UTRGV’s ISMER event puts spotlight on Middle East relations

Dr. Tamer Balci (at the podium), associate professor of history at UTRGV, organized the College of Liberal Arts’ first International Symposium of Middle East Relations (ISMER). Shown here are UTRGV participating panelists Dr. Mauro Sierra III, and Dr. Christopher L. Miller, UTRGV Department of History. Balci said the event is a great opportunity for university students, faculty, staff and the public to learn more about the United States’ sensitive, centuries-old relationship with the Middle East. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

Symposium continues with Wednesday event at McAllen library

Reception: 6 – 7 p.m.
Talk: 7 – 7:30 p.m.
McAllen Public Library
4001 N. 23rd St.

By Melissa Vasquez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 6, 2016 – To bring new perspective and knowledge about the history, politics and economics of the Middle East, the UTRGV College of Liberal Arts hosted its first International Symposium of Middle East Relations (ISMER) on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Dr. Tamer Balci, associate professor of history at UTRGV and the organizer of the symposium, said ISMER took more than three years to come to fruition. Political, often dangerous conditions in Turkey have affected the conference several times over the years and blocked travel for some of the participating professors coming from that country.

“We started preparations in the spring, and when we thought everything was going well, a military coup attempt took place in Turkey on July 15, 2016,” Balci said. “After the failed coup, a state of emergency was declared and a travel ban was issued for all state employees, including professors. Later, the travel ban was relaxed to allow academics to travel conferences abroad, but it was too late for our presenters to get their U.S. visa and book flights.”

Still, Balci said, ISMER is a great opportunity for university students, faculty, staff and the public to learn more about the United States’ sensitive relationship with the Middle East dating back to the last decade of the 18th century. Balci hopes to make it an annual event at UTRGV.

Dr. Walter Diaz, dean of the UTRGV College of Liberal Arts, welcomed panelists and guests to the symposium during a morning reception.

“Things in the Middle East are in a state of flux and the region faces great challenges and great opportunities. Obviously, if we are going to successfully meet these challenges, we need to make use of the opportunity to understand how we came to the present situation and what the factors are molding the status quo,” Diaz said. “This symposium takes the necessary interdisciplinary approach to develop a broad understanding of the world that can be harnessed to help find solutions and exploit opportunities.”

Panel discussions featured experts from UTRGV, West Los Angeles College, and the National Academy of Intelligence in Romania. Panel presentation topics included American missionary activities in the Middle East, U.S.-Libya relations, and military interventions and the future of the Middle East economy.

Participating in the panel discussions were UTRGV Middle East experts – Balci, Dr. Sonia Alianak, Department of Political Science; Dr. Christopher L. Miller, Department of History; and Dr. Matthew Weiss, Department of Public Administration and Security Studies.

ISMER continues Wednesday, Sept. 7, with a community event at the McAllen Public Library, featuring Andreea Stoian Karadeli, a cultural attaché at the Romanian embassy in Syria prior to the outbreak of the civil war in that country.

Karadeli’s topic, “The Role of Religious Communities in Fighting Terrorism – Us Together against Them Alone,” will focus on how religious communities can collaborate to protect their members against extremist propaganda.  

For more information about the ISMER community event, contact Tamer.Balci@utrgv.edu or call him at (956) 665-8785.


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