Sultan Al Qassemi, scholar, columnist, and influential Twitter commentator talks about the role of social media as a change agent in the Middle East. September, 2011.
>> Hello, good afternoon everybody. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and I am delighted to welcome all of you here this afternoon, on behalf of the Ford School Community. We're very honored today to be joined by a man who for so many people became the single essential source of information over the past months as the dramatic transformational world changing events happened in the Arab Spring. We--in a few moments, I will be introducing our speaker Sheikh Sultan Al Qassemi. But before I do that, I would like to tell you a little bit about the origins of this lecture series which is something that the school has been very, very proud to host. This as you know is the Josh Rosenthal Lecture. Josh Rosenthal was a graduate of the University of Michigan in 1979 and he went on to earn a master's degree in public policy from Princeton University. His deep interest in policy analysis and International Affairs led him to work in the field of International Finance and he was in the World Trade Towers on September 11th of 2001, and Josh died in that attack. His mother, Marilynn Rosenthal, was a long-time faculty member here at the University of Michigan and she was determined to create a positive meaning from what had happened on 9/11 and her intent was to help fulfill her son's early optimism about the world and the role that mutual understanding, dialogue, and analysis play in improving communities both here in the United States and around the world. Marilynn and a number of others worked to establish the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund which has enabled the Ford School to bring leading public figures to Ann Arbor each September to share their insights to foster dialogue and generate a greater understanding of many ways in which the world has changed since 9/11, and the many ways that we can continue to help to foster and encourage that change. And are there members of the Rosenthal family who are able to join us here today? Welcome, it's wonderful to see you. We're delighted that you are able to be here. I know that Josh's sister, Helen Rosenthal, is watching on our live--our live feed and I know that there are many others around the country who are doing so as well, so we welcome her in that venue. I do want to make a very special thank you to the Rosenthal family for their support. We are very grateful to them for being able to continue the Josh Rosenthal lecture and this dialogue. Marilynn Rosenthal died in 2007, but I know that she would have been extremely pleased especially on the 10th anniversary of the events on 9/11 to welcome Sheikh Sultan here this year as our Rosenthal lecturer. Sheikh Sultan is a successful businessman and he is the founder and chairman of Barjeel Securities, a financial products company and the Managing Director of Al Saud Company Limited, which specializes in equity markets, real estate, and construction. He's a teacher as well, a nonresident fellow at the Dubai School of Government and a lecturer at the Dubai Men's College on Middle Eastern history and entrepreneurship. But Sultan is perhaps best-known internationally for his commentary, analysis, and dissemination of social, political, and economic news from the Middle East. He's a columnist at the National Newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and he co-hosts a weekly show on Dubai Eye radio. His columns appear regularly in The National and MoneyWorks, and he's been published internationally in the Financial Times, the Daily Star in Lebanon, the Huffington Post, and others. Over 78,000 follow his commentary on Twitter, and that number exploded this past winter when during the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, his nearly instantaneous translations of Arab Language News were seized on by English speaking journalists and observers hungry to follow and understand the changes that were sweeping the region. We could not be more pleased this afternoon and honored to welcome Sheikh Sultan Al Qassemi to Ann Arbor and to the Ford School and I am delighted now to welcome him to the podium.
>> Thank you.
[ Applause ]
Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I'm not tweeting, I'm just checking the time [laughter] so I don't take any of your time. First of all, I want to say that I'm very honored to be here amongst you, especially, you know, considering the circumstances. And I am mindful that we are all able to be here as a result of a grant by the very generous family of Joshua Rosenthal who passed away as we heard 10 years ago this month. In fact, it's very--it's very fitting I think that we are speaking on this occasion because a lot of us has been--have been affected by those horrible tragic events. We also heard that a few months ago, the person who planned these horrific events was, you know, killed. And in fact, I had written a couple of articles about how he had died several times before he was killed. He had died in the streets of Cairo, he had died in the streets of Benghazi, he had died in the streets of Sana'a, he had died in Bahrain, he had died in Tunisia, he had died all over the Arab world where no one or a single one of the millions upon millions of Arab and Middle Eastern protesters even had a single descent word to say about that horrific terrorist. So the world has come full circle, I think, and we're ready to take--to talk about the future. Now, I'm going to talk to you about 4 issues but before I do, let's talk about the background of the term Arab Spring. What is the Arab Spring? A lot of people dispute this word. It's not popular at all amongst some circles, looks--it's looked up on as being orientalist word, a word that came from, you know, from writers outside the Middle East region. And the origin of the word actually is by a French writer who--who didn't have a very good history, he was a Nazi collaborator so he probably try to avoid using anything he came up with. But the world the--he traveled throughout the Arab world while the Ottoman Empire was collapsing and other countries were being formed and he came up with this phrase called the "Printemp Arabe" or the "Arab Spring." Until today, French journalists refer to the events of the Middle East as Le Printemps Arabe as in the Arab Springs. So what's the deal with the Arab Revolutions, what's going on, what's the background and where are we going from here? These are things that we'll talk about in the next hour or so. There were several studies written about why the Arab Spring happened? There was a series of studies co-authored by a wonderful lady who called the Arab Human Development reports in which that talked about human rights deficit, a freedom deficit, economic growth that failed, women's rights deficit, democracy deficit. So, all these factors were there. In fact, the Arab Spring should have happened a decade ago, 2 decades ago, maybe decades before 2011. There was a study that found that the economies of the Arab world actually shrank over the past few decades, even the Gulf States, there was a negative growth of 2.8 percent, there's a word I never heard of before called "the development." So in fact, we were regressing in the last 60 years in the Arab world. And there was all sorts of reasons, that--that dictators would use, all sorts of excuses but ultimately, it was the denial of human rights, it was the denial of the citizens' rights that--that led to the Arab awakening. 2 issues though that--that are talked about a lot which is the role of social media and this is something that I think I'll spend some minutes on. There was 2 events that took place in 2010 before the Arab Spring that's really set the wheel in motion for--for the events of 2011. One is more famous than the other, that was the case of the young Tunisian vegetable seller who was in a small town that I had never heard of called Sidi Bouzid and he was unemployed, and he had his vegetable cart that he would wheel into the square and he would try--and he was trying to sell vegetables. So a police officer comes and, you know, he tells him off, tells him, "You can't sell here, go back, this is no place for you."
