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Muslim worshipers offer Eid al-Adha prayers next to the Dome of the Rock shrine at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims celebrate the holiday to mark the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians and Jews) to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, they slaughter sheep or cattle, distribute part of the meat to the poor and eat the rest.

(AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Newspaper Article - The Boston Globe

Want to Learn More About the Middle East? Start Here.

| Nov. 26, 2023

Americans want to know more about the Middle East, and they are taking matters into their own hands. Literally. Last week, two of the five best-selling books on The New York Times' nonfiction paperback bestseller list were about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The surge in interest highlights a paradox in American politics: Despite the enormous significance of the Middle East, and of the American role there, we tend to learn very little about it. High school world history classes often barely touch on the modern Middle East.

Schools need to do better. But in the meantime, if you're one of those Americans seeking a broader understanding of the conflict, where should you turn? The Globe asked scholars of the region — including Tarek Masoud, a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government; Lior Sternfeld, associate professor at Penn State University; and Susannah Heschel, professor at Dartmouth College — for book recommendations. 


Democracy in Hard Places

| Aug. 05, 2022
  • Includes chapters written by a distinguished cast of experts on democracy and comparative political regimes
  • Presents new case studies of democratic survival in the developing world
  • Offers theoretically incisive debates about what enables democracy to survive under difficult conditions
  • Provides new interpretations of the recent political histories of key "Third Wave" democracies

Photo of student exploring a xxxxxx

Photo by Alison Hillegeist

- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

In-Person Insights Into the Middle East

| Spring 2022

In March, a 13-member delegation of Harvard students traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in a Harvard Kennedy School experiential field course on “Leadership and Social Transformation in the Arab World.”

Conceived and designed by Tarek Masoud, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Governance and faculty director of the Middle East Initiative (MEI), the original model was a comparative, two-week January-term course visiting several Middle Eastern countries. However, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in late 2021, Masoud and his co-instructor, MEI Senior Fellow Sultan Al-Qassemi, reshaped the course into a condensed module—held March 11-20, 2022—focused on the UAE.

Mosaic Cover

Vinci Design


Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2020-2021

| Aug. 01, 2021

The 2020-2021 issue of the Mosaic highlights MEI programs and activities during the academic year. This year's issue features the work of students, fellows, faculty, and staff on public policy issues in the Middle East, including a focus on innovative research on the challenges and opportunities facing the region from our scholarly community, Kennedy School students' remarkable contributions on campus and in the region, and a dynamic year of public engagement.

A full moon rises over the Bosporus in Istanbul on March 28, with a view of the Camlica Mosque, the largest mosque in Turkey.

Emrah Gurel/AP

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Will the pandemic spark a religious revival in the Muslim world?

| Apr. 02, 2021

Times of strain often lead to explosions of religiosity, as people turn to faith as a balm against misfortune. The coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2.8 million lives lost to date, certainly qualifies as one of the most cataclysmic events in recent memory. Faced with the major disruptions of the past year, did people turn to faith, or do we instead see evidence of a “religious recession”?


Arab Spring at 10

James A. Dawson

Analysis & Opinions - Journal of Democracy

The Arab Spring at 10: Kings or People?

| Jan. 01, 2021

Ten years after the onset of the Arab Spring, the Middle East and North Africa are torn between two visions of progress: a democratic one that seeks to replace the leaders who dominate the region, and an ostensibly modernizing one that seeks to replace the people who inhabit it. Though the latter project is currently ascendant, it is likely to founder on its own internal contradictions. Arab publics may be ambivalent about democracy, but the region retains considerable democratic potential.

A man holds the Lebanese flag, as he looks at the scene of Tuesday's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Announcement - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Beirut Will Rebuild: A Message from the Middle East Initiative Faculty Director

| Aug. 07, 2020

In a year marked by widespread illness, unrest, and uncertainty for all of us around the world, what Lebanon and its people have just undergone touches all of our hearts, and fills us alternately with gloom over what was lost and awe for the indomitability of the Lebanese spirit in tragedy’s wake.

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Spotlight: Tarek Masoud

| Spring 2020

Our Spotlight in this newsletter is on Prof. Tarek Masoud, Faculty Chair of the Middle East Initiative (MEI).  In talking about MEI, Masoud says the Initiative is one of the most important ways in which HKS and Harvard engages with the contemporary Middle East. “It’s a bridge," he says. "My goal to make it into a superhighway.”