“State of the Middle East: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen” by Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch
YEREVAN – On October 10, 2014, the American University of Armenia (AUA)’s Political Science and International Affairs (PSIA) program hosted a talk on the “State of the Middle East: Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.” The talk was delivered by Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.
PSIA Program Chair, Dr. Simon Clarke, introduced Ms. Whitson, who has led investigations dealing with armed conflicts, migrant workers and political rights throughout the Middle East. She has published articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy and CNN. Her recent publications include articles on Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain. Ms. Whitson is an Armenian from Los Angeles but has spent much of the last ten years in the Middle East and North Africa.
Ms. Whitson has described the current situation in the Middle East as a “dreadful period” that “will be remembered among the darkest days of Arab people.” Among the many challenges facing the Middle East, Ms. Whitson particularly emphasized the issues of foreign intervention, the history of colonialism, women’s education, religious conflicts, poverty and tribalism. In many cases people in the region have been confronted with the inability or the unwillingness to come together to build a better society even without being obstructed by autocrats. Her discussion of the Middle East also took into account several questions: are people more free? Do they feel greater security and dignity? Are governments more restricted in what they can do and in how they govern their citizens? Are they more bound to the rules of democracy and human rights than before? The talk also highlighted some of the work that Human Rights Watch has been doing in these areas of conflict.