On June 18, 19, and 20, the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) hosted an introductory training workshop from the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). Invited by Dr. Choman Hardi, founder and director of the CGDS, Rezhyar Fakir and his colleagues from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, facilitated the AVP training. Over 20 participants came from Erbil, Duhok, and beyond, and included AUIS students and residents of Sulaimani. The training was held on the AUIS campus.
On the first day of the workshop, Mr. Rezhyar explained that AVP has its origins in a United States prison. Developed in the 1980s, with Quaker roots, the program is now unaffiliated with any religion. The principles of the program include nonviolent problem-solving, communication, affirmation, and community-building. All of the facilitators are volunteers.
Each of the three days included a variety of activities and exercises, moving from self-reflection to imagining community. Overall, the workshop reflected its tenets: AVP is not therapy, but it is healing; it is not religious, but it is spiritual; theprogram operates not on voting, but on consensus. The serious nature of the training was offset by several exercises that demonstrated another facet: AVP is fun.
All of participants expressed deep appreciation for the training session. Two subsequent and more advanced workshops, open to those who completed the first workshop, are forthcoming. Those who complete all of the training will have, in addition, six months of mentorship before being certified as trainers.