Alumni Profile: Rebaz Kursheed - Re-Learning and Re-Shaping

Monday, February 27, 2023
rebaz kursheed

Before studying at the University of Waterloo, Rebaz worked in development and human rights law, gained his Ph.D. in Law, and worked with various non-profits in the Middle East. He decided to join the Master's in Peace and Conflict Studies program as a way to re-learn many of the systems he took for granted and to connect past lessons in new ways. In addition to development and human rights law, he also worked campaign design, humanitarian work, and program development. However, when working in these areas, he noticed that something was missing about whose responsible to change the system, and realized that “the somebody to do anything about [these issues around us], is everyone”. 

Leading up to starting the MPACS program, Rebaz realized that “conflict doesn’t happen in a vacuum” and that there is a bigger picture to see and understand. 

Coming to Grebel and the University of Waterloo, one of the adjustments Rebaz describes was learning how different facets of life can overlap and intersect. “The thing that has stood out to me through MPACS was the interconnectedness of personal with professional. I had always had this idea that academia and personal and work were all separate, but the theme in all the courses I have taken shows that they all interact with each other, Rebaz elaborates.

This overlap of personal, professional, and past experiences is also present in Rebaz’s work outside of courses. He is currently working as a settlement worker with the YMCA, helping newcomers of all backgrounds and walks of life adjust to life in Canada. Rebaz’s background in human rights and legal work, as well as the systems thinking of the MPACS program, help him in this capacity. Alongside these endeavors, he is also closely connected to grassroots organizations in Iraq, specifically those focused on anti-oppression and exposing corruption.

Rebaz was also the MPACS Society President from December 2021 December 2022. This experience came when he was nominated anonymously while already advocating for improved student experience. Despite entering this role “accidentally, he took it in his stride and towards the end of his time as president, helped organize a virtual alumni networking event in late November, 2022.

During his internship as an MPACS student, Rebaz conducted research for a US-based non-profit called the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC). There were two themes to this research - the first explored how the government responds to climate change in Iraq, and the second considered tensions between Iraq and its neighboring countries around shared water resources and how this relates to climate. For example, insufficient regulation of critical waterways has led to conflict over scarce resources both locally and within international law. Rebaz mentions worrying parallels between the current state of Iraq and the political dynamics that prefigured the Syrian civil war. 

When asked about how he was led to the MPACS program, Rebaz talked about reflection and gathering knowledge, but also the broken systems that surround us. “We keep repeating the same ways of engaging with issues like racism, houselessness, and poverty, but we are not getting anywhere with them” Rebaz explains, “We need to re-evaluate our relationships with each other and with mother earth”. 

What drives Rebaz in his quest is the search to unlearn and re-learn. He asked himself, “why are things not progressing as much as they should? What is the missing link? Is there somewhere I can poke at the system?” Climate, poverty, political violence, and media, all come together and intersect in our society, and Rebaz is learning how they connect in theory and practice.

After finishing his degree, Rebaz hopes to continue being involved with grassroots organizations internationally, as well as to focus on climate change and displacement. He hopes to continue to learn, re-learn, and challenge failing systems with the goal of bringing change to our world. 

I look forward to seeing how this degree shapes me. When I go back to my development work and humanitarian work, working in program development, that is where I will see the difference of how MPACS has changed how I view everything