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Syria's cycle of violence subject of international webinar

Wednesday 8 September 2021 3:57pm

Syria’s seemingly endless cycle of catastrophic violence will be the subject of a webinar hosted by Middle East and Islamic Studies Aotearoa (MEISA) on 14 September.

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Dr Goldsmith

University of Otago Politics senior lecturer and MEISA founding-member Dr Leon Goldsmith says Parsing the Possibility of Peace in Syria: Insights from Syrian Scholars will feature expert discussion on the realities of life in the war-torn country, obstacles to peace, and ways Aotearoa can help.

“For academics, policymakers and lay observers, the duration of the conflict and the labyrinthine array of internal and external factors can lead to a sense of hopelessness regarding its peaceful resolution. But our aim is to go beyond asking if the Syria conflict is irresolvable to explore options for countries like New Zealand to constructively support peace,” Dr Goldsmith says.

At the webinar, guest speakers Dr Mhd Hosam Hafez and Mr Louay Hussein will be joined by discussants Dr Goldsmith and Dr Hanlie Booysen from Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Booysen is a founding member of MEISA and formerly worked as a South African diplomat posted to Damascus.

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Dr Hafez

Originally from Damascus, Dr Hafez is an international law expert and worked with the Syrian Foreign Ministry until his defection in 2012. He was a negotiator with the Syrian opposition delegation for the Intra-Syrian negotiations in 2014, head of the Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy Department of the Syrian Interim Government in 2014 and 2015, a member of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), and head of its legal office in 2016 and 2017. He is now a PhD candidate at Otago, researching the Syrian peace processes.

Mr Hussein, born to an Alawite family in Damascus in 1960, is a prominent Syrian writer and political activist who was imprisoned several times since the 1980s. He is the founder of Petra Publishing House and his works include Dialogue in Syrian Nationalism, Democratic Choice in Syria, The Secular Question, and About the Elite and People.

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Mr Hussein (Photo: ippnw Deutschland)

His most famous monograph, The Loss, describes his experiences in prison. He was among the first to be detained by Syrian authorities for expressing support for the protesters in Deraa at the start of the uprising in March 2011 and is the founder of the opposition party Building the Syrian State.

“We are thrilled these very prominent Syrian intellectuals can join us at another event that furthers MEISA’s core objective – which is to move discussion beyond a generalised and reactive discourse based on the international news cycle to develop an informed, consistent, cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional voice on Middle Eastern and Islamic issues,” Dr Goldsmith says.

About MEISA: Launched in April this year, the network brings together researchers and graduate students from different Aotearoa New Zealand universities and promotes research on all facets of the Middle East as well as the wider Islamic world from an Aotearoa New Zealand perspective.

Tuesday, 14 September, 6–7:30pm. To register for the event and receive the Zoom link and password email:
For further information: