Conference aims to promote positive outlook on the future of Middle East

A poster for the Yale Arab Conference, depticting Arabic words of hope.

An international conference on the Middle East, featuring a keynote address by Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, will take place at Yale on Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21.

Titled “Amalna: Paving the Road Ahead,” the conference will be held in Rm. 114 of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, 1 Prospect St. It is organized by the Yale Arab Students Association and sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President and Secretary for Student Life, the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, Yale Council on Middle East Studies, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale College Council, and the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Russia-Turkey-Iran Triangle: Economic Interests Are Paramount

Turkey, often shuffling positons based on immediate geopolitical and economic interests, now enjoys close ties with Russia and Iran
Diplomatic talks among Syrian parties sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey are underway in Sochi. Turkey’s leadership promoted the notion during the 2011 Arab Spring protests that the country could be a democratic model for other Muslim nations. But the country of 80 million people lacks natural gas or oil resources. “Its main sources of gas are Russia and Iran, contributing respectively 60 and 30 percent of the total, with the rest coming from Azerbaijan,” explains author and historian Dilip Hiro. Turkey, a NATO member, sides with surrounding powers based on geopolitical and economic interests. For now, Turkey, Russia and Iran share agreement on multiple fronts: Russia is constructing a new gas pipeline to deliver energy to Turkey and southern Europe. After a failed 2016 coup in Turkey, Russia’s president supported the hardline Turkish response. Russia likewise supported Turkish concerns about the Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey switched sides in the war, joining Russia and Iran, and supports peace negotiations that prioritize stability and maintain the Assad regime while targeting the US-backed Kurds. Likewise, Turkey once opposed Iran’s intervention in Yemen, but Iran’s leader also supported the Turkish president after the coup attempt. – YaleGlobal

Abuse and Neglect During Childbirth Among Jordanian Women

Many women experience abusive treatment during childbirth.

A new study exploring Jordanian women’s exposure to neglect and verbal abuse found that 32% reported neglect during their childbirth, and 37% were victims of verbal abuse. The study is the first to report the prevalence of neglect and verbal abuse among child birthing women in Jordan.

“Women’s relationship with health care providers during childbirth significantly impacts her physical, psychological, and emotional health,” said Kaveh Khoshnood, Ph.D., associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health and a co-author on the study.

The research team interviewed 390 women for the study. The findings are published in the journal Midwifery.

Symposium explores impact of popular music on Iranian society

Vintage photo of Iranian men in hats, a painting by artist Iman Maleki, a photo of Iranian rapper Salome MC.

Popular Music & Society in Iran: New Directions,” a two-day symposium examining the social and political significance of music in Iran, will take place at Yale University on Jan. 26-27.

The political and sociological study of music in contemporary Iran is a growing field, and this event is the first of its kind to bring together researchers and academics working on the topic,” said symposium organizer Nahid Siamdoust, a postdoctoral associate and lecturer in Iranian studies at the Council on Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center at Yale. “Our goal is to incorporate perspectives from musicians, recognizing the importance of including their voices in academic research on the subject.”

US Strategy in Afghanistan Requires Diplomacy and Military Power

After many promises about military prowess and secret plans, the Trump administration is desperate for victory in Afghanistan. US presidents have struggled to understand that, for the Taliban, a fundamentalist political and military group, victory is the ability to outwait a foreign invader, explains Ehsan M. Ahrari, author and military strategist who teaches at the US Army War College. The Trump administration has adjusted strategy for the war in its 17th year by targeting illicit activities that finance the Taliban and embedding US military advisors with Afghan troops closest to combat. Cooperation with other nations is essential to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table: China needs a stable Afghanistan for the success of its Belt and Road Initiative Central Asia, and Pakistan expects the United States to take its apprehensions about any Indian involvement in Afghanistan into consideration. While the Taliban outwaits the foreign troops, China and Pakistan have reason to worry about a fast US exit with minimal political commitment, leaving Afghanistan destabilized. – YaleGlobal

Saudi-Iranian Rivalry Mushrooms to Threaten the Middle East

The increasingly fierce rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia ensures greater conflict for the Middle East. Countries are left with little option but to choose sides on this rivalry that is treacherous for the region, explains Rakesh Sood, India’s former ambassador to multiple nations and a disarmament specialist. Two historical events contributed to pitting Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel against Iran, Russia and Turkey: the 1979 Iranian revolution that heightened sectarian tensions and the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 that led to a partnership among US and Saudi intelligence agencies in backing the mujahideen. Wars and foreign intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have instigated extremism which in turn brought political leadership and hardline policies. The Arab Spring offered only a brief promise of democratic reforms before falling way to fragmentation, proxy conflicts and coups. As Sood concludes, spreading nationalism and conflict won’t resolve the many domestic challenges, and the region could hit a tipping point in 2018. – YaleGlobal

Video: Barkil-Oteo’s team delivering mental health services in Northern Iraq

Andres Barkil-Oteo, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, is working with a team of clinicians providing mental health services to 90,000 internally displaced people in nine camps in Northern Iraq.

Barkil-Oteo is a psychiatrist consultant and adviser with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which delivers emergency medical aid worldwide to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from health care.

MSF in October was awarded the 2017 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health by the Brain & Behavior Foundation, and Barkil-Oteo’s project was featured in this video.

“MSF doctors and nurses are often seen treating physical ailments: bandaging the war-wounded, rehydrating a cholera patient, or performing an emergency cesarean section. But for more than 20 years, MSF has also been providing vital psychiatric and psychological care to people ravaged by man-made or natural disaster,” the foundation stated in its award announcement. “The organization currently has mental health related programs in 41 countries across five continents treating adults and children who are victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, sexual violence, neglect, psychiatric disorders and disease outbreaks.”