Students and Faculty Explore Regional Politics and Change at Al Akhawayn Roundtable
Ifrane, April 7, 2011 - Over 150 Al Akhawayn University students, faculty, and staff came together at a special University event on April 6 to discuss the dramatic, fast-moving political developments taking place across North Africa and the Middle East. Hosted by the Al Akhawayn School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the roundtable discussion on "Politics and Change in the Arab World: Views from Al Akhawayn" helped catalyze fuller, well-informed debate and analysis of the monumental changes and upheavals affecting many countries in the region.
In opening the discussion, Mohammed Dahbi, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the moderator of the roundtable, said that "what we are witnessing is nothing less than historic. These recent months and those still to come are already changing history as pivotal moments in the region's -- indeed the world's -- development."
"Students here in Morocco at Al Akhawayn, like youth elsewhere in our neighborhood, are living through incredible times; your futures will be deeply shaped by what is happening in the Arab world today," he said before the overflowing crowd.
Participating in the roundtable were five distinguished members of the Al Akhawayn University School of Humanities and Social Sciences faculty, all of whom with deep expertise in development, politics, history, communications, and international affairs. They included Jack Kalpakian, Associate Professor of International Studies; Driss Maghraoui, Associate Professor of History; Nizar Messari, Associate Professor of International Studies; Ahmed Rhazaoui, Visiting Professor of International Studies; and Bouziane Zaid, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies.
Driss Maghraoui provided historical perspective to kick off the discussion, and commented on the relative lack of democracy in the Arab world and some of the early lessons to be learned from recently upheavals. Jack Kalpakian then discussed the nature of social movements affecting regional states, pointing out that "there is no escaping reform, and governments need to be accountable to their populations and have the courage to step down, or step up to the plate."
Ahmed Rhazaoui provided further thoughts on the reasons for the unrest, and emphasized that recommendations for fundamental changes in Arab countries, from governance to development to education and more, have been made for many years but almost never enacted in practice, causing the region to hit the inevitable "brick wall."
Nizar Messari speculated about the "domino effect" of events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and others on countries further afield, drawing parallels to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. And Bouziane Zaid analyzed the role of the media, from newspapers to television to the crucial effect new social media have had on the recent revolutions and uprisings in the Arab world.
Al Akhawayn students participated actively in the intense discussion that followed the presentations, voicing many probing questions and exploring topics such as the relationship between repression and democracy, the unique role of electronic social media among the region's younger generations, the role and policies of the United States and Europe, the ongoing processes of positive change, development, and reform in Morocco, and its particular position in the region's political landscape.