The Middle East Centre, founded in 1957 at St Antony’s College is the centre for the interdisciplinary study of the modern Middle East in the University of Oxford. Centre Fellows teach and conduct research in the humanities and social sciences with direct reference to the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, during our regular Friday seminar series, attracting a wide audience, our distinguished speakers bring topics to light that touch on contemporary issues.
Zionism and the Jews of Iraq: A Personal Perspective
Professor Avi Shlaim gives the George Antonius Memorial Lecture 2023, examining the Jewish exodus from Iraq in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and arguing the Zionist movement played an active part in the uprooting of Iraqi Jews. This annual lecture is also a launch for Avi Shlaim’s new book, 'Three Worlds: Memoir of an Arab-Jew' which will be published by Oneworld on 8 June. The three worlds of the title are Baghdad to the age of 5, Ramat Gan, Israel, 10 to 15, and school in London, 15 to 18. The book uses a family history to tell the bigger story of the Jewish community in Iraq, its rich culture, its integration into Iraqi society, and its contribution to nation-building at various levels. The lecture revolves round the central concept of the Arab-Jew. It examines the circumstances surrounding the Jewish exodus from Iraq in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. It challenges the Zionist narrative which claims that antisemitism was the main driver of the exodus. It argues that the Zionist movement played an active part in the uprooting of Iraqi Jews, and it presents new evidence to support this argument.
Avi Shlaim is an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (1988); War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History (1995); The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2000, updated edition 2014); Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (2007); and Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (2009).
Emeritus Professor Avi Shlaim, FBA (University of Oxford)
Chair: Professor Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College)
Recorded Thursday, 15 June 2023 Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Memorial in honour of Derek Hopwood OBE and Celia Kerslake
The Director and Fellows of the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College convened a memorial in honour of Derek Hopwood OBE, Emeritus Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies (1933-2020) and Celia Kerslake, Emeritus Fellow in Turkish (1946-2023). Guest Speakers and times:
0:00 - 4:17 Eugene Rogan, Middle East Centre Director (moderator and opening remarks)
4:17 - 15:30 Roger Goodman, Warden of St Antony's College
15:30 - 21:40 Rosie MacGregor, sister of Celia Kerslake
21:40 - 32.33 Michael Willis, Muhammad VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies, tribute to Derek Hopwood
32:33 - 42:29 Laurent Mignon, Professor of Turkish, tribute to Celia Kerslake
42:29 - 55:20 Linda Schilcher ('69 Antonian), tribute to Derek Hopwood
55.20 - 1:12:18 Ahmed Al-Shahi ('65 Antonian), tribute to Derek and Celia
1:12:18 - 1:21:43 Dimitris Antoniou ('03 Antonian), student of Celia Kerslake
1:21:43 - 1:29:44 Gina Rowland ('85 Antonian), student of Derek Hopwood
Closing remarks by Eugene Rogan
Women’s Movements and Citizenship in the Middle East
Women's Rights Research Seminar where guest speaker, Dr Roel Meijer (Guest Lecturer in Islam Studies, Radboud Universiteit) presents on Women’s movements and citizenship in the Middle East. Citizenship is not often mentioned in relation to women in the Middle East. Mostly women’s movements are analyzed in relation to nationalism, Islamism, law, and civil society. Citizenship, however, predates nationalism and Islamism. Moreover it is broader than law and more fundamental than political or religious ideologies, especially when it comes women’s movements and the sense of rights. Although I will concentrate on Egypt, I want to demonstrate in this talk how concepts of citizenship can help to analyze historical and present women’s movements in the Middle East.
Biography: Roel Meijer was previously Associate Professor at Radboud University, Nijmegen) and has co-edited three volumes on citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa and is currently working on a Dutch history of the Middle East and North Africa. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
The Conflict in Syria, A Personal Story
Dr Haytham Alhamwi draws on his personal experiences to explain the story of the conflict in Syria. Through his personal story as a previous political prisoner, he starts by describing the situation in Syria before the Arab Spring in 2011, followed by how the Syrian uprising began, and his personal involvement in the non-violent movement. The presentation will cover how Assad’s regime reacted with lethal force to organised movements asking for change. The uprising escalated to a military conflict causing the death of approximately half a million people and the displacement of over half of the population. The presentation will highlight the involvement of different rebel factions (including perceived Jihadists and other terrorist groups) in the Syrian conflict, the heavy military-cum-financial support of the Syrian regime’s allies including Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, and the inadequate action of regional and international actors to support the Syrian uprising and the aspiration of the Syrian people. Finally, there will be an explanation of the current de facto partitions of Syria and a discussion on possible avenues for reaching a political solution in the near future.
