2007 Human Rights Fellows

The Human Rights Center has sponsored more than 100 graduate and professional students to work with nongovernmental organizations and human rights agencies in the U.S. and abroad..


Dipti Bhatnagar, an MA student in the Energy and Resources Group, will work with the National Alliance of Peoples Movement in India. A recently passed Indian law allows the government to designate certain parcels of land as Special Economic Zones for the production of export goods by Indian or multinational corporations. The creation of Special Economic Zones has adversely affected local communities—some have been forcibly displaced and others have experienced environmental degradation. Protesters opposing the zones have been detained and beaten by police. Dipti will examine the effects of the Special Economic Zones on rural communities in West Bengal.

Hiba Bou Akar, a PhD candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning, will spend her summer in Lebanon with MADA Communities & Environment. The July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah left thousands of Lebanese families without shelter or access to basic services while the reconstruction process has been mired in post-war local and regional political crises. Hiba will examine the practices, policies and debates shaping the reconstruction process in the southern suburbs of Beirut one year after the end of the war.

Michele Friedner, a PhD candidate in Medical Anthropology, will partner with the Association of People with Disabilities in India to examine the development of identity among deaf Indian women in relation to their families and to emerging NGOs and state programs geared for deaf individuals. Deaf youth tend to orient themselves around a culture and language that is not shared by their families and may create conflict within existing kinship networks, especially in India, where the family is the essential sociocultural unit. Read Michele's final report.

Rita Hamad, a student in the Joint Medical Program, will work with Proyectos de Informática, Salud, Medicina, Agricultura (PRISMA) in Peru. PRISMA offers a microcredit program to rural and urban poor. Although microcredit has become an increasingly popular tool for alleviating poverty, its ability to improve the health and financial circumstances of women and their children, frequently identified as intended beneficiaries, has not been widely measured. Rita will evaluate PRISMA’s microcredit program and health education services to assess their effectiveness. Read Rita's final report, and her recent papers "Microcredit Participation and Nutrition Outcomes among Women in Peru," published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2010) and "Health Education for Microcredit Clients in Peru" (2011).

Bauni Hamid, a PhD candidate in Architecture, will work with the Indonesian Institute of Architects – North Sumatra Chapter to study the post-tsunami reconstruction process. Although housing units are being built, some of these developments do not meet the needs of local communities because they have been planned and built without local input. Bauni plans to explore the importance of collaboration between local residents, state agencies, builders, and architects in executing successful reconstruction projects. He intends to develop a model of collaboration among all stakeholders for post-disaster reconstruction building.

Lindsay Harris, a student at Boalt Hall School of Law, will spend her summer with the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of Witwatersrand and Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa. South Africa’s transition to a democracy has changed migration patterns within the country as it has shifted from primarily a refugee-producing country to a refugee-receiving country. As a result, the asylum system faces increasing difficulties. In particular, women’s gender-based asylum claims are often misunderstood and poorly adjudicated. Lindsay will study how these claims are treated in order to develop appropriate advocacy and policy responses. Read Lindsay's final report.

Ariel Meyerstein, a student at Boalt Hall School of Law, will spend the summer in London with Reprieve, a UK organization that advocates on behalf of people facing the death penalty and other human rights violations. The United States government is currently detaining over 395 individuals labeled “unlawful enemy combatants” at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Ariel will assist Reprieve with its representation of 36 current and former Guantánamo detainees, all of whom have close ties to the United Kingdom. He will conduct a combination of legal research, field investigation, and political advocacy. Read Ariel's Notes from the Field (July 2007).

Jason Morris-Jung, a PhD candidate with the Environmental Science, Policy and Management program, will work with International Centre for Environmental Management in Vietnam. The Biodiversity Conservation Corridor Initiative is a $36 million project, sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, to conserve nine transnational biodiversity corridors in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and southern China. However, millions of indigenous people live within the Corridor and depend on the land and its natural resources for their livelihoods. Jason will examine how local and indigenous communities can be included in meaningful decision-making regarding land and natural resources inside conservation corridors.

Nicholas Simon Morfit, a PhD candidate in Sociology, will work with Malawi Human Rights Youth Network. Since the onset of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, regional development efforts have been reconfigured to prioritize HIV/AIDS funding over support for other social welfare concerns. Yet, in addition to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, sub-Saharan Africa faces a multitude of pressing needs. Simon plans to investigate how the prioritization of HIV/AIDS has affected the daily lives of individuals in Malawi and whether such prioritization has inadvertently introduced inequalities and constraints to improving social well-being more broadly. Read Simon's Notes from the Field (July 2007) and his January 2011 paper in World Development, "AIDS is Money: How Donor Preferences Reconfigure Local Realities."

Romesh Silva, a PhD student in Demography, will work with ENSAAF/End Impunity, Achieve Justice, in the U.S. and India. From 1984 to 1994, approximately 10,000 – 20,000 people were forcibly disappeared in Punjab by Indian security forces attempting to quell a Sikh insurgency. However, these estimates are anecdotal and not based on demographic analysis and statistical estimation. Romesh will assist in preparing a quantitative report that will be filed with key legal arguments before the Indian Supreme Court. His report will provide statistical evidence regarding the magnitude, pattern, and levels of responsibility for these forced disappearances in order to hold Indian security forces accountable and eliminate the impunity they currently enjoy.

Oyundary (Daria) Tsagaan, a student at the Graduate School of Journalism, will spend the summer with Amnesty International Mongolia and the National Center for Domestic Violence. In 2004, the Mongolian parliament passed a law criminalizing domestic violence, a practice that persists and has even increased despite the law. Daria plans to return to her home country and create a multi-media report to expose domestic violence, its effect on families, and the shortcomings of the recently passed law. She will also focus on emerging solutions to domestic violence pioneered by civil society and local and international NGOs. Read Daria's Notes from the Field (July 2007) or visit the website for her final project on Domestic Violence in Mongolia.

Sarah Rose Weinman, a student at Boalt Hall School of Law, will work with Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. She will work in New York City and Iraqi Kurdistan to develop a program intended to eliminate discriminatory law enforcement and abuse of detainees in Kurdish prisons, with an emphasis on those detained due to their ethnic or religious identity. The goals of the program are three-fold: 1) provide legal screening, services, and jail monitoring for detainees in Kirkuk and Erbil prisons; 2) document instances of arbitrary detention; and 3) train local attorneys and NGO staff on the application of international human rights law in the Kurdish detention system.