Tassos Coulaloglou

Tassos Coulaloglou (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Tassos was born and raised in New Jersey. He attended the University of Wisconsin (UW) and graduated with his BS in Political Science in 2001. Tassos spent one year studying abroad at Utrecht University in Holland while in his final year at UW, After graduation, Tassos moved to Lithuania to become a freelance journalist and teach high-school history and English as a second language. In 2004, he returned to the States to work as a team leader with the League of Conservation's Envirovictory political campaign in Milwaukee. He returned to Eastern Europe the following year and resumed writing before starting graduate school. At the time of his fellowship, Tassos was studying for a Master's degree in International Relations and Diplomacy offered jointly by Leiden University and the Clingendael in Holland. After his fellowship, Tassos wrote: “...now in class, I try to break the Euro/America-centric positions that seem to dominate and ask what the Nepali view would be…this fellowship pushed me to understand a people, to think in their terms."

A picture’s worth…

09 Jun

The picture is nothing special. It could have been taken in any village in Nepal: a young woman sitting on the dirt floor of her house cradling a new born baby. In the background, her eldest son holds her three year old, who looks on curiously. But the photo was taken more than one and half years ago during Nepal’s civil war.

Only two hours after delivering her baby, the exhausted mother, alone with her newborn and three year old, heard gunfire near her hut. As if giving birth doesn’t come with enough risks (Nepal has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world) she was caught in the crossfire between Maoist and government forces. And as in all conflicts, bullets do not differentiate between soldier and civilian.

She had to make an agonizing decision; not only was it too dangerous to run for safety out the front door, but she could only bring one child. She acted quickly. Kicking a whole in the back of her mud and brick hut, she grabbed her three year old and scurried to safety.

She searched for help and found a Maoist gunman and pleaded with her to save the baby. The soldier agreed and crawled to her home. She found the baby on the floor and, thankfully, unharmed. After what must have seemed like an eternity, the mother was reunited with her newborn.

This was just one photo of thousands that Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP) Program Manager Vijay Guindel (pictured below)has taken and that he showed us at the office. While this story ended well, most did not. With a right mix of intensity and humor, Vijay elaborated on the civil war, the finer points of Nepalese (caste) politics, and the peace process.

Vijay giving a few pointers at the COCAP offices in Kathmandu.

As a human rights activist and monitor, Vijay has traveled across the country, documenting cases of abuse and giving voice to those innocents who normally go unheard. I wish him the best of luck when he leaves at the end of the month to take a position with the UN. COCAP will be losing a valuable resource and a good soul.

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jun 9th, 2007

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