This fall, Perspectives, the student-run publication in the SAIS International Development department, marked the launch of the 2015-2016 journal with events on the Washington, D.C. and SAIS Europe campuses. Led by editor-in-chief Gabor Debreczeni, the editorial team includes senior editors Ashley Augsburger and Deea Ariana and editor Brittany Grabel in D.C. and editors Maria Lopez Conde and Krishnan Raghavan in Bologna.
The SAIS Europe launch event was put on by the Bologna-based editors and featured remarks from international development professor Arntraud Hartmann exploring how migration can and often does positively impact the sending and receiving countries. Migration and displacement has been a topic of interest to students in Bologna, with the fall semester’s course on Migration and Security going to bid. Both Raghavan and Conde are hoping that the academic interest at SAIS Europe carries over to their publication, which accepts blog submissions up to 600 words as well as pieces for the magazine, which can be as long as 1,600 words. “I think with this kind of event we can kind of get the word out there for people to submit things,” Conde said. “People are very engaged in this campus, at least in the migration issue, people are really engaged … so I’d really like to see submissions come out of this.”
Considering SAIS Europe students are studying on the continent at a time when migration issues are at the fore, Raghavan is hoping to capture the stories of SAIS students’ interactions with migration for the magazine. “One thing that we were really hoping to get is more of peoples’ personal stories on working with migrants,” Raghavan said. “Here, a lot of professors and lot of our classmates have been involved in the kind of ad hoc efforts to help refugees coming in to the train stations and we’d love to hear those stories especially.”
Both launch events included the announcement of the winners of a photo contest held on the theme. Twenty-five students submitted photos to the contest, with a handful more participating through Facebook and Instagram, hash-tagging their submissions.
First-prize winner Jason Spizer, a student studying on the SAIS Europe campus this year, submitted a photograph of Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan. He notes of the moment, “Prior to taking the photo, I was going around to different tents and chatting with families about their stories escaping on Mount Sinjar, or in some cases as captives under the Islamic State group. In between interviews I would walk around the camp, and try to get a feel for what people were doing with their time. Yazidis are extremely hospitable, so I approached this man when I saw him motion for me to come over and drink tea with him. His daughter was peeking over his shoulder, and I wanted to capture the two of them together in their environment, bearing in mind that there were many Yazidi girls who no longer had a father there to protect them.”
Second-prize winner Mugi Bayarlkhagva captured a group of Afghans traveling down the highway in Iran. Recalling the scene, Bayarlkhagva contemplated the experience of the refugees: “I was well into my third month in Iran and was travelling from Esfahan to Tehran. Just as we entered the highway a small wedding convoy of 5-6 cars overtook us with a boy making a recording of the event with his torso out the window of a car. I wondered if it was dangerous to do, since driving in Iran can be little different. ‘They are Afghans! Want to take photos?’ asked my driver with an encouraging grin. Realizing that I failed to recognize my kin (I am Mongolian and Afghans in Iran are mostly Shia Hazaras –they have distinct Asian features, possibly of Mongol stock), I nodded back in response. We sped past the loud and happy convoy playing Persian music, and took few shots of people who grew obviously self-conscious with my sight.
“I thought of the two days I spent in the immigration office for visa extension, and rooms full Hazaras doing their annual bureaucracy. An old man spoke to me, who had left Afghanistan in 1979 and never went back. He married an Iranian woman and had three children with his oldest son in the army. Then, I thought of another acquaintance: a 20-year-old refugee and recently naturalized Austrian citizen, who came back to see his girlfriend. It might sound obvious, but it sort of started making sense — the mosaic fell into its place. Being a refugee does not mean accepting the circumstances and staying put. Life goes on, whether it is searching for economic opportunities, or founding a family.”
Perspectives has published articles on this theme so far by both current students and professors on themes including the lives and challenges of migrant workers living in the shadows in Singapore, the failures of Turkish foreign policy regarding Syrian refugees, reversals in Canadian asylum policies with the election of the Liberal government, and a broad overview of global challenges in migration.
Begun as a print journal, Perspectives was transferred to the web last year under the tenure of editor Jacob Morrin and is now in its second year as an online journal. Ashley Augsburger notes the transition “allows us to update content continuously and create a more engaging and participatory project.” The theme of “migration and displacement” will be the focus for articles for the rest of this year, though the editors will continue to accept submissions on all development topics. The journal can be found online at saisperspectives.com and on Twitter @SAISdev and on Instagram.