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Arab Diaspora Conference 2020 -- Conference Poster and Programme

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The Arab Diaspora Conference maintained the spirit and hope of the people of the Middle East for democracy, dignity and human rights. It aimed to empower individuals from the Arab Speaking Diaspora who were willingly or forcibly exiled because they exercised their rights to freedom of expression, as well as those who remain in their lands and do not have the space to exercise them. This gathering built on and solidified work done at an initial closed workshop in 2018 at the University of Ottawa. The 2020 gathering was public and sought to actively include, engage with and inform policymakers, and to advocate for human rights and democracy to members of the Arab diaspora and the broader Canadian public. This was accomplished through public speaking and writing.
22-24 February
University of O!awa
Hosted by
Joint Chair in Women’s
Studies (University
of O!awa & Carleton
Human Rights Research
& Education Centre
(University of O!awa)
Zajel Institute for Justice
& Libe"y
RSVP to to a!end.
Please include a brief 2-line bio.
The Arab Diaspora Conference maintains the spirit and hope of the people
of the Middle East for democracy, dignity and human rights. It aims to
empower individuals from the Arab Speaking Diaspora who were willingly
or forcibly exiled because
they exercised their rights to
freedom of expression, as well
as those who remain in their
lands and do not have the
space to exercise them. Most
impo"ant, the conference
has the objective to grow the
seed of a network of talented
individuals collaborating
and contributing together
towards positive social
change through research and
dialogue on their respective
The Conference provides
grounds for pa"icipants to
network and get constructive
feedback on their initiatives
and projects. Panelists
and speakers will present around areas related to the social, political
and economic changes in Arab countries and their impact on diaspora
communities abroad. Through this combined eo" we will also together
carry out research on, and develop the professional methods for addressing
the understudied topics such as social justice, social movements and the
socio-political and economic developments in the Middle East and No"h
Africa (MENA), including the under-represented voices of the diaspora.
This gathering builds on and solidifies work done at the initial closed
workshop in 2018 at the University of O!awa. The 2020 gathering is public
and seeks to actively include, engage with and inform policymakers,
advocates for human rights and democracy, members of the Arab diaspora,
and the broader Canadian public. This will be accomplished through public
speaking and writing.
A primary purpose of the
gathering is to produce a
research publication that
summarizes the analysis and
perspectives of this unique
group of pa"icipants on the
social, political and economic
changes in the Arab world,
and the impact of the Arab
diaspora activism.
A second purpose of the
gathering is centered on the
idea of working towards creating a new authentic shared narrative around
the future of the region. Since 2011, the MENA region has undergone violent
change while morphing into new configurations that o$en serve to harden
and strengthen pa"icular alliances of violence and repressive control. There
is also at this stage no acceptable shared narrative on the future of the
region, even though change is inevitable. As such, the conference aims to
take a realistic approach to the socio-political realities and find ways
to move forward by creating a space for dialogue where pa"icipants can
a"iculate alternative scenarios for the future. This includes discussing what
role the diaspora and exiled activists can and should play in that future
Third, the conference aims to help empower and enable pa"icipants from
Arab diaspora communities in No"h America, to unde"ake new initiatives
and continue to make contributions in their areas of expe"ise. It also
provides grounds for sub-groups of pa"icipants to assemble in order to
create future initiatives outside of the conference itself. Pa"icipating
organizations/ institutions will also be asked to suppo" creative new
initiatives and projects stemming from the gathering. The conference, in-
eect, acts as a new pla%orm for networking Arab diaspora activists from
all over the region and with suppo"ing expe"s, organizations and potential
mentors from No"h America.
The lead speakers at the conference are the core group of human rights
and democracy defenders pa"icipating in the conference, who were
displaced from their countries of origin across the MENA region following
the 2011 Uprisings, and se!led mainly in Canada and the United States. They
are individuals who made significant contributions in their countries of
origin in a variety of fields, such as politics, environmental activism, human
rights, and a"istic and creative expression. They will be joined by expe"s,
analysts and academics of these topics and the MENA region in joint panels,
workshops and skills clinics.
The pa"icipants were selected to ensure diverse political, religious/ non-
religious, ethnic, gender identity backgrounds from across the Middle East
and No"h African countries. The pla%orm’s rule of engagement is total
tolerance for the other, whatever his/her orientation or point of view, sho"
of views that are themselves responsible for serious human rights abuses,
such as hate speech.
During the workshop in 2018, the defenders’ identities were kept quiet in
the developmental stage of the initiative. This time most will be presenting
themselves publicly in the next stage of their work.
