Transcript: Peacekeeping Development through Education and Transitional Justice in the Middle East

On December 12th, 2013 I had given a speech at an event called “Women for World Peace” by EBADER based in Istanbul, Turkey. Not a detailed speech, but it touched up on certain issues that is key to helping stabilize post conflicted countries after the Arab Spring.
(only 15 minutes to talk)

| Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to be speaking in front of you all today, in an event that is attended by individuals that believe in changing the world to a much more safer, peaceful environment for all.

Now, I’m sure many of you have been keeping an eye on the news and all that is happening around the world. One of the most important regions, I believe, is the Middle East. What happens in the Middle East, will not only effect those in the region but also everyone else in the world. We have to understand that the Middle East is the center of all global affairs. Therefore making this region more of an importance to find solutions to its current obstacles and difficulties.

Not too long ago, there was a surprising movement that no one would of thought would ever take place in the MENA region. That is what is know as the “Arab Spring”. It took one person to start a significant movement across this great region. I say with a heavy heart, it started with a man who set himself on fire in Tunisia. This action done in Tunisia not only sparked a movement of people but it revealed the severity of issues such as corruption, injustices and even unemployment. After two weeks, their president (who is now the former president), Ben Ali, stepped down.

Little did we know, this movement became a domino effect to other countries like Egypt, Syria, Yemen and even Bahrain. Unfortunately, Syria at the moment is rubble due to a civil war that the country is currently in. Egypt, too, is suffering from a military rule that is not only hurting the way of life for Egyptians, but is dimming hope for a real government. Yemen, on a more personal note is my homeland. I remember coming home from my high school, as a junior, watching a CNN live feed of a massive peaceful protest in the capital city of Sanaa – I had watched in shock. The reason why I was shocked was because I thought we would end up in a civil war just like what we have seen in Syria. See, ladies and gentlemen, Yemen holds around 72 million pieces of guns; which is around three times the size of the population. Thankfully, we chose the peaceful route, and will always remain peaceful. What makes Yemen more of a unique country is that the women were on the front lines of protests. Coming from a conservative country, this was a very controversial action done by our women. But despite its controversy, they continued to be the important role that Yemen needed to break its barriers on conservatism and activism. Since that live feed, in early 2011, I have flown to Yemen more than 7 times, observing the negative and positive changes in the county that is effecting necessary further change towards a peaceful, democratic state.
I’m more than proud as a Yemeni woman to see my own people, hand in hand, go against a three decade tyrant that no one would of dared speak up against during the past. But like the other countries that had been claimed by the Arab Spring, Yemen, too, is dealing with obstacles that is hurting its road to stability.

Since the Arab Spring movement, I have observed the failed steps that countries aren’t implementing to help end their current political turmoil. Three most important steps for transitional justice are, for instance:

ICC: International Criminal Court. This court is there for a reason and its reason is to prosecute criminals, as high leveled as government officials, for any types of abuses. This is a crucial and needed step to actually move forward in countries that have dealt with any type of conflict. It can help give closure, for example, to those who have been effected by such criminals, while giving new hope about law and punishment in countries that need stability and peace.

INSTITUTIONAL REFORM: It seems like the Middle Eastern government like skipping the ICC, to only dive into institutional reform. I find that astonishing. It’s unfortunate that after the acclaimed Arab Spring countries, many governments still hold almost the same individuals that were there in the past. There was no significant change that was needed to start a country from the start, with the needed and necessary moves to establish new governments in the regions. What we need is new individuals who can take responsibility of their country and their citizens to establish the path to democracy. We aren’t going to see new changes unless we get rid of the old regimes and elect new faces in the country. Let’s not forget that the goal in the Arab spring was “change”.

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES: To be quiet frank, the Middle East is no stranger to human rights abuses. It’s something that happens on a daily basis, even after the revolutions took place. To tackle these abuses, its critical to form investigative committees that will investigate minor and major abuses done by the centralized and/or local governments. Once reports and evidence is given, they must take this action to a higher court in the country or, if necessary, to the ICC. That way, judicial consequences are taken place against those individuals. It will also set an example to anyone else who will likely abuse human rights in their country. This team will result in the outcome of positivity in the country because citizens will then learn to trust and respect the government and be an example to other neighboring countries: with every law broken, no matter who you are, there are consequences. In other words, no one is above the law.

While we know that a new set of governments, law and order, should be implemented in post conflicted countries, it’s as important and if not, more important to educate people, young or old. Middle East is unfortunately not the finest in education. I did not expect any type of educational reform in a region where countries and even their own citizens do not take education as an important universal human right. Little do they know, that education is the new pave way for a brighter future for the generations to come. This is a crucial and strategical point to discuss because education will promote economic development and even equality between both the male and female genders. In fact, if we don’t consider education important in the lives of people, than all the hard work that many have fought for since 2011, will not develop into the changes they want to see. Statistically speaking, the Middle East has a good percentage number of enrollment in schools in the Arab World for primary, secondary schooling but declines after. But in my opinion, I always believe the saying, “Quality over quantity.” And that’s exactly what is the lacking factor in the Arab World. It’s not the enrollment, but rather the quality of the education given. The only way to change a society is not fundamentally through politics, but rather through education. It’s key to development and until we take the quality of education seriously in the Middle East than all our aspiration to change will not succeed.

I hope with these points we will understand the issues in this great region and we will solve them, one step at a time, to see the Middle East flourish to its full potential. The people in this region have been through many conflicts that has effected their daily lives. I believe there is high hopes, especially with the youth. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they need our help to give them that support system to create a beautiful and stable future that we need.

As the late Nelson Mandela once said, “Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

Thank you very much.


About Summer Nasser
Blogger, with Yemeni roots based in New York City. Student of Sociology (B.A.) with a focus on the country of Yemen. I would consider myself a student of knowledge.

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