Category: Lydia Jabs
1. Addressing the North Korean Threat: A Discussion with Congressman Joe Wilson | Monday, March 20th | 11:30-1:00PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |
Hudson Institute will host a timely conversation on the growing threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs to the Unites States and our East Asian allies. U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Readiness Subcommittee, will join Hudson missile defense and East Asia security experts Rebeccah Heinrichs and Arthur Herman for an in-depth discussion on the status of Pyongyang’s weapons development activities and how the U.S. and our regional allies should respond to bolster their security.
2. From Scarcity to Security: Water as a Resource for Middle East Peacebuilding | Monday, March 20th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Elliot School | Register Here |
In the Middle East, water has often constituted a source of tension between Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring states. In recent years, however, regional leaders have increasingly identified water security as a shared interest that transcends borders – and even a potential avenue for peacebuilding. Join Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, EcoPeace Middle East and Marina Djernaes, Director, EcoPeace Center for Water Security for a discussion on this resource.
For two decades, the EcoPeace Middle East organization has engaged Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians in the joint promotion of practical solutions to transboundary problems of scarcity and pollution. In the process, they have fostered regional alliances, built environmental infrastructure, altered allocation policies, and shined spotlights on the environmental crises facing sacred sites such as the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. This panel will draw on decades of civil society and intergovernmental experience to highlight the potential of water security as a catalyst for peace building in the Middle East and beyond.
3. Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy | Tuesday, March 21st | 12:30 | The Atlantic Council | Register Here |
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is launching a new initiative, Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy. Over the next two years, the Hariri Center will pool expertise from multiple specialists to cover the many challenges of rebuilding Syria including in: economics, finance, development, infrastructure, political economy, civil society, food security, energy, law, and employment. More than just a cursory overview, the initiative will produce a strategic roadmap to reconstruction with the participation of Syrians and the support of the international community.
The Hariri Center invites you to a discussion on the technical and political challenges ahead for rebuilding Syria with country and development experts on March 21, 2017 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. Our panelists will include Dr. Osama Kadi, president of the Syrian Economic Task Force, Mr. Todd Diamond, Middle East director for Chemonics International, Mona Yacoubian, former deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development, and Bassam Barabandi, former Syrian diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change. The conversation will be moderated by Hariri Center Senior Fellow Faysal Itani. Mr. Omar Shawaf, chairman and founder of BINAA, will give introductory remarks.
4. A Conversation with His Excellency Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon| Tuesday, March 21st | 3:00-4:00 PM | The Wilson Center | Register Here |
The Lebanon Ideas Forum is an assemblage of scholars, journalists, policymakers, and diplomats who will discuss issues concerning Lebanon, its wider region, and relations with the United States and Europe. This event is the inaugural event in the Lebanon Ideas Forum series. The Lebanon Ideas Forum is part of a greater strategic partnership between the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and Safadi Foundation USA, which was established in 2017. Join the Wilson Center this Tuesday for a discussion with Lara Alameh, President of the Board and CEO, Safadi Foundation USA, and Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon.
5. Securing Southeastern Europe: A New Model for Progress in the Balkans? | Tuesday, March 21st | 4:00 PM | The Atlantic Council | Register Here
Please join the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative on Tuesday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. for a conversation with the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro, as they discuss security cooperation in the Western Balkans.
At this public event, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic, and Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier will jointly discuss their perspective on the security challenges facing Southeastern Europe, as well as their insights on addressing issues ranging from Islamic radicalization and terrorist threats to the completion of Montenegro’s NATO accession process.
6. The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and US policy in Iraq | Wednesday, March 22nd | 10:00-11:30 | Brookings | Register Here |
On March 22, the Brookings Intelligence Project will host former CIA analyst John Nixon to outline his findings from his interrogation of Hussein, and what lessons he believes can be learned. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, will provide introductory remarks and moderate the discussion. Following their remarks, Riedel and Nixon will take questions from the audience.
7. U.S.- Iran Relations: Opportunities for the New Administration | Wednesday, March 22nd | 11:30-12:30 | The Wilson Center | Register Here |
Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent hostage situation, Iran-US relations have been characterized by mutual misperceptions. The nuclear deal of June 2015 between Iran and the “P5+1” came to fruition against this backdrop, in large part due to the efforts of The Right Honourable Catherine Ashton, Baroness of Upholland, Former Vice President of the European Commission and former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, Senior Counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
The July 2015 deal was an unprecedented step towards rebuilding that trust, though tensions are being fueled by military cooperation with Russia in Syria and new sanctions announced by the Trump administration. The new administration faces familiar challenges in relations with Iran, but also some key strategic and economic opportunities. Rob Litwak, Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies, will moderate a discussion between Baroness Ashton and Ambassador Sherman who well know these challenges and opportunities, and can speak to how the U.S. can be appealing to their strategic interests using diplomacy and negotiations.
