Mohammed Mahrousa: MA Peacebuilding and Reconciliation 2016-2018; Head of Programmes, Bahar Organization

18 May 21
A man in a blue jacket in front of trees

“When I came to Turkey, I arrived with a goal to support Syrians through working in the humanitarian sector. Many people said that a career in such sector would be temporary – but the MA programme was a lifeline for me and a way to progress in my career.”

After migrating from Syria to Turkey in 2015 with an ambition to help Syrians, Mohammed Mahrousa studied MA Peacebuilding and Reconciliation online at Winchester. Graduating in 2018, Mohammed is now Head of Programmes at Bahar Organization, a Syrian non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Turkey giving support to people in need in northern Syria and Syrian refugees in Iraq.

“I studied part-time. Doing an online programme was perfect for me while I was starting my career in Turkey because I studied and had lecturers in the evening. This meant I could manage and keep everything on track which is important for anyone but personally it meant that I didn’t have to disrupt my career or living situation.”

“I’m currently working for a local organisation called the Bahar Organization, working on the Syria humanitarian response. I was a volunteer, then a Coordinator, then the Programmes Manager working on multiple sectors like food security, water supply and sanitation, shelter, health and education. I'm currently the Head of Programmes, in just 5 years since starting my career.”

Mohammed wanted to study Peacebuilding and Reconciliation so he could help others living in crisis-affected areas and as a means to sustaining his career in humanitarian work.

“When I came to Turkey, I arrived with a goal to support Syrians through working in the humanitarian sector. Many people said that a career in such sector would be temporary – but the MA programme was a lifeline for me and a way to progress in my career.”

“I was laughed at for wanting to do this, but I felt it was something useful; even though work on social cohesion wasn’t prominent at that time, I saw potential.”

Studying this Masters has given Mohammed the chance to excel within his organisation and he uses the skills he learnt on a daily basis at work.

“Getting a degree and studying higher education focused on peace and humanitarian aid has been quite valid during this crisis. I’ve been able to apply my skills from this MA which was very valuable and practical to me. I’ve had to use the knowledge from my degree for my work and I was even able to support my organisation in business development.”

“Doing this MA also allowed me to skip some stages of work. For example, I became a manager two years ago. This allowed me to supervise and get a promotion. It helps to have a knowledge and experience of consultancy, proposal writing and training.”

Although studying online, Mohammed was in constant communication with his lecturers and felt supported during his studies. He still keeps in touch with lecturers and fellow graduates.

“Maintaining connections with lecturers on Facebook through our degree alumni Facebook group is great. We have stayed connected after three years and utilise social media to keep students together.”

Mohammed has many good memories from his studies, but he’ll never forget the time when he was unable to attend a workshop in the UK – his lecturers travelled to Turkey to hold another workshop.

“My working relationships with the lecturers on the course were really strong. My lecturers even went out to Turkey to run a workshop on Syria, since Turkey hosts over 4 million Syrian refugees. They reached out to me about it and I helped organise accommodation and arrangements for five days. It was amazing to see my tutors in person; Simon Keyes, my thesis supervisor, arrived earlier to see me and discuss the progress of work beforehand.”

“The workshop was about reconciliation in practice. It was an exceptional opportunity and I wasn’t even dreaming about it. Syria was still an active conflict area so I’m genuinely lucky to be honest.”

“My thesis was also about reconciliation, so this workshop directly fit into this and helped me understand this concept and its different paradigms in a deeper way. I now have a clear definition of reconciliation, its theories, and practices.”

Mohammed hopes to study a PhD in the future with the aim of teaching in Syria.

“I would never have been able to afford the programme, but the bursary was enough for me. I was happy staying in Turkey, although living there and having my career there while the rest of my cohort were in the UK made it tempting to move. However, I want to stay close to Syria and more focused on getting a PhD with a more advanced research topic so I can teach in Syria.”

“Peacebuilding and why it is needed to restore peace is a concept that is not talked about in Syria. I have engaged in preparing new agents for peace by facilitating workshops and training sessions and I would love to carry on this concept in Syria in the future and to be a tutor, so a PhD would be vital for this and would allow me to explore reconciliation further. It’s one of the newest concepts in the peacebuilding sector; through reconciliation, you aim to tackle the consequences of conflict and address the root causes.”

“I’m taking my time now to practice research to support any potential PhD research but I’m not losing any time – I’m only 29 and I was one of the youngest students on my MA course. Research is such an effective tool to explore solutions to the everchanging circumstances during and after conflicts. Having a Masters degree allowed me to do some research regarding Syrian female refugees in Turkey as well as performing conflict analysis exercises in some areas in Syria.”

“Living in conflict and having to find refuge has given me and many other Syrians mental resilience. I have an increased determination to make a difference. However, I would like to reiterate the need and importance to provide opportunities for refugee students to help them advance their lives and their families’ lives.”

Mohammed has some advice for those looking to study a postgraduate degree and how to use a degree to advance opportunities within a chosen career field.

“It’s all related to opportunities and competencies; if you have a degree you get a better job and income. Struggling to get into the humanitarian sector was the motivation I needed to start this MA degree. There is a business element to the course too. Any student needs to look into the financial output of a degree and not just study to be accumulating certificates.”

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