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Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
Past Events Archive

June 03, 2016

Conference and Workshop
Digital Activism and Civil Society in the Middle EastSponsered by ASI, Asfari Institute, AUB Media Studies, and NDU

This Workshop / Conference convened civil society activists, researchers, and media practitioners to reflect on the scope of digital activism in the region, with a particular focus on Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Bahrain. Speakers discussed the role of digital media activism in promoting civil and political rights in light of renewed challenges to social, economic, and political injustice. Academics with specializations various yet complimentary protest movements throughout the Arab world reflected on the possibility of organic transnational solidarity as well as shared visions, goals, and strategies.
This conference was an integral component of the networking of activists, scholars, media, and intellectuals with an interest in social movements online and the digital dimensions of civil society. The output of the conference will include the publication of a selection of the top papers and interventions from the conference as well as audio lectures and interviews with participants to be posted on ASI's audio journal Status. 
June 03, 2016

Call for PapersRural Women Cooperatives and the Quest for Empowered Citizenship in the Arab World
The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship and the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) are issuing a call for research papers on current civil society models (cooperatives) in rural communities in the Arab world...

May 30, 2016

Role of Civil Society in implementing SDGs, Amman, ESCWA

The Asfari Institute Director Fateh Azzam participated in the 2016 Arab Forum for Sustainable Development Organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia in Jordan. Azzam spoke about the role of the civil society in achieving SDGs as well as the obstacles to effective partnership between civil society and governments in the Arab region

April 28, 2016

Research Grant Ptresentation
VP - Visualizing Palestine: : Visual Tools for Civil Society Advocacy
Speakers: Ahmad Barclay (speaker) and Hana Sleiman (discussant)
Moderator: Rania Masri

The talk was on Visualizing Palestine's work and Asfari Institute-supported research to align efforts with like minded advocacy groups. The talk was followed by an open discussion on emerging possibilities and challenges for visual tools in online and offline advocacy.
Available on our Youtube Channel

April 25, 2016

Research Grant Ptresentation
Hegemony vs. Collective Organisation
Agricultural Practices in Caza Marjayoun, Lebanon
Karim Eid-Sabbagh and Jana Nakhal

The presentation is a culmination of 6-month research by Asfari Institute Fellow, Dr. Karim Eid-Sabbagh, and his research assistant, Ms. Jana Nakhal. The research examines processes of agrarian change in four villages in the Caza Marjayoun. Starting with one small development project as entry point it will explore the role of a confluence of processes structuring and restructuring agrarian relations. The presentation will highlight how hegemony, in a Gramsciansense, as a form or an aspect of power and domination, shapes farmer practices in combination with natural, political and economic processes.
Available on our Youtube Channel
April 19, 2016

Research Grant Ptresentation
Lecture and Movie Screening
Citizen, Denizen, Alien
Adoption Via Lebanon: Practices of Extirpation and Their Impact on Kinship, Community, Identity, and Citizenship
Presentation: Badael/Alternatives
Documentary screening: Memory: Unknown
Sponsored by: Asfari Institute
Speakers: Daniel Drennan, Dida Zalzal, Sophie Deek
Moderator: Rania Masri

CITIZEN, DENIZEN, ALIEN - Adoption Via Lebanon: Practices of Extirpation and Their Impact on Kinship, Community, Identity, and Citizenship - This lecture presented adoption practices in their historical, political, and economic context. It examined the results of these practices decades after their transaction, and their impact on our notions of identity and citizenship.

Presentation/Film Screening: BADAEL/Alternatives
Dida Zalzal presented an overview of the work undertaken by the local NGO Badael/Alternatives. This was followed by a screening of the documentary                                            MEMORIES: UNKNOWN (الذاكرة :مجهولة) This film tells the stories of Lebanese children adopted to foreign countries, and their search for origins and family. The researcher/director Sophie Deek presented to field questions after the screening.
for Badael Click here. 
Available on our Youtube Channel

April 14-15, 2016

Workshop with Syrian NGOs in preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit.

Institute director Fateh Azzam facilitated this workshop for about 15 Syrian nongovernmental organizations working in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. The workshop aimed at identification priority themes and key messages that the NGOs wish to take to the World Humanitarian Summit, scheduled for May, 2016. Participants identified four broad themes with specific messages under each theme, as well as an advocacy strategy for taking those messages to the policy makers. Supported by Oxfam, the workshop was organized by SAWA for Development and Aid and Bassma and Zeitung, two Syrian organizations working in Lebanon

April 13, 2016Lecture and Discussion
Syria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 6 - last part of the series - Syria's Future 
Speakers: Zaki Mehshi, founding researcher in the Syrian Center for Political Research; Sawsan Zakzak, feminist activist
Moderator: Rania Masri, Associate Director, Asfari Institute

 In the last of the Syria Series, the discussion focused on the possible scenarios for Syria's future, and the vision of Syrian civil society for that future.  Mr. Mehshi discussed three possible scenarios and the possibilities for civil society activism within each: (1) destruction of Syria; (2) maintenance of oppression; and (3) positive change.  He emphasized, throughout his talk and in the discussion with the audience, that it is critical to separate cause from effect when studying civil society. For example, the rejection of women's equality is not a natural occurrence of a particular community, but rather a response to a rise in economic inequality.  Ms. Zakzak presented a vision for an egalitarian Syria (post-violence), with a focus on a new constitution and on egalitarian, feminist institutions.  She emphasized that the right and demand for equality for women cannot be postponed.  A lively discussion ensued.
Audio available on our SoundClound Channel
April 11, 2016