8. The Impact of Gender Norms on Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia | Wednesday, March 22nd | 12:00-1:00 | The Elliot School | Register Here |
Dr. Hala Aldosari will lead a discussion on the impact of gender norms on the construction of women’s roles and identity in Saudi Arabia. Analysis of key limitations of personal status laws, planning of women’s health services and the concepts of legislation on violence against women will be presented. The talk will also delve into the role of state and non-state agents in shaping the discourse on gender norms and roles, in light of the recent economic and political trends.
Hala Aldosari received her PhD and postdoctoral training in health services research and the social determinants of women’s health. Her research and publications are focused on the intersection of gender, laws, health and political identity in Saudi Arabia. She works on different projects to promote women’s rights and prevention from violence against women and girls. In 2016, she won the Freedom award for her leading role to promote human rights and democracy in Saudi Arabia.
9. Reaffirming the U.S.-Taiwan Security Relationship | Friday, March 24th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |
As President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping next month, one subject that is likely to be discussed is Taiwan. President Trump has inherited a clear and long-established diplomatic and security structure pledged to defend Taiwan, its democratic political institutions, and the freedoms its people enjoy. The keystones of U.S. relations with Taiwan are the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances which established guidelines for U.S. policy toward Taiwan over the last four decades. The Six Assurances addressed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, set a fixed stance on sovereignty issues, and guaranteed that previous agreements calling for U.S. assistance to defend Taiwan would remain firmly in effect.
On March 24, Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will host a distinguished panel of experts to examine the Trump administration’s stance on Taiwan and the outlook for existing agreements to protect Taiwan. Hudson senior fellows Seth Cropsey and William Schneider will be joined by Dennis Wilder, a professor at Georgetown University, and Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute. The panel will assess what is needed to fulfill and fortify the existing agreements with Taiwan and assure not only this partnership, but the U.S.’s entire network of regional and global alliances.
Last Thursday the Atlantic Council hosted an event “Prospects for Ending the Civil War in Libya,” moderated by Karim Mezran. The event featured Nebras Attia, human rights activist, Federica Saini Fasanotti, nonresident scholar at the Brookings Institution, Azza Maghur, senior lawyer at Maghur & Partners, Jason Pack, executive director of the US-Libya Business Association, and Ambassador Jonathan Winer, former US Special Envoy for Libya.
Ambassador Winer said that of the three actors vying for control of the country, no party has legitimacy among the Libyan people. Elections to determine sovereignty. Both Fayez Sarraj (Government of National Accord or GNA) and Aguila Saleh Issa (House of Representatives or HOR) reached out to international powers for help in facilitating elections, while military strongman Haftar refused to negotiate. Winer believes that the joint Tunisian, Algerian and Egyptian efforts to facilitate a Libya-Libya solution have some potential to re-energize negotiations, but he is not overly optimistic about their potential for success. The most foreign governments can do to encourage a favorable solution is to consolidate support behind one body instead of the divided foreign support for different militias. Winer maintains that US involvement in Libya is aimed at inclusivity reflecting local interests, though efforts are often thwarted by lack of cooperation and willingness to take orders from foreigners. He sees little indication that the Trump administration will pursue a policy towards Libya different than his predecessor.
When asked why she was skeptical about the Libyan Political Agreement that aimed to establish the GNA, Maghur replied she was not only skeptical of it, but that she knows it is a failure. The agreement is not realistic because it lacks transparency, inclusivity, and a clear start date. The agreement only makes the international community happy, and if they want to make the Libyan people happy they need to include them in the process.
As a lawyer in Libya, Maghur sees the judicial system as a strong tool for reunifying the nation. It is a venerable institution that survived the dictatorship and will survive the civil war. The criminal courts are very effective, but improvements are needed in the civil courts.
