The Middle East and the Arab Spring: Change, (in)Stability and (dis)Order

KT News:

Dr Marianna Charountaki and Dr Yunis Al Lahwej organized a one day conference on 6 June 2013 under the auspices of Reading University, Department of Politics and International Relations, entitled The Middle East and the Arab Spring: Change, (in) Stability and (dis)Order.

“The initial thought behind this organization was to bring together political figures and scholars working in academia, influential think-tanks and various other organizations.” Charountaki told KT.

The opening remarks were delivered by the organizer of the conference, Dr Charountaki in which she elaborated that in an era of political transition for the Middle East, regional state and non-state actors face challenges and opportunities.

“The Arab Spring has challenged the Iranian and Turkish foreign policies vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis, elevated the role of the Kurds whereas it has made also apparent the involvement of the Gulf States in the Middle Eastern developments. Therefore the importance of this conference lies in the three different and crucial topics it is engaged with,” briefed Charountaki during her opening remarks.

The conference had gathered together political figures and scholars. In a Skype Conversation,  Mrs. Bayan Abdul Rahman (KRG representative to the UK) said that Kurdistan is at a crossroads of the Shia and Sunni worlds, and could be a model for Muslim democracy.

Meantime, Kurdish intellectual, Dr. Sardar Aziz (Lecturer at the Department of Government University College Cork, Ireland) had a speech. In his speech, Dr Aziz thoroughly discussed about the Kurdish community and the structure of governance. He pointed out that the community governs itself. Regarding the Syrian crises, he said “there are many Syrias, not just one,” as he hinted the scenarios that each political force has in mind.  Sardar Aziz also explained that Kurdish neiboughrs also do not like having an independent state within a sovereign country.

The next panel was about Turkey and Iran: models in a rapidly evolving regional security environment?

Mr. Guney Yildiz, Senior Broadcast Journalist, BBC World Servicein his part said: “Syria is the greatest challenge – it is a proxy war between Turkey and Iran.  Ironically, the relations remain good.”

The next speaker, Prof. Mahjoob Zweiri (Head of the Humanities Department at the Qatar University, Qatar) talked about the sectarian question which has become the plight of countries like Syria and Iraq “The sectarian question, sectarianism is manufactured and societies are never homogeneous.  The media, academia used this word because it is easy to identify and imposed negative results.”

The second panel which was another interesting panel was on The Kurdish Factor in the regional transformation after the Arab Springin which Mr Alan Selmo from Democratic Union Party, PYD – representative of foreign relations for Syria spoke about the situation in Syria and the Kurdish perspective there. Selmo said: “The superpowers hijacked the revolution to change the Assad regime; the democracy has been forgotten and the military installed.”

Dr. Hamit Bozarlsan, (Director of Studies at the EHESS, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris) also said that the “Arab Spring stopped the creation of these Utopian nation-states by outside elites.”

The last panel was about The role of the Gulf States: economic and geostrategic influences in which Prof. Tim Niblock (Professor Emeritus at Exeter University and Mr. Khazen Jihad (Director of Al Hayat Newspaper) discussed about the gulf politics and the Arab Spring. 

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