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Illustration by Liene Magdalēna

Navigating Conflict on Campus

NYUAD's cosmopolitan campus connects citizens of conflicting countries and brings them together in an academic and social environment. This provides an opportunity to learn more about the individual differences behind recent political conflicts.

In the midst of any international conflict – whether it is India and Pakistan, or Russia and Ukraine and Georgia – there are always some opinions that gain more traction while others remain nearly silent. NYU Abu Dhabi’s cosmopolitan campus uniquely connects citizens countries in conflict by bringing them together in an academic and social environment. In the university context, both sides of a conflict are represented and this gives rise to an opportunity where students can learn more about the individual differences behind those conflicts.
Recently, tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated as India launched air strikes into Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region. The conflict, however, is not a recent one, as diplomatic relationships between the two countries have long been difficult. In light of the tense international situation, NYUAD students have had a variety of responses about how to navigate conversations about the issue.
“Our governments are not at all representative of our individualistic stance[s] on the issues happening between the two countries,” stated Omair Rehman, Class of 2022. Rehman thinks that considering recent events, there is no universally accepted opinion about events in Kashmir. Those differences of opinion are not only divided among Pakistanis and Indians, but also vastly vary within each nationality.
Rehman speculates that it might be the case of the Indian government strengthening anti-Pakistani opinions, but also highlights that this technique is used by both countries. “That's one of the common old trick[s] that both Indian and Pakistani political parties play close to elections,” Rehman concluded.
In addition to the tension in India and Pakistan, conflicts between Russia, Ukraine and Georgia continue to spark debate.
In 2008, Russian forces occupied two break-away regions of Georgia, the Abkhazia and Samachablo regions. Six years later, the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and engaged in armed conflict in the Eastern regions of the country. As a result, a conflict between Russia on one hand, and Georgia and Ukraine on the other, escalated rapidly. Despite diplomatic relations between the governments of those countries being virtually non-existent, students coming from the countries hold more nuanced views than simple disgust toward their opponent in the various conflicts.
For Anastasia Karavan, a Class of 2020 student from Ukraine, the Russian government and its citizens are not the same. “I think the attitude of Ukrainian students toward Russians on campus is completely friendly,” said Karavan. She believes that despite horrific events occurring in eastern Ukraine, Russian students on campus are not directly participating in them and thus cannot be blamed for their country’s actions.
“We disagree on certain things politically,” Karavan added, but for her that is in no way a reason to discriminate against people based on their citizenship. Not everyone is supporting the war in Ukraine and Georgia, and to Karavan “[the] character of an individual matters more than their citizenship.”
For Maxim Blinov, a Class of 2021 student from Russia, people from opposing sides of the conflict must be approached “as every other person,” and he personally does not see a conflict happening between the two nations on campus. Blinov added that in every country you can find people of a radical point of view, and “in every country there are extremists.”
At the same time, keeping friendly connections on campus does not mean compromising a civil or political stance. Nikoloz Adeishvili, Class of 2019 student from Georgia, feels that “the environment on campus is very supportive of peaceful conflict navigation,” and a neutral attitude toward the other side of the conflict is maintained. However, this is not to say that a civic stance on the issue of the Russo-Georgian war ought to be compromised.
Adeishvili holds a clear stance on the issue. “I think it is very clear who is the aggressor and the war initiator in our country, and that is clearly seen by the current occupation of Georgian regions by the Russian army,” he stated, adding that the forceful movement of Georgian borders is taking place even to present day, with many civilians being kidnapped from their legal residences.
The wars and the conflicts happening worldwide are not going to be solved at once, regardless of our individual opinions about them. What NYUAD students can do, as a uniquely diverse community, however, is learn how to navigate conflicting ideas peacefully by not ignoring, but rather engaging with those they agree with. No one is asking students to compromise their civil stance on political issues, but the learning environment provided by the university encourages students to pay attention to different, individual opinions.
Davit Jintcharadze is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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