ANND Workshop Sustainable Development Goals 20130; Accountability of Actors

Fateh Azzam participated in this one day workshop  on accountability aspects of development aid in Lebanon, organized by the Arab NGO Network for Development. The workshop focused on implementation of the SDGsin the context of serious challenges facing Lebanon in terms of development aid, refugee flows, and endemic political paralysis. Participants (from civil society, Lebanese government and the UN) queried principles of 'national ownership,' international partnership to improve aid effectiveness and the most vexing problems of accountability and access to information. Global financial policies and militarization of the region loomed large in the background of the discussions, as did repeated calls for an active partnership with civil society without which sustainability would be a very difficult goal to achieve

April 6, 2016

Research Grant Ptresentation
Lecture and Discussion
Play and the City: the Communal Making of Informal Football Fields in Beirut
Speakers: Nadine Bekdache, Abir Saksouk, Maissa Kassir, Monica Basbous, Majed el Mdawar
Moderator: Rania Masri

This project investigated informal football fields in Beirut formed by neighborhood initiatives and communal efforts. An exercise comparing a 2003 aerial map of Beirut to the cityscape today showed that 85% of informal footballs fields in 2003 have today been turned into parking lots, buildings, or construction sites. Yet a number of informal soccer fields have been sustained in the city through collective action, while new ones are emerging. Relying on fieldwork, oral sources and historical aerial photography, the team presented the history of eight make-shift football fields across greater Beirut, producing timelines charting the history of land usage and appropriation. Against the legal claims of the owners recognized by the state and the law, the claims put forth by the local youth lied in subtle material traces in the form of goal nets, wall writings, sprayed field delineations on the ground, and numerous acts of transgression. By collective acts of trespassing, intervening on, and appropriating urban space, the makers of these fields highlighted an alternative way in which spaces of play are produced in the city. They also demonstrated the ways in which communal claims over the city and neighborhood initiatives are possible.
Available on our Youtube Channel

March 31-April 1, 2016

WorkshopCivil Society Innovation Initiative (CSII) Workshop
Beirut - Lebanon


Institute director Fateh Azzam participated in this two day workshop, organized by Asfari Institute partner Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND). The workshop brought together around 20 NGO activists from around the region to discuss participation in and topical priorities for CSII, which is an initiative of USAID and Swedish SIDA that aims at creating civil society hubs in all regions of the world. The broad-ranging discussion touched on many aspects of civil society needs and priorities, and a general consensus emerged that little is required from such an initiative other than a possible virtual hub where information can be exchanged and resources shared for mutual benefit. CSOs work to ameliorate the negative effects of national and particularly global political and military policies, and are often caught in the conundrum of needing funding from the very same governments that sell armaments and sell policies that run counter to human development in the region. An interview with Mr. Azzam was posted on ANND's Facebook page

March 30, 2016

Lecture and Discussion
Syria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 5 - Rebuilding SyriaReconstruction, Infrastructure Not Enough
Dr. Nabil Marzouk, economist with the Syrian Center for Policy Research, Damascus
Dr. Sari Hanafi, Professor fo Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies, AUB
Moderated by Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship 

Syria has seen unprecedented destruction in the past five years, and not only to housing and infrastructure, but to the very fabric of its society. Reconstruction and recovery to both will be necessary. Dr. Marzouk dramatically illustrated the damage, noting that estimates run to 87% of properties partially or totally damaged requiring more than $255 billion in reconstruction, with external debt running of 156% of GDP which is only a third of what it was in 2010. Yet the damage to society may require generations with nearly 2 million killed and injured, half of the work force without income with 3.5 million jobs lost, 35% unable to  meet their nutritional needs and half the children out of school. He noted the need for a major national project to focus on rebuilding social capital and comprehensive human development, which must first face the challenge of social cohesion. Dr. Hanafi focused on the question of transitional justice and what may be required in Syria's case, noting three elements of justice:  law, ethics and politics; all of which are also in need of reconstruction. All the questions on transitional justice will be revisited: retributive or restorative justice? truth & justice or truth and reconciliation commissions? Blanket amnesties or partial amnesties or no amnesties for crimes?  a victor's justice or a national justice project?
Audio available on our SoundClound Channel

March 20-24, 2016

Workshop and DiscussionUndisciplined Environments: International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE); Stockholm, Sweden. 
The Asfari Institute participated in a panel, and organized a panel.

 The Panel: Political ecologies of social mobilization in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
Session chair / Organizer: Rania Masri, Asfari Institute
— Citizenship, natural resource rights, and rural development: A case study of the UNDP “Hydroagricultural project for the Marjayoun area", Karim Eid-Sabbagh (Asfari Institute Fellow)
— Thawrat Al-'atash (Thirst Revolution): Water Crises and Social Movements in Rural Egypt (2007-2015), Saker El Nour 
— What it means to fight for climate justice in North Africa, Hamza Hamouchene (Asfari Institute Research Grant Awardee)
— From Small Farmer to Slumdweller: Price Fixing and the Tunisian Revolution, Max Ajl 

Participating in a panel: Wasting Places, Things and People. Formal and Informal Processes 
Session chair/Discussant: Laura Centemeri 
Organizer: Maria Federica Palestino 
Post-Nuclear Nature Imaginaries, Anna Storm 
Recovering communities and places through images. The case of the Land of Fires-Italy, Maria Federica Palestino 
- Disposable lands, coasts and lives: the waste management crisis in Lebanon, Rania Masri & Farah Kobaissy (Asfari Institute


March 20-24, 2016

Arab Institute for Human Rights

 Institute Director Fateh Azzam traveled to Tunis where he attended several activities organized by the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR). On March 20 he attended a meeting of the Institute's Scientific Committee, which he has just been invited to join, and which focuses on knowledge production and publications of AIHR, including the periodical Arab Journal for Human Rights. On March 21 and 22, the AIHR organized an international workshop on “Human Rights Education: Current Challenges and Innovative Methods," a forward-looking discussion of how educational programs for human rights can be geared in the context of ongoing conflicts, global and regional inequalities and the increasing legal and political attacks on civil society organizations' freedom of action and movement. Finally, on March 23, Mr. Azzam joined in celebrating the official opening of Dar El-Saydeh, AIHR's new premises. Dar El-Saydeh is a renovated complex located in one of Tunis's poorer neighborhoods, where AIHR has already started a number of community-based projects bringing economically disadvantaged children of the neighborhood into its human rights educational programs. Participants in the opening were treated to children's songs and a special dose of Tunisian Rap Music. The Asfari Institute has partnered with AIHR for the preparation of a bibliography of Arabic writings on human rights, in the context of a collaborative project on human rights discourse, undertaken together with AUB's Public Policy Institute and Lund University's Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.


