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Tracing (in)stability, challenges and change from Iran to the Gulf

Tracing (in)stability, challenges and change from Iran to the Gulf

Date(s) - 10/07/2021
10:30 am - 4:30 pm

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Free USD
Contact Person:

+44 (0)207 848 3202
Institute Of Middle Eastern Studies


This year marks a pivotal point for the region as it marks a decade since the Arab Spring uprisings and grapples with climate issues and regional cross-border tensions. Likewise, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and ushers in a new era in Iranian politics.

This conference aims to identify cross-cutting themes and provide insights into the current conflicts, challenges and changes permeating the Persian Gulf region. In doing so, the discussions will trace the pathways of existing national and regional tensions and will look towards emerging opportunities that may set the tone for future geo-political, environmental, and socio-economic transformations.

From investing in cleaner energies and diversifying the economic infrastructure, examining the effects of lasting regional conflicts, to the advancement of women’s rights and digital activism in highly patriarchal, controlled, and regulated nations, the conference will feature some of the brightest and most insightful Middle Eastern studies scholars from across the world sharing their innovative thinking on the future of this complex region.


KEYNOTE ADDRESS (10.15-10.30)

Tawakkol Karman (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2011)


PANEL 1 (10.30-12.00)

Environmental and Economic (In)Stability: Can the Gulf Go Green?


PANEL 2 (13.00 – 14.30)

Civil Society and Human Rights: 10 years on from the Arab Spring Uprisings, What Has Changed?


PANEL 3 (15.00 – 16.30)

Lasting Conflicts and Regional Threats: What Are the Prospects and Challenges for a Collaborative Approach to Security?

The event is free and will be taking place on Zoom. After confirming your attendance, you will receive separate links to the keynote and panel events, allowing you to attend as many as you would like. The links will be sent closer to the date of the event.

This event will be livestreamed and recorded to the War Studies YouTube channel.

Full details on the panels, guests and timings of the day can be found below




09.45-10.00: Log-in and welcomes


10.00: Ahou Koutchesfahani on behalf of the Middle East and North Africa Research Group, and Professor Jonathan Hill, on behalf of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.

Keynote address 10.15 – 10.30

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2011 in recognition for her non-violent struggle for democracy and her advocacy for women’s rights in Yemen.


PANEL 1 (10.30 – 12.00)

Environmental and Economic (In)Stability: Can the Gulf Go Green?

The Persian Gulf is among the most vulnerable regions to the threat of climate change. The challenges posed by extreme heat, water scarcity and loss of coastline will increase in severity with climate change. However, the uniquely elevated levels of solar exposure across the Persian Gulf provides innovative opportunities to diversify economies away from oil and gas revenues, and towards more renewable energies such as hydrogen electricity.

This panel will discuss the climate change conundrum for these deeply economies alongside opportunities for growth and preparations for sustainable future investments. It will examine whether the Persian Gulf has the infrastructure to sustain economic stability and financial security, and to what extent it can step up to the challenges presented by the environmental impacts of existing economic policies.


• Chair: Dr Ferdinand Eibl, Lecturer in Political Economy, King’s College London

• Karim Elgendy, Carboun and Chatham House

• Zeina Khalil Hajj, founder Greenpeace MENA

• Shirin Hakim, Post-graduate researcher, Imperial College London, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Centre for Environmental Policy


PANEL 2 (13.00 – 14.30)

Civil Society and Human Rights: 10 years on from the Arab Spring Uprisings, What Has Changed?


A decade on from the 2011 Arab uprisings, this panel discusses issues of (in)security and state regulation alongside human rights concerns, with a focus on issues concerning women’s rights.

Digital activism played a huge part in facilitating the uprisings 10 years ago, and since then states have harnessed digital technologies for their own strategic purposes whether for censorship or control. We are interested in the techniques of governmentality both off and online and the ways that they have been resisted by civil society actors. There are gendered dynamics to digital activism as well, given many women engage with the physical challenges they experience offline through the opportunities provided by online digital spaces which this panel seeks to consider in more depth.


This panel seeks to explore the connections between online and offline activism and resistance, its gendered components, and the ways in which states respond by using digital technologies to control their populations.


• Chair: Golnaz Esfandiari, Senior Correspondent RFE/RL

• Dr Marc Owen Jones, Hamad bin Khalifa University

• Mahsa Alimardani, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Oxford

• Sussan Tahmasebi, FEMENA

• Keye Tersmette, PhD candidate, Harvard University


PANEL 3 (15.00 – 16.30)

Lasting Conflicts and Regional Threats: What Are the Prospects and Challenges for a Collaborative Approach to Security?

Political conflicts, sectarianism and the arms race reflect some of the tensions among neighbouring states. The longstanding enmity between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been further complicated by the four-year-long economic blockade on Qatar, which exposed more intricate layers of regional loyalties/rivalries. Furthermore, the UAE and Bahrain’s recent decision to normalise relations with Israel will undoubtedly have broader regional political and security implications. The actions of state and non-state actors continue to influence and affect the proliferation and sustaining of regional insecurity, conflict and war that extends beyond the Gulf.

This panel seeks to examine the security tensions in 2021, following the easing of the

blockade on Qatar, new administrations in the US, Israel, and Iran, as well as persisting regional sectarianisms. We ask whether security co-operation is tangible in the region and what are the barriers towards a collaborative approach to regional security – if this is even possible?



• Chair: Professor Jonathan Hill, King’s College London

• Professor Clive Jones, Durham University

• Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsenn, Rice University; Chatham House

• Dr Courtney Freer, LSE

• Inna Rudolf, PhD candidate, War Studies Department, King’s College London

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