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Cihan Tekeli

Education through critical activism


“We must guard each other’s dignity and freedoms, however much we disagree or especially when we disagree.”

Cihan Tekeli uses his critical approach to activism to make an imprint on the communities he works in. His current work as a Project Leader for the Department of Educational Projects at the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands allows him to educate future generations on discrimination of the past, to raise awareness on its presence today. Cihan was inspired by Otto Frank’s vision for education and this too drives Cihan to continue to listen to perspectives different from his own and to find ways to educate and inspire others regardless of their views. It has taken him years of studying and learning about systems of discrimination and education to get to a point in his career where he gives educational lectures and workshops to students, educators, law enforcement, members of the clergy and NGO volunteers.

“After the end of the Fellowship I was hungry for more.  I applied to the Congressional Fellowship for position at the US House of Representatives. For the second time in a year, Humanity in Action presented me with another exciting opportunity to explore and develop my views and skills in politics and human rights.”

Through the Amsterdam Fellowship in 2008 and the Congressional Fellowship in 2009 Cihan has learned how to challenge his own views and began to form a passion for education. Being a part of the extensive Humanity in Action network has allowed him to stay up to date on current social justice discourse beyond the topics he actively works on in his own life. Cihan realizes that we need different kinds of people working toward change. Without social and political activists, “fundamental discussions do not start and change does not really happen. Educators and people who push the discussions need each other.” The Senior Fellow community plays a large role in this for Cihan. It has allowed him to connect, network and exchange with Senior Fellows from various fields and identities who may work with different methods on different issues, yet support and care for each other.

  • Cihan welcoming Desmond Tutu at the Anne Frank House Amsterdam in 2014
  • Cihan facilitating a session in the 2017 Amsterdam Fellowship
  • Cihan giving a memory walk to police offers in Amsterdam

Cihan’s Action Project, the Srebrenica Study Day, raised awareness of Dutch involvement in the Srebrenica Genocide against the backdrop of national school curricula that largely omit this particular part of Dutch history. Cihan credits the Humanity in Action Fellowship in giving individuals the opportunity to teach about identities, backgrounds, and histories that are often forgotten or marginalized. To Cihan, education is one of the most important aspects of activism; raising awareness and educating people on these topics invites them to critically explore them, something which is becoming more and more important in today’s museum culture.