March 16, 2016

Lecture and Discussion
Syria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 4 -Syrian Artistic and Literary Production 
Marie Elias, Professor, University of Damascus and the Higher Institute for Arts and TheaterJamal Chehayed, Professor, researcher and Translator
Sana Yazigi, Founder and Editor of The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution 
Moderated by Hassan Abbas, Syrian League for Citizenship

 The discussion began with Dr. Marie Elias presenting a historic synopsis of Syrian theatrical production and culture, and the efforts throughout the decades to encourage young people to engage in playwriting and drama. She noted that a number of new plays have been written during the last five years, focusing on the dilemmas of war, identity and belonging in Syria, and rejecting the hegemony of political thinking. Dr. Jamal Chehayed then offered a broad view of new novels and short stories that are scattered throughout the many disjointed areas of Syria and beyond its borders, and giving examples of the creative storytelling that deal with both the grim realities of war and the universal messages of humanity. Sana Yazigi then shared images from the electronic web site The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution (, which has succeeded in gathering over 7,000 images and items representing Syrian creativity from murals to caricature to painting, graffiti, sculpture, design, photography, theater and poetry. 
Audio available on our SoundClound Channel

March 03, 2016

Lecture and Discussion
Academic Research in Conflict
Reflections on the Politics adn Ethics of Knowledge ProductionUnder War
Organizers: Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
Speakers: Carmen Geha, Omar Dewachi, and Fouad Fouad
Moderator: Rania Masri

The three speakers discussed their personal journey in examining the challenges of academic research in conflict.  What are the politics, economics, and ethics of knowledge production under war, and what are the academic responsibilities towards the communities in question?
Carmen Geha, Visiting Professor of Public Administration currently researching nexus between civil society and political reform in MENA region, and author of Civil Society in Lebanon and Libya, discussedthe dilemmas researchers face when studying and conceptualizing civil society amidst conflict and following decades of authoritarianism.  She also raised the challenges of producing knowledge that is both meaningful and useful to actors on the ground.
Fouad Fouad, Assistant Research Professor of Public Health researching health effects of displacement inside Syria and to neighboring countries, and role of international organizations in strengthening health systems, discussed the historical and political background of some key related concepts, such asrefugeeshumanitarian system, and emergency, and how their conceptualization shapes academic research.
Omar Dewachi, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Health currently researching long-term medical, social, and regional consequences of war in Iraq, discussed the conditions of “research as a vocation" and of the economy of knowledge production in a region stuck by protracted political conflicts and international interventions.
Audio Available on SoundCloud


March 02, 2016

Lecture and Discussion
Syria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 3- Syrian Civil Society Supports Itself
Dr. Fouad M. Fouad, physician, researcher and Assistant Professor at AUB's Faculty of Health Sciences
Dr. Zedun Al-Zubi, Syrian activist and director of the UOSSMOla Ramadan, civil activist and member of Badael
Moderated by Fateh Azzam, director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship 

More than 80 participants engaged with the speakers on the very active role of Syrian civil society organizations in support of their communities across Syria. More than 1,200 NGOs and groups are working within the areas controlled by the Syrian Government, and another 2,500 in other areas of the country. They provide services from relief and infrastructure repair to medical aid and assistance to capacity building, education, legal defense and training in preparation for the future. The need for such services has multiplied given the way the international aid system is organized, and considering the brain drain and hemmorraging of skills and capacities. In performing what they see as their civic duties, NGOs are facing tremendous challenges, not least of which are the threats to their physical safety and security as well as that of their communities, from assassinations to detention to forced exile. Political and ideological divisions in Syria reflect themselves to a significant degree on the work and credibility of Syrian NGOs, and the discussion at times went into heated debate on mutual misperceptions of NGO “cooperation" with the regime or with the opposition forces in control of areas of work. The availability of funding has also created significant problems in terms of harmonizing donor/local agendas and priorities, enhancing the potential for misuse of funds, and creating a competitive atmosphere between them. Yet despite those challenges, speakers and discussants agreed that Syrian civil society continues to do 'stunning' work and are in need of more support based on what they themselves identify as priority issues of concern in the current political, economic and security climate of Syria.
Audio Available on SoundCloud


February 17, 2016

Lecture and DiscussionSyria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 2- Citizenship in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, and Sabah al-Hallak, Syrian League for Citizenship and Syrian Women's League. Moderated by Dr. Hassan Abbas, Syrian League for Citizenship.  

