Mr. Badini, an activist from Balochistan, Pakistan, hopes to raise awareness about the struggles of torture victims after receiving his master’s in forensic psychology.
By Julyssa Lopez
Samiullah Baloch Badini has seen the aftermath of torture firsthand.
In his home of Balochistan, Pakistan, police brutality and corruption run rampant. Earlier this year, a United Nations committee condemned Pakistan for what they called a “widespread practice of torture.”
Mr. Badini has fought back against brutality in a unique way. As a psychiatrist, he provided treatment and care to torture victims in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and became outspoken about the irreversible damage torture practices cause. Now, he’s hoping to make even more of an impact by earning a master’s degree from the George Washington University’s forensic psychology graduate program—something he’ll be able to achieve through a full scholarship from GW and the city of Alexandria, Va.
“I never could have imagined being part of the GW community and being able to get a full ride—it would have been impossible for me if it hadn’t been for the Alexandria Partnership,” he said. “I don’t have words to explain how much it means other than it is a dream come true.”
Mr. Badini is the recipient of the 2017-18 Alexandria Partnership Fellowship, designed for a student who is a citizen of or working/interning full- or part-time in Alexandria. The award covers the full cost of tuition, excluding fees. The goal of the scholarship is to support students who can use the skills they learn at GW and give back to the Alexandria community.
“The Alexandria Partnership Fellowship is awarded once every two years to an incoming graduate student at the GW Alexandria Graduate Education Center who has shown excellence in academic ability and a commitment to public service—Sami exemplifies these qualities and so many more,” said Geri Rypkema, assistant provost for the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships.
Mr. Badini grew up in the southwestern province of Balochistan. His father was a mining engineer and the director general of Balochistan’s mines and minerals, and he taught Mr. Badini about humanitarian efforts and social justice at a young age. In school, Mr. Badini became particularly interested in psychiatry and completed his medical studies in Pakistan. He worked with victims of state torture and natural disasters, as well as families of missing persons in Balochistan. He was also a psychiatrist for the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia.
However, Mr. Badini’s work eventually put him in danger in the Middle East. He came to the United States in 2015 and moved to Alexandria with the help of the nonprofit organization Catholic Charities. He was so grateful to the organization that he decided to give back by volunteering with the local men’s shelter Christ House in Arlington. He provided group therapy services to individuals struggling with addiction. He also became active with the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, an international organization that offers support to torture survivors and their families.
But Mr. Badini was also eager to return to school to achieve his dream of opening a practice in the United States. He would frequently visit GW’s website and browse the university’s programs, paying special attention to the forensic psychology master’s degree, which offers courses ranging from the psychopathology of serial criminals and terrorist agents to the treatment of sex offenders and ethical issues involving interrogation that enable students to work with the criminal justice system, solve crimes and prevent future criminal behavior. One day, Mr. Badini emailed Richard Cooter, the program director, to learn more.
“I was immediately impressed,” he said. “Dr. Cooter was so humble, generous and understanding. He showed me that the university has the mentorship I need and that I would have so many pillars of support here.”
Mr. Badini applied to the program and was quickly accepted with a dean’s scholarship. But even with the financial award, he wasn’t sure how he would afford tuition. He did research and discovered that as a resident and volunteer in the Alexandria community, he was eligible for the Alexandria Partnership Fellowship.
Mr. Badini remains active in the Alexandria community and has begun traveling to college campuses to talk about how to reform torture practices and police corruption in foreign countries. Once he obtains his master’s degree, Mr. Badini hopes to continue working to help torture victims worldwide.
“I can work to change the laws—I can help those people with mental illness being put in jail instead of mental hospitals,” he said. “Having this master’s degree from GW in forensic psychology means I’ll be heard.”