Zogby headlines local lecture on Middle Eastern conflict

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By Rana Moustafa, The Daily Iowan

Even though two years have passed since the start of the Arab Spring, experts on Arab affairs in America are still trying to spread awareness about the revolution.

“The Middle East remains critical, as it is where we spend our biggest amount of money, is the source of lots of our oil, is the place where our main ally [Israel] is, and is a source of terrorism that has affected our shores,” said University of Iowa law Professor Adrien Wing.

Wing will be one of the various speakers on the two panels of the Arab Spring Conference which will take place in the IMU Main Ballroom from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The Arab Spring Conference will be hosted by the National Security Network, the Iowa United Nations Association, and the University of Iowa United Nations Association. Sponsors include the UI Center for Human Rights and the UI Comparative and International Law program.

Yashar Vassef, the executive director of Iowa United Nations Association and organizer of the first Arab Spring event, said the main goal of this event is to educate the public about Arab Spring — a revolution in the Middle East that began in December 2010.

“We think it’s really important to educate Iowans so we can form our own opinions of what the U.S. and United Nations can do about Middle Eastern issues,” he said.

Wing, along with other major experts on Arab affairs, including James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C., organization that serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community, will speak on many issues still present in the Middle East post-Arab Spring. The issues include the debate on whether Islam and democracy can coexist in an Arab or Muslim society and whether the struggle in countries such as Egypt are facing a time of political transition to reformation. Also, speakers will address the rise of Islamophobia in the United States.

Wing plans to weave her specialty in women’s rights into the discussion.

“We are part of America, and our community must be knowledgeable about our foreign policy,” she said.

The University of Iowa Arab Student Association is involved with advertising for the event; Mahmoud Metwali, the president of the group, said the main goal of the association is to spread awareness of the Arab culture, history, and political issues.

“Currently, the easiest way to access any information regarding the Arab Spring is the news,” he said. “This event should provide a great alternative, and while doing so, should be more interactive and engaging for the public.”

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