The discussion began with a broad view by Mr. Azzam describing a fragmented understanding of citizenship in Syria and the Arab region more generally. He noted that post-colonial states in the Levant failed in fulfilling their end of the 'social contract' in terms of establishing equality of citizenship beyond narrower loyalties to family, tribe and sectarian community. Syrian Baath practices, despite claims to secularism and nationalism, nevertheless confirmed social and class divisions and used citizenship and rights politically - against the Kurdish community, for example - to disable citizens' sense of participation and belonging. Ms. Al-Hallak focused on Syrian women's inequality enshrined in Syria's constitutions and laws. Although Syria is party to most human rights treaties, including the women's rights convention CEDAW, the government's reservations and practices effectively make that commitment meaningless. Ms. Al-Hallak noted Syrian women's grassroots struggles to reverse political and cultural trends that consider women second-class citizens, and sounded an optimistic note that this struggle will eventually reach its goals of full equality of citizenship. The ensuing discussion further detailed how the practice of citizenship played out, and focused on human rights standards as fundamental to ensure hope for a better future in Syria. 
Audio Available on SoundCloud

February 10, 2016

Lecture and Discussion
Syria Dialogue Series: Citizenship and Civil Society in Syria Today and Tomorrow
Part 1- Syrian Civil Society Today
Dr. Hassan Abbas, Syrian League for Citizenship, and Dr. Maya El-Rahabi, Mousawat (Equality) Center for Women Studies. Moderated by Dr. Rania Masri, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship.  

Dr. Abbas presented a rich, historical overview of civil society in Syria, from 1946 until today. He noted that there were six general stages of civil society - from a period of “relative freedom" in 1946 until the “outburst" today.  Dr. El-Rahabi focused on one aspect of the current civil society in Syria:  women's organizations. She discussed at length the coalitions and networks that have been formed to support a nonviolent option, and the “long road" ahead of them in Syria when the violence ends.  The audience, most of whom were from the community outside the university, then engaged the speakers and each other in conversation about civil society in Syria before 1946 and the establishment of Syria in its current borders. A rich discussion arose about the definition of civil society itself and Dr. Abbas argued that civil society is not removed from politics and political parties are part of it, so long as they are not in government. Another point of interest was about the women's organizations; priorities and their work in creating bridges across all political dimensions.      
Audio Available on SoundCloud 

December 8, 2015Lecture and Discussion
Black Palestinian Solidarity
Speakers: Kristian Bailey, The Evolution of Solidarity in the Ferguson-Gaza Era.
Ajamu Baraka, From Bil'in to Baltimore: Settler Colonialism and Reciprocal Solidarity
Glen Ford, African American Mass Support for Palestine vs. the Black Mis-leadership Class
Moderated by Rania Masri

Kristian Bailey, Ajamu Baraka, and Glen Ford spoke to a full house of academics and activists and journalists about Black Palestinian Solidarity.  The speakers examined the history of African-American support for Palestine and the shared struggles among the two peoples. Rania Masri, the moderator, also commented on the need for anti-racism work in Lebanon.
December 7, 2015
December 8, 2015

Research Project - Workshop
Research Project, in collaboration with IFI  
“Policy-making at Times of Uncertainty: Examining the Roles of Arab Civil Society Actors in InfluencingSocial Policy-making in an Uncertain Landscape"
6 research projects: Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco

 Since the first meeting with researchers in April 2015, in which the research methodology was discussed at length,, researchers have been collecting data to develop their first drafts which they presented in a workshop held on the 7th and 8th of December.  With contributions from the external advisory committee and from the organizing team, the researchers received much-needed feedback on their work. Submission of the second draft of their progress is due in mid-February

December 3, 2015
December 4, 2015

Research Project - Workshop
Studying Labor Unions, Research Project
in collaboration with IFI: Labor Unions and the Quest for Social Justice in the Arab World
7 research projects - Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Bahrain, occupied Palestine, Lebanon

The researchers participated in the first workshop — a Methodology Workshop held on December 3 and 4, in which all researchers presented their planned methodology and to valuable feedback on their research design and methodology was given. The next steps in this project are: (1) submission of a progress narrative report of 3 pages in length no later than January 31, 2016 to include a revised methodology based on the Methodology Workshop and updates on the progress of the fieldwork, data collected and preliminary research findings achieved so far; (2) first draft of the report to be submitted by March 21, 2016 and presented in a workshop in Beirut at AUB on April 11 and 12, 2016; (3) A final research report of the study should be submitted by June 27, 2016 for internal review. It must abide by the research framework and include a literature review, detailed methodology, research findings and recommendations. The total length of the final report should be around 10,000 words; (4) A public presentation of the findings of the paper at a public conference will be organized at AUB in September or October 2016

December 2, 2015Interview 
The Women's Movement in Morocco
Prof. Naima Benwakrim

An interview was conducted with professor Naima Benwakrim that would be uploaded on our partner's Audio Journal, Status Hour. Plus we will be uploading the Audio on our own Asfari Institute's SoundCloud account very shortly.
December 1, 2015

Lecture and Discussion
Protest series: Media and the Protest Movement Problematics and Alternatives 
Last event of the Protest Series
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club.
Speakers: Riyad Kobeissi, NewTV; Foutoun Raad, LBC; and Rabih Barabkat, AUB

The panel is concerned with the interplay between political activism and contemporary media in the mid of the protest movement. It places focus on the role that the mainstream media played in shaping the politics of contention and dissent. It further explores the extent to which recent forms of activism reconfigure the relation between people and the media and modes of representation.

November 24, 2015Documentary Presentation and Discussion
Reclaiming Public Spaces
 "إعمار على الموج"
إنتاج عام 1995
Speakers: Abir Saksouk (Studio of Public Work); Ali Darwish (Greenline); Mona Fawaz (professor of urban planning at AUB); and Rami Abou Alfa (For the City Initiative).
Moderator: Rima Majed 

