Zones Program makes war and peace a personal experience for Georgetown students

Students on Zones Trip to Basque Country

A group of Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) students recently traveled to the Basque Country, an autonomous community in Spain, to study the causes of conflict and the complexity of resolution, as part of the award winning Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace ( ZCZP) program the university offers to their students of international affairs.

The trip was the capstone of a ZCZP 3-credit course that examined the Spain–Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) conflict, an armed political struggle that began in 1959 between the government and the Basques, an indigenous ethnic group. They also studied peace-building strategies used to overcome 40 years of violence in the region.

“The objective was to offer students the two ‘sides’ of the story, not as a way of justifying any or both of them, but as a way of understanding the challenge of peace-building that lies ahead for Basque society,” said Associate Professor of Government Sonia Alonso Sáenz de Oger.

The trip to Spain complements the history and theories learned in class, but they also have a real and personal impact on the students,  says Naila Sherman, director of Student Life at GU-Q.

“I think the real value of these classes and trips is the way in which they bridge theory and practice, showing students that these are real people with real stories, and what they study actually matters outside of the classroom in the world.”

The 8 day itinerary included visits to the Basque Museum and the Gernika Peace Museum, workshops and classes at the University of Deusto, and a visit to an historic rural village to learn about Basque culture. A total of 15 GU-Q  students took part in the trip, hailing from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Taiwan, and the United States. “All of the people we met were fascinated by our diversity, which added to the discussions both in class and on the trip,” said participating student Salma Hassan (GU-Q ’20). 

For Ayesha Iqbal (GU-Q ’ 22), these encounters are what made the trip so worthwhile. “To meet the victims and politicians who endured the conflict gave us new, more emotional, and in-depth insight into what navigating a conflict looks like and how difficult, but worthwhile, peace in a society is.”

Started in 2007, the ZCZP program has taken Georgetown students to post conflict sites all around the world. Past trips have included visits to Cambodia, Israel-Palestine, and Poland.