Arab West Foundation – April 2010 Newsletter
Thank you for your interest in the work of Arab West Foundation. As a subscriber to our newsletters you are aware of our work in seeking to broaden understanding between the cultures of the Arab world and the West, and between the religions of Islam and Christianity. These worlds meet in Egypt, a historical crossroads marked by periods of tolerance and tension, embrace and exclusion, cooperation and conflict. As these trends ebb and flow throughout history we aim to support the former in each of these couplets through the exchange of information and the study of context. In an age in which propaganda and polemic seeks to manipulate the news, we strive for decency and objectivity, yet moving beyond neutrality to promote a culture and relationships of peace.
This newsletter and subsequent seasonal editions will provide an update into our work. Your comments, suggestions, and donations are always appreciated. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
ZIVIK Peacemaking Project Reporting Completed
In August 2009 the Arab West Foundation received a grant from the German Institute for Cultural Affairs through their ZIVIK project, which is a German acronym for Civil Conflict Resolution. Initial funding ended in December 2009, and while a renewal of this grant is currently under consideration, our phase one reporting was due for completion by the beginning of March 2010. The resulting studies and experiences have been recorded in a multi-page website housed by our Electronic Network for Arab West Understanding (ENAWU). You are welcome to view our papers and reports by visiting www.enawu.com, and then clicking on ZIVIK-Conflict Resolution on the left-hand tab.
Our Peacemaking Project produced a comprehensive paper, Social Reconciliation: Pre- and Post-Conflict in the Egyptian Context, which drew on a case study of Izbet Bushra, twoworkshops offered for the training of journalists and NGO personnel, consideration of the tragedy of Nag Hamadi, and numerous interviews with civil and religious leaders onreconciliation and other topics. It is our hope that this effort will continue as we strive to take our extensive database collection of articles and reports to the very places of conflict which need them most. The task of peacemaking requires divergent parties to come together for dialogue and joint decision making; shared and objective information is vital to the success of this endeavor.
Transfer of Online Platform to Drupal
One of the major activities of our center has been the transfer of our online database to the popular and stable Drupal system. Our previous platform was designed by local Egyptian programmers, and while their efforts suited our needs and budget at the time, we discovered a need for overhaul as we attempt to activate a powerful search function to provide access to over 24,000 articles and reports stored in our database. While this site is still under construction, it is useable, and you can access it at www.arabwestreport.info. Please check out the layout and design and recommend any improvements as you see fit. User interaction in this regard would be invaluable.
At this moment the search function is also working, but limited, as we are placing the majority of our energy into database correction of the various multiple spellings which are so difficult to limit given the vagaries of Arabic transliteration. We hope to have this project completed by the summer of 2010, at which time our site will be fully operational. In the meanwhile we continue to produce our regular weekly newsletter compilation of the Egyptian press. If you would like to subscribe to a summary or full text edition, please contact us here.
Formation of a Management Team
As you may have been aware through previous correspondence, Cornelis Hulsman returned to Holland after fifteen years of service in Egypt, due to health and financial issues. His wife and co-founder of Arab West Report, Sawsan Gabra, stayed behind with the family to help with transition issues in the office to transfer management to Jielis van Baalen, a long time colleague from Holland. Unfortunately, after a little less than a year Jielis discovered the pressures of running the office were substantially different from his previous career as a university professor, and furthermore did not line up with his primary areas of interest. AWR and Jielis decided to part ways amicably in March to allow Jielis full rein to develop private programs in student exchange and educational travel agency.
In his stead Cornelis and Sawsan have been working with two current staff members and a distinguished retired Egyptian journalist to form a three person management team. Osama al-Ghazoly is a current columnist for Rose al-Yusuf newspaper, and has pursued his craft in Egypt, the Gulf States, France, and Great Britain. Jayson Casper is an American who has previously worked in Mauritania, Jordan, and Tunisia, before beginning his association with Arab West Report as international director of the ZIVIK Peacemaking Program, described above. Tom Trewinnard is an Englishman who has graduated with honors in Middle Eastern Languages from the University of Manchester, and has worked for both the British Foreign Office and in Egyptian civil society initiatives. Together they have divided their spheres of responsibility and hope to work as a team to maintain current office production and to lead the office forward in its goals. All activity will be conducted under the continued supervision of Cornelis and Sawsan, who will remain dedicated to the success of Arab West Report for years to come.
Completion of 2009 Narrative Report
Finally, the staff of AWR has recently completed the narrative report of activities required by donor agencies. This document summarizes in more detail the activities listed above in addition to other successes and difficulties faced by AWR over the previous calendar year. If you would like to read our effort please click here for online access.