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Kroc panel analyzes situation in Middle East

Emily Schrank | Thursday, February 10, 2011

The protests in Egypt mark a moment in history that will have far-reaching effects for the entire Middle East, three experts said in a Wednesday panel discussion.

The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies presented the panel, “Democratic Revolution in the Middle East? The Rise of Civil Resistance in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Beyond,” in response to the unrest currently sweeping the region. The panel featured Emad Shahin, associate professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding, Asher Kaufman, associate professor of history and Peace Studies and David Cortright, director of Policy Studies.

Shahin said the movements in Tunisia and Egypt are grassroots in nature.

“Young people began to use social media to mobilize the population,” Shahin said. “There was an unprecedented show of public interest and everything was non-violent, peaceful.”

Economic issues and human values also caused the protests in Egypt, Shahin said.

Only 200 individuals controlled 90 percent of the national wealth in Egypt, according to Shahin.

“An alliance between state bureaucracy and business cronies created corruption, producing lots of losers and very few winners,” he said.

Kaufman discussed the political landscape of Lebanon and its relationship to the rest of the Middle East.

“What we’re seeing now in Lebanon is part of the larger picture,” he said. “The ability of Lebanon to really have an effect on the Middle East is miniscule and the events in Egypt will certainly have more dramatic effects.”

Kaufman said the events in Egypt might change the sense of political stagnation that pervades the Middle East.

“We’re witnessing an historical moment of cataclysmic powers,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see where it takes us.”

Cortright discussed the non-violent nature of the protests in Egypt.

“This is perhaps the most dramatic expression of people power in history,” he said. “Never before have people in a region mobilized in such numbers.”

Cortright said the protestors’ non-violent approach sends a positive message.

“We can see that the means of non-violent resistance are an effective tool for social change and are creating an entirely new politics in Egypt and throughout the region,” he said.