DENTON (UNT), Texas — On Dec. 18, 2010, a series of street demonstrations began in the small North African country of Tunisia, where citizens protested high unemployment, food inflation, corruption from government officials, poor living conditions and a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms. Twenty-eight days later, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted after 23 years in power, and democratic uprisings were spreading to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen in what would be called the Arab Spring.
The Middle East Peace Conference at the University of North Texas, “The Middle East: A New Era?,” will focus on the economic, political, social and education transformations in Middle Eastern nations after the Arab Spring. The conference will take place March 22 and 23 (Friday and Saturday) at UNT’s Gateway Center, 801 North Texas Blvd. Registration is available online through March 20 (Wednesday) and is free for the conference research presentations and panel discussions and most other activities. The keynote sessions, which will be a dinner on March 22 and a lunch on March 23, require fees of $20 each.
Qaisar Abbas, assistant dean for research and grant development in UNT’s Division of Student Affairs and conference chair, said the conference is hosting known scholars, researchers and diplomats to discuss critical issues related to peace and harmony.
“The Middle East is one of the most strategically located regions in the world, with religious, political and economic challenges and opportunities. The region is also rich with natural resources and has become a center of international politics,” Abbas said.
The conference is being sponsored by 13 UNT departments, divisions and institutes, including UNT-International and the Castleberry Peace Institute, the first institute in Texas devoted to peace studies research.
Conference participants may attend 18 research panels, research presentations and panel discussions on regime transitions, women’s rights, human rights and social justice for Palestinians, Palestinian-Israeli peace prospects, and collaborative arts among nations in conflict, among other topics. Participants may also attend cultural activities, including an opening reception at UNT on the Square for “Your Night/My Day,” an ongoing online and digital intercultural collaborative art project between artists in Iran and the U.S., and “Celebrating Peace: Middle Eastern Music and Dance,” a showcase of the talents of UNT’s international students.
The dinner on March 22 (Friday) will feature Meir Shlomo, consul general of Israel to the Southwest; and Joe W. “Chip” Pitts III, a lecturer in law at Stanford University’s law school, as keynote speakers. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Ballroom B of the Gateway Center.
Pitts will discuss “Human Rights in the Middle East in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring.” In addition to teaching at Stanford Law School, he is a former chairman of Amnesty International USA and a former board president of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a national nonprofit organization with a mission of defending the rule of law and rights and liberties challenged by national security and counter-terrorism polices. Pitts is known for his expertise on corporate responsibility and has taught at Southern Methodist University and Oxford University as well as Stanford.
Shlomo’s topic is “The Middle East Road Map.” He became the consul general of Israel to the Southwest in August 2010. The Consulate of Israel to the Southwest is located in Houston and serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma as well as Texas by assisting Israeli citizens in those states and promoting trade. Shlomo has more than 29 years of experience in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before becoming Consul General, he was the head of mission at the Consulate General of Israel to New England in Boston for four years. He has also served as the deputy chief of mission in Israeli embassies in Denmark, El Salvador, India and Peru, and was the head of the Foreign Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Division, responsible for Israel’s public diplomacy campaign throughout all of its missions across the globe,
Jonathan A.C. Brown, associate professor in Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian understanding at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, will be the keynote speaker at the March 23 (Saturday) luncheon, which begins at noon at Ballroom B of the Gateway Center. His topic is “The Middle East in Transition: What’s Next?”
In addition to teaching at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Brown is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American nonprofit, nonpartisan membership think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. Brown is the author of “The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon,” “Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World” and “Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction.” He is also the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia on Islamic Law. He has studied and conducted research in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, and has taught at the University of Washington at Seattle as well as at Georgetown.
A complete conference schedule is posted on the UNT-International website. For more information about the conference, contact Kelly Hughes in UNT-International at 940-369-7098.