Conference: DAVO 21st International Congress, University of Cologne
The German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation (DAVO) is an international and interdisciplinary network of more than 1,500 scholars, students, and professionals interested in the Middle East. The members of DAVO are from not just Germany but also other European countries, North America, the Middle East, and North Africa. Middle East studies examines issues relevant to the area comprising all members of the League of Arab States, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, the Muslim states of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Israel, as well as the impact this region has on the development of other parts of the world.
The international congresses of DAVO have no specific theme. As a scholarly network, DAVO wants to give all members and guest participants -- who, in the case of the Cologne conference, came from 23 different countries -- the opportunity to present and exchange their research results. Therefore, DAVO prefers not to identify a general conclusion of the conference or even to give a comprehensive summary of the more than 150 papers, which were presented during the last congress. Nevertheless, current events in the region are always a focus of the presentations and discussions. This year that focus included the upheavals in the region, the dramatic expansion of the Islamic State, and the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
The keynote speech, titled “Power and Faith: Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabiya and the Salafists,” was delivered by Guido Steinberg from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. He described the historical, ideological, and political links between the Wahhabiyya in Saudi Arabia and the current Salafist movements. The Saudi state has had, since its founding, a symbiotic relationship with the Wahhabi clerics. On the one hand this has been a stabilizing factor. On the other hand, if political decisions of the king or the government are perceived as being not in accordance with the principles of Islam -especially cooperation with the US -- problems can occur. This leads to accusations of apostasy against the king and the ruling elites, and to calls for a violent overthrow of the government. Therefore, Steinberg concluded that Saudi Arabia’s financial and logistical support for ISIS was not an outcome of the official policy of the state but was organized by private sympathizers.
The political reactions of Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf States to the “Arab Spring” and the conflicts in its aftermath, as well as analysis of the current situation in Iraq and Syria were subjects of several panels and presentations. Turkey’s role in the conflicts of the region was the subject of another panel which included the three following papers: “The Paradox of Turkish-Israeli Relations during the Arab Spring: Entanglement of Geostrategic Considerations and Neoliberal Economic Factors,” by Ayman Talal Yousef, of the Arab American University in Jenin; “Turkish International NGOs and the Arab Spring,” by Ibrahim Natil, from Dublin; and “Agents of Change? Conceptualizing Contemporary Forms, Demands and Concerns of Women’s Participation in the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey,” by Janet Kursawe, from Universität Duisburg-Essen, and Nora Stein, from Universität Hamburg.
Two other important actors in the region are Egypt and Iran. Presentations on Iran dealt with the country’s foreign policy, civil society organization, and also attempted a comparative analysis of the Arab revolts and Iran’s Green Movement. The presentations on
THIS YEAR THAT FOCUS INCLUDED THE UPHEAVALS IN THE REGION, THE DRAMATIC EXPANSION OF THE ISLAMIC STATE, AND THE ESCALATING CONFLICT BETWEEN ISRAEL AND PALESTINIANS