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The Middle East: World Crisis? A Conference




Organized by
The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
The New York Review of Books Foundation

Supported by
The Dan David Prize, Tel Aviv
The Fritt Ord Foundation, Oslo
ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, Hamburg



The Middle East is now subject to a conjoncture of political instability, economic dysfunction, growing religious extremism and seemingly endless war which is bringing misery and hardship to tens of millions of its citizens, and with a capacity to increase already shocking levels of violence in a zone stretching from the Afghan-Pakistan border to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

In the late summer of 2015 the crisis took on a new and frightening dimension. A year of escalating violence in Syria and Iraq, driven by the Islamic fanaticism of ISIS, has unleashed a huge wave of refugees fleeing for their lives and seeking sanctuary mostly in the member states of the European Union.

With the added violence of the terrorist attacks in Paris and now Brussels, this has become for Europe perhaps the gravest crisis of its kind since the Second World War and engages the continent in the day to day affairs of the Middle East in ways that are unprecedented. Our conference, taking place at the heart of the EU in Berlin, will we hope contribute towards an understanding of the region’s multiple crises, and explore paths to their solution.







Saturday, June 4

9:45 Welcoming Remarks
Dr Sylke Tempel, DGAP
Knut Olav Åmås, Fritt Ord Foundation, Oslo
Simon Head, New York Review of Books Foundation
Professor Itamar Rabinovich, The Dan David Prize
Sascha Suhrke, ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius

10:00 Panel I: The Politics and Foreign Relations of Iran
Chair: Ali Fathollah-Nejad, DGAP
Professor Shaul Bakhash, George Mason University,  Fairfax, Virginia
Professor Haleh Esfandiari, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Washington, DC
Professor Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, University of Oslo

12:00 Panel II: The Rise of ISIS and the Disintegration of the Syrian and Iraqi States
Chair: Sarah Hartmann, MENA Program, DGAP
Professor Aziz Al-Azmeh, Central European University, Budapest
Professor Bassma Kodmani, University of Paris, and The Arab Reform Initiative
Dr Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books

2:30 Panel III: Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia: Regional Powers Manque?
Chair: Sarah Hartmann, DGAP
Amro Ali, University of Sydney
Professor Bülent Aras, Sabancı University, Istanbul
Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed, The London School of Economics

4:30 Panel IV: Europe—Immigration, Asylum, and Human Rights
Chair: Sascha Suhrke, ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius
Dr Emily Haber, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Berlin
Flemming Rose, author and journalist, formerly Foreign Editor,  Jyllands-Posten, Copenhagen
Hugh Williamson, Director for Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch, Berlin
Professor Unni Wikan, University of Oslo

Sunday, June 5

10:00 Panel V: The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Chair: Professor Yaron Ezrahi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Professor Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Qamar Mishirqi Assad, University of Haifa
Edward Mortimer, All Souls College, University of Oxford

12:00 Panel VI: Outside Powers: From Imperialism to Impotence?
Chair: Dr Luděk Sekyra, Sekyra Group, Prague
Hugh Eakin, Senior Editor, The New York Review of Books
Professor Dr Josef Joffe, Publisher/Editor, Die Zeit; Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford, California
Dr Sylke Tempel, Editor in Chief, Internationale Politik, DGAP

2:30 Panel VII: The Middle East: World Crisis?
Chair: Simon Head, The New York Review of Books Foundation
Professor Dr Gudrun Krämer, Free University of Berlin
Professor Itamar Rabinovich, Dan David Foundation, Tel Aviv:  New York and Tel Aviv Universities
Professor Bassam Tibi, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York  




AMRO ALI  is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and an Associate of the Sydney Democracy Network. He has been a fellow at the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin. His research examines Alexandria as a laboratory in the creation of new spaces in politics. He is a contributor to The Guardian, openDemocracy and Jadaliyya.

KNUT OLAV AMAS is the Executive Director of the Fritt Ord Foundation of Oslo. He was the Deputy Minister in the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, Media, and Religious Issues 2013-2014, and the culture and opinions editor of the Norwegian daily Aftenposten 2006-2013. He was is the author of Verdien av Uenighet (The Value of Disagreement) (2004).

MAHMOOD AMIRY-MOGHADDAM  is Professor of Medicine and Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Oslo. He is the co-founder and spokesperson for the NGO Iran Human Rights and is the author of many scholarly articles on neuroscience including ‘The Molecular Basis of Water Transport in the Brain’,  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2013.

BULENT ARAS is Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabancı University, Istanbul, and a Global Fellow at The Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. He was head of The Center for Strategic Research at the of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and advisor to Prof. Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, then Turkish Foreign Minister from 2009 to 2013. He is the author of September 11 and World Politics (2004).

SHLOMO AVINERI  is Herbert Samuel Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been a visiting professor at Yale and Cornell Universities, and at All Souls College, Oxford. He was Director General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1975-1977 and won the Israel Prize for Political Science in 1996. He is the author of  Herzl’s Vision: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State (2014).

AZIZ AL-AZMEH  is University Professor in History and Director of the Centre for Religious Studies at the Central European University in Budapest. He has been a long term Fellow at the Wissenschafstkolleg in Berlin, and a visiting Professor at Columbia, Yale, and Georgetown Universities. He is the author of Islams and Modernities (2005).

SHAUL BAKHASH  is Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Middle East History at George Mason University, and has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.  In pre-revolutionary Iran he worked as a journalist at Kayhan, a leading Teheran daily. He is the author of The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution (1990).