Fasanotti said Libyans need to develop a sense of nationality and to accept the country’s diversity as a strength. Although nobody wants a divided Libya, the three regions have existed since Italian colonization and are a good place to start. She imagines a federal system that capitalizes on the strengths of each region and celebrates their differences. When asked her opinion on Italian policy towards Libya she stressed its consistency: Italian government support for the GNA is unwavering. Unlike Ambassador Winer, she does not believe that reopening the Italian embassy in Libya is a good idea for security reasons, and because it might be vulnerable to exploitation by military strongman Haftar.
Attia criticized the international community for viewing the Libyan crisis in its own terms. She said that outside actors do not see the real issues affecting Libyan communities. She encourages people in power to reach out to cities and communities to ask what they need help with, supporting a bottom up approach as the best course of action to support Libya. Internationals are not solving the real problems in Libya. Youth is the most vulnerable population sector, at risk of extremism unless someone steps in and engages them with alternatives.
Pack described the proxy war in Libya as a situation where everyone wants to get control of the ‘Libya file,’ either to amp up their international status or to influence developments in a future, more stable, Libya. The Russians seek to limit American influence in the conflict, gain a warm water port, and potentially “trade” Libya for leverage in Syria or Crimea. Pack believes that a viable future for Libya requires heavy handed American intervention, both to consolidate foreign influence behind one actor and to support legitimacy on the ground with capacity building in every sector. He sees the private sector as a potential tool for the Trump administration to incentivize development that creates jobs and infrastructure while increasing bilateral ties between the US and Libya.
Building the Programs That Can Better Build Peace | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 9:30-11:00 | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here |
On March 7, members of the consortium at USIP will describe their findings, including new tools that can assess and improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding programs. The work of accountability is vital to prove the case for peacebuilding as a strategy—and to sustain support from donors and taxpayers. Several non-government organizations—including Alliance for Peacebuilding, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, Mercy Corps and Search for Common Ground—have formed a Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium. This group is developing better tools for the design, monitoring and evaluation of programs abroad.
What Both Parties Like: Two-State Solution and Beyond | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 12-1:30 | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here |
President Trump expressed an early interest in making “the ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, but it remains unclear how the administration plans to engage on this conflict. Polls of Israelis and Palestinians consistently suggest that while support is shrinking for the two-state solution, it remains the preferred outcome. So what are the alternatives, and how politically and logistically feasible are they? The conversation will include Dahlia Scheindlin, who recently proposed a confederal approach as a “Third Way for Israel-Palestine.” She will be joined by Khaled Elgindy, a former advisor on permanent status negotiations to the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, and by USIP’s Mike Yaffe, formerly the senior advisor to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the Department of State.
Will Washington and Moscow Work Together in the Middle East? | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 12:00-1:30 | Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington | Register Here|
Join AGSIW for a discussion of how the U.S. and Russian Middle East agendas converge and diverge, and how the prospect of a new level of coordination between them is viewed both in Europe and the Gulf.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump advocates greater cooperation with Russia, including in the Middle East. But how compatible are Russian and U.S. regional strategic goals, especially over the long run? Can the new administration simultaneously pursue cooperation with Moscow and confrontation with Tehran, given the close partnership between Russia and Iran? Will Washington identify and exploit differences between Russian and Iranian priorities, particularly in Syria? How can Gulf Arab countries adapt to this complex evolving environment and protect their own interests?
Chasing War: The struggle for journalism in ISIS’ Middle East | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 3:00-4:30 | Elliott School |Register Here|
Shaheen Pasha is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She previously worked as the Middle East Regional Editor for The Brief, a legal magazine published by Thomson Reuters. Prior to launching the magazine, Pasha was the Islamic finance correspondent at Thomson Reuters, based in Dubai. She has been an assistant professor of journalism at The American University in Cairo, teaching print and online journalism for undergraduate and graduate students, and has worked at CNNMoney.com as a banking and legal reporter, covering the Supreme Court and the Enron trial. Pasha was also a reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where she had a daily column in the Wall Street Journal and appeared as a regular correspondent on CNBC Asia, covering the ADR market. Pasha will join us at the Elliott School on March 7 to discuss the challenges for those in the journalism and media industries in covering the war in Syria and the ongoing conflict in Iraq. She will give some background on the conflict, bringing in a discussion of the difficulties journalists are facing on the ground, and ISIS’ own media efforts in the form of their magazine, Dabiq. This event aims specifically to engage journalists and other media specialists, but is open to all.