The conference represents an
oppo"unity for the defenders and
pa"icipants to gather together
to think, share ideas, provide
mutual suppo" and envision a new
future. This includes producing
together a research publication
that summarizes and analyses the
pa"icipants’ perspectives on social,
political and economic changes in
the Arab world, and the impact they
have on Arab diaspora communities
(pa"icularly through the lens of
their own respective diaspora
communities). The gathering also
serves as a stepping stone toward
future activities and new structures
meant to provide suppo" for the
The gathering will take place at
the University of O!awa over 3
days February 22nd to 24th. It
will sta" with one-and-a-half
days of closed sessions for the
democracy defenders, consisting of:
a reception, workshops and clinics
(from February 22nd to 23rd). This
will be followed by an impo"ant open day of panels and public discussions
(on February 24th).
The anticipated outcomes include
1. Research publications
2. Policy discussions
3. Mentoring and skills-
4. Suppo" for new initiatives
5. The establishment of new
6. Plans for follow-up activities
Monday February 24
This will be a public event involving the defenders and all other pa"icipants.
It will consist of panel discussions, including a lunch with a keynote panel.
Government policymakers will be invited to pa"icipate for mutual dialogue
and guidance.
Saturday February 22
The MENA human rights and democracy defenders are welcomed to O!awa
for an evening opening reception and networking dinner.
Sunday February 23
Democracy defenders will pa"icipate in skills development workshops and
clinics consisting of:
08:30 - 09:00 Opening Remarks and Coee
09:00 - 11:30 Workshop 1 - Adaptive Leadership
11:30 - 12:30 Lunch
12:30 - 15:00 Workshop 2 - Public Narrative
15:00 - 16:00 Coee Break
16:00 - 17:00
Clinic 1 - Human Rights and Democracy
Clinic 2 - Social Entrepreneurship and
Clinic 3 - Seeking Academic Funding,
Oppo"unities and Publishing Guidance
Clinic 4 - Digital Security
18:00 - 18:15 Closing Remarks
08:00 - 08:45 Registration
08:45 - 09:00 Opening Remarks by the Joint Chair in
Women’s Studies
09:00 - 10:30 Panel 1 - An Assessment of the Political
Situation in MENA
10:30 - 11:00 Coee Break
11:00 - 12:30
Panel 2 - Forming the Narrative on the Human
Rights Situation in MENA and the Role of the
12:30 - 14:00 Lunch and Discussions
14:00 - 15:30
Panel 3 - Understanding the role of the
International Actors and International Policies
towards Human Rights and Democracy
15:30 - 16:00 Coee Break
16:00 - 17:30 Panel 4 - The Impact of Diaspora advocacy
eo"s on International actors decisions
17:30 - 17:45 Closing Remarks by a Founder of the Zajel
Institute for Justice and Libe"y
Panel 1: An Assessment of the Political Situation in MENA
Si$ing through the myriad events that have taken place over the past
decade in the Middle East and No"h Africa (MENA), this panel highlights the
key moments that bring us into the present. With observers who are known
worldwide for their expe"ise in MENA and international current aairs, all
fluent in one or more languages of the region, the panel considers how
we arrived at the current situation in the MENA region. It focuses on the
challenges, oppo"unities and rich contributions to date by researchers and
human rights defenders from and in the region, and the degree to which the
international community has sought to recognise those contributions.
Moderator: Jeremy Wildeman
Speakers: Dalia Fahmy, Khalil al-Anani, Kawkab Al Wadeai, fu"her speakers to
be announced
Dalia Fahmy is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Long Island
University, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Policy in Washington DC,
and Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human
Panel 2: Forming the Narrative on the Human Rights Situation in MENA
This panel features two of the world’s foremost analysts of human rights in
the MENA region, alongside a global expe" on international human rights
and international conflict resolution, and a leading MENA campaigner
for civil libe"ies, pa"icipatory politics, separation of powers and judicial
independence. Privy to the most horrific public violations of human rights
in the past decade, and pa" of global movements to address and prevent
such crimes, this panel illuminates ways we speak about human rights to
engage the public, direct groundbreaking research, and influence state
and international policy toward the protection of human rights and human
rights defenders.
Moderator: Khaled Al-Qazzaz
Speakers: Sarah Leah Whitson, Abdullah Alaoudh, fu"her speakers to be
Panel 3: Understanding the Role of Canadian and International Actors’
Policies Towards Human Rights and Democracy Defenders
Shi$ing focus from the Middle East and No"h Africa to Canada and
the international community’s involvement in Middle East politics, key
policymakers, lawmakers, researchers and a human rights defender (and
former political prisoner) share insights into their experiences and eo"s to
sustain human rights and democracy defenders in the MENA region. What
trends suppo" these defenders, and how can these be harnessed? What
pi%alls have they faced, and how can they be avoided in future? How can
cooperation and mutual understanding be the guiding principles in this
work? The panel will address these and other questions, grounded in their
own years of international and domestic diplomacy and advocacy.