He goes back and he sets himself alight. And even in the repressive regime of Ben Ali, in which the--the internet had a police officer known as Ammar 404 who would stop you from surfing any websites. Even in that repressive environment, news of this young man spread like wild fire across the--across the blogosphere in the internet, to the extent that the tightly controlled newspapers actually reported on the incident. The president, former dictator went to visit him. And on June 4th, that young man passed away, Mohammed Bouazizi, and within 6 days, the dictator was ousted. Another event that also played a big role is--and this is where social media comes in, is the--is the killing of a young Egyptian called Khaled Saeed. And Khaled Saeed was a 24-year-old. They were both 24, 25 years old, young kids. So Khaled Saeed was killed by 2 police officers. He was an IT engineer and he saw them exchanging drugs in Egypt in this neighborhood called Sidi Gaber in Alexandria. So he filmed them and they saw him, they followed him and they--they dragged him out of the internet cafe, we call it internet cafe back there, and they beat him to a pulp to the--and then, you know, they didn't care about him, they just wanted to take the video footage, and photos of him went viral on the internet. These police officers were sentenced to 4 days and that was it for beating a young man up. So what happened was young Egyptians started a Facebook page called "We are all Khaled Saeed" and it's got thousands upon thousands of members on that Facebook page. And in order for them to identify each other, reach out to each other, social media was the only medium. And so what they decided to do was they decided to dress in black and go and stand on the streets of Alexandria, on the Cornish carrying--some of them carrying their Bibles, some of them carrying their Korans, some of them just, you know, just dressing--dressed in black standing next to each other but leaving a few yards difference, maybe 6, 7 yards between them, and why did they do that? Because Egypt was and continues to be under state of emergency which means that no more than 4 or 5 people can congregate together in a room without an official permit. So they were able to bypass this law that says that you can't be together by standing next to each other like this, and then the next person a few met--a few yards away like that, and in complete silence for several hours a day over a period of few days. And everybody knew why they were there. Everybody knew that these young men and women were unhappy about the death of this young gentleman. The administrator of that Facebook page, you might have heard of him, his name is Wael Ghonim and he was the young Google Executive who was detained for 11 days during the Egyptian uprising. So what happened on--on social media, these young men and women decided and this was by the way, many of you don't know--this was decided before the fall of the Egyptian--of the Tunisian dictator. They identified the 25th of January as the date where they want to go and protest and that's why it's called the January 25th Revolution, but why January 25? Because that is the day--that day is Police Day in Egypt. That day, Egyptians celebrate the Police Day because the police were, you know, gave them all the cause to celebrate. So--but the reason, actually, the reason why they chose January 25 was that was the day that most police officers were off duty and they were able to march on the streets while the police officers were on a holiday. And the beginning of the revolution, in the beginning of the uprising, people demanded 3 things. I'll say them in Arabic--eish, horeya, adala egtmaya--bread, freedom, and social justice. But by the 28th of January, there was a huge crack down and several people--many people, dozens in fact had died in the first few days, and then they started chanting "We want the end of the regime." Let's go back a few months. What's the deal with social media? What is social media in the Arab world? Is it really that important? Did it really play that decisive role? Now, the Arab world consists of about 300 million people, about 75 percent are under 29 so it's a very young region of the world, 20--25 percent of them unemployed, imagine that? That's about what? 40, 50 million unemployed individuals. Some countries don't consider women who are unemployed as unemployed, unfortunately, but the truth is the numbers were hovering between the 20s and 30s. So, you had this young region using social media, Facebook for instance, penetration. January 2010, you had 11.9 million users of Facebook in the Arab world. December 2010, 12 months later, you had 22 million users of social media in the--of Facebook in the Arab world. Number of Twitter users, several tens of thousands, by the end of the revolution, 5 and a half to 6 million. Now, keep in mind there are 300 million Arabs that--so that means that it was a sort of an elite instrument, not everybody had access to social media. Less than 10 percent of the--of Arabs had access to social media. But what social media allowed them to do was to reach out to each other. It allowed them to identify each other, find the common slogan, find the date in which they would start to protest. It allowed them to unify the slogan, it allowed them to bypass a--to bypass, you know, police check points. Where I came in is this, January 2010--2011, I had a little free time on my hands and there was the--the Tunisians had started, you know, to protest against their dictator, and 150,000 of them were on the street and it was exciting. The whole world was watching what was happening to this tiny North African countries. That is really, that was really the I--the country that I would have nominated to be the very last, why? Because you had the United Nations had showered it with--with praise, human development, you know, women empowerment, minority rights, the Jewish community had rights in Tunisia. The--all sorts of, you know, all sorts of indicators perhaps pointed to the fact that Tunisia was a stable country. Mind you, it had a lot of security as well so there was no way that this would happen in Tunisia. Uprising happened, Ben Ali, Mohammed Bouazizi died--dies. January 11th, Ben Ali flies to Saudi Arabia. On the next day, I thought it was over. I think, "This is great. Wow, one dictator is gone," I mean, this is wonderful that maybe next year or the year after, or you know, or a decade later, another one will go. But within 48 hours, Muammar Gaddafi comes out on TV and starts, he had an average, one of his shortest speeches is about 3 hours long. So, he starts ranting and he had, you know, he had--he really looked upset, and Gaddafi was the huge supporter of Ben Ali. The Ben Ali's palace was built by Gaddafi, his summer home, and he only had tight relations. So, Gaddafi starts saying things like--remember WikiLeaks had just released these--the documents about--incriminating Ben Ali saying that he's very unpopular, his family controls the economy, his wife controls, you know, is despised in the community. So Ben Ali comes out and starts saying things like, lecturing, starts saying things like, "Don't believe what you read in clinics," and I thought what is clinics? And he didn't know how to call WikiLeaks, so he called it clinics and then he starts saying "And don't believe what's on bookface?" [Laughter] I was like, "What's bookface?" These are all new words, you know, I never heard of this stuff. So I was tweeting and tweeting and tweeting, I was writing, translating what Gaddafi was saying and he was insane, he was saying things like, "You should be so lucky to have Ben Ali be your president. You should apologize to him. Ask for him to come back and maybe he'll return and you should be so lucky if he does." And it was just hilarious. I was laughing and crying at the same time, tweeting about what this insane individual was saying. And this is where, I think, where the tipping point for me was. I noticed that I had what, 5000 total of followers. I noticed that by the end of the next day, I had doubled or tripled that number. People were saying follow this guy who's translating what Gaddafi is saying, now, it's hilarious. And yeah, so there was about 2 and a half hour speech in which I was tweeting every 40 seconds.