Prospects for Ending the Civil War in Libya | Thursday, March 9th, 2017 | 10:00-11:30 | Atlantic Council | Register Here |
The situation in Libya today, as a result of increasing fragmentation and polarization among actors, is on the verge of a breaking point. So far, the competing authorities in the country – namely the Presidential Council and Government of National Accord established by a United Nations-backed process, and the eastern-based House of Representatives and head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar – have failed to come to an agreement to end the conflict. In this environment, it is more important than ever to offer perspectives on ways in which the new US administration can help Libya move toward stability. The Rafik Hariri Center will convene a panel of experts to discuss the current situation in Libya and explore ways forward out of the current conflict.
The View From Israel: A Conversation with Reuven Azar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel | Thursday, March 9th, 2017 | 12-1 | Wilson Center | Register Here |
Israel sits in the middle of a volatile Middle East and at a nexus of issues critical to regional stability, security and American national interests. Join the Wilson Center as a veteran Israeli diplomat, Reuven Azar, offers observations on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, the Iran nuclear deal, the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace, Russia’s role in the region and Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors.
The Syrian Crisis: American Interests and Moral Considerations | Friday, March 10th, 2017 | 11:45-1:30 | Hudson Institute | Register Here |
After nearly six years, Syria remains locked in a bloody civil war while Iran and Russia continue to be President Bashar al-Assad’s primary enablers. Assad’s Syria offers Iran an important supply line to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The war has taken the lives of more than 400,000 Syrians and has displaced more than 9 million, creating a refugee crisis that has been felt around the world.
U.S. response to the Syrian civil war has been inconsistent. President Obama lacked a coherent strategy for dealing with Syria and infamously chose inaction after Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. President Trump has made it clear that he intends to refocus U.S. efforts abroad and pursue a foreign policy focused primarily on American interests. He has, along with his Secretaries of State and Defense, signaled a willingness to take a very different approach to Syria.
What are the most pressing U.S. interests in the outcome of the Syrian civil war? What moral obligation, if any, does the U.S. have to help the region regain stability and to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people? What options are before the Trump administration, and do those options take into consideration both U.S. security and humanitarian concerns? To address these questions and more, Hudson Institute and Providence Magazine will host a March 10 panel discussion with Marc LiVecche, managing editor of Providence Magazine, and Hudson fellows Michael Doran, Nina Shea, and Rebeccah Heinrichs.
“The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East,” a Conversation with Dr. Christopher Phillips | Tuesday, February 21 | 10-11:30 AM | GW’s Elliot School | Register Here |
Join GW’s Elliot School and Christopher Phillips, senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, for a conversation on international rivalry in the New Middle East. He was previously the deputy editor for Syria and Jordan at the Economist Intelligence Unit. While living in Syria for two years, he consulted government agencies and NGOs. He has appearances on BBC Newsnight, Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBC News, Al-Jazeera, Sky News and Channel 4 News.
Re-Centering the Bazaar: Notes towards a History of Islamic Capitalism in the Islamic World | Wednesday, February 22 | 3:30-5:00 PM | Register Here|
The Elliott School of International Affairs is hosting a talk explores the possibilities of a history of capitalism in the Islamic world through the prism of one of its most visible expressions: the bazaar. As the locus of a range of different commercial practices, the bazaar offers a useful platform for thinking about economic life in the Islamic world — production, consumption, exchange, and finance. It is also the site through which the inhabitants of the Islamic world came to experience the changing tides of global commerce and politics: the wares of India and Africa, the textiles of Northern Europe, and most recently, the manufactures of China. And yet, as an object of scholarly analysis, the bazaar has largely been reduced to a set of interpersonal or patron-client relations, flattening what was in fact a vibrant site of exchange and transformation.
Rather than speak of the bazaar in the abstract, Professor Bishara will focus on a specific network of bazaars around the Indian Ocean — in Bahrain, Muscat, and Zanzibar — during the nineteenth century, so as to more accurately map out the interlinked markets for commodities (land, produce, etc.), labor, and capital, the paper instruments that linked them all together, and the circulating discourses that animated them. The discussion of bazaar capitalism in the 19th-century Indian Ocean will serve as the platform for thinking about how we might write a history of capitalism in the Islamic world more broadly.
United States in the Middle East: Assessing the Emerging Trump Doctrine | Wednesday, February 22 | 4:30-6:00 PM | George Mason University | Register Here|
The Middle East Policy Group at Schar School of Policy & Government is hosting their first session of Reflections on Middle East Policy. Peter Mandaville is a Professor of International Affairs at GMU’s Schar School of Policy & Government and served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State under Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Justin Gest is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at GMU’s Schar School of Policy & Government.
