2016 Fall

Middle East Center Newsletter | Fall 2016


As 2016 comes to a close, I am once again grateful for the supportive and enlightened community of friends and colleagues of the Middle East Center (MEC). Our community’s deep interest and engagement with the current issues in the region allow us to have important discussions about some of today’s pressing concerns.

Indeed, one of our programmatic concerns, the Bridging Cultures Project, even caught the eye of the White House. In June 2016, the Department of Education invited the MEC to participate in the White Roundtable on Bullying and Harassment. MEC Affiliate Instructor, David Fenner, made a presentation before key government officials on the the initiative, which helps K-12 administrators and teachers understand the challenges that students from Muslim-majority societies face upon arriving in the United States.

This year our community bade farewell to the MEC’s founder, Professor Farhat Ziadeh, who passed away on June 8, 2016. Professor Ziadeh continued to be an engaged presence on our campus throughout his long retirement. As you will read in this newsletter, Professor Ziadeh left a formidable legacy that we will strive to carry on in the years to come. The MEC looks forward to honoring his legacy on April 8, 2017, what would have been his 100th birthday, by supporting the Farhat J. Ziadeh Distinguished Lecture in Arab and Islamic Studies Series hosted by NELC and featuring NPR’s Deborah Amos as the keynote speaker. Stay tuned for more details!

This fall, the MEC welcomed three new Masters students to our Middle East Studies Program. Their broad and interdisciplinary interests – from the 100-year legacy of Sykes-Picot, to Middle East migration, and Israel/Palestine – signaled the breadth of faculty research as well. We continue to highlight the commitment to research with our Voices in the Middle East lecture series, in which scholars present their on-going research in the region. One of our newest faculty members, Assistant Professor Stephanie Selover (NELC), spoke about the use of aerial surveillance as part of the international effort to surveil and record antiquities of our collective cultural heritage in the MENA region during a time of war. A doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle East Studies, Michael Degerald, presented on the little-known efforts by Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State) to act like a state. In December, we also featured a talk by Professor Djavad Salehi-Isfahani (Virginia Tech) on Iran’s economy one year after signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the EU3+3.

Also this fall, we presented one of three invited lectures (one per quarter) on the crisis in Syria. A panel composed of Senior Lecturer, Rick Lorenz and UW Army Fellow, Lt. Col. Owen Ray, spoke about the meaning and possibility of safe zones in Syria, just as the Syrian Arab Army was taking Eastern Aleppo. This January 31st, we are excited to welcome Professor miriam cooke (Duke University) to speak about culture production by artists and activists in Syria in a talk entitled, “Creativity, Resilience and the Syrian Revolution.” Then on April 14, 2017, the MEC welcomes Professor Sarah Tobin (Brown University), who will speak on the plight of Syrian refugees in a talk entitled, “Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Privatization, Governance, and Resilience.”

Of course our community has been in conversation about displacement and Middle East refugees. While much of the discussion has focused on migration westward – to Europe and North America, most relocation still takes place within the region. On February 23rd the MEC will feature an evening roundtable with experts on Middle East migration for a public conversation about “Migrations within the Middle East.” Please be sure to join us! Check out the MEC events page for a full listing of our events, all of which are free and open to the public. You can also follow our activities on Facebook.

We are grateful for such an engaged community and hope to see more of you in the coming year. We wish everyone in our community a warm and peaceful holiday season. Please consider supporting the MEC in your charitable giving this year!

Arzoo Osanloo
Director, Middle East Center
The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies



David Fenner, Bridging Cultures Workshop facilitator, addresses Renton School District teachers and administrators.

The Center’s Bridging Cultures Project Featured at White House Roundtable

The Middle East Center’s Bridging Cultures Project was featured at the June 6, 2016 “White House Roundtable on Discrimination, Bullying, and Harassment of Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Students.” The roundtable discussion, chaired by Secretary of Education John King, was attended by key policymakers and stakeholders including Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Vanita Gupta, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice; and Cecilia Munoz, Director, Domestic Policy Council. The Bridging Cultures Project, established two years ago by the Middle East Center, addresses the challenges faced by teachers and administrators as they seek to help new students and their parents from Muslim-majority countries navigate the American public school system. The initiative offers sessions on the diversity of Muslim-majority societies as expressed in culture, ethnicity, theology, history, and language – as well as in the variety of educational systems and approaches. At the same time, it engages the classroom expertise and experience of teachers and administrators to help them design strategies that support students entering the American public school system. Workshops facilitated by Middle East Center Affiliate Instructor David Fenner are offered at no cost to school districts throughout the Pacific Northwest. In academic year 2015-16, the Bridging Cultures Project presented twelve workshops to 380 teachers and administrators in nine school districts.