So you can imagine my thumbs were very, very sore by the end of that evening. So then, you know, Ben Ali departs January 25, so a good--what, a good 10 days, 2 weeks, between them, we had time to crack our knuckles and, you know, and the Egyptian Revolution started. We didn't know it was a revolution. We thought it was just a protest on Police Day. And Mubarak shuts down the internet, Mubarak shuts down TV, Mubarak shuts down mobiles, Mubarak shuts down satellite channels, Al Jazeera was chased out of Nilesat, you can't call internationally, you were completely disconnected. Though, you do have countries that are not wired like North Korea. But to have a country that had a decent amount of 10 million maybe social media users in Egypt, all of a sudden, none of them have access to information. However, there was one ISP left, Internet Service Provider, basically the company that provides internet services. One was called NOOR NET, and that company or NOOR DSL. Now that company was catering to the banks and to the brokerage firms, and the Central Bank. So they were separate than--separate from the other firms. So that company allowed a small number of Egyptians to access the internet. So what happened was, there were many several thousands of Egyptians who would tweet from Egypt or who would call or who would--who were able to stay in touch with the rest of the world, only several thousands with that country of 80 million, and these were the lifeline of Egypt. These were really the brave men and women who kept Egypt in touch with the rest of the world. And so, so I was tweeting things like, you know, Habib al-Adly. Habib al-Adly is the interior minister of Egypt who was sentenced to 12 years on corruption a few months back. He's going--he's undergoing another trial now with Mubarak. So I was tweeting I remember one day, you know, it was constant--constant 24 hours a day, 3 weeks I didn't go to work, I didn't do anything except watch Egypt. And I remember tweeting about Habib al-Adly saying, "We're withdrawing all the police forces from the streets." Why? Because the police were implicated and shooting live bullets at protesters. I remember the most popular tweet I ever sent out was this, and I memorized it because it went out several thousand times in the original form it was re-tweeted, and the tweet was "Al Jazeera, Egyptian doctors, we have been ordered not to report deaths by live bullets." So this tweet really went out all over and they're--so that mended the police who were using live bullets against Egyptian protesters who didn't have any weapons. And then, so Habib al-Adly, the next, in 3 days later withdraws all the police from the streets. Can you imagine being in Michigan, Boston, New York, Washington, LA, and there's not a single police officer in the street, how you would feel? It's a frightening thought, you know, anybody can break into your house and you can't pick up the phone and call 911 and say, "Someone's breaking into my house," so you had this community police started to be formed in Egypt. So I remember tweeting, police officers withdrawing from the streets, now they have gone out of this neighborhood, now they have gone out of that neighborhood, reports of thugs being, you know, going into that area. And I had my TV and I had my laptop and I had my iPhone and I had my headset, and I was completely wired, you know, talking on the phone, watching TV, tweeting, listening to the radio, 2 decoders, rewinding, forwarding, what was happening in Egypt in those days. I got a phone call from this guy I went to school with, "Sultan," "Yes, who is it? Who is it?" And I'm tweeting, I'm like, "What's going on? Who is it?" And I saw this number from Egypt, "Who is this?" "It's me," so I can't say his name. "It's me. I went to school with you." We'll call him Salem. "It's me, Salem. I went to school with you." I'm like, "Salem, what the hell, why? What's going on?" And he goes, "Sultan," I'm like, "Oh my God, my friend is calling me from Egypt," and it looks like it's interesting, you know, he was able to get a line outside the country. This is so exciting I'm going to ask them about what's happening on the ground. And he starts saying things like--then he starts telling me, "Sultan, I have to ask you for some thing that's very important." My friend is telling me he's asking me very important, he's going to tell me something very important. "Sultan, you have to stop tweeting." He told me to stop tweeting, and then people--like dozens of comments, "No, no, don't stop. Don't stop. You can't stop. You can't stop." And then I'm like, "Oh my God, he's telling me to stop tweeting because I'm starting havoc and chaos in Cairo and in Egypt," and people are, you know, people are scared because I'm saying that there's no one in the street, there's no police in the streets. And I'm like, "Oh my God," and so I say--I say he's asking me to stop tweeting, and then he tells me the reasons why, and I'm like, "I'm going to tell him I can't." He goes, "I saw your tweet. I saw that you said you're going to stop. You have to stop." [Laughter] So I'm like I'm going to apologize to him. "You can't, you have to stop." So I completely, I mean I ignored him and I'm like, "I'm sorry, I can't." I understand because I'm standing in the mall and I'm holding a fire hose and I'm going to, you know, I'm going to open, what, fire hose--open water? At any protest--at anyone who comes into the mall because I have to protect the mall and I'm--he was the head of this mall or something. So I ignored him, fortunately, and I'll tell you why I ignored him. And this is where the role of social media comes in. A lot of people, a lot of Egyptians were depending on information from social media for their own safety. I had a lot of comments, people saying, "Thank you for tweeting that there were thugs in the street in that corner under that bridge in that neighborhood because my sister was going to go out shopping, my brother was going to go out to the supermarket, but I know and I'm driving in the streets and I'm walking in the street, I have no access to TV, the radio doesn't work, the only thing I have is the--is my Blackberry and I can tell that there are thugs in that neighborhood and that's why I'm not--I didn't let my mom or dad or bothers or sisters go there." So, social media, in a way, did play a role even though it wasn't completely decisive. Now, what happened after Egypt, well basically in the Middle East, fell apart. You had several revolutions, you had Bahrain, you had Syria, you had Libya, you had Yemen of course, and the governments adapted to social media. How so? In the beginning, social media was used by young folks, young boys and girls who wanted to communicate with each other. In the beginning, they