The event started by the screening of the documentary “reconstruction on the waves" by Maher Abi Samra. Following the documentary screening, Ali Darwish from Greenline gave a historical overview of the corrupt deals that violated public spaces in Lebanon. Rami Abou Alfa presented the urban transformations that took place in Sidon and their effects on social interactions in the city. He argued that public spaces were turned into real estate spaces. Only few public spaces are left, many of which do not have social functioning. In fact, the early planning of the city in the 50s didn't take into consideration the social history of the city and its environmental landscape. Abir Saksouk from Studio of Public Work asked: where did people dwell historically in Beirut? She argued that people's use of the public was spontaneous. They used to travel across the city irrespective of sectarian divides. The planning of Beirut in the post war era didn't take into consideration these public spaces and their dwellers. The beach side for instance, was only valued as a space for investment and tourism, not as a place for sociality. She concluded by saying that the public space is not a space for excursion only, but most importantly,  it's a space from where political projects are built and developed. Mona Fawaz argued that there's no rigid distinction between the private and the public and that people's practice of the city has always been blurring the lines between the two. She said that we should approach this issue from the right to the city perspective. Through this prism, the city cannot be reduced to a real-estate map. Fawaz argued that we should enlarge our understanding of public rights. She also cautioned to the fact that the public should not be reduced to the state. The public is much wider than the state.
November 17, 2015

Lecture and  Discussion
Protest series: State Repression and Police Violence 
 قمع الدولة وعنف الشرطة
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club.
Speakers: Ghida Frangieh, Mayal El Helou, Omar Nashabeh
Moderator: Fateh Azzam

The conference raised the question of violence perpetuated by the state and its law enforcement bodies. Nashabeh,spoke about police infringement of national laws and international standards dealing with the demonstrators. Protestors were put down on their knees and hit on their heads and faces with police baton. These are only few examples of the ways in which the police forces decided to “humiliate" civilians, said Nashabeh. Lawyer Ghida Frangieh, who is a member of the Lawyers' Committee to Defend Protestors -a committee that was born as a reaction to the wide arrests of protestors following August 22 protest- responded to the state's claims regarding violence. As an active lawyer who has been following up on cases of arrests, Frangieh listed several abuses of civilians' rights such as arbitrary detention, violence during and following arrests, the prevention of the detainees from their right to communicate with the outside, arrests of minors, kidnapping and the transfer of civilians before military courts. These acts attest to the fact that the state considers the protest movement as a “security concern" rather than a democratic right, said Frangieh. Finally, Maya El Helou spoke about the everyday forms of state violence, the kind of violence that is “unseen" and which is not necessary physical. This violence was deployed by the state when it tried to dehumanize protestors and giving them less value than things like “Le Gray" Hotel's wall. In addition, by deploying its police intelligence among protestors, the state intended to break the solidarity among the political community, to put society under continuous surveillance and to produce us –civilians- as police. El Helou concluded that the violence that the protestors have faced is not exceptional. On the contrary, it is part and parcel of the functioning of the system.

November 10, 2015

Panel Discussion
Protest series: Social classes and the movement
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club.
Speakers: Nahla Shahhal, Hanna Gharib, Mohamad Zbeeb
Moderator: Rania Masri

Socio economic factors have triggered the movement against trash and pushed many factions of the society to join and allowed it to expand over many parts of the country. Hence, the conference aimed at tackling the class base of the movement around the trash crisis that erupted at the end of July 2015. Shahhal analyzed the discourse on “infiltrators" that was used to label large categories of what she called “non-normative" protestors  who do not conform to the model of the middle class, Lebanese protestor constructed as: polite, peaceful and patriotic. These “infiltrators" came from marginalized regions and parts of the city, most of them poor, destitute and informal, and were soon pushed away from the protest movement.  
Zbeeb, presented the shortcomings of the movement in its inability to elaborate an economic and political agenda that speaks to the majority of Lebanese and non-Lebanese people's need. He said that the movement leadership conforms to the prevailing ideology which claims that there are no other divisions in the Lebanese society, except sectarian divisions. In this line of thinking, class is considered secondary. Throughout his presentation, Zbeeb tried to deconstruct and challenge this ideology. 
Finally, Gharib, highlighted the links between the nascent movement against trash and the Union Coordination Committee movement on wages for public employees. He said that we should be looking at the movement in relation to other struggles that were launched in the past years and which uncovered the Lebanese regime's stagnation and its inability to provide solutions but to constantly create social, economic and political crisis. He added that this is why one of the most important slogans that gained the terrain lately was “All of you, Means all of you", which was directed against all the governing parties to express mistrust and rage.

November 5, 2015

Roundtable Discussion
Majdolin Hassan & Sabah Al-Hallak
Syrian Women are Activists not Victims
Moderator: Fateh Azzam

The Asfari Institute hosted a conference about women's struggle in Syria before, during and in the aftermath of the revolution. Two Syrian feminist activists presented their experience, one is Majdolin Hassan a lawyer and a member of the Syrian Women's Initiative for Peace and Democracy and Sabah Al-Hallak, a member of the Syrian Women's League and the Syrian League for Citizenship. The speakers focused on the past ten years of activism around women's issues in Syria and their fight for a secular state. Their experiences come to counter the discourse that portrays Syrian women solely as victims of war, dictatorship and religious fundamentalism. They attest to the multiple fronts over which Syrian women have to fight. They highlight the prominent role of women in the opposition movement in the past years and the major role they have to play to end the war. 

November 3, 2015

Lecture and Discussion
Protest series: Students Activism in the Movement
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club.
Speakers: Georgette Issa, Islam Khatib (Lebanese University); Iyad Raya, Joumana Talhouk (AUB); Lilas Dagher (USJ); Mehdi Zeidan (LAU); Mohamad Haidar (LIU); Rami Frangieh (Balamand University). 
Moderator: Farah Kobaissy

Students' engagement in the movement in Lebanon that started in the summer of 2015 is certain. However, the majority took part in the mobilizations as individuals, not as part of students organized bodies. The conference aimed at exploring the role of the students in the movement. Speakers were asked to draw on their experiences to respond to three main problematics: what are the students' organizational challenges? What was the impact of the movement on students' activism? And what are the potentials for the emergence of an independent student front across universities and according to which agenda?