Dr Haytham Alhamwi graduated from the University of Damascus' Medical School in 1999. He was detained in Syria as a political prisoner from 2003 to 2005 for his civic activism in his hometown Daraya. He came to Manchester in 2007 to do his PhD, and upon graduation in 2012 he helped to establish Rethink Rebuild Society, a Manchester-based charity supporting Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. In 2019 he co-founded the Syrian British Consortium, a political body amplifying the voices of Syrians in the UK and advocating for an inclusive and democratic Syria.
Dr Haytham Alhamwi is the Chairman of the Syrian British Consortium, a London-based advocacy body for British Syrians. He is also a co-founder and the manager of Rethink Rebuild Society, a charity established in Manchester in 2013 to support Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
'The Transformation of Iraq since the 2003 Invasion: From "The Dodgy Dossier", to Human Security, Gender, and the Nation's Future in the Face of Climate Change'
This lecture examines the resilience of the Iraqi state and nation before and after the 2003 invasion. Since 1980, Iraq weathered the longest conventional war of the 20th century, the Iran-Iraq War, followed by one of the shortest, the 1991 Gulf War, and the subsequent uprisings that swept through 15 of its 18 provinces, and a decade of sanctions. Since the 2003 war, Iraq has witnessed an occupation, the collapse of its national military, an insurgency, a civil war, the ensuing terrorist statelet of ISIS, which led to genocide against the Yezidi population, an aborted bid for Kurdish independence, a sustained protest movement, a pandemic, and a proxy war between the US and Iran that continues to this day. Iraq has endured despite numerous forecasts of its imminent collapse into three states. Nevertheless, Iraq’s future during the Anthropocene still looks uncertain, and climate change will have uneven effects on the nation from a geographic, generational, and gendered perspective.
Ibrahim Al-Marashi is Associate Professor of Middle East history at California State University San Marcos and visiting professor at the IE University School of Global and Public Affairs in Madrid, Spain, and formerly at Ivan Franko University in Lviv, Ukraine. He obtained his doctorate in Modern History at University of Oxford, completing a thesis on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, part of which was plagiarized by the British government prior to the 2003 Iraq War, otherwise known as the “Dodgy Dossier.” His research focuses on 20th century Iraqi history, and currently is focusing on the effects of climate change on the nation. He is co-author of Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History (Routledge, 2008), The Modern History of Iraq (Routledge 2017), and A Concise History of the Middle East (Routledge, 2018). Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Iraq 2018-2019: The Rule of Law: a perspective
The Rt Hon Sir Peter Gross (Formerly, Lead Judge for International Relations) shares his insight into the Judicial and Rule of Law developments in Iraq. Abstract:
IRAQ 2018-2019: The Rule of Law: a perspective
At the invitation of the President of the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, Chief Justice Dr Faiq Zidan, and supported by the FCDO, I visited Iraq in early 2018 and again in 2019, on each occasion to attend the Iraqi Judiciary Day. The visits embodied the success of peer-to-peer Judicial Engagement.
Short stays can only present snapshots, but these timely visits (as Iraq was emerging from its Ba’thist past under Saddam) symbolised a wider and enduring yearning for the Rule of Law, together with the good governance it underpins. For my part, it entailed a combination of both pride and humility in the honour the visits accorded to the UK Judiciary.
The visits generated mutual benefits. They affirmed the UK as the Iraqi Judiciary’s international partner of choice. On the Iraqi side, they assisted in boosting the position of the Judiciary in Iraqi society, also facilitating increased standing for the Iraqi Judiciary in the region and the integration of the Iraqi Judiciary into the international Judicial community, notably, in SIFoCC (the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts). Furthermore, the visits enhanced the focus on women in the Iraqi Judiciary, benefited the relationship between Bench and Bar in Iraq and promoted improved relations between Judges in Baghdad and Erbil.
Perspective is essential. The Judicial system in Iraq (as elsewhere) faces continued challenges in dealing with terrorism, human rights and corruption. This is a work in progress.
The visits prompt a focus on Judicial and Rule of Law developments and reforms in the region.
In a broader context, the principal need is to institutionalise arrangements for Judicial Engagement of this nature, so that they do not hinge on the individuals in post or office at the time and, on a continuing basis, harness the UK’s world-class reputation in the Rule of Law sphere.
Practised in commercial chambers at 3 Essex Court (now Twenty Essex). Queen’s Counsel 1992. Appointed Judge of the Queen’s Bench Division 2001, Presiding Judge of the South-Eastern Circuit 2005-2008, Judge in Charge of Commercial Court 2009-2010. Appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2010. Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales 2013-2015. Lead Judge for International Relations 2018-2019. Worked extensively internationally, including in the Middle East, on international Judicial relations. On retirement from the Court of Appeal, appointed President of the Slynn Foundation in November 2019, dedicated to advancing the Rule of Law internationally. In 2020, appointed by the Lord Chancellor to chair the Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR) examining whether the Human Rights Act 1998 is working effectively. Judicial Commissioner of IPCO. Sir Peter practises as an Arbitrator and is a Judge of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts. Treasurer of Gray’s Inn 2022. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/