Panel looks at Middle East issues

Blake Humphrey
Staff Writer

A faculty panel discussed the past, present and future of Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries currently dealing with corruption and revolt.

The discussion, “Democracy in the Middle East: Hopes and Challenges,” part of the Hot Spots speaker series a crowd of about 50 to the President’s Dining Room last week.

Panelists Jason Neidleman, Issam Ghazzawi, Yousef Daneshbod and Yehia Mortagy addressed recent activity in Egypt.

They agreed it was caused by educated young people who were fed up with joblessness and oppression, and that the activity in Egypt fueled the current situations in Libya and Syria.

“Respected educators disagree, and when they express their opinions it helps people to better understand the situation and learn new insights about the world we live in,” said Aaron Zamora, senior political science major.

Millions of people took to the streets in Egypt demanding their rights, a movement that was too big for Hosni Mubarak to stop.

In Libya, the government is using force against the citizens who are peacefully protesting its actions.

A similar situation is also taking place in Syria and Lebanon, as force has been prevalent, with tanks and armed soldiers controlling areas of anti-government movements put on by its citizens.

Lebanon and Syria both were under French control until 1943, when they gained their independence.

The panelists pointed out that many Middle Eastern countries claim to be a democracies, but they are not.

“Representation is still determined by religious quota on a national level,” said Issam Ghazzawi, professor of management. “Lebanon is not a democracy.”

With the Internet being readily available, these Middle Eastern countries have citizens learning every day about the style and culture of a true democracy.

The panelists took a hard look at the leaders of these countries and what effect they have had on the current situations.

The panelists also focused specifically on the problems faced by the Libyan government and its citizens.

“There are not the institutions in place to support a democracy,” Ghazzawi said. “The institutions have been there, but they were purged by the dictatorships of previous leaders.”

Ghazzawi said that Libya will become two Libyas – a small Libya will be run by Qaddafi, while the other Libya will see the change movements have been fighting for.

“Syria’s situation is different from Libya’s,” said Jason Neidleman, associate professor of political science. “We have different interests for the United States in Libya than we do in Syria.”

Neidleman addressed Ameri­can interests and ethics regarding the region.

The United States will either help because of an ethical duty, or stay out because there is no real benefit for the United  States invading the Syrian government, he said.

We went into Libya for various reasons, mostly to benefit the United States, he said.

“This situation will test are governmental decision making,” Neidleman said. “We will probably stay out Syria and stay true to our interests.”

“The transition to democracy is an interesting one because our understanding of democracy is different than theirs,” Ghazzawi said. “It takes time to build a strong infrastructure in many broken countries. It does not happen over night due to the many things to handle.”

Blake Humphrey can be reached at

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