My “Meeting” with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

By Leigh Nusbaum

Some of you have already read that I have gone to a “meeting” that featured the current/recently re-elected Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced Reh-jep Tai-yip Air-do-wan) right in my home district of Üsküdar in İstanbul. Allow me if you will, to give a play by play of the strange events that transpired on June 11th.

c.11 AM- I left my flat to go to work for a brief errand.

c. 11:15- Pass by the AK party headquarters. I turn on the old Nusbaum charm, hoping maybe I could get another AK Parti pen to give one of my friends. At this point just by walking by I’ve been given, baseball caps, flags, tee-shırts, posters, even bouncy balls that flash blue and orange (AK’s colors)

c. 11:20- the fellow outside has been  trying to invite me in for weeks now. Eh, Why not? I have the time today.

c. 11:23- There are three people in the office. No one speaks English, but wait there is a fellow who asks, “Parlez-vous français?”…Oui, Monsieur, bien sur!

c. 11:30- we talk about each others backgrounds: He lived in Lyon for many years. I studied French in high school and it surprises me that I still remember it, particularly since I’ve been studying Arabic and Hebrew and I am now relying on my minimal Turkish skills. Continue reading “My “Meeting” with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan”

Postcard from Post-Revolutionary? Cairo

By Leigh Nusbaum

While reading this post, listen to this song in the background. It’s called Helwa Ya Balady (or Beautiful, O Country of Mine) by the Egyptian singer, Dalida. It’s one of my faves.

No words can describe how happy I am, but I will try to describe my love for watani al-thani (my second homeland…for those of you who are Middle East Studies people, you know I’m serious about this country when I use the word WATAN). I went home. Well, sort of…

(Taken near my old flat) Huh, that wasn’t there last year…

I don’t know why but it feels like home. Maybe it’s because I lived in Al-Qahira for 4 months or maybe it’s because it’s a familiar place where I don’t have to constantly struggle with the language. I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t want to leave…a long weekend would never be enough to satisfy.

I didn’t even visit the Pyramids, but that wasn’t the point of coming back.
Comparing the Cairo I left behind in early June of 2010 to the Cairo I returned to late last Thursday conjures up the old French saying of, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The drivers still honk the same amount of times they blink or breathe. There is still the little old lady that lives by my old flat who sells tissues and greets me with a raspy “Sabah el-ful”. There is still a cacophony of adhans throughout the day and I still wonder if I am playing a human version of the video game, Frogger each time I cross the street. Speaking of which, here is an actual video of how you cross the street in Cairo.

At the same time, things have changed…sans aucun doubte, as the French would say. On Friday of last week, there was yet another protest in front of the main television building. The “state run” newspaper went from not mentioning anything about the protests of January and February to printing “The Tyrant is Gone” on it’s front page after Mubarak stepped down. People now camp out in front of Tahrir Square (mere steps from my hotel) and the burned out NDP (Mubarak’s party) building is still visible. Multiple former ministers are tried and sentenced in absentia. Let’s not forget how strange it is not to see Mubarak’s face on almost every corner. Another 3000+ person protest erupted in Tahrir Square only a day or two after I left. And today (July 3) I just heard that Tahrir Square is in flames. Armed men have attacked the protesters and set fire to the tents there. Continue reading “Postcard from Post-Revolutionary? Cairo”

IGS Spring Conversation TONIGHT!

Hello IGSers:

Just a reminder that we will be getting together for our IGS Spring Conversation tonight from 5:30 – 7:30 in the Reading Room of the Mandel Center (3rd floor, next to the roof garden!)

We’ll start with informal discussion — good classes for the fall (including some pretty cool new ones), how to best work in major requirements, etc.  Then we’ll enjoy presentations from seniors on how they made the most of international experiences from France to Nepal, from China to India to Cairo. (And did I mention the roof garden?  At sunset?)

Food, conversation, music and great stories from the worlds within our world: isn’t this what you came to college for?

See you there!

Internet Intifada

By Mark Grinberg, syndicated from Flash Drive Terrorism

Social networking has become a staple of our society. We spent much of the last decade making profiles and following each other. Using the phrase, “Facebook Me” has become commonplace, and Lady Gaga has almost 9 million followers on Twitter.

This decade, we are seeing how the spread of this phenomenon affects the rest of the world. In the Middle East in particular, we have seen what journalists have dubbed, “Facebook Revolution.” Revolutionaries all over the world have begun to use the internet and social networks to organize towards a particular end. In response, the governments of these revolutionaries have engineered internet shutoffs for entire nations. In their attempt to maintain control over these nations, dictators instead bring world attention to the issues in their country.

This type of press is envied the world over. How many have a particular cause that they would like to spread knowledge of? One group in particular – terrorists – vie for this type of attention day in and day out. Therefore, it is not surprising that murmurs around the internet suggest something new and dangerous called electronic intifada. Facebook groups by this name have been growing by the thousands daily. The comparisons between the struggles of the Palestinian people and those in Tunisia or Egypt ring true with those whom empathize with the Palestinian people.

Electronic Intifada is only one of many Facebook pages that are being used. Another page titled Third Palestinian Intifada had almost 250,000 members. I watched as the page grew from only around 1000 members to around 250,000, eventually attracting the attention of Facebook users. These members spread word of the page, eventually resulting in an appeal yesterday by Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook took down the original page, but in the last 24 hours it has surged to 10,000+ members and spawned several smaller pages professing the same thing. Their main objective? May 15th – the day their “Facebook Intifada” begins.

Many groups are utilizing social networking and communication technology in ways that have not been seen before. Much like the Zapatistas, small groups are beginning to grow powerful through the use of technology and the internet. All of this is largely floating under the radar of news media who are preoccupied with events in Libya, elsewhere in the Middle East, and Japan.

As Americans, what can or should we do regarding this situation? Facebook’s policy on matters such as this generally is that they are against the censorship of any content on the site. I believe that individuals should be able to speak their minds, but when this results in violence, something needs to be done.

What are our options? Policing all of the content created by a group of people larger than the population of the United States cannot be done by Facebook by themselves. The government cannot check content, as there is simply too much over too widespread a geographic area. Additionally, this would violate Facebook’s privacy agreements with its users.

Many users of Facebook have come up with a creative solution to the problem – they have become “internet police.” Pages have sprung up in response to the Third Palestinian Intifada page, telling Facebook users to report the pages organizing the Intifada. I believe that this is the one of the most effective models for controlling the spread of terrorism utilizing social media. Individuals, when bound together by a common cause and with the proper tools, can be extremely powerful. We’ve seen the perfect example of this unfolding in the Facebook intifada.

As members of this digital era, we must be responsible for the content that we together create as a planet. The internet belongs to no one and everyone, and if everyone and no one is not responsible for it, it will become a tool for violence and mayhem, even more so than it already is.

In the words of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” We must be responsible for keeping this system in a “really good place.”

UPDATE: The ADL has posted a complaint about the page here. The page has been shutdown again as of 3/31, early morning, but has gone up again after a moment of downtime. They have around 2,000 “fans” in the past few hours.

Spain after the economic crisis

by Craig Elman, writing from Madrid

Spain has been experiencing very rough after-shocks since the economic crisis, even worse than that which occurred in the United States.  The unemployment rate has spiked up to 20%, double its natural rate of unemployment (which happens to be equivalent to the U.S.’s current unemployed rate under the crisis).  I live in Madrid, and everywhere I go I see the effects of the crisis: people begging on the street, and even approaching people and pleading for a helping hand.  It’s a terrible site to see. 

The government has also decided to increase the age to receive pensions (from 65 to 67.5 I believe) in order to increase working hours and reduce the public debt.  Although balancing the budget is one of the most essential macroeconomic policies that a government should tackle during a recession, there are several potential adverse effects that could follow.  Social unrest and protests in Madrid have been occurring because the government is essentially cutting benefits for the next generation of elderly people. 

Spain has also become extremely energy conscious and green as a result of the crisis (which happens to be the one positive effect coming out of the crisis).  Spanish households have recently transitioned to more energy-efficient lighting, for example, and the government is trying to reduce motor vehicle emissions by cutting the costs of public transportation and making it more accommodating to the public.  Germany has offered a helping hand during Spain’s crisis, and German chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to help Spain’s economic advisors to the government.  She has also offered to employ Spanish engineer students in Germany who will be looking for work soon. 

While this helps to alleviate the problem of unemployment in Spain in the short run, this is, in my opinion, a poor choice for Spain in the long run.  Economic growth requires technological innovation, and without a new generation of engineers, Spain’s economy would suffer dire consequences. 

There have also been debates about whether or not Spain should forego the Euro and return to the peso, since the crisis has hit other European countries on the Euro as well.  However, abolishing the Euro would create fewer incentives for foreign investment within Spain (I’m not too clear on the Economics behind this, but I have been told that this is a possible adverse outcome).

The FBI is Looking for You! Jobs & Internships for IGS Majors

More than 45 employers are coming to campus on March 10 to meet IGS majors and other students and share insights about internships and jobs that truly make a difference.

Spring 2011 Career Fair
Sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center & The Heller School

Thursday, March 10
12:00 – 3:00p.m., Sherman Function Hall
(Professional Dress Required)

RSVP today in Hiatt NACElink and start reviewing employers!

Examples of Employers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Mass Life Sciences Center
Medical Information Technology, Inc. (MEDITECH)
Partners HealthCare

Abt Associates
EDC, Inc.
Management Sciences for Health
Pathfinder International
Public Consulting Group

Army Healthcare Recruiting
Boston Public Health Commission
City Year – Boston
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Mass Life Sciences Center
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Peace Corps – Boston Office
United States – Customs and Border Protection
United States Department of Labor
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Crown Center Summer Travel & Study Grants

The Crown Center announces the availability of summer travel and study grants for eligible undergraduate students.

The Grant May Cover:

  • Research expenses – such as travel, room and board, and photocopying.
  • Study at a foreign institution.
  • Tuition fees for a relevant Middle Eastern language program.

Current first years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors graduating in December 2011 are eligible.

Any field of study may be considered but the research must be related to the Middle East.

The maximum grant award is $2,000.  Applications are due April 1, 2011.

For more details and application information visit:

An Inner Perspective

By Khalil Azouz

On the morning of the 14th, people started pouring into Bourguiba avenue in Tunis. Most of them were in front of the Ministry of Interior, the authority that presides over the country’s police. Here’s one of the key moments during the protest, a video that still gives me chills:

They are saying “Dégage” in unison. Dégage is a French word for “get lost.” They even used this word in Egypt even though they are not French speakers. A few hours after this, it was announced that the president stepped down.

Unfortunately, in the days leading up to this event and during the week following it, a sense of insecurity was prevalent throughout the country. Indeed, The Family ordered the release of thousands of prisoners who were instructed to loot and terrorize. Add to that the 3,000 strong presidential police force, some of whom were caught with sniper rifles. Presumably, they were hoping to cause chaos and possibly return to “save” the country. We never stopped to be reminded the extent of these people’s inhumanity. The army played a huge role in reinsuring security. People also formed neighborhood protection committees against these looters. A lot of the arrests were actually made by normal people who handed the thugs over to the army or what is left of the police. After about a week of insecurity, during which very few deaths were reported – most of the casualties occurred during the weeks leading to the 14th (over 200 deaths, 72 in prison riots) – things started to feel more normal. Continue reading “An Inner Perspective”