The Middle East: World Crisis?

A Conference

June 4, 2016—June 5, 2016, Berlin, Germany



Organized by
The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
The New York Review of Books Foundation

Supported by
The Dan David Prize, Tel Aviv
The Fritt Ord Foundation, Oslo
ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, Hamburg



The Middle East is now subject to a conjoncture of political instability, economic dysfunction, growing religious extremism and seemingly endless war which is bringing misery and hardship to tens of millions of its citizens, and with a capacity to increase already shocking levels of violence in a zone stretching from the Afghan-Pakistan border to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

In the late summer of 2015 the crisis took on a new and frightening dimension. A year of escalating violence in Syria and Iraq, driven by the Islamic fanaticism of ISIS, has unleashed a huge wave of refugees fleeing for their lives and seeking sanctuary mostly in the member states of the European Union.

With the added violence of the terrorist attacks in Paris and now Brussels, this has become for Europe perhaps the gravest crisis of its kind since the Second World War and engages the continent in the day to day affairs of the Middle East in ways that are unprecedented. Our conference, taking place at the heart of the EU in Berlin, will we hope contribute towards an understanding of the region’s multiple crises, and explore paths to their solution.

Free and open to all; registration required. To submit a request for registration, please use this form. Space is extremely limited. Submission of a request for registration does not guarantee entry.




Saturday, June 4

9:45 Welcoming Remarks

10:00 Panel I: The Politics and Foreign Relations of Iran
Shaul Bakhash, George Mason University
Haleh Esfandiari, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, University of Oslo

12:00 Panel II: The Rise of ISIS and the Disintegration of the Syrian and Iraqi States
Aziz Al-Azmeh, Central European University, Budapest
Bassma Kodmani, University of Paris; The Arab Reform Initiative
Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books

2:30 Panel III: Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia: Regional Powers Manqué?
Madawi Al-Rasheed, The London School of Economics
Amberin Zaman, Visiting Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, and columnist, Dicken

4:30 Panel IV: Europe: Immigration, Asylum, and Human Rights
Emily Haber, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Berlin
Flemming Rose, author and journalist, former Foreign Editor, Jyllands-Posten
Hugh Williamson, Director for Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch
Unni Wikan, University of Oslo

Sunday, June 5

10:00 Panel V: The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Hussein Agha, University of Oxford
Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Edward Mortimer, All Souls College, University of Oxford

12:00 Panel VI: Outside Powers: From Imperialism to Impotence?
Hugh Eakin, Senior Editor, The New York Review of Books
Josef Joffe, Publisher/Editor, Die Zeit; Fellow, The Hoover Institution

2:30 Panel VII: The Middle East: World Crisis?
Gudrun Kramer, Free University of Berlin
Itamar Rabinovich, Dan David Foundation, New York and Tel Aviv Universities
Bassam Tibi, Cornell University


KNUT OLAV AMAS is the Executive Director of the Fritt Ord Foundation of Oslo. He was the Deputy Minister in the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, Media, and Religious Issues 2013-2014, and the culture and opinions editor of the Norwegian dailyAftenposten 2006-2013. He was Editor, with Kjell S. Johannessen and Rolf Larsen ofWittgenstein and Norway (1994).

HUSSEIN AGHA was a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, 2014-2015 and is a contributor on the Israel-Palestine conflict to The New York Review of Books, and to The Guardian, London. He is the author, with Ahmad S. Khalidi of A Framework for a Palestine National Security Doctrine (2006).

SHLOMO AVINERI is Herbert Samuel Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been a visiting professor at Yale and Cornell Universities, and at All Souls College, Oxford. He was Director General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1975-1977 and won the Israel Prize for Political Science in 1996. He is the author of Herzl’s Vision: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State (2014).

AZIZ AL-AZMEH is University Professor in History and Director of the Centre for Religious Studies at the Central European University in Budapest. He has been a long term Fellow at the Wissenschafstkolleg in Berlin, and a visiting Professor at Columbia, Yale, and Georgetown Universities. He is the author of Islams and Modernities (2005).

