As we announced in a recent blog post, Mercyhurst College became our first international student chapter. Their chapter is unique since it will be entirely made up of graduate students from the Intelligence Studies program who will be working as interns for the Sentinel Project. Now Mercyhurst has issued a press release announcing the chapter and the work it will be doing:

A team of intelligence studies students from Mercyhurst College will soon commence research to assess the threat of ethnic-based violence against the Baha’i population in Iran, a project undertaken at the behest of the Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention.

Earlier this month, Mercyhurst became the first international university chapter followed by the University of California, Berkeley, of the Sentinel Project, a nonprofit organization based in Canada with members in several countries worldwide. The Sentinel Project, formed in 2008, aims to prevent genocide through effective early warning initiatives.

The Mercyhurst team, headed by intelligence studies adjunct faculty Diane Chido, will research, complete a report and update the Sentinel Project’s current Threatwiki, which has identified the Baha’i population in Iran as a likely future target of ethnic-based violence.

Baha’is are members of a global religion that represents a population of 300,000 in the predominantly Muslim country of Iran, according to a Sentinel Project report. The Baha’is have a long history of persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists and successive regimes. Popular violence – with either the tacit approval or active encouragement of state authorities – has risen and cases of arson and vandalism against Baha’is have increased dramatically in recent years, the report notes.

The project update to be conducted by Mercyhurst will continue through spring term 2012. The Mercyhurst report will be posted on the Sentinel Project’s website, delivered to policymakers and NGOs to convince them of the possibility that intervention may be needed before the situation becomes more violent.

“If all goes well, this will be an ongoing effort to assist the Sentinel Project with its warning efforts, not only producing individual reports, but advising the organization on incorporating intelligence analysis techniques into their research methods,” Chido said. “This will also be an ongoing internship opportunity for intelligence students to earn internship credit while putting their skills to work for a very worthy cause.”