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Human Rights

Human Rights and the Arts in Iran Today

In a conference addressing the role of human rights and the arts in Iran, speakers from the arts and literary community discussed how different forms of expression bring varying human rights issues to the fore in Iran. While politics, economics, and nuclear capabilities tend to dominate contemporary discussions about Iran and preclude mention of the multi-faceted art scene that has emerged since the Islamic Revolution, participants addressed this artistic flourishing and its implications for human rights in Iran.

Can Women Help Make Peace Agreements Sustainable?

The role of women in civil society and their involvement in peace negotiations has been notable, though women have often been overlooked as mediators in peace talks.

Iran Primer I: Domestic Politics

In the first in a series of meetings following the recent release of the book The Iran Primer, three of its contributing authors offered their insights on Iran's domestic politics in the year following the contested elections of June 2009 which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reelected to a second, thus far contentious, term. The topics analyzed included internal politics, the opposition movement, and the current state of diplomacy with Iran.

Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East

In a discussion of women's role in society in the Middle East, Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, highlighted demographic changes she believes are intensifying the notion that women's empowerment is key to the growth and prosperity of the economies of Arab and Muslim-majority countries. She also discussed how women in these traditional societies face challenges expanding their roles because women's rights are seen negatively.

Demography and Women's Empowerment: Urgency for Action?

Why do Middle Eastern women participate in economic life at a rate inferior to that of female citizens of other regions, and why should they be empowered to participate at a greater level? According to Nadereh Chamlou, women of the Middle East remain so poorly represented in economic life today because of restrictive social norms. Chamlou remarked that the region's women must be empowered to participate in a more significant way if their countries are to effectively exploit, instead of squander, the current economic "window of opportunity."

Progress and Challenges to Women's Empowerment: Lessons from Tunisia

Nabiha Gueddana noted that the topic of women's rights remains one of the most difficult issues to address in the Middle East. Progress of women's empowerment in Tunisia can serve as a model for the region, according to women's rights advocate, Gueddana. She explained in her presentation that there is much the Arab and Islamic worlds can learn from her native Tunisia regarding the positive effects of empowering women.

Iran: The Year of Reckoning

8:30 – 9:00am

Welcoming Remarks: Haleh Esfandiari, Director, Middle East Program, Woodrow Wilson Center

9:00 – 10:45am

Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School and Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Michael Postl, Former Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to Iran

Shaul Bakhash, Chair and Commentator, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University

10:45 – 11:00am
Coffee Break

You Are the Media: How Iranians "Democratized" the Media

As Iranian bloggers have increased their presence on the Internet and activists have harnessed the power of new social media, they have effectively "democratized" the media in Iran, according to journalist Iran Davar Ardalan. She indicated that this transformation is evident in the responses to Iran's disputed 2009 election, which demonstrated the role of the new media in Iran and the rise of citizen journalism.

Rethinking Human Trafficking

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca opened the conference by describing his work to combat human trafficking at the State Department. His approach, he said, is shaped by principles embedded in the United Nations Protocol against Trafficking in Persons, as well as the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. The enactment of this statute was, according to CdeBaca, a turning point in the America's approach to trafficking, one that draws on the lessons of the movement against domestic violence that had promoted greater sensitivity to the plight of victims.

Traffic Jam: Gender, Labor, Migration and Trafficking in Dubai

Mahdavi began the discussion by acknowledging the sensitive nature of the trafficking issue and indicating that she would speak to the issue from an anthropological approach. While detailing an anecdote from her experiences in the United Arab Emirates, Mahdavi highlighted many of the positive effects that the UAE's nascent civil society has provided to trafficked victims, including linguistic skills to offer legal assistance. With the release of the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), Mahdavi indicated that this civil society was wiped out, along with many of the services it provided.