Remembering Professor Farhat J. Ziadeh

On June 8, 2016, Professor Farhat J. Ziadeh, eminent scholar of Islamic law, barrister, Arabic grammarian, and founder of the Middle East Center, as well as the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington, passed away. A celebration of his life was held August 13, 2016 at the UW Club on the UW campus at which Professor Emeritus (History), Jere L. Bacharach offered the following remembrance.

I once tried to describe Farhat in one word – latif, menche, gentleman – but quickly realized that trying to squeeze his warm personality, his contributions as a teacher, scholar, administrator, model on how to live one’s life, and family man into one word was impossible so, let me share with you in greater detail some of those parts of his rich life and personality that I knew.


Farhat J. Ziadeh (1917-2016)

In 1966, even before his arrival in Seattle, Farhat was involved in the founding of the most important academic organization in the world for the study of the Middle East, the Middle East Studies Association or MESA. Farhat’s relation to MESA illustrates the critical role he played in building the field of Middle East Studies nationally and internationally as well as the ways in which his colleagues and former students recognized his contributions as a teacher, scholar, and leader.

From its official beginning, MESA required contested elections for all offices and in 1980 Farhat was elected MESA President. Breaking with the traditional MESA Presidential address, which was usually comments on contemporary political developments in the region, Farhat drew upon his professional and academic expertise and spoke of the role of the judge, the qadi, in Islamic society and how, as Farhat concluded, “Above all, the qadis continued in an uninterrupted manner to look after the interests of Islam and Muslims, and to raise the standard of justice.” If there was a credo that quote1fit Farhat it was “to raise the standard of justice.”

The next MESA recognition of Farhat came in 1997 when he was awarded the MESA Mentoring Award, which is based upon letters of recommendation from former students. He was the second scholar to receive this honor. I think the Mentoring Award captures so much of Farhat’s contributions as a teacher, leader and what all of us admired in him that I am taking the liberty of reading the full award citation to you.

In recognition of his exceptional contributions to the education and training of others in Middle East studies. With deep appreciation for his ebullience in the classroom; his encouraging spirit, constructive criticism, and generosity in sharing his time with students; his example as a researcher, perennially curious and excited by discovery, while keeping to rigorous methodology; the unfailingly wise and caring advice for and personal interest in the lives and careers of his many former students; the rare combination of deep knowledge of his field with a warmth of heart.


Remember, all of these statements were written by his former students in their nominating letters. The MESA Mentoring Award concludes, “It is an honor to recognize Farhat J. Ziadeh, an outstanding mentor, who represents and fosters the finest of Middle East studies scholarship.”

Finally, in 2012 Farhat was made an Honorary Fellow, a recognition that MESA has only given to twenty-one others from among the thousands of scholars who study the Middle East from around the world. Founding member, President, Mentoring Award winner, Honorary Member – these awards reflect the recognition and admiration of Farhat’s professional colleagues and students for all he has done for the field of Middle East studies.

I’ll skip the critical role he played from 1983 to 1989 as Executive Director, Center for Arabic Studies Abroad, or CASA, which is the most important program in the United States, if not the world, for the advanced study of Arabic. In 2006, CASA awarded Farhat their life-time achievement award.

Farhat’s role in creating the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and then the Middle East Center at the UW has been mentioned by all, but I hope that I can add a little to it. In the autobiographical article mentioned earlier by Don Reid, Farhat wrote, “I was meant to be a lawyer, not a college professor specializing in Arabic and Islamic studies. But the vicissitudes of World War II and the Palestine Question altered my course and set me on a new direction that I had never thought I would take.”1 Because Farhat was such a gentleman and so polite, it is easy to forget how important his Palestinian identity and the future of Palestine was for him. Sometimes his views appeared through humor and I’ll share the following, which was emailed to me by an Israeli born American and former M.A. student from the late 1960s here at the UW, Rafi Danziger. Finishing his B.A. and seeking an advanced degree in the U.S. where he needed financial support, Rafi wrote me the following:

As you know, I owe to Farhat more than I could ever have repaid. He invited me to the UW for my M.A. studies – fully paid for through teaching Hebrew at his department; he recommended me to Princeton for my Ph.D. studies; and most important, it was his secretary at the time, Carla, to whom I’m still married 44 years later. Above all, he was a mensch. He was always kind and warm to me even though he knew I was a Zionist. And I loved his sense of humor. One day he said to me, “Damn Israelis; first they take away my orchards in Jaffa, and now they take away my secretary.” I often saw him at MESA conferences, and after I told him that I was working for the pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist organization AIPAC – not exactly his favorite organization – he simply said, “I hope you’ll make it a better place.”

