyz representative were able to get a glimpse of how this organization functions internally and on the ground during emergency situations and had the chance to become particularly acquainted with the role that the Red Cross plays in systems of psychosocial support provided to victims of disasters.
  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – The main goal of the CRS in Sarajevo is to assist poor and vulnerable populations within the country. The organization also aims to promote human development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, and nurturing peaceful and just societies while serving the universal mission of the Catholic Church. This site visit gave Kyrgyz representatives a different perspective on the operations of a religiously affiliated organization and its response to victims of trauma in BiH.
  • Meeting with Dr. Sabina Čehajić-Clancy – Dr. Sabina Čehajić-Clancy is currently working at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology (SSST) in BiH (Department of Political Science and International Relations) as an assistant professor teaching research methods and political psychology. She is also a director of the Balkan Institute for Conflict Resolution, Responsibility and Reconciliation. Dr. Čehajić-Clancy received her doctorate in social psychology (University of Sussex, UK) with the dissertation title: “Responsibility and Denial: Antecedents of Acknowledgment, Collective Responsibility and Guilt.” The Society for the Psychological Studies of Social Issues (SPSSI) awarded her with the Dissertation Award for 2008. During the meeting with Kyrgyzstan representatives, Dr. Čehajić -Clancy discussed her current activities and her vision regarding solving problems in psychosocial support in BiH during emergencies. She held a question and answer session after her discussion.

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Tuzla (13 March):

  • Meeting with representatives from Vive Žene – “Vive Žene” Center for treatment and rehabilitation in Tuzla is one of the leading national trauma centers in BiH. The Center works to improve the mental health of those who were tortured during and after the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
  • International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) and Identification Coordination Division (ICD) – Kyrgyz representatives met with Ms. Emina Kurtalić, Project Manager of the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) and Ms. Pakiza Čolo, Deputy Head of the Identification Coordination Division (ICD). Ms. Kurtalić and Ms. Čolo presented the work and activities the two division of the ICMP in Tuzla.

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“This trip was a huge lesson for us, and what we have seen in Bosnia will have a lasting effect on us… in 2010 we had a similar conflict in Kyrgyzstan and now our goal is to use the knowledge we have gained here to prevent the development of such a conflict in our country.”

Nadezhda Olifirenco, “Family to Every Child” Public Fund (NGO sector) –

Srebrenica (14 March):

  • Memorial Complex for victims of the Srebrenica genocide and testimony from the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica – This site visit included an informative history lesson with museum curator, Mr. Hasan Hasanović and a movie screening and talk with genocide survivors from the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ organization. Kyrgyz representatives were then able to tour the memorial room and the memorial complex dedicated to the victims of the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica.

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“It turns out that it does not matter how long military conflict lasts; for three days or for three years. The same things are happening. People are getting seriously hurt and this experience passes through the generations. I am personally hugely impressed by what we saw in Srebrenica, and I thank you for that. What I saw gives me a powerful reason to use this example to convey the message to the people in our country that it is better to prevent any future conflicts, and to explore how previous conflicts were able to happen rather than who is to blame.”

Elmira Umarova, Head, «Ulybka» Public Fund (NGO sector) –

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Mostar (15 March):

  • The Mostar bridge and the Buna River in Blagaj – The visit to Mostar included tours around the town and a tour through town and of the old bridge. After sightseeing, the group stopped for lunch in Blagaj on the Buna River.

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Preliminary Results:

One of the main results of this study tour is the development of the Memorandum of Understanding that details the cooperation between PCRC and Kyrgyz representatives that will be drafted in the near future. The Memorandum represents the basis for future collaboration between BiH and Kyrgyzstan regarding the creation of sustainable forms of psychosocial support to victims of disasters and ethnic conflicts. PCRC has agreed to help and support Kyrgyz representatives in their efforts to organize collaboration between organizations and individuals on the ground in BiH and Kyrgyzstan.

In addition, an initiative on memorialization will be started by the Network of Women Peacemakers of Kyrgyzstan in Osh, Kyrgyzstan as a result of the impact of their visits to memorial sites throughout BiH.

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 Additional Comments:

 This trip has changed our attitudes towards both the ways of providing psychosocial care and to the general approach of conflict prevention strategies. Now, we are particularly aware that the topics related to the psychology of conflict and the prevention of such events should be incorporated into education programs in universities and schools.

– Elena Tsimmer, Clinical Psychologist, “Family and Society” (NGO sector) –

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this study tour. This trip changed my worldview; my position was not to support the government in spending money to build monuments. After this trip, I realized the importance and the need for memorials as they depict the tragedy of such historical events for future generations. We should remind them about these events in order to prevent the recurrence of them in the future.

– Zhanna Saralaeva, Chairman, The Network of Women Peacemakers of Kyrgyzstan –

Thanks a lot for organizing such an informative and geographically intensive program. First of all, I wasn’t ready to see so many things at once and couldn’t have imagined the scope of the conflict in BiH. I like the way the program was structured: the first day, we had and introduction to the culture of memorials, followed by meetings with humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services. I was impressed that the Red Cross began its operations during the conflict period and continues to run activities in partnership with state bodies and volunteers. It was good to hear about the point of view from a Catholic affiliated center and their approach to peacemaking and work with members of the traumatized population. The UN structure dealing with missing persons is unique, and it was very informative to learn the way in which they proceed in helping people to find their relatives who died during the conflict. The number of people identified by the ICMP is impressive.  It was also very interesting to learn from representatives from the Vive Žene Rehabilitation Center in Tuzla who are mainly working with women and children; it was  notable to learn that work on certain project for a minimum of 3-4 years, and up to 7 years. To see memorials and learn about the history of conflict in Bosnia through the firsthand account of a man who survived the genocide in Srebrenica was a truly unique chance for us. In general, I have impression that those tragic events are still in their minds of the people we met and remain in all the places we visited. The study program we underwent during our 5 days in Bosnia and Herzegovina made me rethink the events that occurred in Kyrgyzstan, and I have a feeling that we should be able to better predict and prevent conflict, and stop it from continuing. We need to work on multiethnic and multinational tolerance, we have to be close to each other and be more kind. I think that parents should tell their children positive stories about friendship between different nationalities and I believe it is very important to work with children affected by conflict in order to somehow stop the cycle of conflict and hatred towards other nationalities. In conclusion, I would like to express my deepest gratitudes to Velma Saric – head of PRC, for being such a warm host and providing us with such an interesting program.”

– Nurlan Djakubov, Coordinator, East-East Beyond Borders/Emergency Fund Soros – Foundation Kyrgyzstan –