October 28, 2015

Protest series: Gender Dimensions of the Protests 
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club.
Speakers: Lamia Moghnieh (Sawt el Neswa), Leen Hashem (Feminist Social Justice group), Reine Nemer (People Want Coalition).
Moderator: Joumana Talhouk  

The conference aimed at opening the discussion about the gendered aspect of the popular movement, an aspect that is often dismissed as a secondary issue. It also aimed at rendering visible organizational initiatives such as the feminist block that was, and continue to be, part and parcel of the street. Lamia Moghnieh spoke about the feminist block and Sawt (Voice) Radio initiative. Reine Nemer focused on gender dynamics within the activists' sphere which she identified as male dominated. As for Leen Hashem, she presented an analysis of the state in relation to the movement through its discourse, values and practices. She remarked that state authority tried to “feminize" the movement in order to prove its “masculinity".

October 22, 2015

Discussion and Talk 
Protest series: Rethinking the Left 
Organizers: Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club and Red Oak Club
Speakers: Aya Adra (Red Oak Club), Farah Kobaissy (the Socialist Forum and the People Want Coalition), Fawaz Traboulsi (professor at AUB), Gilbert Ashkar (professor at SOAS).
Moderator: Rima Majed

The conference aimed at opening up the discussion about the potentials for the Left in Lebanon, especially in the context of the popular movement.
Professor Gilbert Ashkar gave an overview about recent leftist experiences in Europe, from Syriza in Greece, to Podemos in Spain and the Labor Party in the UK and the way forward to the Left in Europe. To his side, Professor Fawaz Traboulsi's intervention focused on the role of the Left in Lebanon in politicizing the agenda of the popular movement. Following Traboulsi's intervention, Farah Kobaissy's spoke about how to overcome the shortcomings of the popular movement from an organizational point of view. Finally, Aya Adra's spoke about the Red Oak Club experience as a Leftist student club, inside and outside AUB campus. 

October 20, 2015Lecture and Working Roundtable
The Challenges and Definitions Facing Civil Society
Moderated by: Fateh Azzam, Rania Masri, Ziad Abdel-Samad, and Arabi El-Andari

Moderated by: Fateh Azzam, Rania Masri, Ziad Abdel-Samad, and Arabi El-Andari
Within the Study Week organized by the Observatory for Social and Economic Policy, the Asfari Institute at AUB, in cooperation with Ajyal for Social Networking and Tammey for Youth Development, a workshop on civil society was held.  
Speakers at the workshop focused on the different definitions of civil society, and the problematic of limiting the definition to non-governmental organizations. 
Ziad Abdul Samad, the Director of the Arab Network of Non-Governmental Organizations, pointed out that civil society is an open space which includes essential forces such as trade unions, political parties and social movements. Today these organizations play different roles, the most important of which is at the level of policy making and influence. 
To his side, Fateh Azzam, the Director of Asfari Institute, tackled the issue of legitimacy of civil society organizations and asked: who and what is the source of the legitimacy given to civil society organizations and to their roles? 
The Last speaker, Arabi El Andari, an activist within the current social movement, said that the roles of some NGOs are indeed problematic on an economic and political level. However, we cannot look at them as the absolute evil. El Andari, refused the separation between what is political and what pertains to civil society's work, especially when it comes to the Palestinian context.   
Following their interventions, the speakers responded to dozens of questions raised by the participants in the study week
October 20, 2015

Youth voices from within Palestine 
Speaker: Maisan Hamdan (with a short appearance by Samer Asakli)
Moderator: Rania Masri

 Speaking to a full house of more than 130 people, Maisan Hamdan spoke of the challenges of life and struggle within 1948 Occupied Palestine.  The focus of her talk was on the ongoing struggle for Druze Palestinians to refuse the mandatory conscription in the occupying Israeli army, starting from Sultan Basha and ending with the current campaign by 'Urfod – Refuse, Your people will protect you.' ( Maisan, the coordinator of the campaign, also introduced Samer Asakli, a Palestinian who refused to serve in the occupying army. 

October 13, 2015

Protest series: Mapping the Movement 
Sociology and Media Department at AUB, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB Secular Club, Red Oak Club and the Debate Club.
Ajwad Ayash (the Campaign to Close Naameh's Landfill), Asaad Thebian (You Stink Campaign), Hashem Adnan (The People Want Coalition), Neemat Badr El Din  (We Want Accountability Campaign), Ayman Mroueh (Change is Coming Campaign).

The popular movement that arose in the summer of 2015 in Lebanon over the garbage crisis has incited the formation of new political groups and coalitions who acted as agitators, mobilizers and organizers. The goal of the conference was to map some of the main active groups and coalitions within the popular movement and to highlight the differences as well as convergences between them. The main question that was asked: why there are so many groups within the movement? And how and in which ways they differ from each other? Speakers offered their different evaluation as well as their visions to the prospects of this movement.

October 7, 2015

Lecture and Talk
Civil Society in the Arab Gulf: Reality and Prospects
Dr. Anwar El Rasheed

Mr. Al-Rasheed began with an overview of civil society formation and activities in the Arab Gulf Region. He noted that in most countries the law does allow for the formation of non-governmental organizations, but the political climate and security-minded authorities place severe restrictions on the type of organizations and scope of their action. In many countries there is now a preponderance of government-appointed non-governmental organizations, and the capacity of independent voices to be heard is severely limited by security considerations and legal restrictions on funding and support. He provided several examples of closure of organizations and of activists, bloggers, and journalists who are subject to legal harassment and imprisonment simply for exercise of their freedom of expression. Despite this situation, however, activists in the Gulf continue to work towards more open societies, and are proposing a new “Civil State Project" as an alternative to the Islam-based approaches of governments on the one hand, and on the other even more restrictive interpretations of Islam promoted by the Moslem Brotherhood, the Islamic State and others.