Moderator: Nadia Abu-Zahra
Speakers: Michelle Dunne, fu"her speakers to be announced
Michele Dunne: Director and senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program.
Panel 4: The Impact of Advocacy Eo"s on the International Community’s
Decision-Making Processes on MENA
State and international decision-making is aected by public opinion,
pressure groups from the corporate and non-profit sectors, the media,
higher education’s knowledge production frameworks, and legal
parameters, among other factors. This panel addresses the various
directions in which international decision-making related to the Middle East
and No"h Africa has been taken, and looks at the questions of why and how.
From the perspectives of democratic MENA governments, international
advocacy groups for justice and peace, and the Canadian goverment’s steps
toward a feminist foreign policy, this panel sheds light on how international
decision-making processes take place and the consequences of those
Moderator: Muzna Dureid
Speakers: Amr Darrag, Ghuna Bdiwi, fu"her speakers to be announced
The workshops are being oered as a way for defenders to learn and think
together how to approach their advocacy in new and impac%ul ways. They
are led by moderators with deep knowledge of campaigning and advocacy
work, in theory and practice, to eect progressive change.
Workshop 1: Public Narrative
Every social movement and human rights and democracy defender has a
story. We sta" somewhere, we have our ups and downs, and we hold tight
to a vision of a new and be!er future. How are those stories told? This
workshop helps human rights and democracy defenders and their allies
and suppo"ers to map together the narrative that conveys in universal
language the imperatives, the hardships, the accomplishments, and the
dreams that people share. For building a movement, for seeking suppo",
and for enhancing and spreading mutual understanding, these narratives
are the foundation of every individual and social movement. They bring us
closer to human rights and democracy, and bring all of humanity together
rather than sharp and violent divisions.
Moderator: Najwa Silwadi
Workshop 2: Adaptive Leadership
True leadership is collective, horizontal, and relational. This
workshop helps build skills in working non-hierarchically
and in healthy ways. It addresses forms of leadership that
do not rely on centralised power but rather distribute
power and empower at all times. This is not excluding but
especially in times of crisis, being able to respond flexibly,
work collaboratively, and share the burden and privilege of
leadership, where all talents can be consciously fostered.
In this workshop, human rights and democracy defenders
are suppo"ed and encouraged in their egalitarian and
respec%ul practices of maintaining and sustaining healthy
and positive relations, for the times of the future.
Moderators: Khaled Elsharkawi and Ehab El Gamel
A series of clinics are being oered to the defenders for skills development.
Up to three clinics are being held at one time and the defenders will be
able to choose what skill-development they wish to address. The clinics the
conference has scheduled are as follows.
Clinic 1 - Human Rights and Democracy Advocacy
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Clinic 2 - Social
Entrepreneurship and
This clinic provides
defenders an overview of the
framework for establishing
and managing their own
registered organisations in
Canada in order to pursue
advocacy work. That includes
the legalities of establishing
a registered entity; the dierences of registering it in dierent legal
jurisdictions/provinces of Canada; the advantages and disadvantages of
registration as a not-for-profit versus a charity; and a discussion if it is wo"h
registering at all. It fu"her includes a discussion around organisational
management, fundraising, sta and volunteer management, all as pa" of
a discussion as to how the organisation should be developed to carry-out
mobilisation for advocacy work from Canada for the MENA region.
Moderators: Diana El-Richani, Nadia Abu-Zahra and fu"her moderators to be
announced from Community Mobilization in Crisis (CMIC).
Clinic 3 - Scholars at Risk - Seeking Academic Funding, Oppo"unities and
Publishing Guidance
This clinic addresses academic suppo" for ‘Scholars at Risk’, a community
of research advocates of human rights and democracy who are suering
grave threats to their lives, libe"y and well-being. This bears in mind the
work of the Scholars at Risk network which operates in Canada and the
United States arranging temporary research and teaching positions at
institutions in our network, as well as by providing advisory and referral
services. That network is though limited in size in scope, and this clinic
will oer parallel advice from beneficiaries of Scholars at Risk including
navigating who to find employment and funding, along with publishing
advice, including publishing geared towards their advocacy work.
Moderator: Fayyaz Baqir and Rehana Hashmi
Clinic 4 - Digital Security
This clinic provides guidance for human rights and democracy defenders
facing the most common types of digital threats, as well as providing
guidelines to assist a person under threat by using secure technology
and developing careful practices. It includes an overview discussion as
to the ways governments and corporations are monitoring and capturing
communications that can, and all too o$en are used against activists.
It emphasises the impo"ance for defenders to protect themselves by
changing their habits and adopting new technologies that oer additional
protection from spying.
Moderator: Fu"her moderators to be announced.
