Efforts for Peace in the Middle East Symposium


KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 7, 2013) — The February 1, 2013 symposium, titled “Efforts for Peace in the Middle East” provided discussion panels on implications of the Arab Spring for nonviolent efforts in the region, the role of the Kurds in regional stability and the contributions of religious and secular NGOs to peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. The symposium welcomed over 70 scholars, community members and students and was a joint collaboration between Kennesaw State University’s PhD in International Conflict Management program and the Middle East Initiative of the Institute for Global Initiatives.The event was held at Kennesaw State University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences building in room SO1021.

The keynote speaker was Mr. Iyad Burnat, who is head of the Bil'in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s non-violent popular resistance movement. Since 2005, citizens of Bil’in have held weekly demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the community’s agricultural lands, and the steady encroachment of Israeli settlements. The demonstrators are joined by Israeli and international peace activists, and have maintained a commitment to non-violent methods of resistance in spite of armed, military opposition that has resulted in many injuries and some deaths.

The other panelists included:

Dr. Marcus Marktanner


Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, an ordained Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Atlanta Ministry with International Students, Inc. He received a Doctor of Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL. Dr. Abu-Akel worked at the Interdenominational Theological Center as a Past Adjunct Faculty of World Religions. He has provided extensive service to the church from leading mission trips to serving on the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and received many awards for his commitment to service.

Dr. Elizabeth Beck, an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. She is also Director of the Center for Collaborative Social Work at Georgia State University, School of Social Work. She received a Ph.D. and M.S.W from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests are in the areas of community development, forensic social work, and restorative justice. In 2011 Dr. Beck served as a Fulbright Scholar, and her work focused on creating the first Masters of Social Work program in the West Bank.

Nathan Stock, who joined The Carter Center in 2008 as assistant director of the Conflict Resolution Program, with a focus on Middle East issues. Before coming to the Center, he spent two years implementing a civil society strengthening program in Afghanistan, where he led the effort to establish a sustainable network of local NGOs capable of providing capacity-building assistance to grassroots civil society organizations throughout the country. He also spent two years in the Gaza Strip, working with a Palestinian NGO to fundraise and design conflict resolution programs targeting the Palestinian community.

Dr. Anne Richards, an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University where she also works as a University Ombud. She was a Fulbright Ambassador from 2010-2012. She received her Ph.D., in 2003 from Iowa State University. Her specializations include digital media, cultural studies, and Islam in America. Dr. Richards served as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Tunisia in 2006-2007 and has made several return trips to the country.

Haluk Baran Bingol, who is originally from Southeastern Turkey, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University. He earned his undergraduate degree in business management at Galatasaray University, Istanbul, Turkey. In 2008, he was selected as a student leader for the U.S. Department of State Program: “The Study of the U.S. Institute for Future Leaders."

Dr. Jesse Benjamin, an associate professor at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, where he is jointly appointed between the departments of sociology and interdisciplinary studies, is the Coordinator of African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS), and teaches in the graduate faculty of the new PhD program in International Conflict Management (INCM). He is a Board Member at the Walter Rodney Foundation (preserving and extending the legacy of this gifted Pan-Africanist Marxist scholar and activist), and an active participant in their activities, including the annual Walter Rodney Symposium. Currently, he is coordinating a public Walter Rodney Speakers Series that is also credit-bearing for Atlanta students. He also curates an Afro-Latino Studies Series, in its fourth year, and coordinates a Coloniality and the Decolonial Option Research Working Group in Atlanta, having co-founded one of the first Coloniality studies groups while a graduate student at Binghamton University in the mid-1990s.

Ilise Cohen, a Sephardic Jewish Atlantan and Scholar-Activist on the Middle East. Her Sephardi heritage is from Turkey, the Isle of Rhodes and Cuba. She is currently completing her PhD in Anthropology on Mizrahi Jewish experiences of eviction and war and links with Palestinian experiences of marginalization and violence. She teaches annually at Smith College's School for Social Work classes on  race, class, gender, power and also international social issues and policies. She teaches Hebrew, Judaics and about social justice to B'nai Mitzvah students at Beit Haverim in Atlanta. She is former chair of the board of Interfaith Peace-Builders, which organizes delegations of mostly North Americans to meet with nonviolent activists in Israel/Palestine. She has led various delegations to Israel/Palestine with IFPB and will be doing so again this May. She is also former co-vice chair and national council member for the Fellowship of Reconciliation and a member of Jewish Voices for Peace. She has lived and worked in Israel with both Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and with Israeli Jews. She worked for the AFSC as a Middle East Peace Education Program Director and fellow and with Rebuilding Alliance. Ilise speaks frequently about Israel/Palestine and US policy to various educational, religious, and other institutions. She lives in Decatur with her husband, almost four year old daughter and two cats.

Samy Gerges, who is working toward his Ph.D. in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University. He was awarded a Chevening UK Government scholarship to study alternative dispute resolution in international commercial law and Islamic financial law, as well as transitional justice, at Edinburgh University. Prior to coming to KSU, Samy was a senior programs coordinator at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He holds a Master’s in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from the American University School of International Service in Washington D.C., where he was a Fulbright scholar, and a Bachelor’s in economics and political science from Cairo University in Egypt.

Deniz Gumustekin, who was born in Turkey, in the Kurdish city called Malatya. She moved to the United States at the end of 2005. She has a master degree in political science from Georgia State University and a bachelor’s from University of South Carolina. She currently works for International Rescue Committee in Atlanta.

Dr. Iraj Omidvar, an assistant professor in the Department of English, Technical Communication, and Media Arts at Southern Polytechnic State University.  He completed his Ph.D. in 2004 in rhetoric and professional communication with a concentration in philosophy from Iowa State University of Science and Technology, where he also had received an M.A. in English and a B.A. in literary studies with a minor in German. He served as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Tunisia in 2006-2007 and has made several return trips to the region.

La Trina P. Jackson, a Georgia native, is a peace and justice activist who works mainly among religious, faith-based and spiritual communities. She is a board member of the Muslims for Progressive Values (Atlanta), a 2011 delegate for the Interfaith PeaceBuilders African Heritage Delegation to Palestine and Israel and an active member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Trina resides on an urban homestead in Atlanta with her spouse Kim, their four chickens and two goats.

Ahmet Baran is a founding member and director of the board of the Kurdish Cultural Center (KCC) of Atlanta. He is Kurdish-American, and is originally from Ankara, Turkey. Mr. Baran currently owns and administers his private logistics business that provides services to leading private and public institutions.