were flirting with each other through social media and then it became a tool of survival. But by the third Arab uprising, the social media was used as a tool against the protesters. You had government-affiliated accounts that we refer to as trolls, people that you can't identify. We have others known as--we call them eggs. Why do we call them eggs? Because the default Twitter handle--photo is an egg. So, people would just create accounts, you know, and just to attack you, just to threaten you. Governments in the Middle East jailed bloggers, jailed Twitter users, they used their Twitter accounts as a proof against them, against, for instance, against them planning a protest, against them using, you know, language that the government didn't like. You have several social media activists who are in jail today in the Arab world in prison terms. Believe it or not, prison terms for re-tweeting, just taking what someone said and saying that person said this can vary between 3 and 10 years in jail in the Arab world. So, it was completely, completely insane. On the other hand, you have stories where social media was a, you know, was used in a good way. 4 years ago, there was a young Saudi gentleman, Fouad al-Farhan and he had written a blog called "10 Saudis I Never Want to Meet." And heI was just that innocent. I just don't want to meet them. He didn't, you know, he didn't say I want them to be hurt, he didn't say I want them, you know, something bad to happen to them. He just said I don't want to meet them. And he--one of them was a prince, one was a clergy, one was a mayor, and one was a judge. And within a short while, he was thrown in solitary confinement between November 2007 and March 2008, for 4 to 5 months he was in solitary confinement. This was over a blog post. But fast forward 4 years, in the midst of the Arab uprisings, that same gentleman, as a result, was called in by a prince of--the prince of the western region of Saudi Arabia. You know what, the same government who jailed him, called him in, "How do you do? Come in. Tell us about your followers.
Please tell them that we're doing--we're reforming. Tell them that we're doing so and so. This is how we're trying to build the infrastructure. Say hello to your Twitter users." So this guy, I mean imagine that, from being thrown in jail to--the power of people on social media in the Arab world shows you. There was another case where the Saudi women drivers, for example, on June 17th between 60 and 90 Saudi women drove in the street and they used social media, number 1, to create a Facebook page, identify each other, reach out to each other, choose a date--specific date that they will all do this so that rather than becoming a singular, you know, individual effort, it was a collective effort. It was--and they used the same slogan. And the most beautiful of all, in this case, was the fact that young men and women would tell them, "Watch out. There's a policeman on this road. Avoid it. Turn." You know, so the girls would be driving and somebody would be leading for them saying there's a policeman on this junction stopping women drivers. As a result, 2 out of the 60 were stopped, only 2 out of the 60 girls. So, you can imagine that without social media perhaps, the number might have been quite higher. Another issue that is quite negative about social media in the Arab world, it was used to spread, you know, negative propaganda. In the case of Libya for instance, there was blatant racism in some of the social media updates. From--I'll give you a background on this. Libya is a country of 5 to 6 million people of which 1 and a half to 2 million are Sub-Saharan African, you know, African migrants who are working in Libya. Now, you know, when Gaddafi--in Gaddafi's era in 2000 when he was trying to build bridges with Europe, he went and he cracked down on the African migrants even though the vast majority of them were there legally, but they cracked down on them. And as a result, 150 Africans died in Libya, of which, you know, ironically, 10 percent, 15 were Libyan citizens because in Southern Libya, you have dark skinned Libyans. And fast forward 10, 11 years, the social media from the very first date of the Libyan uprising, you had people tweeting saying, you know, African mercenaries, and imagine there was a million of them. Can they all be African mercenaries? So, you even had an official in Gaddafi's government who ironically moved to the other side and continued using the same, you know, vile statements against these migrants. So, social media in this case as well had a dual use. Now, I'll talk a little bit about the reaction of the Gulf States where I come from. You've had--so far, you've had 3 Arab populations who were able to overthrow their leader, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, I think so. I mean he's hiding more or less he's overthrown. So--but what about the Gulf States? Now, the Gulf States are the wealthier states. You had uprisings in the Gulf States. You had a country to the east of the Arab world called Oman. Oman, hundreds of people protested, the Sultan decided to kick out the cabinet, you know, give powers to the consultative council and that was the end of the uprising, more or less. On the other side, you had Bahrain. Bahrain, you had, you know, tens of thousands of people who went out on the street. Bahrain is interesting. Why? Because it's probably the most wired country in the Arab world. They have 200 percent mobile phone penetration rate. They had--It's insane, everyone has 2 phones, 3 phones, you know, because--I mean, what if someone calls you and you have another line you need to answer? [Laughter] So in Bahrain, imagine this, in 2010, 1 blog used to have 100,000 hits a day in a country of half a million. That was an insane number, a very young population, very educated. Once again, a country that a lot of people didn't expect uprisings to occur because the king had given rights. The--you know, there was a--the minorities, the Christians, the Jews, the Hindus were given rights and they were appointed as ambassadors, members of parliament, so, a very progressive country. But something happened and there was an uprising. Within a month, 2 other Gulf States sent in troops. The uprising was put down although the dialogue continues. But what about the other Gulf States, the other 4 Gulf States; Saudi, UAE where I come from, Qatar, and Kuwait? They are the wealthier states. Their reaction to the Arab Spring, and this is a bit the economics of the Arab Spring, their reaction was very much financial. Saudi Arabia announced in March, 130 billion dollars aid in infrastructure projects, a massive amount of money. It's actually bigger than the aid package of the US compared to the size of the economy, so huge, huge amount. For instance, you know, imagine this. The largest number of jobs created overnight, 130,000 jobs in which sector? It wasn't in arts and entertainment, it was in security. 