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Panel revisits democracy, Mideast

Issam Ghazzawi, associate professor of management, discusses the possibility of democracy in the Middle East in the Hot Spots lecture last Thursday. Ghazzawi was joined by professors Yousef Daneshbod, Yehi Mortag and Jason Neidleman. In the lecture “Democracy in the Middle East: Hopes and Challenges” the four professors each expressed their opinions on issues in the Middle East and took questions from students and faculty. / photo by Danielle Navarro

Brianna Means
Staff Writer

A panel of La Verne professors discussed the idea of achieving peace in the Middle East in the Hot Spots lecture “Demo­cracy in the Middle East: Hopes and Challenges,” last week.

This panel – featuring Issam Ghazzawi, associate professor of management; Jason Neidle­man, professor of political science; Yehia Mortagy, professor of information technology; and Yousef Daneshbod, assistant professor of mathematics – met during spring semester.

That discussion went so well that the panel decided to revisit the issues this semester, they said.

“The chances for a Western-style democracy in the Middle East is slim,” Neidleman said. “Luckily, the rebellious movements in Egypt have been peaceful and based upon universal values.”

The panelists were introduced by Kenneth Marcus, professor of history. Each spoke for 10 minutes, after which the floor was opened to discussion with students and faculty who attended. Many expressed pessimism at the idea of democracy in the Middle East.

Neidleman said that no one can know how democracy would work in the Middle East. But he added that as Americans, we should be supportive of revolutionaries seeking democracy.

“An important question we must ask ourselves is whether the freedom of people in Middle Eastern countries is worth risking the security we have by certain agreements we have made,” Neidleman said.

“We have a peace treaty with Israel that may come in jeopardy if we help Egypt,” Mortagy said.

Ghazzawi also questioned what happens after a regime is overthrown.

“Egypt is now run by the military since the president has been removed,” Mortagy said. “Elections are supposed to take place in November but that is an extremely long process.”

The Egyptian people do not currently know where the government of their nation is headed, the panelists said.

“Each country is completely different,” Ghazzawi said. “Currently Egypt is experiencing good media coverage. The Egyptian people have access to cable television, cell phones, and newspapers. Libya has few papers, which are led by Moammar Gadhafi.”

The people of Libya are not being properly informed because the government runs the media and therefore only publishes what it wants the people to know.

“Syria is also controlled by the government and has no opposition to challenge Bashar al-Assad,” Ghazzawi said.

Ghazzawi is fairly pessimistic about the future of Libya since there is no one standing up to take over yet.

Daneshbod then discussed the current population and societal progress of Iran.

“The common theme among the Middle Eastern nations is the fact that they all have relatively young populations,” Daneshbod said.

“Seventy-five percent of the Iranian population is under the age of 35.”

The median age is 27 years in Iran, 24 years in Egypt and 16 years in Yemen, the speakers said.

These young people have access to social media that their parents did not such as cable television and cell phones, they said.

“Whoever controls the media, controls the nation,” Daneshbod said. “However, in Iran the people have no freedom of the press.”

Brianna Means can be reached at brianna.means@laverne.edu.

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