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4 May 2011
Australia's leading experts on the Middle East will attempt the impossible next month (Friday 3 June).
They will try to provide an explanation for the Arab Revolutions as well as look at how the events will influence future global relations at a one day conference being run by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne.
As forum organiser and Deakin expert on Iraq, Dr Benjamin Isakhan admitted, for observers it is an exciting and challenging time with everything in the region in a state of flux.
Dr Isakhan said the organisers, themselves experts on the Middle East, Professor Fethi Mansouri of Deakin University and Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh of Melbourne University felt the complexity of events in the region needed urgent, in depth and scholarly attention.
"A lot of the speakers have told us they are not yet sure what they will be talking about – as everything will have changed again by the date of the conference," he said.
For his part Professor Mansouri has been experiencing the dynamic nature of events first hand in Tunisia where he has been participating in a UNESCO forum on 'Religion and Politics' and meetings and workshops organised by university centres.
He says: "the 14 January revolution has unleashed the power and endurance of political movements on the one hand and the creativity and entrepreneurship of civil society on the other.
"All in all, it makes for a very vibrant if at times unpredictable socio-political scene".
Dr Isakhan added in Libya, the revolutionary movement has turned into a brutal civil war and elsewhere such as Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq similar attempts have been met with brutal suppression or modest political and economic reforms, rather than commitments to genuine change.
"The events have created a range of debates and discussions," he said.
"For instance what are the impacts of the Revolutions on the rest of the world: how are China and Russia interpreting events?
"Russia and China were the only two countries of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to abstain in the vote for UN intervention in Libya, perhaps because they don't wish to see events in the Arab world repeated on their own soil.
"Similarly what are the implications for the United States, how will it balance its own interests (trade, oil, peace with Israel) and choose between stable authoritarian governments on one hand or unpredictable and disruptive Arab democrats?"
Dr Isakhan said the forum would also challenge conventional wisdom that Arab people preferred to support autocratic tyrants at the expense of democracy and also look at how the search for alternative fuels will impact events in the oil-rich Arab States.
The forum will start at 9.30am and will be held in the Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre, University of Melbourne
Associate Professor Richard Pennell (Melbourne University) Failed and Failing 'Republican' Dynasties and the Revolutions in North Africa: Did kinship power exacerbate the rebellions or hold them off for too long?
Dr Gennaro Gervasio (Macquarie University) Six Months in Cairo: The Road to the 'Egyptian Revolution'.
Dr Halim Rane (Griffith University) Social Media and the Diffusion of Ideas among Social Movements in the Arab Revolutions.
Dr Sally Totman (Deakin University) They Shoot Protesters, Don't They?: Before, During and After the Libyan Crisis.
Dr Matthew Gray (Australian National University) Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab states of the Gulf: The political, economic and regional consequences of the 2011 protests.
Dr Sarah Phillips (University of Sydney) Around the Mulberry Bush: The Counterterrorism Agenda in Yemen.
Mr Anthony Bubalo (Lowy Institute) The Arab Uprisings and the Return of Politic.
Dr Benjamin MacQueen (Monash University) Re-engaging with a Changing Middle East.
Dr Leanne Piggott (University of Sydney) Middle East Conflict, Global Oil Prices, and the Search for Alternative Fuel.
Dr Luca Anceschi (La Trobe University) When it's not time for Change: Russia, China and Revolutions in the Middle East.
Further information: On the conference
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