George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

South West Asia Group

The South West Asia Group [SWAG] is a consortium of scholars and practitioners from institutions that are focused on analyzing, understanding, and contributing to the resolution of the many intractable conflicts affecting the countries and communities of that region.

Map of South West Asia

These include Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, as well as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and the communities that live within or across the borders of these counties. SWAG members come from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds – law, political science, sociology, history, anthropology and others – and altogether share much experience in working on particular conflicts within the region as well as others in diverse parts of the world. They seek to make practical contributions to peacemaking and peace-building in the region in partnerships with governments, NGO's and influential community leaders living there. Current graduate students wishing to become full-time, working members of SWAG should contact Dr. Daniel Rothbart at

Group Members


Dr. Doga Eralp,

Doga Ulas Eralp is a Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of International Service. He is a scholar-practitioner of international conflict resolution focusing on international dialogue facilitation. Dr. Eralp has also been consulting various international organizations such as the World Bank Group, NED, MBB and the UNOPS. He is the author of a number of articles, books and book chapters on the Western Balkans, Middle East, Cyprus, European Union and Turkey.

Dr. Christopher R Mitchell,

Christopher Mitchell is the Emeritus Professor of Conflict Resolution at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  Prof. Mitchell has been involved as a consultant and facilitator in conflicts in Cyprus, Spain, Northern Ireland, the former Soviet Union [Moldova-Trans-Dniestria and Armenia-Azerbaijan], Africa [Liberia and the Horn of Africa] and Latin America. For the last decade he has been part of the Zones of Peace Working Group at the Carter School and has spent over a decade researching local peace initiatives in countries such as Colombia and the Philippines.



Susan Allen is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University; she has most recently focused on the relationship between Turkey and Armenia, and the conflicts over South Ossetia.

Tamra d'Estree is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Conflict Resolution and the Director of the Center for Research and practice at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

Mark Farr is the Director of the Sustained Dialogue Institute in Washington DC, carrying on the pioneering work of Dr. Hal H. Saunders, including being centrally involved in the Dartmouth Conference and numerous other international dialogues.

Lori Farro graduated with a Master’s degree from the Carter School in 2014 and is currently working with the International Organization for Migration’s office in Washington DC where she is responsible for aiding incoming migrants and especially those seeking asylum in the USA...

Hrach Gregorian has had a varied career in government service, non-governmental institutions such as the Institute for World Affairs and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and in academia. He is currently the Director of the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program at the School of International Service at American University.

Gul Mescioglu Gur recently obtained her doctorate from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and is presently teaching on the undergraduate program there as well as at American University. She is also working on a major study of negotiation processes in the SW Asia region.

Ned Lazarus is Visiting Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University’s Elliott School and an Israel Institute Teaching Fellow. His research focuses on the evaluation of civil society peacebuilding  and conflict resolution initiatives in contexts of intractable conflicts.

Daniel Rothbart is Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the Carter School, as well as the Co-Director of the Program for the Prevention of Mass Violence there. He continues to work on peace-building in the Sudan and South Sudan.

Laura Villanueva is the Executive Director of the Center for Peacemaking Practice at the Carter School, George Mason University.  She has been working on a model of peaceful communities in Japan, as well as with peace communities in Colombia. 

Kerim Yildiz is the CEO of the Democratic Progress Institute in London. He has published extensively on human rights issues and has been awarded several prizes, including the 2011 Gruber Prize for Justice.  


Research Program: The Use of Sustained Dialogue in Conflict Resolution

SWAG members are involved in a program of dialogues and discussions between adversary parties in a number of on-going conflicts in the region. The model that is usually employed involves the “sustained dialogue” [SD] approach developed by Dr. Hal Saunders from  - among others - the Dartmouth Conference and his Tajikistan Dialogue, which involves a core group of participants from all sides of a conflict over a time period which can last a number of years.[A recent example was a series of meetings between 2012 and 2014 focused on the continuing conflict in Cyprus  and conducted by facilitators from George Mason, American and Portland State Universities.] The current set of initiatives in the SD Program are at various stages of development and are usually conducted confidentially.

Research Project: Comparisons of Negotiation Stages & Strategies in Asymmetric Conflicts

This research project focuses on the various strategies and tactics open to adversaries at different stages of a negotiation process in situations of major “power imbalance”, as when governments negotiate with insurgents or majorities with minority communities. A major theme is how to overcome the inevitable mismatch between the very different agendas that both sides bring to the initial stages of a peace process.

Principal researchers; Dr. Chris Mitchell & Dr. Gul Mescioglu

Past Events

Panel Discussion: Prospects for Peace-building in Turkey

Date: Friday, April 21, 2017
Venue:  Offices of “Resolve,” Washington, DC

For more than four decades Turkey has been grappling with the destructive effects of the Kurdish conflict which has resulted in over 40,000 deaths during that time. Three previous peace initiatives have failed due to, among other factors, challenges around miscommunication and the lack of a responsive process design. In the aftermath of the April 16th referendum over a transition to a Presidential system – a process that has further polarized the Turkish society –our panel of experts will explore the long term prospects for peace-building in Turkey and the feasibility of another peace process in the near future.

Symposium: Turkey at the Crossroads: Peace and Security in the Middle East

Date: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Venue: School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

Intersecting conflicts across the Middle East pose significant risks to Turkey’s peace and security. ISIS in particular has spawned unprecedented terrorism, chaos and a refugee crisis from the Syrian civil war.  These significant events changed the dynamics of the Kurdish issue at both the regional and national level. Please join us to explore Turkey’s approach to domestic and regional conflicts in the Middle East.  Is Turkey helping to foster peaceful outcomes in the community conflicts inflamed by religious, ethnic and ideological divisions in the neighboring countries or Turkey entrapped in these conflicts? Does Turkey use effective strategies to undermine the lure of extremism or struggle with its own security concerns?

Symposium: Recent Events in the KRG and their Impact on Turkish-Kurdish Relations

Date: December 8th, 2017, 11am to 1pm
Venue: George Washington University, Washington D.C.

The deterioration of relations between the Iraqi Government in Baghdad and the KRG, symbolised by the Iraqi military’s re-possession of Kirkuk seem to have opened in whole new chapter not merely in the relations between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq itself but also throughout the region, and not least for the situation in Turkey. The panel will discuss the implications of the latest events and will take questions about possible future scenarios.