Expert panel shares insights into Arab uprisings

Panel members, from left, Marcus Marktanner, Rami Khouri and Maia Hallward

 

Complex issues of human and civil rights, religious and sectarian differences discussed at campus forum

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Oct. 24, 2013) — The political turmoil that continues across the Arab world — in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria — all stems from a common source, according to Rami G. Khouri, an international scholar and journalist who participated this week on a panel examining the Arab uprisings. 

“While every country has its own circumstances and conditions, one thing is absolutely clear: There are serious and longstanding grievances about the lack of citizenship rights that the people are no longer willing to acquiesce to,” said Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, former Nieman journalism fellow at Harvard University and columnist for The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper based in Lebanon. “They are demanding more voice, more citizenship rights and more social equity.”

Khouri was joined on the panel by Maia Hallward, associate professor of Middle East politics and Marcus Marktanner, associate professor of conflict management and economics. The two-hour panel discussion was jointly sponsored by Kennesaw State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Institute for Global Initiatives and the Ph.D. program in International Conflict Management.

Despite their commonalities, each of the nations has very different historical factors shaping events in the region.

 “These countries each have different legacies based on their encounters with different colonial powers that have contributed to how things have played out,” Hallward noted.

Other factors panel members noted as influencing the Arab uprisings include:  the role of Islam and interreligious sectarianism; the rapid transmission of news via social media and the entire network of more mainstream media, coupled with the pervasive face-to-face interpersonal communications in close-knit, densely populated areas; the backdrop of Israeli security and relations in the region; the role of state players like Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia; and the role and impact of world powers like Russia and the U.S.  In addition, Khouri noted, is the role of “fringe militant terrorists who use religion as a vehicle to do politics.”

Despite ongoing tensions, Khouri was optimistic about the future stability of Arab states and improved U.S. relations and policies that affect the region. He urged patience with regard to the process of developing more stable and successful democratic structures in Arab countries undergoing transition and civil strife. 

“The U.S. faces the greatest opportunity to bring together 350 million Arabs and more than 300 million people in the U.S. who are all speaking the same language [when it comes to freedom and the rights of citizens],” he said, noting that it took the U.S. more than 250 years to realize the goal of civil rights for all its citizens. “We all have to recognize that change is difficult and it will take time.”  

-- Sabbaye McGriff