HUGH EAKIN  is a Senior Editor at The New York Review of Books and founding Editor of New York Review Daily. For The Review he has reported from Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, and from Norway and Denmark. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal.

HALEH ESFANDIARI  is Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. She was detained in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in Teheran, from May until August 21, 2007. She is the author of My Prison, My Home (2009).

YARON EZRAHI is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard and Duke Universities, and in 2009 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Israel Association of Political Science. He is the author of Democracies: Necessary Political Fictions (2012).

ALI FATHOLLAH-NEJAD  has a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He is currently an Associate Fellow with the Middle East and North African Program of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). He is a contributor to The Guardian and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

EMILY HABER is State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.  As a diplomat she has served in the German Embassies in Moscow and Ankara and from 2009 until 2011 she was Political Director at the Foreign Ministry and was the EU’s principal negotiations in its negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program.

SARAH HARTMANN  is Acting Head of the Middle East and North Africa Program at DGAP. She has been a Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World in Leiden, the CEDEJ in Cairo, and the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies. She is completing a PhD on the privatization of Egyptian education during the final years of the Mubarak regime.

SIMON HEAD  is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, and is Director of Programs for the New York Review of Books Foundation. He was a Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford, 2005-2011. He is the author of Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans (2014).

JOSEF JOFFE  is Publisher-Editor of Die Zeit, and was a columnist and  editorial page editor at the Süddeutsche Zeitung 1985-2000. He is a Fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University,  Palo Alto, California. He is the author of The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half Century of False Prophecies (2013).     

BASSMA KODMANI  is Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative and a former Spokesperson for The Syrian National Council. She is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Paris and was a Senior Visiting Fellow at the College de France 2005-2006. She is the author of La Diaspora Palestinienne (2015).

GUDRUN KRAMER  is Professor of Islamic Studies, Chair of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the Free University of Berlin, and Co-Editor of the third edition of the Encylopaedia of Islam. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and  is the author of Demokratie im Islam: Der Kampf  für Toleranz und Freiheit in der Arabischen Welt (2011).

QAMAR MISHIRQI ASSAD  has been Director of the Legal Department of Rabbis for Human Rights since 2005, and as a lawyer she has litigated property rights cases for Palestinians on the West Bank. She is a PhD candidate at the Law Faculty of the University of Haifa and her research focuses the role of military commanders in shaping of the legal geography and its influence on the Palestinian people in the West Bank.

EDWARD MORTIMER  is a Fellow of All Souls College Oxford, and a Senior Program Adviser at the Salzburg Global Seminar. From 1998 to 2007 he was Director of Communications for Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations.  He has been a foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times. He is the author of European Security After The Cold War.  

ITAMAR RABINOVICH is a former Ambassador of  Israel to the United States. He was President of Tel Aviv University 1999-2007, and since 2007 has been Chair of the Dan David Foundation.  He is a Distinguished Global Professor at New York University and the author of The Lingering Conflict: Israel, The Arabs, and The Middle East 1948-2012 (2012).

MADAWI AL-RASHEED is Visiting Professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, Research Fellow at the Open Society Foundation, and Visiting Research Professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. She is the Author of Muted Modernists: The Struggle Over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia (2016).

FLEMMING ROSE is Foreign Editor of the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. As its cultural editor he was principally responsible for the September 2005 publication of the cartoons that initiated what has come to be known as the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. He is the author of Tavshedens Tyranni (Tyranny of Silence, 2010).

MALISE RUTHVEN  is an author specializing in the politics and religion of the Middle East. He has worked for the Arabic service of the BBC and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books.  He has taught at Birkbeck College, London and the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Islam in the World (2006).

LUDEK SEKYRA is the founder of Sekyra Group, a real estate corporation based in Prague. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at Charles University.  He is a member of the Vice Chancellor’s Circle at the University of Oxford, and a Foundation Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

SASCHA SUHRKE is Program Director for Politics and Society at the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, with responsibility for the Stiftung’s Governance Programs. At the Bucerius Summer School he is responsible for the School’s programs on Global Governance as well as the Asian Forum on Global Governance. He serves as the Chair of the Grantmakers East Forum at the European Foundation Centre.

SYLKE TEMPEL is Editor in Chief of Internationale Politik, and of Berlin Policy Journal, both published by DGAP, and she has been Middle East correspondent of De Woche. She is a Visiting Professor at the Institute for German Studies at Stanford University and Lecturer at the Stanford Study Center in Berlin. She is the author of Israel: Reise durch ein altes, neues Land (Israel, Journey through an Old New Land, 2008).

BASSAM TIBI  is A. D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University and from 1973 until 2009 he was Professor of International Politics at the University of Göttingen.  He was a Bosch Fellow at Harvard 1982-2000, and has been a Visiting Fellow at Princeton, UC Berkeley, and Yale. He is the author of Islam’s Predicament with Modernity: Religious Reform and Cultural Change (2008).    

UNNI WIKAN  is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, Harvard, the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and the London School of Economics. She is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Letters and the author of In Honor of Fadime: Murder and Shame (2008).

HUGH WILLIAMSON  is Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, and oversees the organization’s work in Western and Eastern Europe, The Balkans, Turkey, and in the former states of the Soviet Union. He worked for eleven years as a correspondent for the Financial Times and most recently as the paper’s deputy foreign editor.

Category: Conference
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik
Rauchstraße 17,
Berlin, Germany