Militias in the Fight Against ISIS: Spoilers or Stabilizers? | Thursday, February 23 | 9:00-10:00 AM | Wilson Center | Register Here |
The panel will examine militias that have played a major role in the campaign against ISIS, particularly Lebanese Hezbollah, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the PYD (Democratic Union Party), and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units. Are these groups spoilers that will disrupt regional politics and lead to anarchy? Are they stabilizing forces that can help assure peace in areas marred by war? Panelists will assess their impact and discuss how U.S. policy can better engage them to promote regional order.
Global threats and American national security priorities | Thursday, February 23 | 10:00-11:00 AM | Brookings | Register Here
On February 23, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings is honored to host an event featuring General Dunford. He will be joined by Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon for a discussion on American national security priorities and Department of Defense requirements.
The United States has the best military in the world, but it must continue to innovate to stay ahead. Today, the United States faces a particularly complex and dangerous security environment. In his job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2015, General Joseph Dunford has articulated a framework for understanding the threats America and its allies must address, benchmarking the military’s planning, capability development, and assessment of risk against the challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and violent extremism.
The Gulf and the Struggle for Hegemony | Thursday, February 23 | 12:00-1:00 PM | The Middle East Institute | Register Here|
The Middle East Institute is pleased to host Roby Barrett, MEI scholar and senior fellow with the Joint Special Operations University-U.S. Special Operations Command, for the release of his new book The Gulf and the Struggle for Hegemony. Barrett will argue that the long-standing ties between the West and the Gulf Arab states have contributed to regional stability and progress.
Barrett draws on a sophisticated understanding of Gulf Arab culture and history to explain present-day policies and rivalries. The book delves into how the Gulf States, in particular the UAE and Saudi Arabia, interpret and respond to regional dynamics such as the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the West’s rapprochement with Iran. Barrett argues that a failure to understand the contemporary Gulf from the perspective of its complex historical, political, and socio-cultural context guarantees failed policies in the future.
The State of Iraq- and the Republic of Kurdistan?- After ISIS | Thursday, February 23 | 12:00-1:00 PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here
On February 23, an expert panel will examine the challenges and opportunities ahead for Iraq, Kurdistan, and the new U.S. administration. Should the Trump administration continue to invest in the Iraqi State? Are federalism, institution-building, and good governance initiatives in Iraq a lost cause? How should the new administration deal with Iraq’s powerful, Iranian-backed Shiite militias? Would an independent Kurdish state bring solutions or additional problems for Kurds and the other peoples of Iraq? Similarly, what would the Republic of Kurdistan mean for the United States? The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman will join Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack and Ranj Alaaldin, along with Hudson’s Michael Pregent and Eric Brown, to discuss the implications for Iraq and the region as well as their importance to America’s geopolitical interests. This event will be live streamed on Hudson’s homepage.
The Atlantic Council hosted a keynote presentation of their report “Breaking Aleppo” last Monday, starting with an introduction from Frederick Kempe, President & CEO of the Atlantic Council, as well as Frederic C. Hof, former US Special Adviser for Transition in Syria. The event featured speakers Maks Czuperski, Director of Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, Abdul Kafi Alhamdo, Syrian teacher and activist, Dr. Lina Murad, board member of the Syrian American Medical Society, Faysal Itani, Senior Fellow at Atlantic’s Rafik Hariri Center, Eliot Higgins, Senior Fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab, and Emma Beals, investigative journalist.
IKempe said the report exposes the deliberate and systematic destruction of Aleppo by Bashar al Assad and will prevent the record of these atrocities from fading away in history. Hof added to this description by labeling the report an authoritative chronicle of the methods the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran utilized to achieve military victory through terror. He said it is clear that Moscow and the regime falsified information to obfuscate their crimes, and were emboldened by the passivity and lack of leadership of the west.
Czuperski described some of the methodology used by Atlantic Council’s digital forensic lab to compose the report. He said that although there were a lot of people talking about the conflict on social media, it was difficult to determine credibility. Higgins explained that the lab created “digital fingerprints” of the videoed events on the ground, taking into acount all possible sources, figuring out where they were taken using metadata or digital “breadcrumbs,” and then determining distance from the event to differentiate between true and false information.
The lab debunked false claims from the Russian defense ministry and proved that more than three bombs hit an Aleppo hospital in the same week, using before and after pictures, as well as camera footage from the hospital surveillance cameras. Forensic architecture showed repeated explosions in the same area and demonstrated targeted efforts of the regime to destroy one of the last hospitals in Aleppo.
