Student-organized panel explores current turmoil, future prospects of the Middle East

The audience sat spellbound as  Professor Chadia Mansour of Arabic language studies detailed the emotions and reality of the Tunisian revolution which has changed the world as we know it.

Organized by first year MBA student Musab Al-Barakati, a Jordanian, the panel discussion, titled "Current Turmoil and Future Prospects," brought together a multi-disciplinary group of professors from across the campus.  Professor Mansour was in her native Tunisia during the revolution, visiting her family.  She detailed the generational gap between her parents, who have suffered 40 years of oppression and so could not believe any such change could occur, and the younger generation which used social media to thwart the internet blackout by the authorities.  Prof. Mansour was kept up to date with events by friends in Paris through her iPhone. 

Professor Tamara Sonn, a specialist in Islamic Intellectual history, then provided an understanding of how social and political pressures have built up in the region for the past 150 years.  Betrayal after betrayal by the colonial powers, Allies following both world wars, and even their own people in the form of dictators have led to various waves of attempted overthrows of repression.  Thus, it is not surprising that this has happened; rather it is only surprising how it was ignited by the self-immolation of the street vendor in Tunisia. 

Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Adina Friedman, picked up on this theme to discuss the pre-conditions to such events.  She clarified that these events are not directly primarily against the West, but that the West is indeed associated with many of the repressive regimes it has supported in the area for its own purposes.

Professor Deborah Allen Hewitt, international economist at the Mason School, expressed similar themes in detailing the close linkage between economic, social, and political unrest.  High unemployment in predominantly youthful countries, where food prices are skyrocketing and  the income distribution is extremely unequal give rise to the desire for greater self-determination in political as well as economic matters.

The panelists agreed that unrest could continue for as much as a decade as repressive regimes around the world come under various forms of pressure to change.