Drones, uprisings and a peace conference

Drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen are not justifiable morally, legally and politically. Attacks in Pakistan are being carried out with the consent of Pakistani authorities. (Col. Ann Wright).

UNT Peace Conference Participants at the Keynote Dinner

UNT Peace Conference Participants at the Keynote Dinner

When President Obama was busy reciting the peace mantra once again and meeting leaders in the Middle East recently, scholars, diplomats and activists were discussing peace with academic and research insights at the University of North Texas Peace Conference.

The conference was timely organized on the theme, Middle East: A New Era, on March 22-23.

It was attended by over 500 students, community members and researchers who listened to 55 presenters in 16 sessions on the Arab uprising, democracy, dictatorship, nuclear buildup, human rights, arts and tranquility, and other topics.

American peace activist associated with Code Pink and Global Exchange organizations, Col. Ann Wright, speaking in a panel on awdrone attacks, severely criticized the American government for launching drone attacks in Muslim countries which kill innocent citizens, women, children and the elderly. The attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen, she said, are not justifiable morally, legally and politically.

She revealed that drone attacks in Pakistan are launched with the consent of its authorities and these attacks further heighten sentiments of hatred toward United States. She said, President Obama approves names to be targeted in drone attacks which jeopardize sovereignty of the countries being attacked. People’s life and the image of America as a democratic country are at stake if these attacks are not stopped, she emphasized.

 Youth uprisings in the region being the main theme of the Conference, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Jonathan Brown discussed transitions being taking place in the Middle East as Keynote Speaker on the second day luncheon. Analyzing the youth uprisings in the region, he said Middle East is at the verge of political and social transformation today.

Other scholars also presented papers on the youth movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria. Perspectives on gender and mass movements, poetic resistance, and conflicts in Iran, Turkey and North African also came under discussion.

Law professor at Stanford University Joe W. “Chip” Pitts III and Consul General of Israel in Houston Meir Shlomo were the two Distinguished Speakers on the first day of the conference.

Human Rights Advocate Joe Chip Pitts III

Human Rights Advocate Joe Chip Pitts III

Chip Pitts addressing the participants said human rights are being violated by all parties in the wake of political transformations in the region. For him no country can claim to be democratic when it fails to protect rights of women, children, and minorities. Killing hundreds of innocent people to get one person is not justifiable, he added.

Meir Shlomo discussing The Middle East Road Map said Israel is interested in establishing peace in the region but if our population is hit by missiles we have to defend ourselves. He claimed that Israel embraces its minority groups of all social, political and sexual orientations.

Conference Chair Dr. Qaisar Abbas who is also Assistant Dean at the University, welcoming the Conference participants, said peace is the most significant need and Middle East is the most vital region of the world today. The Conference, he affirmed, is being

Human Rights Advocate Joe Chip Pitts III

Conference Chair, Dr. Qaisar Abbas

offered to provide a platform to scholars, activists and diplomats to negotiate and identify main hurdles to peace and harmony in the Middle East.

As a whole, the Conference offered research sessions with different formats on regime transitions, women’s rights, human rights and social justice for Palestinians, Palestinian-Israeli peace prospects, and collaborative arts between the nations in conflict, among other topics.

This unique Conference concluded with a colorful cultural program “Celebrating Peace: Middle Eastern Music and Dance,” as a showcase of the talents of UNT’s international students and community organizations in the area. In addition two simultaneous book displays on the Middle East, and an art exhibit were also featured in conjunction with the Conference.


Masood Raja

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of North Texas and the author of "The Religious Right and the Talibanization of America" (Palgrave, 2016).