SHAUL BAKHASH is Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Middle East History at George Mason University, and has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. In pre-revolutionary Iran he worked as a journalist at Kayhan, a leading Teheran daily. He is the author of The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution (1990).

HUGH EAKIN is a Senior Editor at The New York Review of Books and founding Editor of New York Review Daily. For The Review he has reported from Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, and from Norway and Denmark. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal.

HALEH ESFANDIARI is Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. She was detained in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in Teheran, from May until August 21, 2007. She is the author of My Prison, My Home (2009).

EMILY HABER is State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Berlin. As a diplomat she has served in the German Embassies in Moscow and Ankara and from 2009 until 2011 she was Political Director at the Foreign Ministry and was the EU’s principal negotiations in its negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program.

JOSEF JOFFE is Publisher-Editor of Die Zeit, and was a columnist and editorial page editor at the Süddeutsche Zeitung 1985-2000. He is a Fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. He is the author of The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half Century of False Prophecies (2013).

SIMON HEAD is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, and is Director of Programs for the New York Review of Books Foundation. He was a Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford, 2005-2011. He is the author of Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans

BASSMA KODMANI is Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative and a former Spokesperson for The Syrian National Council. She is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Paris and was a Senior Visiting Fellow at the College de France 2005-2006. She is the author of La Diaspora Palestinienne (2015).

GUDRUN KRAMER is Professor of Islamic Studies, Chair of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the Free University of Berlin, and Co-Editor of the third edition of the Encylopaedia of Islam. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and is the author of Demokratie im Islam: Der Kampf für Toleranz und Freiheit in der Arabischen Welt (2011).

MAHMOOD AMIRY-MOGHADDAM is Professor of Medicine and Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Oslo. He is the co-founder and spokesperson for the NGO Iran Human Rights and is the author of many scholarly articles on neuroscience including ‘The Molecular Basis of Water Transport in the Brain’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2013.

ITAMAR RABINOVICH is a former Ambassador of Israel to the United States. He was President of Tel Aviv University 1999-2007, and since 2007 has been Chair of the Dan David Foundation. He is a Distinguished Global Professor at New York University and the author of The Lingering Conflict: Israel, The Arabs, and The Middle East 1948-2012 (2012).

MADAWI AL-RASHEED is Visiting Professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and Research Fellow at the Open Society Foundation. She is the granddaughter of Muhammad bin Talal al-Rasheed, last prince of the Emirate of Rasheed in Central Arabia. She is the Author of Muted Modernists: The Struggle Over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia (2016).

FLEMMING ROSE is Foreign Editor of the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.As its cultural editor he was principally responsible for the September 2005 publication of the cartoons that initiated what has come to be known as the Jyllands-PostenMuhammad cartoons controversy. He is the author of Tavshedens Tyranni (Tyranny of Silence, 2010).

MALISE RUTHVEN is an author specializing in the politics and religion of the Middle East, He has worked for the Arabic service of the BBC and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books. He has taught at Birkbeck College, London and the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Islam in the World (2006).

BASSAM TIBI is A. D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University and from 1973 until 2009 he was Professor of International Politics at the University of Göttingen. He was a Bosch Fellow at Harvard 1982-2000, and has been a Visiting Fellow at Princeton, UC Berkeley, and Yale. He is the author of Islam’s Predicament with Modernity: Religious Reform and Cultural Change (2008).

UNNI WIKAN is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago and at Harvard. She is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Letters and the author of In Honor of Fadime: Murder and Shame (2008).

HUGH WILLIAMSON is Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, and oversees the organization’s work in Western and Eastern Europe, The Balkans, Turkey, and in the former states of the Soviet Union. He worked for eleven years as a correspondent for the Financial Times and most recently as the paper’s deputy foreign editor.

AMBERIN ZAMAN is a Public Policy Fellow at the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. She is a columnist for the independent Turkish online news portal Diken and was the Economist’s Turkey Correspondent 1999-2005. She is the author of For Turkey Which is the Lesser Evil, Isis or the Kurds?(2016).

More Information