- Middle East Initiative, Belfer Center

Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2018-2019

| Dec. 20, 2019

The 2018-2019 issue of the Middle East Initiative Mosaic newsletter 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, a dynamic year of public engagement, milestones for our community, and more!

Read the full Mosaic newsletter below.

Faculty Director's Welcome

Greetings  سلام  שלום  مرحبا  ⴰⵣⵓⵍ Merhaba,

One of the most clichéd formulations one can offer about the state of the world at this or any moment is that it is changing rapidly. That does not make it any less true. Global warming, the growing use of artificial intelligence, the persistence of gender- and race-based inequities, the rise of populist demagogues, and the spread of “fake news” are increasingly occupying the attentions (and animating the passions) of scholars, policymakers, and citizens around the world. In the United States, it is impossible to turn on the television, open a newspaper or web-browser, or tune into the radio or a podcast and not hear about these pressing issues of global concern. And yet, as citizens in this country and in other advanced industrialized democracies wake up to new challenges, discourse about the Middle East is often so stagnant that one could be forgiven for thinking that the region is either untouched by broader global trends or entirely bereft of individuals thinking about how to cope with them.

This is, of course, not the case. The Arab world today, far from being stagnant, is on the move. National “vision” plans in such places as Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere speak to a recognition on the part of the region’s leaders of the need to prepare for an uncertain future. Citizens have begun to find their voices, mobilizing for more accountable government in Algeria, and building one—haltingly and tentatively—in Sudan. Young people in Iraq and Lebanon demand an end to political systems that deepen sectarian differences and render the nation incapable of acting in concert to meet collective challenges. And everywhere, practitioners, scholars, and ordinary people are grappling with climate change, revolutions in communications and computing technology, and the need to diversify economies and societies. Long gone are the days in which the Middle East was simply the domain of by-now familiar violent non-state actors and hoary old geopolitical conflicts (if such days ever existed at all).

It is the mission of the Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative to contribute to an expanded understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the Middle East. One of the ways in which we do this is by enabling members of our scholarly community to be exposed to, and to participate in, research about the region and the forces that shape it. In the last academic year, researchers supported by the Middle East Initiative have explored the prospects for renewable energy in Arab countries long dependent on fossil fuel exports (p. 22); the challenges of securing cyberspace amid increasing openness and interconnectedness (p. 21); and the pathways toward greater political and economic inclusion of women at a time when every step forward brings with it the revelation of just how much further we have to go (p. 16). Our resident scholars have led study groups on political and economic development in the Arab world (p. 5), and shared with our students, faculty, and staff their research findings on the plight of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, the obstacles to achieving electoral integrity in Algeria, the historical development of Islamic conceptions of political legitimacy, as well as on political developments in Israel, Turkey, and Egypt (pp. 18-20). Our public events have explored the politics of post-colonial Arab societies through the eyes of its artists, the unanticipated consequences of the Iranian regime’s economic policies, the challenges facing Lebanon’s public health system, and the craft of late Washington Post and New York Times Middle East reporter Anthony Shadid (pp. 24-25). Amid all of this, we even found time to help the American Repertory Theater put on a musical about the Arab Spring (p. 12).

In addition to incubating and highlighting the latest scholarship and thinking on the most pressing public policy challenges facing the region (and the wider world), the Middle East Initiative is dedicated to helping train the next generation of leaders who will roll up their sleeves to help meet those challenges. This issue features profiles of several of our students from the region (including Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine) and describes the remarkable things they have done during their time at the Kennedy School and plan to do when they return to their home countries. We are particularly pleased to highlight one unlikely pair of students—a mother-son duo who earned degrees at the Kennedy School two years apart from each other (with the mother graduating after the son)—who each in their time here helped deepen their fellow students’ (and some of their teachers’) understanding of and appreciation for the region (p. 8).

As we look toward another year of research and teaching about one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic regions, we take the opportunity to recognize some of the dynamism and change happening closer to home. This year has marked several transitions at the Middle East Initiative. In 2019, faculty affiliate Asim Khwaja was appointed director of the Center for International Development and faculty affiliate Juliette Kayyem was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Public Policy. We are thrilled with the Kennedy School’s recognition of their achievements in research and teaching and their contributions to public policy and management, and we look forward to working with them for years to come.

We also note the departure in 2019 of two people who have made important contributions to the Middle East Initiative’s success: former executive director Hilary Rantisi, and former student and outreach coordinator Maura James. Although both will be missed, the program is lucky to have a new assistant director in Julia Martin, whose dedication to the program’s growth and continued impact has already made itself felt in significant ways. We are also lucky to continue to work with Maura, who in her new role as manager of the Emirates Leadership Initiative’s student fellowship program is helping us to develop experiential learning opportunities for our students in the region, about which we hope to update you in the next issue of Mosaic. Until then, we hope that you will find much to spark your interest in the pages that follow. As always, we welcome the opportunity to hear from you and to explore ways to involve you in our work.

--Tarek Masoud, Faculty Director, Middle East Initiative

Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2018-2019
Editor: Chris Mawhorter, Communications and Events Coordinator
Designers: Chris Mawhorter & Andrew Facini
Tarek Masoud, Faculty Chair
Julia Martin, Assistant Director
Nur Hassanain, Program Assistant
Special thanks: Oula A. Alrifai & Ellen Stockert
Photography: Bennett Craig, Evgenia Eliseeva, Neal Hamberg, Raychel Casey, Jessica Scranton, A.R.T. Marketing, Ganzeer-lores
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Mawhorter, Christopher, ed. Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2018-2019. Middle East Initiative, Belfer Center December 20, 2019.