130,000 security jobs created in the Gulf. Why? You have tens of thousands of young unemployed, unhappy, dissatisfied young men and women, but men, within a stroke of a pen, you've got them into your security, you would turn them to your side. You give them jobs, now there on your side. Anybody thinking of protesting? You have 130,000 people who probably would come in handy, with regards to Egypt for instance. Now, Egypt is an interesting case. Egypt was really the balancing state of the Arab world that had a peace treaty with Israel, they--it had, you know, it had a regime that the world was, in general, happy with--if it's continued to reform. So there was--in turn, the people weren't happy. But in general, the rest of the world was happy with Mubarak. Another thing about Egypt is that for the Gulf States, it was a counter balance to Iran, where Iran is a threat to the Middle East and to the Gulf States. Egypt was the only country that had the sufficient, especially after Iraq was taken out the equation, it was the only country that had the sufficient manpower in the army--of about a million people in the army that could balance Iran out. So for the Gulf States and for the region in general, it was important to have a stable Egypt. And that's why after the fall of Mubarak, the Gulf States went to Egypt and offered so much. Qatar, one of the smaller Gulf States offered 10 billion dollars in investments to create a million and a half jobs almost in building ports. The UAE offered 3 billion dollars, 1 and a half billion for an SME fund. Saudi Arabia offered 4 billion dollars. And other countries where uprisings were starting like Morocco and Jordan, you know, Saudi gave 2 billion dollars to Jordan and invited them into the GCC Club. The GCC is the Gulf monarchies club. It's the club of the kings of the Gulf. So they invited Jordan and Morocco even though Morocco, last time I checked, isn't on the Persian Gulf, Arabian Gulf. It's a bit far, but they kind of invited them in because they wanted this alliance of monarchies. But is this sustainable? Is it sustainable? Can you buy your way? Can you continue paying money? It's highly unlikely that you can continue paying money when people's demands are for more human--for more rights. Just checking on time, I think we're pretty much--I'll leave you with one thought though. You know what? There's 22 Arab countries. You know, there's--some of them are monarchy, some of them are republics, there are minorities, they're not all Arab, some of them are Berber, some of them are Jews, some of them are Bahaists, there are minorities. It's a mosaic really of cultures. But what happened over the last 8, 9 months really was Arab stepping up. Arab saying, "We are citizens. We are no longer subjects. We are citizens that we demand our rights." Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the truth is, 100 million Arabs are freer today than they were just 8, 9 months ago. This can come, you know, you can see this as a glass half full, glass half empty, but it's a rocky road ahead in which you will see a lot of ups and downs, a lot of things that you are unhappy with what happened.
A lot of--maybe some Islamic political groups will come into play. Frankly, I'd rather have them in politics than have them elsewhere. But the truth is, not everything will go the way we want it to go, but the trajectory is very positive. In the long term, I believe, we will only see a better Middle East because of the Arab awakening. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you very much. He has finally agreed to take questions and we will go until no later than 5:30.
>> So, just put your hand up. Identify who you are for the rest of us.
>> Hi, I'm [inaudible].
>> Do we have mics or just--
[ Inaudible Discussion ]
[ Background Noise ]
>> But if wouldn't mind, just briefly--
>> I wouldn't.
>> And we've been familiar with article that have a lot of [inaudible] which basically tries to [inaudible] the notion that social media causes revolutions.
And what struck me as what we got wrong was that social media plays a very different function in places like the United States where there's a very strong--where their civil society is strong versus saying the Gulf States or the Arab world where civil society is relatively weak.
And so, even before that Arab Spring that you had to stay strictly in Saudi Arabia where women went on together to talk about the way that they often haven't talked about it. Do you think the role of social media will become less important as civil society grows stonger, it needs grow stronger?
>> Okay, the question was do you think the role of social media will become less effective as civil society grows?
Definitely, yes, I think part of the reason why the social media is so prevalent in the Arab world, why people depend on it so much is the avenues of communications. If the official avenues are shut, there is no way to form civil society movements.
The government has to appoint the head of the movement, of the association, your agenda is very much set for--is set by the government. That's why social media really wasn't--isn't a huge tool here in American because you can just go apply and start your civil society movement, you know, within a few hours, I think in the States. I think this is definitely the case. Perhaps with the freer countries, you will see less and less use of social media.
However, there are a lot of countries that will not be free in the next year or two. This--the Arab awakening is a generational issue. It will take decades, if not generations. And so, I think you will continue to see a role for social media. Yes sir?
>> Hi, my name is Jacob Thompson. I'm a doctoral student at American University in Washington DC and [inaudible]. But I might take the question the last time with social media were more [inaudible] and more broadly in the Arab world and I'm particularly interested in your take over at recent development for the last couple of days with
Al Jazeera and Wadah Khanfar's timing in stepping down and his successor which, it seems, is a member of the royal family in Qatar. I think most people recognize that Al Jazeera both Arabic and English language has played out an important role in what has unfolded, I think, for the past 8 or 9 months as we discussed.
But we can see [inaudible] is that it's becoming increasingly an instrument of Qatar reform policy and less balanced and I'd be interested in what you think is it a point for Al Jazeera or, you know, if he's stepping down. He hasn't really illustrated.
