The Middle East: World Crisis?

The New York Review of Books Foundation and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswertige Politik are organising a two-day conference in Berlin on the current political and economic situation in the Middle East.

The conference will take place at Rauchstraße 17,
Berlin, Germany on 4-5 June 2016, and is supported by the Fritt Ord Foundation and others. The full conference programme can be viewed here (pdf). To register, please follow this link.

Topics to be discussed include the foreign policy of Iran, the rise of ISIS, the situation in Iraq and Syria, migration into Europe, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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, The DGAP
  • Dr 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: Dr Ali Fathollah-Nejad, The 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
  • 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 Manqué?
  • Chair: Sarah Hartmann, MENA Program, DGAP
  • Amro Ali, University of Sydney
  • Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed, The London School of Economics
    DC, and columnist, Dicken, online Turkish newspaper

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,
  • 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
  • Edward Mortimer, All Souls College, University of Oxford
  • Qamar Mishirqi-Assad, University of Haifa

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, The 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, Chairman, Dan David Foundation,
    Tel Aviv; Professor at 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.
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).
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.
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).
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 The DGAP. She has been a Fellow at 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. She is a PhD candidate at the Law Faculty of the University of Haifa and her research concerns the impact of the legal sphere on land issues in the West Bank. She also does legal work for Yesh Din, a non-profit organization concerned with human rights issues in the Palestinian territories.
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 (1993).
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 is the author of Verdien av uenighet (The Value of Disagreement 2007).
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 author of Muted Modernists: The Struggle Over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia (2016).
FLEMMING ROSE was 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 the 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 the journal Internationale Politik and 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 (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 and at Harvard. 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.

The Fritt Ord Foundation, The New York Review of Books Foundation, the Russian online journal of politics and culture and Oslo Documentary Cinema invite the public to a joint pop-up exhibition and film screening exploring contemporary Russia.

Poetry reading with the Russian poets Lev Rubinstein, Kirill Medvedev and Maria Stepanova. Moderation by Sasha Dugdale. The event will take place at Litteraturhuset / The Oslo House of Literature, on Thursday 29 November at 9 p.m.

Hosted by The Fritt Ord Foundation, The New York Review of Books Foundation and the Russian online journal Colta.Ru.

The Fritt Ord Foundation, The New York Review of Books Foundation and the Russian online journal of politics and culture invite the public to the international conference ‘Russia Under Putin’ on Thursday, 29 November 2018 at Fritt Ord, Uranienborgveien 2, Oslo.

To register your attendance, please e-mail: