The Saladin Days 2013
Has the Arab Spring been followed by a bleak winter? Civil war is raging in Syria and in Cairo the Tahrir Square comrades have started fighting one another. The differences in the Arab world has deep historical roots. In the 12th century Saladin travelled between Damascus and Cairo to keep his realm together. 800 years later the Egyptian president Nasser wanted to create a unified Arab republic including Syria and Egypt. And ever since the times of Saladin the region has been strongly influenced by external forces. From Mongol invasions in the 13th century to European colonialism and cold war.
The Saladin Days 2013 are dedicated to Syria and Egypt, and the threat of an Arab Winter. We have invited scholars, artists and activists who can inform us of the context and history of these countries in order to help us better understand what is going on there today.
Eugene Rogan is director of the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford. His book The Arabs: A History, published in Norwegian in 2011, is considered a standard work of modern history and he is recipient of the prestigious Albert Hourani prize.
Ibrahim El-Houdaiby is senior researcher at the House of Wisdom Centre for Strategic Studies, a writer and Tahrir Square activist. He is a former spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, a position from which he resigned when he left the organisation. El-Houdaiby holds a master’s in comparative politics and development studies from the American University in Cairo, and is currently finishing a master’s in Islamic sharia at the High Institute of Islamic Studies. He contributes regularly to the Arabic daily Shorouk and Al-Ahram Online.
Samar Yazbek is an author and journalist from the Syrian coastal city of Jableh. She is a member of the minority Alawi community, of which Bashar al-Assad is also a member – which made her a traitor when she supported the Syrian revolution in 2011. Yazbek was forced into exile and in 2012 she published the book A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries from the Syrian Revolution. Samar Yazbek has also been a clear voice in the struggle for women’s rights in Syria.
Bassma Kodmani is a Syrian scholar, former member of the Syrian National Council and the director of the Arab Reform Initiative. Through her academic efforts, Kodmani has been an important advocate of democratic reform in the Arab world. Among her publications is the book Abattre les murs about the awakening of Arab intellectuals after 9/11.
Tariq Ali is an international author, historian and political activist. He has written more than 30 books of non-fiction, fiction and history, and is a popular lecturer. He was one of the organisers of the big demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, and has been celebrated in song by the Rolling Stones. Together with Norwegian author Thorvald Steen, Tariq Ali wrote the play Desert Storms, which premiered at the House of Literature during the Saladin Days in 2010.