Canada has a long history of advocating for democracy,
good governance, international law and human
rights around the world. These have at times been an
essential pa" of Canadian foreign policy, and policy
that Canadians consistently suppo". Indeed, the Prime
Minister recently charged Canada’s Minister of Foreign
Aairs with advancing Canada’s national interest by
promoting democracy, human rights and international
law, pa"icularly through suppo" for the rules-based
international order and multilateral institutions. It is also
no coincidence that many of the defenders forced into
exile ended up in Canada. So, Canada seems like a natural
home for this initiative.
In a deeply interconnected global community, this
gathering is impo"ant not just for the MENA region, but
the be!er world these defenders are striving for. What
has happened in MENA in the past 20 years has had for
instance a very noticeable and negative impact on states
and societies around the world, from the rise of the alt-
right and authoritarian figures, to economic collapse
and migration crises. Stability, peace and prosperity can
only really be brought to the region through respect for
international law, human rights and good governance. This
can only be accomplished by providing suppo" for the
liberal democratic reform people are striving for.
Khaled Elsharkawi is an accomplished project
manager for technology projects internationally,
covering a diversity of industries. He holds a
Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s
Kennedy School of Government where he focused
on developing a broad range of leadership
and analytical skills to initiate and implement
change. He also holds a MBA, a Master of Business
Information Technology, is a ce"ified Project Management Professional
and is a ce"ified trainer and coach in Breakthrough Communications.
He has used his education and experience to improve processes in both
the private and public sectors and for communities in need, where his
accomplishments in the corporate and public sector projects are paralleled
by his commitment to serve communities and volunteer for the greater
good. His involvement with the not-for-profit sector includes volunteering
with CARE, Greenpeace, Rotary and local organizations. As a democracy
advocate, Khaled’s thesis on technology-based direct democracy
empowered his leadership to steer an international campaign, “Right2Vote”,
to successfully enable Egyptians abroad to vote.
This section is being completed as we finalize pa"icipant travel schedules.
Khaled Al-Qazzaz has a Masters of Applied
Sciences in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
from the University of Toronto (UofT), Canada and
is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education
in Educational Administration at Walden
University, USA. Khaled is also the co-founder
of the Al-Qazzaz Foundation for Education and
Development. Khaled is passionate about social
change and human rights issues, which is why
he sta"ed many dierent initiatives on the UofT campus like the Students
for World Justice Commi!ee and organizing events with the Anti-Racism
& Cultural Diversity Oice. Khaled co-founded Zajel Institute to empower
members of the Arab Diaspora who had to leave their homes whether by
compulsion or choice.
Nadia Abu-Zahra is the Joint Chair of Women’s
Studies at the University of O!awa and Carleton
University, Associate Professor of International
Development and Global Studies and a member
of the Human Rights Research and Education
Centre, University of O!awa. Nadia has worked
on projects in health, environmental issues,
human rights, and education, suppo"ed by
Oxfam, UNICEF, the European Union, the Open
Society Foundation, and Global Aairs Canada. She was previously based
at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre, and currently serves
on the Reconciliation Commi!ee of the Canadian Federation for the
Humanities and Social Sciences, and on the Boards of the Group of 78, the
journal Geopolitics, the Al-Qazzaz Foundation for Education & Development,
and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. She is co-author
with Adah Kay of Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and
Movement Restriction. The collective eo"s of Community Mobilization in
Crisis — a project she co-directs, to develop open educational resources for
use locally and internationally — have garnered several awards.
Muzna Duraid A Syrian refugee who arrived in
Montraél in November 2016, Muzna is deeply
involved in human rights issues. She has worked
as a liaison oicer with The White Helmets
(winner of the alternative Nobel prize for peace
in 2016). She is the founder and coordinator of
Women Refugees, not Captives, a campaign
that aims to end the practice of forced child
marriages in Syrian refugee camps. She is also
a member of the General Secretariat of the Syrian Women’s Political
Movement, the first political movement to engage Syrian women on politics
and peace talks. She is also a Research assistant at the Canadian Council of
Young Feminists and the Founder of the Indigenous-Refugee Movement.
Chuck Thiessen Chuck Thiessen is an Associate
Professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and
Social Relations at Coventry University. Dr
Thiessen’s research has focused on the ethics
of international intervention in conflict and war
zones, international interventions to prevent
violent extremism, and international conflict
resolution. His has conducted research in
Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel/Palestine, Burkina
Faso and Mauritania.
Jeremy Wildeman Researcher of international
relations, critical development studies and
human security, Middle East politics and Canadian
foreign policy. He has conducted a number
of major research studies on the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, and is addressing the critical
research gap on Canada and the Middle East.
He has extensive experience as a practitioner
coordinating suppo" in conflict and post-conflict
regions of the Balkans and West Asia.
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