UI hosts Arab Spring in Context


This week, the University of Iowa will host a series of events to bring to light the Arab Spring in a Global Context.

Shibley Telhami — the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland — spoke Wednesday evening in the Old Capitol about prevalent issues regarding the 2003 Iraq war and Arab uprisings.

Rachel Winter, a UI senior and an organizer of the event, said she believes what Telhami is doing is very important since he helps others understand the social and cultural dynamics of what is going on in the Middle East.

“He helps with understanding how people in the Middle East identify, and the factors that present it,” Winter said.

UI junior Devon Jensen said Telhami did a good job of addressing how different cultures identify themselves.

“I think that he really addressed Iraqis, and how they continue to identify as Iraqis, even though some of the state borders have collapsed,” he said.

Jansen also said he learned a lot about what the Arab uprisings have done to the public.

“The Arab uprisings, in a way, have upstaged what is already the constant loss of a devastating war that has had huge consequences in the region, for states in that region, and for people in that region,” Telhami said.

Telhami said he believes other nations should not lose sight of the devastation of the Iraq War or allow it to be overshadowed by the Arab uprisings.

The uprisings in the Middle East have been termed the Arab Spring, and they are accredited to changing the relationship between the governed and the governing in Arab countries as well as other societies with Muslim people around the world.

Telhami also said he doesn’t believe there was any sort of economic reasoning behind all the uprisings.

“There was nothing particularly striking about 2010 or 2011 that said ‘this is the time [the uprisings] are going to start happening,’ “ he said.

Instead, Telhami said he believes the uprisings are due to the government.

“Every analyst knew that the Arabs were very unhappy with the government,” he said. “The gap between people and governments is only widening.” 

In addition to all the governmental factors of the Arab uprisings, Telhami believes social media has also been a huge influence and has been used as a tool to gain information.

“When you ask ‘what is distinct about these uprisings?’ I say, it is a new public empowerment on a scale we have never seen before enabled by a rapidly expanding information revolution that is going to move forward rather than go backward,” he said.

Though this information revolution does have a beginning, Telhami does not believe it will ever have a clear end.

“I don’t think anybody can control this information revolution anymore,” he said. “It will not end in the same way in any country and it is certainly not going to end anytime in the foreseeable future.”

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