MAStering international Security in Geneva


How I jump-started my career in terrorism issues

In 2012, I was in a transition period in my career and was looking for a master’s programme for security professionals. The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Security, offered by the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), caught my attention because of its dynamic course offerings and balanced mix of lectures covering peacebuilding, human rights, cybersecurity and counterterrorism.

A rigorous and multidisciplinary training programme at the heart of International Geneva

My studies in Geneva offered an opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of different security issues, including terrorism, climate change, arms proliferation, and cyber security. Specifically, two factors created an enabling environment for immersive learning.

First, we heard from very high-level academics, diplomats, and practitioners who delivered engaging lectures. At the time, we were also given the opportunity to visit UN agencies, including UNOG, the Human Rights Council, Interpol, NATO, and the Paris War College. We participated in negotiation exercises and encountered many high-profile experts and diplomats. What makes the programme exceptionally strong is its approach that combines academic learning with practical and real-life insights from diplomats, representatives of civil society, and other practitioners. We also had the opportunity to interact with not only state officials and diplomats but military officers, independent experts, researchers, and representatives of civil society who provided us with insights covering a variety of different angles. Our classroom was always full of interesting discussions, not only with lecturers but also among participants themselves. For example, two of my fellow participants were state officials from North Korea. Every discussion was grounded in real-life experiences and a high-level of knowledge from participants.

The second factor was the group’s intellectual rigor and diversity of skill sets, as it was full of professionals from different backgrounds. It was a privilege to have in my cohort officials representing various ministries from 24 countries spanning across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, which allowed for rich experiences, interstate exchanges, and security dynamics. Grouped together, they offered a unique opportunity to learn and engage.

Enabling further research and expertise in terrorism issues

After completing my MAS, I continued to read and research further into terrorism issues. The training programme really helped shape my career, especially as I started working on religious extremism, radicalisation, and foreign fighters. Currently, I am co-founder and director of the Bulan Institute, a research institute based in Geneva. The Institute works on state policies on former ISIS fighters and their family members. Last several years, I have been researching the repatriation of former foreign fighters, judicial justice efforts, and rehabilitation of family members. After several years of research, I wrote the book “Foreign Fighters and International Peace”, published by Rowman & Littlefield in November 2022. Again, the MAS in International Security really helped sharpened my professional focus as well as my knowledge of terrorism. It played a crucial role throughout my work on the book.

I would like to thank the faculty at UNIGE and the GCSP for their support and tireless work. Without this programme, I do not think it would have been possible for me to pursue a career in international security and counter-terrorism. Based on my career-changing experience, I wholeheartedly recommend the MAS in International Security to international professionals like me who wish to make an impact in the world.