He hadn't said the reasons why but as you've mentioned WikiLeaks earlier, and there have been some cables that come out saying that there is, you know, the relationship between some US diplomats and what Al Jazeera has been able to do in terms of their coverage.
So, I mean I think we've all noted that there is a disparity in Al Jazeera and as well it perhaps covered what events unfolding in Egypt and Libya. Bahrain was completely kind of ignored in a sense. So, do you think that his stepping down is a sign post or I'd be interested in your insight.
>> So, just to put into context, Al Jazeera was a channel that was started in 1996. It had 50 million viewers before the Arab awakening. Now, it claims between 100 to 250 million viewers. They have an English service as well that broadcasts in DC and New York here in the US cable and it's available online.
For the past 8 years, it was headed by a gentleman called Wadah Khanfar who I know personally. This gentleman stepped down abruptly yesterday and Qatari Sheikh was appointed in his place. But the question was will this affect the integrity of the channel and it was--how it covered Arab Spring, Arab awakenings? The truth is, we noticed over the last--first of all, Al Jazeera played a huge role.
When it was kicked out of Egypt and the satellite signal was jammed, Egyptians would volunteer to film video and send it to the channel. That was one of the biggest examples of social media and what is termed as eye report or amateur journalism. But Al Jazeera, I mean increasingly looks like it's an extension of the foreign policy of the state of Qatar. The state of Qatar is a very dynamic country in the Arab world.
At one point in time, it hosted both an Israeli office and Hamas office, you know, next to each other. It hosted people from, you know, from different factions around the Middle East. So it's a very dynamic country. However, the coverage of Al Jazeera in the last 6, 7 months kind of mirrored what was happening within the Qatari Government. Now, which one needs the other, I'm not sure.
But for instance with Libya, Qatar was the first country to recognize the transition in National Council and Libya's coverage was very much slanted towards the revolutionaries. I mean all, regardless of what our feelings were on an individual basis, you have to report very, very fairly with regards to the Egyptian uprising. It also mirrored the ruling family's policy or the state's policy.
Yemen, same thing, relations with Israel when they were going well, Al Jazeera got a lot of coverage. When they were going back state level wise, the reporters weren't given permits, et cetera, et cetera. So, I don't know if we are coupling them together or they are coupled together but there is definitely a correlation between the channel, and there's nothing wrong with that because you've seen other instances here with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe in the States.
You also have the BBC, which is still funded by the British Foreign Office. So, why can't Qatar have the same kind of relationship with its media arm? But definitely without that channel, things would have gotten much, much more bloodier I think.
The revolutions would have happened sooner or later, but I think that having--having the--well, there was a famous quote, that Wadah Khanfar said. He was getting messages from Egyptians where they had cameras on Tahrir Square saying,
"Please don't switch the cameras off because if you do, a massacre will occur." So, this was the general mood that you have a camera so people can see what's happening live and so you have to behave yourself as a dictator, not you but whoever the dictator is. Yes sir?
>> Steve Simon, a resident of the community. You mentioned earlier in your remarks that the region has been subject to negative economic growth for decades. Now, what do us can do to petrol dollars in supporting things with the advent of democracy, I think democracy requires a viable economy.
Do the people taking over power in the region understand what they need to do to create viable economies and set in on a related way from the advice from Europe or other countries of the world including the US in terms of our foreign policy what we need to do to sustain growth in our economy aside from petrol dollars?
>> Okay, that's the question--I'll come back to you in the next question. Basically, the world has given--has been giving these countries that have witnessed the Arab uprising, they have been giving them a lot of money. But do you have the institutions that can, you know, distribute this funding first of all?
What about corporate governance? Corporate governance was very poor in the Arab world before. How about afterwards? It's not clear. Libya, there's a complete breakdown in their system that didn't even exist in the first place that just--it looked like there was a system there.
Egypt still has, you know, they still have their NGOs and their civil society movements, et cetera. So it's not really one single case. Yemen also needs a lot of help. There were calls for an Arab Bank for Reconstruction and Development much like what was created in Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 200 billion dollars have been pledged for the Arab countries including 38 billion from the G8 countries. So, money will--should be available whatever--whether this money materializes or not is a different story. But I think what's important is the mechanism to distribute these funds. Corporate governance, they have to insist that this money is going to a specific cause rather than to fill up the pockets of corrupt individuals. You have the second part of your question, I can't remember. Advice to the Americans? I mean Americans are mature. I don't think anyone should be giving Americans any advice. But it's just it's, you know, it's just it's easier if we--if the Middle East or the rest of the world knows where America stands so it can react and they can plan their future. America has a lot of clout, has a lot of--even has a lot of goodwill, American people have a lot of goodwill in the Middle East, a lot of respect, a lot of people want to move here. You know, I think America just needs to clarify its position with regards to certain governments in the Arab world, with regards for example to the Middle East peace process. The clearer the position is, the easier these countries can deal within America. There was a call of an Obama doctrine, is there an Obama doctrine? I'm not sure. I'll come back to you after this. Yes please.
>> How was the Arab uprising affected your, the field which you are most familiar, science and security? How does that affect to the market?
>> Oh, some countries are doing very well. Some countries are booming actually. There's, I mean, where I come from, in Dubai, the airport is booming, it's just so crowded the--the ports.
>> So it has not affected?
>> No, but some countries have a negative growth like, for example, in Bahrain, Egypt has 8 million to 10 million tourists a year. How many tourists have you heard of who went into Egypt recently? The number is much, much less than what the country needs for instance, if there is one tourist here who went to Egypt in this room. We--so, really it's a mixed bag. However, because it's a very young population, I think that the growth will be very positive for the region from 2012 and '13. Maybe one more point, Egypt was growing very well during Mubarak's era, it's shocking. Egypt was growing between 5 and 6 percent where America had 1 percent growth. So, it's not just economic. It's not just the economic cause that's led to the Arab uprisings, but it's very much about dignity, social justice, and human rights and liberation. So, I hope that answers your question.