This was the type of class act that made Farhat so admired by all.

I also share this story because it reflects my own relationship with Farhat and why I consider him a model on how one should treat others while still being true to our own principles and values. Over the many decades Farhat and I were at the UW, we did not always agree on personnel and policy issues. With hindsight I will admit that there were some appointments and promotion cases where he was right and I was wrong and there were others where both of us were wrong, and even other cases, where, long after we both retired, we still differed. But what made Farhat special was, while not compromising his principles and standards, he didn’t make our differences the basis for ending a continuing working relationship. The reverse was true. By his actions, his language, his behavior, Farhat demonstrated that we could differ today but the next time an issue arose we could work together as a team. Collegiality for Farhat was not weakness but strength; holding different positions, particularly in a field as explosive as Middle East studies, was legitimate, but personalizing them was not. If I have been praised for the collegiality of my role as a chair of the Department of History and later, Director of the Jackson School on International Studies, one major reason is that I followed Farhat’s model on how to treat others. Honestly, I wish more of my colleagues had done the same.

On another topic, until I read Farhat’s autobiographical essay, I really didn’t understand how difficult the move to Seattle had been. He was going from a heavily endowed private university that had a long history of supporting the study of the Near and Middle East to an underfunded public, state university where departments and other units were in constant competition for funds, which were never sufficient. The stress on him and his family must have been enormous but Farhat always sought to make the best of it with the goal of doing the very most with the resources available to him, again, illustrating what a positive model he was for all of us.

In my view, Farhat saw those of us in his department and the Middle East Center as part of his family, who were to be supported and encouraged. As I mentioned earlier, I joined the UW History Department in 1967 and Farhat made me feel welcome and quickly invited me to give guest lectures in his introductory survey of the Near East and Islam. After my first talk, he quietly and privately pulled me aside to correct my pronunciation of some Arabic terms and names. Never wishing to publicly humiliate me or anyone else, he was always available to aid all of us. Later when I had problems with difficult texts in Arabic and complex grammatical problems, he and Nick Heer took time to help me, demonstrating again by example, what collegiality meant in practice.2

Years later I learned that when the Department of History was searching for the position in pre-modern Middle East history, a search chaired by Peter Sugar, whom Nick Heer mentioned as having played such a critical role in creating Middle East Studies at the University of Washington, there were two finalists.3 I was one and the other was one of Farhat’s former students from the late 1940s, Dick Verdery, who had returned to Princeton after working in the Middle East, completing his Ph.D. in 1967, the same year I did. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Farhat supported Verdery, I would have done the same for one of my students, but what Farhat never did was let on that I wasn’t his first choice.

When the Near East Department ran job searches, no one was more demanding and critical of a candidate’s qualifications than Farhat and he would make the strongest possible argument for his candidate, but once the appointment was made, even if the person wasn’t his first choice, that individual became part of Farhat’s academic family and he did everything appropriate to support the person, always in the most polite manner. But in a very special way Farhat’s academic family also included his wife, Su’ad. I still remember the wonderful, collegial gatherings at the Ziadeh’s Laurelhurst house each October where for twelve years they hosted a gathering of NELC and Middle East Center faculty and spouses. The message was clear, both Farhat and Su’ad wanted each of us to do the best we could and create the best program in Middle East studies that the UW’s limited resources would permit.

Family is a good note for me to end on because Farhat’s love for his family was another of those characteristics that made him such an admirable human being. Unlike me who, without being asked, will immediately brag about my children and now my grandchildren, this wasn’t Farhat’s style. I was most aware of this when I would join Farhat, Nick, and Don here at the UW Club, which Don Reid mentioned and where they ate regularly on Wednesdays for over a decade and held conversations on a wide range of topics. When I would ask Farhat about Su’ad, his daughters or his extended family, he was always very happy to share news and tell of their accomplishments but it wasn’t his style to initiate such a discussion. But since family was such an important part of Farhat’s life, it is therefore appropriate that I now ask Rami Ayyub, Deena’s son and Farhat’s grandson, to perform at the piano followed by another family member and final speaker, Farhat and Su’ad’s second daughter, Ambassador Susan Ziadeh.

