Middle East

The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism.

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Nearly 20 female participants in Manama, Bahrain, and Amman, Jordan, took part in a distance-learning course offered this past spring by the UI's International Writing Program. The course focused on issues of artistic identity while fostering the participants’ authorial voices and building a community of women writers through weekly live video sessions.

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On May 13, President Barack Obama will welcome the rulers of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the White House. According to the White House, the "gathering will be an opportunity for the leaders to discuss ways to enhance their partnership and deepen security cooperation." The unusual meeting comes at a critical moment in the history of these countries and members of the Arab League for a number of reasons. Iowa communities will be able to contextualize these transformations taking place in Arab countries this coming week during the 2015 Provost's Global Forum.

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Old Capitol Exhibit
This month, the University of Iowa will host experts and researchers from around the world as part of the 2015 Provost’s Global Forum, “The Arab Spring in a Global Context.” Scholars from a variety of academic disciplines will examine a range of issues including social change and justice, racial/ethnic and gender relations, law, public policy, media, and economic development in the context of the Arab Spring. This four-day, multi-event conference will take place Tuesday, April 28, through Friday, May 1.

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As has been the case since the start of the Arab uprisings in 2011, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and social media have played a key role not only reporting on these transformative events, but also providing radically different narratives about events in each country depending on the sectarian and ideological backgrounds of various actors. The complex relationship between the media and social change movements are receiving increased attention from academics and researchers, and the University of Iowa will introduce some of these scholars to the public in late April. In just over a month, Iowa City will welcome one of the nation’s most pre-eminent Middle East scholars, Dr. Mohammed el-Nawawy.

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As turmoil in the Middle East continues to rise in several countries — including Egypt and Syria — the number of students studying abroad in that region is slowly declining for the UI. The most recent numbers show about half as many students study abroad in the Middle East and near that part of the world from the 2010-11 to the 2011-12 school years. Two years ago, 49 students traveled to the region and neighboring regions; however, last year that number dropped to 26 students.

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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.

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University of Iowa courses are expanding to meet an increasing level of student interest as the political atmosphere continues to evolve in the Middle East. Since 2001, UI political-science professors said there has been a marked increase in enthusiasm for courses related to the Middle East. And with the increase, some professors said, comes a responsibility to accurately present the foreign events in an educational way. Prior to 2001, the UI Political-Science Department had no Middle Eastern coverage separate from a comparative politics courses, said UI political-science Professor Vicki Hesli.

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Over the past couple of years, a number of U.S. universities have set up branch campuses or other extensive satellite ventures (or pulled out of failing ones) particularly in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa: NYU, Michigan State, Texas A&M, and more recently Duke University, just to name a few. Branch campuses can be successful, and meet the needs both of the U.S. institution and of the host country in which the offshore branch is located.

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The University of Iowa has seen a substantial increase over the last five years in the number of students studying abroad in the Middle East, mirroring a national trend. Only five students traveled to that region five years ago; last year, the number ballooned to 55.

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