October 7, 2015

Lecture and Talk
Protest series: Retaking the Street
Organized by the Red Oak Club, moderated by Dr. Rania Masri

 "العودة إلى الشارع"

محاضرة يقدمها الصحافي والناشط محمد زبيب و المحامية الدكتورة ميريم مهنا حول التحرك المطلبيفي لبنان وتبعياته. 
تتخللها مسرحية*  تفاعلية تقدمها فرقة اسطمبولي عن التحرك في لبنان والمشاركة فيه

May 13, 2015

Discussion and Talk
Palestinian Citizenship: The Next Bold Step
with Mr. Jaber Souleiman, Mr. Salah Salah, and Mr. Fateh Azzam

Now that Palestine has been recognized as a State, it is time to take the next bold step of starting the process of granting citizenship, especially for the stateless refugees, and entering into bilateral agreements with host states to define the rights and obligations of Palestinian citizens until they can exercise their right to return. Outlining legal foundations and the political and logistical complexities, Fateh Azzam presented this proposal as an approach to break the current political deadlock and malaise and create new facts on the ground that may contribute to bypassing the Oslo quagmire and the improvement of refugees' legal, economic, and political situation. 
The full proposal can be read on the website of the Palestinian Policy Network (Al Shabaka) in both Arabic and English.
More papers to come

April 30, 2015

Discussion and Arabic Book Launch
 Discussion on book: Marxism, Religion, Orientalism
Dr. Gilbert Achcar
co-sponsored by The Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies with Dr. Rania Masri as moderator
Arabic book launch:
Marxism, Religion and Orientalism
with publisher Dr. Samah Idriss

On the occasion of the launching of the Arab edition for the new book, Marx, Religion, Orientalism (Al-Adab, Beirut), the book's author, Dr. Gilbert Achcar, presented an introduction of the book, followed by a discussion with the book's translator, Dr. Samah Idriss.
The book brought together four studies on heated debates in our contemporary life, dealing with the perception of Marxism to religion and its relationship to politics, and its tendency towards 'reverse Orientalism' that flips traditional Orientalism on its head, and the classification of Edward Said to Marxism as one of the paths of Orientalism, and the evolution of Marx and Engels' position on colonialism.
Dr. Samah Idriss is the editor of the Al-Adab Journal (which will be issued anew in an electronic version soon). He has two books on literary criticism, and ten illustrated books for children, and four novels for young adults.  He is also working on a huge dictionary of the Arabic language, and is a founding member of the Lebanese Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel (


April 28, 2015

Lecture and Talk
The Workers' Movement and the Arab Uprising
Dr. Gilbert Achcar
co-sponsored by Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies
with Dr. Rania Masri as moderator

The prevailing image for the Arab uprisings, which spread to all parts of the Arab region in 2001, does not include the social class without whom one cannot understand the uprising.  The labor movement played a prominent role in the two countries that led the uprisings, as in others, where circumstances permit the existence of a workers' movement.  The role of the workers' movement, both in its strength and in its absence, is a major key to understanding the course of the Arab uprisings and what has become of them in this fifth year of a regional scene upon which hangs the specter of community fragmentation


April 24, 2015

Lecture and Talk  
Committee for the Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Civil Society Responds: Palestinian refugee work in Lebanon 
Is their right and an economic and social benefit for Lebanon

 Ambassador Samir El-Khoury, Committee for the Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon,  Mr. Karim Nammour (Nizar Saghieh Law Firm), member of Legal Agenda.
Moderator: Fateh Azzam, Director of the Asfari Institute


April 8, 2015

A Quarter Century after the End of the Civil War 
Did We Turn a New Page?

Carmen Abou Jaoude, Director, International Center for Transitional Justice in Lebanon
Fabrizio Carboni, Head, ICRC Delegation in Lebanon
Wadad Halwani, Chairperson, Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and the Disappeared
Tarek Mitri, Director, Issam Fares Institute
The debate was moderated by Fateh Azzam, Director of AUB's Asfari Institute 


April 7, 2015Seminar and Workshop   
with Dr. Rania Masri 
The Asfari Institute and the Palestinian Cultural Club at AUB  organized a seminar and workshop today (5 to 8) on Boycott

From 5 to 6 pm, Samah Idriss, Rabih Salah, and Rania Masri fielded questions and discussed boycott against Israel in Lebanon, the region, and internationally.
From 6 to 6.15, break for refreshments.
From 6.15 to 8 pm, strategy workshop on Boycott at AUB.
April 2, 2015Lecture and Talk
Why -and How -We Fight?  Apartheid Week
with Dr. Rania Masri

Part of the events at AUB for "Resisting the Apartheid Wall and Boycotting the Zionist State"
Sponsered by The Palestinian Cultural Club at AUB 
March 23 & 27 2015

Forum Social Mondial 2015
The Asfari Institute Dr. Rania Masri attended the FSM 2015 in Tunisia 

Attending and Networking at the WSF

March 19 & 21 2015Workshop on BDS 
The Asfari institute Dr. Rania Masri facilitated a 2-day workshop on BDS in the Gulf in Kuwait. 
Sponsored by
Speakers: Zaid Shuaibi, Sami Hermez, Jamal Ghosn, Rania Masri
Moderators: Zaid and Rania were the primary facilitators and workshop organizers

Approximately 20 activists from throughout the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain) met in Kuwait for a two-and-a-half day workshop to discuss and build strategies on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. The event was organized by the BDS movement, and Rania Masri as a co-facilitator.
March 20, 2015The Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance 
The Annual Conference 

Palestinian health workers from Gaza, Syria and region met in Beirut to discuss building health capacities. The Asfari Institute pleased to support Palestinian health workers meeting
March 13, 2015

Lecture and Discussion: Palestine and the International Criminal Court 
International Criminal Court after Palestine signed and ratified Rome Statute
Mr. Raji Sourani

On Friday March 13th, the Asfari Institute, in collaboration with Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Relations, hosted a lecture by Mr. Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, on the implications of Palestine's accession to the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court. Mr. Sourani noted that:
This long-awaited move is crucial to gaining justice for the victims, particularly of the Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. 
More than 80% of the victims were civilian and over half a million displaced, tens of thousands of homes, businesses and infrastructure destroyed.
Palestine's role is over after signing the Statutes. Now individual Palestinian families will be able to present cases. 
A consortium of four Palestinian human rights organizations already have thousands of documented cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity ready to present to the court.