Before the discussion panel, Abdul Kafi Alhamdo spoke to the crowd using Skype from the Syrian countryside to describe his life in Aleppo before and after the siege. Alhamdo says goodbye to his wife before heading to school everyday knowing that he might not see his family again. He teaches his students about freedom, attempting to provide a semblance of normalcy through what he describes as the Holocaust of Aleppo. Despite the horrors surrounding them, he and many other Syrians remained in the city until there was no other option. Alhamdo noted the UN role in assisting Assad with the forced evacuation of the city following the horrific last week of the siege. He described the terrible circumstances of the evacuation where civilians were shoved into buses, threatened by guards, and refused food or water while children cried.
Murad spoke to the difficulty of providing emergency medical care in Syria. She said that the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) started by training physicians, but soon had to expand their recruitment base as doctors were killed, displaced, or moved on. They had to train people of all levels using outdated technology, and in some cases engineering their own equipment. SAMS knew about the impending siege in Aleppo ahead of time and tried to allocate resources to prepare. Once the siege began it was impossible to bring in supplies, and they relied on a focal point to distribute the materials through the city until they ran out.
Beals recounted the ways reporting this conflict has shifted, from initial stages where reporters could be on the ground, to learning of the siege and other developments from the Syrian countryside, to the current situation where reporters are based in neighboring countries. Getting information out of Syria is incredibly difficult. Journalists rely on established relationships with Syrians who are still in the country and put their lives at risk by sharing information.
Itani stated that his job is to translate local developments in Syria into insights that make sense in the context of Western policy. He reiterated the struggle to obtain information, and said it is even more difficult because of obfuscation. Itani expressed his fear of the post-truth age, but he praised digital forensics as an outsourcing of information to determine what actually happened. He sees the development of these techniques as credible push back against the campaign of lies.
Last Wednesday, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup hosted a research briefing on media use in Turkey, from one of the last surveys conducted in Turkey before the state of emergency instated after the failed coup in July 2016. Chris Stewart, Partner at Gallup, introduced the speakers and noted the dynamism of the media market in Turkey with recent shifts that impact journalism in a huge way. The event featured Benjamin Ryan, Consulting Specialist at Gallup, who shared findings from the World Poll conducted in April 2016 through computer assisted telephone interviews, and William Bell, Director of Research at Voice of America, who presented the findings from BBG’s research in 2016.
Ryan said that Turkey’s survey results on confidence in political institutions resemble those of the US more closely than those of Turkey’s regional neighbors. Confidence in the military is consistently high, and approval of police forces is higher than before. Because this survey predates the attempted coup this summer, it will be interesting to see how that event will impact public opinion in the future. Attitudes on Turkey’s economic outlook showed steady improvement since 2006, particularly among young Turks. Ryan remarked that the steady confidence in political institutions is in line with Erdoğan’s own approval and might indicate his centrality as a leader. Not all of the findings were positive, as trust in the judicial system is notably lower than other institutions, about on par with US ratings.
Despite Freedom House reports indicating a decline in freedom of the press, 38% of those surveyed expressed confidence in media freedom; opinion varied along education, region, and age. Well-educated Turks, as well as those in peripheral regions–particularly the South East–tend to be more critical. Ryan remarked that countries with low press suppression have a positive correlation with public opinion of the media, yet those who had high ratings of suppression, such as Turkey, had no correlation.
Bell explained that on the surface Turkey is among the most diverse media markets, with a large number of media outlets and no clear dominant news source. People have access to foreign media sources and take advantage of them. However, recent political events engendered internet censorship and an overall reduction in media freedom. Many people express dissatisfaction with Turkish news sources. Internet is the most used platform for young people in Turkey, but Bell pointed out that younger population did not deem staying current with the news as important as their older countrymen.
Bell went on to explicate the process BBG uses to assess perceptions of the US abroad, where survey participants rate the importance of several attributes for an ideal state, then assess the United States using the same metric. The characteristics tested, created in collaboration with the US State Department, include quality of education, protection of human rights, peaceful relations among ethnic groups, business opportunities, disaster aid and relief, functioning democracy, and internal crime prevention. The US scored high in education and business opportunities. Over all, Bell showed that Turkey sees the US as better than other Arab countries, and the results show that young Turks are more likely to consider the US in a positive light.