ECMI participated in the 18th International DAVO Congress, 6-8 October 2011 in Berlin

ECMI Senior Research Associate PD Dr. Jan Asmussen participated in the 18th Congress of the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation (DAVO). Dr. Asmussen talked about the role minorities played during the Arab spring.

The Arab Spring took everybody by surprise. Despite awareness of the underlying reasons, politicians, analysts and the scientific community did not expect it to happen. It was assumed for example that any resistance would have come from Islamist rather than from bourgeois groups. As the opposition was multi-faceted it gave room for engagement of various groups of society. Minorities were not excluded and even played a significant part during the demonstrations in Egypt. Minority regimes differ significantly in the Arab World, as does the structure of minorities as such. In addition the term, “minority” is not widely accepted as a positive one. Religious groups other then Islamic ones would prefer to be labelled as 'Arab', while ethnic groups do choose equality before privileges. Nevertheless, positive European experiences with regard to minority protection (i.e. Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities FCNM) might serve as a guiding light in the development of minority regimes in those Arab States that seek to develop inclusive democratic structures. Dr. Asmussen explored the role minorities played in various countries during the Arab spring. He assessed to what degree sustainable minority inclusion might be possible. Another issue tackled was the diversity of minority set-ups in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA). The reasons for the fact that “minority” is a problematic term in the MENA were examined. Finally, Dr. Asmussen analyzed to what extent European models of minority inclusion can be exported into the MENA. This is a very contentious issue since many Arab’ countries do have a legacy of foreign interference on behalf of Christian minorities that were often regarded as pretexts for colonial occupation. Therefore, the issue has to be tackled with utmost restraint and understanding for the sensibilities of the Arab states. Taking this into account, European models of minority inclusion may still serve as a benchmark for future Arab’ minority regimes.

Further information on the FCNM can be found here.

Berlin, 6-8 October 2011

For further information, please contact asmussen[@]ecmi.de




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