War survivor Nabi Sahak has a burning desire to change the world for the better, and he’s well on the way to doing so as he graduates with a University of Queensland Master of International Studies (Peace and Conflict Resolution) this week.
Nabi is no stranger to conflict. He was born and raised in Kabul in Afghanistan, and lived with the terrors of war for 23 years before migrating to the United States in 2002.
The fact that he had borne witness to refugee crises, human rights violations, abuse of children and the full gamut or war horrors meant he had much to offer as a Rotary Peace Fellow Scholarship postgraduate student at the University of Queensland’s Rotary Peace Centre.
Nabi’s commitment to peace was forged while serving in the Afghan Armed Forces during the civil war. He spent two months in hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, where he saw hundreds of wounded men, women and children.
“Waiting in line for surgery, bleeding in my neck and chest, I promised myself if I survived these wounds then I would commit my life to the work of peace,” he said.
“I believed then and I believe now that peace is everyone’s natural right, and it’s everyone’s moral obligation to defend and protect it.”
Nabi began his pursuit of peace by battling to help his entire family escape Afghanistan—where they were targeted by the Taliban—and join him in the US.
“It took over ten years but I finally managed to bring all twenty-seven of them to the States through refugee and humanitarian parole programs,” he said.
Nabi has worked in a range of challenging roles—from a BBC radio reporter to a senior cultural analyst supporting the US’s global war on terror—and returning to university as a mature-aged student after 20 years was not without its own challenges.
“It was intimidating at first, but the culture at UQ promotes students from every age group, every nationality and every background, so I felt very comfortable in the environment,” he said.
Nabi believes the world needs more peacekeepers and conflict study experts.
“I tell people that peace must be learned, must be spread, must be appreciated, otherwise the finite resources of the world are no match to the infinite greed of man, and conflicts are prone to happen,” he said.
“I want to be an agent of change. The person who provides some insight that could potentially lead to the end of the conflict.”
Nabi plans to complete a PhD, with an offer already in the wings from the King’s College London Department of War Studies.
His long-term goal is to work for the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as a Case Protection Officer or to be a peace mediator between the US Government and Afghanistan, and to teach peace and conflict studies on part-time basis.
“Peace is beautiful and brings all the promises that humanity was destined to fulfill. In war, life becomes a burden, but in peace, life becomes a blessing,” Nabi said.
UQ School of Political Science & International Studies
The world is changing around us. This is demanding new tools for understanding world politics and new kinds of graduates who have the knowledge and creativity to be able to respond to this world of complex and dramatic challenges. The UQ School of Political Science and International Studies is one of the world’s leading centres for research and education in world politics.
In 2016, UQ created a new Graduate Centre in Governance and International Affairs which is at the cutting edge of research and teaching on contemporary issues in politics and governance at the national, regional and international levels. The Graduate Centre supports the Rotary Centre for International Studies in Peace and Conflict and the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.