SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

The Current Middle East Refugee Crisis: World War I’s Legacy

Kent F. Schull (Binghamton University, SUNY)

Date: 25 February 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 25 February 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: 0

Currently there are over 25 million forcibly displaced persons (refugees and internally displaced persons/IDPs) throughout the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Iraq, Kurdistan, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.  This is just a part of over 65 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide representing the greatest global refugee crisis since World War II.  The immediate causes of the current MENA crisis include:  1) the United States’ Global War on Terror and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; 2) the intractable Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; 3) Turkey’s brutal counter-insurgency against its Kurdish population; 4) the Arab Uprisings and subsequent civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen; 5) the entrenchment of Al-Qaeda and the rise of ISIS; and 6) regional rivalries and proxy wars backed by larger geo-political struggles for power and influence in the MENA.  Each immediate cause, however, represents the manifestation of systemic factors entrenched by WWI and its aftermath that have created a continuum of forced migration and dispossession in the Middle East and North Africa.  This paper argues that the current MENA refugee and IDP crisis is the net result of an ongoing combination of Western Imperialism and Interventionism, Geo-Political and Regional Rivalries, Nativist Nationalisms that wed access to power based with ethno-religious identity, Nation-state Construction, and the Integration and Peripheralization of the MENA into the Global Capitalist Economy.  WWI and its immediate aftermath entrenched this toxic cocktail in the Middle East and North Africa causing a systemic continuum of displacement and dispossession in the MENA culminating with the current crisis.  By identifying the systemic factors and their causes for this continuum of forced migration, this talk identifies important preventative measures that must be established that go far beyond simple crisis management, which is the primary response the international community has to forced migration presently. 

Dr Kent F. Schull is Associate Professor of history at Binghamton University, SUNY. He received his doctorate from UCLA and is a twice Fulbright scholar to Turkey. His publications include Prisons in the Late Ottoman Empire: Microcosms of Modernity (EUP, 2014), two co-edited volumes: Living in the Ottoman Realm: Sultans, Subjects, and Elites (IUP, 2016) and Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire & Republic of Turkey (IUP, 2016), several articles, and book chapters.  He is currently the consulting editor of the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association (JOTSA) and the book series editor for Edinburgh Studies on the Ottoman Empire. 

Organiser: Ceyda Karamursel

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