1Farhat Ziadeh, “Winds Blow Where Ships Do Not Wish to Go,” in Paths to the Middle East, Thomas Naff, ed. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993). Donald Reid is Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Georgia State University; and Affiliate Faculty, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, University of Washington.

2Nicholas Heer is Professor Emeritus, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, University of Washington.

3Peter Sugar (1919-99) was Professor of History at the University of Washington from 1959-89 specializing in southeast European and Ottoman history.


Satellite Imagery and Ground Truthing: The Current State of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Looting in the Middle East

Stephanie Selover is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington.

Archaeological excavations have utilized aerial photography since the invention of photography. It is used in the creation of archaeological site maps, for obtaining new perspectives on excavated architecture, or even for finding ancient roadways not visible from the surface. Additionally, aerial and satellite photography are useful for discovering new sites, particularly in the Middle East. For desert landscapes in particular, where walking through the often inhospitable terrain is exceedingly difficult, aerial photography makes it possible to find previously unknown archaeological sites that can later be excavated.

While such technology is of great value to archaeologists, the various political and cultural catastrophes of the 21st century have made aerial surveillance of archaeological and cultural heritage sites increasingly vital. Due to warfare and political upheaval, physical archaeological work effectively ended in Iraq in 2001, and in Syria in 2011, while the full scale destruction of archaeological sites, museums, and monuments, including mosques, churches, monasteries, and shrines, became endemic in these two countries in particular.


Aerial photograph of the Nabi Yunus mosque, Mosul, before the arrival of Daesh in Mosul (photo courtesy of ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative)  


Aerial photograph of the Nabi Yunus mosque, Mosul, after the arrival of Daesh in Mosul (photo courtesy of ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative) 












Reasons for the destruction of cultural heritage materials and locations are complex. While much of the international attention on destruction in Syria and Iraq focuses on the well-publicized destruction by Daesh (Islamic State, IS, ISIS or ISIL), other factors and agents of destruction must be addressed. Daesh indeed has destroyed and continues to destroy ancient and modern cultural heritage sites, for largely ideological reasons. However, the destruction of archaeological and cultural sites persists outside of the lands held by Daesh. Reasons for looting include: ongoing warfare, as in the case of the annihilation of the Old City sector of Aleppo; the looting and destruction of archaeological sites by local populations in order to sell antiquities to raise money in times of poverty, also called subsistence looting; and professional bands of looters who use large machinery such as backhoes in order to systematically loot archaeological sites to accrue large amounts of material for the antiquities black market.

Attempts to halt destruction through local interference, while the most preferable solution, can be dangerous or unpractical. Local governments, dealing with a myriad of other problems, cannot afford to pay armed guards to protect sites, leaving areas unprotected and vulnerable. Or in areas that are protected, the human costs may be too high. For example, in February of 2016, armed professional looters attacked the lightly guarded site of Deir el-Bersha in Middle Egypt, resulting in the death of two guards. Asking such a sacrifice for the sake of antiquities is not a reasonable solution.

Aerial photography offers a second, if not completely satisfying, solution. Through aerial surveillance of cultural heritage sites, destruction is tracked and recorded, if not stopped. Programs, such as the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative, survey recent satellite photography of Iraq and Syria, provided by the United States Department of State, in order to ascertain the status of various archaeological and cultural sites.

Aerial photography cannot create a complete picture of destruction: only the external image of sites and structures are visible, allowing for no indication of interior damage or destruction, or, more importantly, the human cost of these events. While surveillance will not ultimately protect these sites in the present, it creates a record of destruction and desecration, so that ultimately, when peace returns, we can make an informed plan to bring back what is lost. By tracking destruction, as well as keeping records of what has been destroyed, we can begin to make plans to reconstruct and rebuild both archaeological and cultural sites. This is not a solution to the many ongoing struggles in Syria and Iraq, but it creates hope for the future, when we can begin again.




Vincent Calvetti-WolfVincent Calvetti-Wolf (Hebrew). I am a third year M.A. student in the Comparative Religion Program researching Jewish political cultures and intra-Jewish conflict in modern Israel. In particular I am interested in researching the Mizrahi struggle, with a special focus on how distinctions between secular and religious discourses and practices shape the political and social strategies of Mizrahi Jewish activists as well as the production of Mizrahi space and politics in the State of Israel. The FLAS fellowship will allow me to engage with both empirical fieldwork and theoretical frameworks for analyzing the web of networks that influence Mizrahi political actors and have shaped politically transgressive responses to state actions and policies.

