Symposium| Old & New Challenges in the Arab Countries of the Gulf & the Levant

The Oxford Gulf & Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum and the John Smith Memorial Fund jointly co-hosted the “Old & New Challenges for the Arab Countries of the Gulf and the Levant” symposium on November 16, 2013 at the University of Oxford.

The one day symposium brought together academics and practitioners from Oxford University and other UK institutions, as well as participants from the region attending the John Smith Fellowship Program for the Middle East & North Africa—a fellowship program held twice a year with the support of the “Arab Partnership Initiative” of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The first panel titled “Managing Change in the Arab Countries of the Gulf” was chaired by Prof. Brian Brivati (Academic Director, John Smith Trust). The first panellist was Dennis Sammut (OxGAPS, Committee Chairman) who argued that the events of recent years suggested a need to look carefully at the three interconnected Ps—Power, Process and People.  The second panellist was Brian Whitaker (Former Middle East correspondent, The Guardian) who spoke about the revolutions that erupted across the Arab countries and whether other regimes are able to prevent similar a similar fate through preventive measures. The second panellist was Dr. Hafiz Khan (Middlesex University) who addressed the socio-demographics changes in the GCC countries. Three discussants from the region were then invited to respond to the panellists, Dr. Nada Dhaif (Bahrain), Maryam al Rayes (Iraq), and Ghaith al Amaireh (Jordan).

The second panel titled “Human Rights and the Rule of Law: A Tangled Tale” was chaired by Dennis Sammut who introduced the guest speaker of the panel Baroness Helena Kennedy who started by emphasizing how the rule of law is fundamental to any successful society. She also underscored that “the rule of law is meaningless without human rights. It is one and the same coin and can’t have one without the other as they are entangled in each other.” Five human rights practitioners from the region were then invited to discuss the topic: Melkar al Khoury (Lebanon), Sarah al Sharji (Oman), Maimuna Al Suleimanli (Oman), Dr. Mona Hejres (Bahrain), and AdiKhair (Jordan).

The third and final panel titled “The Choice of the Past and the Challenges of the Future: Pan-Arab, Pan-Islamic, or simply Global?” was chaired by Prof. Edmund Herzig (Oriental Institute and Wadham College, Oxford). The first panellist was Dr. Abdel RazzakTakriti (Sheffield University) who discussed various historical periods that were important to the question of cooperation and regional thought. The second panellist was Dr. Hassan Turune (School of Area studies) who addressed the issue of external powers and their role in the region through the example of Turkey’s transformation throughout the past decades. Three discussants responded including HavalRaouf (Iraq), Safa Mahdi Ubeid al Algqi (Iraq), and AfifTabsh (Lebanon).