>> Yeah. I would like to hear your evaluation of some of the governments that are take--that are being formed now. What do you know about governments that are being formed? What's your opinion?
>> What we know is that there hasn't been a revolution in the sense of a revolution in the Arab world. Those who are in power in Egypt continue to be in power in Egypt. Those who are in power in Tunisia continue to be in power. What I mean is the military. Mubarak and Ben Ali were just the faces of that military. Yes, that dictator is down but in reality, the military was in charge, perhaps in a year or 2, or a decade or 2, the military will really would lose its power. Keep in mind Turkey for instance, after the--after it overthrew the Sultan of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, it took decades in Turkey to have complete free and fair elections that led to the current government and democracy. There was a question here. Let's start with the Dean. Yes, ma'am.
>> We have invited our live feed audience to tweet questions that they might have and I'd
like to read one of them to you. What is the connection of "We Are All Khaled Saeed" Facebook page with the early protests if any?
>> They're very instrumental. "We Are All Khaled Saeed" was a Facebook page that was started by 2 Egyptians and one of them is more famous than the other. We did answer--we did talk about this earlier, but it allowed people to identify the message of protest, the time of protest, the location of protest. You cannot, otherwise, you have--you'll be having to, you know, to write notes and passing them around the neighborhood. But because of social media, people said, "We're going to wear black, we're
going to stand a few yards apart, we won't talk to each other so that no one accuse us of congregating in public and we will do this repeatedly over a period of few days." So that's what the--and continues to exist today that "We Are All Khaled Saeed". So the role was quite decisive. Just take what the gentlemen's question.
>> My name is [inaudible] student here. 2 questions. 1, how come everyone missed it? I mean, you know, I remember meeting [inaudible] arriving into Cairo, so she was [inaudible]
and she confessed that she knew nothing about her. Second, Ehud Barak, you know, he was sort of amused and he was very, you know, humorous man and he said that the best secrets of this on [inaudible] completely. That's one side and there'd be one question on how do [inaudible].
Second, what's the guarantee that these countries wouldn't slip further into, you know, a regression rather than progress [inaudible] happen most likely under Islamic kind of party before?
>> Okay. The question was how come we missed it, the Arab awakening and what if we slip into a regression rather than progress. How come we missed it? The truth is all the signs were there. People can choose to ignore them. In fact, the countries that received the best marks are the countries that had some of the uprising, whether it was in Egypt or Tunisia. I think arrogance, you know, was a major factor at least from the government's level that they believe that they were immune, they believe that they can continue to repress their people, they believe that they can continue to hire, you know, their cousins and their relatives in the top positions and their little Mafioso State. And so, you know, there was a straw that broke the camel's back. Why was it straw number 1 million and not straw number 9,995,000? I'm not sure. But there was really one single issue and perhaps it was a collection of factors that came together. The other reason, do we, will we regress? I think in some countries, we will regress. I think in some countries, for example, in Tunisia, which is really a model, which was really a model state for secularism and for women's rights, I believe that if the Islamic party comes to power, they might try to put, you know, to put restrictions on women. In Tunisia, women inherit equally as men. Women's testimony at the court is equal to men. Women can divorce their husbands. So there's a lot of women empowerment in Tunisia. This, we might see a regression in this, but I believe that it will just be a temporary regression. Now that the Islamic parties have to play nice, now that they have to be a part of the political process, they will--you will see a lot of coalition building and there'll be a lot of compromise. And in the end, people will not--people did not revolt against one dictator to have another dictator stay there. I think we are all conscious of this fact. Did you have a question?
>> I just had a comment about the Khaled Saeed, Kolena Khaled Saeed. It was also kind of a tool for expat Egyptians to kind of follow what happened in Egypt especially those who were not on Twitter. But also, I was wondering if you could talk about Palestine and what's next for Palestine now that we, you know, Arabs are rising up and actually doing something and they're going to place their bid at the UN and stuff like that.
>> Okay, the question was, what about Palestine? There's this notorious/infamous/gutsy move by the Palestinian or not Pales--I shouldn't say Palestinian government, by the Mahmoud Abbas government to put in a bid to create 194th State in the United Nations. I think with regards to Palestine, it is, you know, it is--it's going on for far too long. It's been 63 years I think now since some people were--some people became refugees. But I believe that Arabs are equally to blame for this. I believe that, you know, that Palestinians are treated badly in the Arab countries. And I believe that as an Arab, I want to take ownership of this issue. I--there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in ghettos in the Arab States where there was Egypt or Syria or Lebanon or Jordan.
There are--you know, we should demand that they get treated better. Why should another generation grow up in injustice and living really in the conditions that you wouldn't want animals to live in? You know, crammed up in a city that was been built for 5 or 10,000. You have 100 and 200,000 people in living their. So, first of all, Arabs must take ownership of this issue. We must--we must admit that we have failed Palestinians, number 1. Number 2, you know, Israel also must be held accountable for this issue. Now, I don't know how this is going to happen, but these two sides must sit together. Ultimately, we'd--I don't think anybody wants this to continue. We've seen demands by people in the street. You know, we've seen pressure coming from different governments. The truth is it's a card that various governments are playing against each other. I don't know the details. I don't tweet about Palestine-Israeli conflict because it's a minefield that I cannot put my mind around. But all I know is, you know, I work with the Jewish people in University, I work with Arabs, I work with Christians, I work with Muslims, they can work well anywhere in the world except in that region. And so, there must be something with the water, there must something there [laughter]. I don't know what it is, but someone should check it. So hopefully, things--I mean, I remember writing an article saying that the--what Osama bin Laden was calling for was, you know, was a specific sect, a specific, you know, people who follow a specific strand of Islam were better than anybody else. And the truth is no one is better than anybody else. No Muslim, no Christian, no Jew, no Hindu, no atheist is better than anybody else. And once we admit to this fact, once we can see through people rather than looking at their religion, labeling them with their religion, I think we're going to--we're going to bypass this issue. But I believe this conflict should not last any longer. A lot of people disagree with what the Abbas government is doing, but there needs to be a jolt. Someone needs to come and jolt the process and maybe this is the--maybe this is a jolt, I don't know. Hopefully, it will create positive repercussions. I'm sorry, sir. Go ahead.
