As I was turning thirteen, I packed up everything I had to embark on a new life in Tehran with my Iranian mother and stepfather. In 1999, I left behind everyone and everything I knew in Los Angeles, including my American father.
The official unemployment rate in Egypt rocketed to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The news added to the gloom of Egyptians complaining that the country’s economic fortunes have taken a nasty turn for the worse since the January 25 revolution.
Two and a half years after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, a year after the election of his successor, Mohammed Morsi, and after Morsi’s sudden ouster and the appointment of an interim president, Mansour Al-Adly, head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, in July, the country is still searching for its identity.
In March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that 20,665 Syrian refugees had been registered in Egypt by the international agency. The figure startled researchers at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
The United Nations General Assembly was on the eve of its historic vote to recognize the State of Palestine. But, for this Palestinian American, it was no cause for rejoicing. “The facts on the ground,” she told a packed lecture hall at the American University in Cairo (AUC) in November, “have killed the possibility of two states.”
What is President Barack Obama doing in Middle East? What should his policy be? Three former U.S. policy makers took a crack at those questions in “After the Arab Spring,” a forum held by AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in February a few week’s after Obama’s inauguration for a second term of office.
A long-serving former head of the Migrants Branch of the International Labor Organization W.R. Boehning once wrote that, “The history of mankind is a history of migration.” Egyptians, better than most, know the value of Boehning’s insight.
Middle East Studies is a curious field. Unlike more sharply defined traditional social sciences, it may appear to be an arbitrary collection of disciplinary approaches studying an arbitrary collection of countries. It often finds itself in cross currents that mirror the politics—and passions—of the region it examines. The Middle East Studies Center at the American University in Cairo recently hosted a panel of specialists to engage in some self-reflection that seemed particularly apt in the midst of the Arab Spring: “Why Middle East Studies? A Discussion of the State of the Field.”
While the consequences of Asia’s rise have been exhaustively analyzed in the global context, relatively few have questioned the effect of a rising East on the rapid transformation of the countries of the Middle East.
Cairo was dark when U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder stepped off the plane in Egypt. Very dark. It was the beginning of the 1973 Middle East war, Israeli forces had reached Kilometer 101, and the capital was under a blackout.
Two hours beforehand, a crowd was already pressing the gate outside Ewart Hall on the Tahrir Square campus of the American University in Cairo. When American linguist and author Noam Chomsky arrived on stage, the packed audience of twelve hundred rose in a thunderous standing ovation.
The wake from a larger vessel rocked the felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat, heaving it against the pontoon it was docked beside. As water entered the hull, the two Americans aboard pictured their mission of personal diplomacy sinking along with their second-hand boat.
Ayman Mohammed Abdel Sabour is a lawyer from Alexandria and a member of the I Am Egyptian Association for Development and Human Rights. It is a warm spring evening, and we are both official observers for the 2012 Egyptian presidential election. He and I are in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, standing in the city’s cultural center where votes from polling stations in two of the Behera governorate’s fifteen districts are being aggregated. There are a few journalists here as well, watching a team of senior judges tally the figures under military protection.
Where are you, men of honor? Tunisian human rights activist Radhia Nasraouiproudly recalls a woman shouting these words in front of the government hall in Sidi Bouzid, the first flashpoint of protests that eventually brought down Tunisian ruler Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Of all the countries in the Arab world, Egypt may be the most vulnerable to global warming. The rising sea level predicted by climate change models threatens to flood large swaths of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, undermining Egypt’s food security and threatening the livelihoods of millions of agricultural workers. Key population centers are also at risk, most notably the city of Alexandria.
With two billion Internet users and another two billion mobile phone users worldwide, information and ideas flow across borders as never before. Needless to say, this is prompting greater debate over freedom of expression.