Istanbul Bootcamp in Brief

Six months after the first boot camp of the Peacemakers project held at the premises of Erasmus University Rotterdam, the second boot camp was organized and held on the Koc University’s main campus in Istanbul between May 13-17, 2019. The “Peace Envoys” from Koç,  Gaziantep,  Bologna, Humboldt and Erasmus universities who are responsible for creating peace dialogue students’ clubs in their universities participated in this second boot camp. Scholars from partner universities delivered lectures on various contexts of migration, and guest lecturers talked about their social inclusion projects and real-life experiences in the field.  In addition to the lectures, peace envoys had a chance to participate in interactive activities such as “Human Library”, “Intercultural Communication Workshop” and “Interactive Session on Social Discrimination”, and visited NGOs working in the field including the “Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM)” and the Community Center for Syrian Refugees “Refugees and Asylum Seekers Assistance and Solidarity Association (RASAS)”.

Seeing the Bigger Picture, Intercultural Communication Activity

As the first activity of the Istanbul Bootcamp in Koc University, students and scholars had participated in an intercultural communication activity. The main objective of this activity is to understand the concept of intercultural communication, raise awareness on living in a intercultural environment, and emphasize on the importance of empathy on healthy communication.


Facilitators started with the ice-breaking activities as it was the first activity of the week. New peace envoys from Humboldt University did easily merge with the group in this friendly environment. In the following minutes of this interactive event, the concept of culture was questioned and reexamined. People had dialogued about the elements that make the culture, showing that even in a group of 30 people, culture is not an easy concept to identify. It was an important conclusion that everybody is defining culture from his/her own perspective.


With the analogy of kaleidoscope, an optical instrument that produces changing patterns according to the way you look and rotation of the tube, people enjoyed and understood that the concept of culture is not easy to decipher. Another game was played to understand if some values or habits are personal, cultural or universal. In this game, peace envoys shared their own opinions about a list of habits and dialogued among them.


With the help of this session, peace envoys understood the importance of seeing the bigger picture to live in a intercultural community in a healthy way.

Field Trips at the Istanbul Boot Camp

Field Trip to ASAM

Peace envoys and professors had visited the Dolapdere office of Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM) which is an NGO working in the field of migration. ASAM is working to provide access to fundamental rights and services as well as health, psycho-social and legal counseling. They are also organizing events to strengthen social harmony and raise public awareness.

In the visit of the Dolapdere Office, volunteers from the NGO has shown around the 5-story building that has many classrooms, playrooms, workshop classes, and computer rooms. Peace envoys had a very fruitful briefing and Q&A session with the volunteers from ASAM. They had the briefing about the current situation of migrants living in the local area and activities of the NGO. After the briefing, peace envoys also saw the nearby area where many of the migrants live in.

 Field Trip: Community Center for Syrian Refugees “Refugees and Asylum Seekers Assistance and Solidarity Association (RASAS)”

Peace envoys had visited one of the regions of the Istanbul that is a highly dense urban area for Syrian Refugees, Sultanbeyli. They have also visited the Community Center for Syrian Refugees that has various services and assistance for refugees. This office in Sultanbeyli one of its biggest and finest community center for refugees and migrants. Every floor of this office is used for different purposes and serving to many migrants living in the Sultanbeyli district. The services are psychological counseling and health services for healthcare, classrooms, and workshops for education, and migration management office for sustainability.

A Library where the books are people, Human Library of Migration

During the Istanbul boot camp, a “Human Library” event was organized. “Human Library” aims to enable people to meet, listen to each other, and overcome their fears and/or prejudices. It is very similar to the experience of going to a library to borrow and read books. Individuals could be metaphorically seen as human “books” which the participants in the event can ‘read’, raising a conversation with the volunteering “book” (storyteller) while encouraging the occurrence of dialogue about that specific individual’s unique and eye-opening real-life experiences. In their event, ten migrant students volunteering to be “human books” and share their experiences of social exclusion from the society were brought together with the university community. The main purpose was to provide a platform for open discussion, bring about love, empathy, and diminish the dehumanization of migrants by seeing them as real people rather than just numbers and statistics.


After the experience, participants said that this activity was a unique one that in daily life you wouldn’t have a chance to experience. They had a chance to explain their feelings with a couple of words on a piece of paper. Some of the words were; magical, enlightening, fascinating, unexpected, and mind-opening.

Interactive Session on Social Discrimination

Dr. Francesca Prati from the University of Bologna had an interactive session that lets people realize their subconscious prejudices and be aware of them. Students group of five were given a piece of paper which has one of these followings: Describe a female mechanic, Describe an aborigine, Describe a disabled Asian chef, describe someone with many contradictory features, like a fat model. Expectedly, every peace envoy had something in their minds about the descriptions above. These sentences made everybody think, imagine and re-shape their way of looking to the stereotypes. Peace envoys have learned the scientific and psychologic explanation of why people have stereotypes.

Lectures offered by guest lecturers at the Istanbul Boot Camp:

Guest Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Nezih Orhon, Professor of film, TV and media at Anadolu University. “Communicating for change and development”

Nezih Orhon, Professor of film, TV and media from Anadolu University, gave a lecture on “Communicating for change and development”. Nezih Orhon has projects on seasonal migrant workers in Turkey and has been very successful on those projects and raised awareness on the issue.

This lecture has started with the unique life-story of the Nezih Orhon. He explained his life story to be closer to the listeners. As he realizes that the group is not merged yet, he decided to first energize the group.

To energize the group, he played games with the peace envoys, asking two questions to the peers that he selected. One of them is “tell 3 things about yourself to your peer” and second one is to “give one thing that is important to you to your peer”. Everybody saw that even those two simple questions can help to raise a dialogue between the two and help the prejudices to reduce. After socializing the peace envoys, he explained the project that he supervises that is about the life conditions of the seasonal workers in Turkey. He has explained that the whole project is done by a student and every peace envoy were amazed by the things that one student can do and the hearts that one can heal. After the project that he explained, everyone was one step more aware of the fact that one can change lives.

Guest Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Ahmet İçduygu, Director of MiReKoc

Ahmet İçduygu who is Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Koç University and the director of Migration Research Center at Koc University has delivered his lecture on “Permanent Temporariness of Syrian Refugees”. He explained the Turkey case of the young Syrian refugees and their future in Turkey. He mentioned four determinants that will affect the future of young Syrians and explained the current situations happening in Turkey. He also discussed with the Peace Envoys and had a Q&A session with them.

Guest Lecturer: Yannick Dupont, Director of Spark

Yannick Dupont, director of Spark, has delivered his speech in the framework of the Istanbul Bootcamp. He started by explaining his own life-story, including his career and social works. He emphasized how the SPARK is created, what are the areas that SPARK is working and what is he currently doing. Being warm and kind, he had a really nice conversation with the peace envoys and shared his valuable experiences on social responsibility projects. He also listened the project ideas of the peace envoys and gave some recommendations on them.