Kanan Makiya, the Baghdad-born dissident who wrote the blueprint for a democratic postwar Iraq, has been selected to hold the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University.
Makiya has taught at the university in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies since 1997. He was recently granted leave in order to pursue his work toward rebuilding Iraq.
"Kanan Makiya has made significant contributions to understanding the landscape of Arab and Middle East politics and history, both here at Brandeis University and in his capacity as a leading thinker and human rights activist. It is fitting that he is the inaugural holder of this newly created position. We look forward to his return to Brandeis," said Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis University.
The chair is being funded by the Hassenfeld family in recognition of the important role of Islam within the contemporary world, and the centrality of the Middle East to global events. It recognizes the need for students to have a broader understanding of Islam and the Middle East. The new position will also play a key role in the Modern Middle East graduate program in NEJS, and in the development of a new Center for Middle East Study at Brandeis.
Makiya first reached international prominence with his book, Republic of Fear: the Politics of Modern Iraq, an examination of the Hussein regime and its origins that he published in 1989 under the pseudonym Samir Al Khalil. In it, Makiya argued that the violence being perpetrated by the regime inside Iraq eventually "had to explode" outside the country. When Hussein occupied Kuwait and the Gulf War materialized, many looked at Makiya as a modern-day prophet of sorts.
Today Makiya's role has become even more critical as he leads the effort to create a democratic postwar Iraq. He is among a group of prominent exiles asked to advise U.S. President George W. Bush on the problems the country will face after the fall of Saddam Hussein. His blueprint has been circulated among politicians, foreign policy experts, scholars, religious leaders, and been the topic of media reports worldwide. A recent New York Times Magazine article called Makiya a "powerful thinker" -- "the most eloquent spokesman for Iraqi democracy."
Trained at MIT and the London School of Economics, Makiya was a practicing architect until in the late 1970s. In addition to his best-selling book Republic of Fear, he is author of Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World, which was awarded The Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations published in English in 1993. In January 2002, Makiya published his first work of fiction, The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem.
As a journalist, Makiya has written for The Independent, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and The Times. He has collaborated on two films for television, the most recent of which exposed for the first time the 1988 campaign of mass murder in northern Iraq known as the Anfal. The film was show in the United States under the title "Saddam's Killing Fields," and received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Television Documentary on Foreign Affairs in 1992.
Makiya's appointment at Brandeis is effective immediately.