Former Prof. & Noted Activist Has High Hopes for Middle East Democracy
July 1, 2003
July 1, 2003, Greencastle, Ind. - "An Egyptian activist who spent nearly three years as a political defendant and prisoner sees strong hopes for a 'democratic transformation' in the Middle East. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a sociology professor, has begun efforts to gather other democratization advocates from his region and beyond," writes Eurasianet.org of the former DePauw University professor. "His hope is to establish a blueprint that countries can draw on to shift out of authoritarian regimes into open ones."
The article continues, "And, he says, he is more optimistic about this project than he was before the American-led invasion of Iraq or the reanimation of peace talks among Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terrorist groups. 'Iraq has a good opportunity to develop a reasonable pluralistic system,' he says. 'It has social and cultural pluralism, and a nicely crafted political system [should] reflect social realities on the ground.'"
Dr. Ibrahim sounded a similar theme when he returned to the DePauw campus April 18 (read more here). [DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "A New Middle East" 174KB]"There is an opportunity to rebuild a new Middle East that is more democratic, and therefore, more peaceful," he said to reporters before attending a reception in his honor at the Student Social Center at the Walden Inn. The professor was accompanied by his wife, Barbara (Lethem), a 1971 alumna of DePauw.
Ibrahim, who taught at DePauw from 1967-1974, believes his Ibn Khaldun Center in Egypt can play an active role in helping the spread of democracy by holding roundtable discussions and training sessions. "A combination of internal and external pressure is needed to make democracy more genuine and more forceful," he said. The article notes that "by analyzing countries that have been democracies for a generation (such as Portugal) and ones where reform is more fragile (such as Bosnia), Ibrahim hopes to attract 'like-minded people' to a formal 'transitology' program." Ibrahim says, "We hope to encourage whatever civil society organizations exist to be more involved in the process of thinking about the future. Politicians, especially those who have been in exile and who are jockeying for position, are not used to strategic planning."