The Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar hosted Rashid Khalidi on Sunday evening at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Doha, as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by the institute's Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS). Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arabic Studies at Columbia University and spoke on the revolutions that have taken place across the Arab world this year.
"This was a demand for dignity- the dignity of the individual and the dignity of the collective, the dignity of the people," said Khalidi, adding "these revolutions have created a sense of collective Arab dignity, best reflected in the pride of Tunisians and Egyptians after the fall of their respective tyrants."
During his presentation, titled "The Arab Revolutions of 2011," Khalidi examined the causes and implications of what has been termed the "Arab Spring" sweeping the region. He discussed the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and reflected on the current situations in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain.
Khalidi was careful to note that the non-violent nature of the protests and their calls for democratic rule and constitutionalism were not unique to the 2011 revolutions.
"What distinguishes the revolutions of 2011 is that they mark the final closing of the phase that began with attempts to achieve liberation from foreign rule, and they mark an entirely new phase with a largely inward focus for the Arab world."
Khalidi also covered a range of related topics, including a reinvigorated common public Arab sphere, the threat of sectarianism, and the reactions of the United States and Israel to protests and their roles in upholding the previous status quo that led to the uprisings. In discussing the lack of Arab leadership across the region, Khalidi commented: "The state of Qatar punches far above the weight of most Arab countries with 500 times its citizens - this is an indication of the skill of the leadership in this country, but it is also an indication of the miserable state of leadership in the majority of Arab countries."
Khalidi is the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993.
"I cannot think of a better way to end the academic year than with a discussion on the tectonic changes that are happening in the Middle East today," said Mehran Kamrava, who moderated the discussion and serves as Interim Dean of SFS-Qatar and Director of CIRS.