Malinda CohoonMelinda Cohoon (Arabic). I am a M.A. student in the Middle East Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies, researching the borderland dispute between Iraq and Iran within the context of British imperialism during the twentieth century. As such, having expertise in Arabic will augment this project, since I will have access to primary source documents essential to my research. The FLAS fellowship has enriched my Arabic skills this summer at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan, and will continue to enrich my studies within the ensuing academic year.

EnglundAndrew Englund (Hebrew). As a student of history, I am working to understand the narratives that created current tensions in the Near and Middle East. Building on my experience training and managing police forces in Afghanistan, I will do research toward understanding possible resolutions to intercultural contentions. Advancing my language skills will make me a more effective contributor to mutually favorable solutions in that part of the world.

Christopher FacerChristopher Facer (Turkish). I am a first year M.A. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. My current research aims to further flesh out nationalist narratives in the Balkans after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This project, once expanded to a larger degree, works with many primary source languages, first and foremost being Ottoman Turkish. The FLAS allows me to continue my learning of Turkish as well as Persian to obtain Ottoman language literacy. Summer 2016 I participated in APTLII at the University Wisconsin-Madison to continue my studies of Turkish as well as an introduction to Ottoman language.

Perry KeziahPerry Keziah (Arabic). I am a second-year undergraduate student studying Turkish and Arabic in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. I plan to continue studying both languages in graduate school as well as Migration and Refugee studies in order to work long-term with refugees in the Middle East. The FLAS has given me an opportunity to further study Turkish and Arabic and use these language skills to work and communicate effectively in the Middle East.

Maral SahebjameMaral Sahebjame (Arabic).I am a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies. My research includes examining contemporary urban narratives of marriage in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the context of a transitioning relationship between the state and society. The FLAS fellowships facilitate advancing my skills in Persian and Arabic, which will enhance my access to resources that strengthen my ethnographic work.

Georgia SuterGeorgia Suter (Arabic). I am a M.A. student in the Middle East Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies. I am interested in immigration and refugee issues within the Middle East, especially new research on culturally and environmentally sustainable alternatives to refugee camps. I am also interested in the social implications of forced migration, and the way people cope with these stressors in the modern world. With my FLAS award I am studying Arabic which will enable me to communicate while traveling within the Middle Eastern region for future research. Within my Middle East Studies Program, I will focus on immigration and refugee issues, with an emphasis on how refugees integrate into public schools within the United States. My hope is to someday be working within a public school district to improve the experience of refugee children in schools and also to incorporate more multicultural focused curriculum to enhance education for all students.

Marita WhiteMarita White (Persian).  I am a second year M.A. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization.  As a Middle Eastern food historian I focus on the relationship between food and space in the early Ottoman Empire.  I am currently writing my Master’s thesis on gardens and outdoor spaces in Ottoman Istanbul and their link to culinary culture and social cohesion.  My research requires that I work with several languages every day, and a FLAS will improve my Persian so that I can expand my source material.  The Ottomans spoke Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, and Persian on a daily basis, therefore it is important for me to be knowledgeable in all three languages in order to uncover the lives of ordinary Ottomans and their experiences with food.

Lisa ZetaLisa Zeta (Arabic). I am a senior studying in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and in Spanish and Portuguese Studies. I am interested in the literary and oral traditions of the Near East, more specifically, the role of storytelling in the formal and informal education of Arabic speakers. I believe that storytelling is a powerful tool in foreign language education, and I hope to learn more about the linguistic challenges that Arabic language learners face. The FLAS Fellowship is helping me gain the knowledge and confidence to introduce the Arabic language to other students in the future.


1/19/2017: Of Mansions and Men: Greek Communities and the Ever-changing Ottoman Past

1/30/2017: Monster in a Box: The Paul Bowles Collection of Moroccan Music

1/30/2017: FILM | “Hawar-My Journey to Genocide”

1/31/2017: Creativity, Resilience and the Syrian Revolution

2/13/2017: Digital Humanities in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington

2/23/2017: Migrations within the Middle East: Roundtable Discussion

4/8/2017: Farhat J. Ziadeh Distinguished Arabic and Islamic Studies Lecture, 2017

4/14/2017: Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Privatization, Governance, and Resilience

4/24/2017: Educating the Turkish Nation

5/15/2017: Masculine Topographies: Gendering Public Spaces in Early Modern Istanbul