>> My name is John Wilhelm [phonetic] and I have a 2-part of question. What impact did the previous demonstrations in Iran have and what impact is the, particularly the success of the Arab Spring likely to have on Iran in the future?
>> The question, what impact did the Iranian uprising of 2009 have on the Arab Spring and how would it affect the future? First of all, the Iranians apparently tried to elect someone other than Ahmadinejad but then Ahmadinejad was chosen for them to be their president. So, that was--they didn't like that much. So, hundreds and thousands of them went out on the streets demanding, you know, their rights. But they were brutally suppressed. We know several of things. We know that the Iranian government shared with the Syrian government methods on identifying people on social media. Remember how social media was used as a tool of the counterrevolution? Much of it is thanks to our friends in Tehran. The--the second thing, the second aspect is, you know, Iran today is worried about losing its ally in Syria and it's trying its very best to keep him there. And in fact, whenever you have the supreme leader or the president to talk about Arab uprisings, he would say things like, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Egypt, in Tunisia. He would name every country on the face of the Earth except Syria. Why? Because that is--that's his best buddy. In fact, Iran is the only friend left to Bashar al-Assad in Syria. I don't know how this will affect--all I know is the supreme leader is old. They have elections in 2 years' time and Ahmadinejad cannot run for this elections. The Gulf States are very concerned about the Iranian Nuclear Program. The Iran claims that it is peaceful. My worry is, okay, I believe you, it's peaceful but it doesn't have international, you know, observers checking. And what if Chernobyl happens and we just live a few hundred kilometers from them. That is if you believe it is peaceful. So in the best case scenario, you're extremely worried. Let alone the worst case scenario. Yes ma'am.
>> Anne Kutcher [phonetic], Political Science and African Studies here and most of my work is on Africa so I'm very interested in the way to which the Egyptian protest took place because there are a lot of similarities rippling down the continent, even in countries that are--we might consider them already to limited democracies at least. So, a lot of countries are watching what happens in the Middle East but farther south. And one thing I noticed from the coverage is that the middle class in Egypt seems to be, I mean the military in Egypt seems to be quite middle class. They're in some middle class neighborhoods, some of the gated communities seemed to be dominated by the military. Now, what I was wondering is does that predispose them to some of the arguments made by the protesters? Does that make the military therefore more sympathetic to some of the arguments of the protesters or alternatively, does it make them very concerned that since some of those protesters are young and unemployed, that social movement could go on a direction that is decidedly anti-property and anti-middle class?
>> I think that the military should be concerned, very concerned. The fact is they control 30 percent of the Egyptian economy. The military, what my worry is that they were always in the background. However, today, the head of the Egyptian military is receiving world leaders, he is getting cables sent to him, he is being treated like the president. Now that he has had a taste of the good life, is he going to give up this power? Chances are he's going to fight for it even though he is older. We don't know how the succession even within the military. It's highly secretive. People did not hear from the military during the Mubarak era. Yet, a lot of them will live in gated communities. Egypt has huge unemployment issues. A million people enter the job market every year. There aren't enough jobs for them. The military isn't capable of creating jobs. How do you create jobs? Egyptians are asking for nationalization, is that a good idea? Perhaps in some sectors, you need the private sector also, entrepreneurship, a lot of these people, you know, the UN Human Development report says that by 2020, a hundred million jobs should be created in the Arab world to keep the miserable unemployment levels that we have today. Just to keep them, as we have 25 percent unemployment, you have to have a hundred million jobs by 2020. The military in Egypt won't be able to create jobs. They have to let civil society create jobs the best way they see fit. Is there any other question? Okay. I'm sorry, I didn't see. Yes, would you--
>> Why don't we make this the last question?
>> Last question. Okay.
[ Inaudible Remark ]
>> Okay, the question was do you expect any uprising in the Welfare Gulf States where we didn't hear much, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and the Saudi Arabia? The answer is every country in the gulf is experiencing the Arab awakening, and the Arab world is experiencing the Arab awakening in a different way. In some areas, you want a complete overhaul of the system, in some states like Libya for instance. In other states where you have the militaries think, but then you have some society trying to advance the agenda. In other states like Morocco and Jordan and Oman, the monarchs try to introduce reforms very quickly. In Bahrain, you have the government suppress the uprising. In Saudi Arabia, you had 1 man show up for the day of rage, and fortunately, he's detained. The story is quite, quite sad. Every time I think about it, it makes me very upset. So, for instance, in the UAE and Qatar, the local populations only make up 10 percent of the entire population. I mean in general, living conditions are quite satisfied. Yes, you cannot dismiss and say well, you know, just because everyone's happy doesn't mean that, you know, that there isn't some kind of political movement. The UAE has elections for a non-legislative parliament coming up in the next couple of days. Will this satisfy people?
Some individuals wrote petitions in the Saudi Arabia, in the UAE, in Qatar, in Kuwait.
People have been moving. Like I told you, chances are that some regimes will take longer to adapt. My personal opinion is, and I am on the records here, my personal opinion is the only way forward for all the monarchies in the Arab world if they want to stay monarchies, would be to create constitutional monarchies where there's much more people empowerment rather than the absolute ruler model that we have today.
>> Before we thank our speaker, I did want to make sure that you know that you are all invited to join us at the refection just outside of the great hall, and we can continue the conversation more informally. But I would like to give a very special thank you for those insightful, informative, wide-ranging candid remarks. We are very honored to have you here with us today for the Josh Rosenthal Lecture, thank you.
>> Thank you very much.