March 13 & 14 2015Palestine Refugees and International Law
Short Course at AUB by Oxford University in Coop with The Asfari Institute
The Asfari Institute hosted a short course by Oxford University's Refugee Studies Center on Palestine Refugees and International law. Using a case-study and working group format, the course covered a historical socio-political overview of the status of Palestinian refugees, their legal rights in the host countries of the Arab region, and their status under international law, including discussion of the customary law nature of the right to return. The course was taught by Dr. Dawn Chatty (Oxford University Refugee Studies Centre) and Dr. Susan Akram (Boston University School of Law). Asfari Institute Director contributed through a presentation describing Palestinians' enduring connection to Palestine and the role of memory using examples in theater and poetry.
March 05, 2015

Lecture and Discussion:
Just War, Citizen Responsibility, and Public Intellectuals

Prof. Christian Nadeau, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Montreal

Professor Christian Nadeau speaks to a small but engaged audience at Asfari institute: 
"Public Intellectuals have a role and a responsibility to society in times of war and peace" 
"The intellectual's role is greater than that of the average citizen"
"Intellectuals need to interrogate the moral basis of "Just War"

February 23, 2015

Lecture and Discussion:
with the Arts and Humanities Initiative

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, an event was organized to discuss the legacy of Malcolm X and his applicability today, both in the region and worldwide.  The event, attended by more than 100 people, included lectures by human rights activist Ajamu Baraka and organizer and former professor Daniel Drennan, and was moderated and introduced by Rania Masri.
Part 2:


January 29-31, 2015

Multi History, Multi Memory Event
In partnership with Alter Natives, and in collaboration with the Sustainable Democracy Center,
Nadi Lekol el Nas, and Act for the Disappeared

The workshop includes an exhibit, four films, debate nights and a workshop on with panel discussions on memory and memoralisation of war in Lebanon. It will culminate with the coordination of a joint strategy to utilize the available documentation


January 29, 2015

Mixed Feelings, Identity, "Race" and Family in Lebanon

The opening of an exhibit on mixed families in Lebanon began with a panel discussion. Speakers included Marta Bogdansksa and Nisreen Kaj, of the project team, and Rania Masri

January 24 & 31 2015

Public Speaking Workshop 
Dr. Rania Masri-Associate Director, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship 

This two-day (8 am to 5 pm) training workshop, given by Rania Masri and designed for any individual passionate about social justice and positive change, focused on techniques in writing, editing, and performing speeches for particular audiences. It was the first of many training workshops. 
Forty-four people applied; fourteen people were accepted to participate in this training. Feedback from the workshop was excellent, with one participant writing: “one of the best workshops I've ever participated in.

December 2, 2014

Lecture: Narratives of Hope: Palestine in Literature
In collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Initiative and the AUB English Department

Lecture by Jordanian author Ibrahim Nasrallah, accompanied by musicians Amal Kaawash (Palestine) and Abo Gabi (Syria), and introduced by Tariq Mehmood and Rania Masri. The event was one of a series of lectures and discussions on the impact of literature and the arts of resistance on the exercise of global citizenship.
Watch Lecture

November 27, 2014SeminarPalestine, the Occupation and the Fourth Geneva Convention: Reinvigorating International Law in the Occupied Territory 
In collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA)

Dr. Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France Seminar by Karim El-Mufti and Mireille Fanon-Mendes, and moderated by Nizar Saghiyeh
November 22, 2014

Dr. Rania Masri

Participation in INTRAC conference on INGOs entitled: 'Building sustainability of civil society: debates, challenges and moving forward.' - London


October 22, 2014

Protecting Secular Space: The role of Tunisian civil society post- 2011 
Abdel-Basset Ben Hassen, President, Arab Institute for Human Rights, Tunisia

Although the Islamist An-Nahda Party gained a majority in the first Tunisian elections post-revolution, the new Tunisian constitution – unlike most constitutions across the region – does not contain a provision that states that Islamic Sharia is the source of all legislation. This is due in great part to the efforts of Tunisian civil society. What strategies did civil society employ? What collaborations were instituted and how is citizenship now perceived in Tunisia?
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October 8, 2014

Presentation and discussion:
Racism and 'Othering' in Lebanon from a Lebanese Perspective- Summary
In collaboration with Dar Al Mussawir, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East Foundation, Insan, and the Issam Fares Institute

In this panel discussion Lebanese citizens of African and other mixed descent shared their experiences of being victims of racial slurs in schools and discrimination and racism in society and general lack of acceptance. A portrait exhibit of young mixed-race Lebanese visually brought it all home.
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May 16, 2014

Lecture: Despite all Difficulties-Syrian Civil Society before the Revolution
In collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB

Dr. Hassan Abbas, Researcher and critic-French Institute for the Near East and President, Syrian League for Citizenship 
Dr. Fouad M. Fouad- Physician and researcher and former researcher with the Syrian Center for Health Studies-Aleppo and Faculty of Health Sciences, AUB 

This instructive lecture reviewed the efforts of Syrian civil society activists to serve their communities in an extremely repressive and authoritarian environment. The two lecturers authored two chapters in a collected volume by the same title, published by Hivos. 
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