[written by Rebeka Seyfried]

This past fall, Mercyhurst College became the first international university chapter to work with the Sentinel Project. Our chapter consists of six team members who will be working together on assessing the risk of genocide against Iranian Bahá’ís. This is because, rather than being structured as an extracurricular club, the Mercyhurst chapter is structured more like an internship which gives participants credits in exchange for doing analytical work. As a bit of a “specialist” chapter, our goal is to apply intelligence analysis methodology to the risk factors and indicators formulated by the Sentinel Project for identifying populations at risk for genocide. In addition to working on the Bahá’í situation of concern, we will also be helping to make this methodology a standard part of how the Sentinel Project operates.

Mercyhurst College has a worldwide reputation for its Institute for Intelligence Studies, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as certificate programs in the discipline. Many MC Intelligence alumni currently hold positions in the militaries and intelligence communities of the United States and other countries, Fortune 500 companies, and NGOs around the world. What makes this program unique is its hands-on teaching approach which prepares students to work in the field by providing and in-depth knowledge of basic, advanced, and theoretical analytic techniques. All of these techniques are currently being used in law enforcement intelligence, competitive business intelligence, and national security because their flexibility allows them to be applied to a wide range of topics, including genocide prevention.

Our team spent the initial weeks of the internship doing background research, familiarizing ourselves with the Eight Stages of Genocide (which are being adapted by the Sentinel Project), the persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran, and the broader situation within Iran itself. We also had a conference call with folks from Sentinel to plan our project and to discuss some innovations the team members devised. Of course, the first stage of starting any analysis project is always research!

As a group, we have split up the risk factors listed on the Sentinel Project’s website and each week we will produce short analytical reports to assess the various factors as they exist within Iran and how they affect the Bahá’í community. Breaking the risk factors down into their basic components helps analysts to see how intricately they affect the situation.

We just wrapped up our first week of hands-on work. Each intern completed a short form analytic report, or – as it’s known in the intelligence community, an “SFAR” – on their given topic. Topics this week ranged from EU sanctions on Iran, background on the Bahá’í faith, and Iran’s restrictions of freedom of speech. As each topic was presented to the group, we were able to tie together the Sentinel Project’s risk factors with what is happening to Bahá’ís in Iran.

In the coming weeks, we will try to paint a more detailed picture of the situation and establish key mechanisms that influence or could potentially trigger an outbreak of violence. We will also work to keep SP’s reading audience updated on our progress!

– The Mercyhurst Team