From the Director's Desk: YÜKSEL SEZGIN


The Middle East region continues to be a vastly misunderstood part of the world. In the minds of most Americans, the region is often associated with violence, terrorism, warfare and  authoritarianism.  Social  and  mainstream  media  produce,  and  reproduce,  biased  and  prejudiced representations of the region and its people. Unfortunately, American political institutions  and  policy-makers  not  only  increasingly  subscribe  to  these  misinformed,  racialized and ahistorical representations, but also base their policies in the region on these fallacies.

The  Middle  East  region  is  going  through  some  of  the  worst  times  in  its  history  since  the  end  of  World  War  I.  The  people’s  dreams  of  freedom,  peace,  prosperity  and  democracy  now look even less attainable. And what’s worse, the Middle East is not alone in this bleak picture. As political developments of the last few years attest, democracy and freedoms are under threat all over the world. The rule of law, civil and political rights and freedoms are diminishing right here at home, too. Trust in democratic institutions, the judiciary and the media are at an all-time low. 

One of my favorite words in Farsi and Ottoman Turkish is Dar ul-Funun. It literally means “the house of sciences” or “university.” Syracuse University is a world-renowned house of sciences.  Here, we are dedicated to the production and dissemination of data-driven, impartial and objective scientific knowledge and truth. We do not see people as “whites” or “blacks,” we do not ban people because they read a different scripture or turn their faces in a different direction when they pray; we do not have walls separating those who dare to dream from those who dare to love, and we do not have any political agendas. Here, we seek only knowledge, nothing but the knowledge.

Syracuse University’s MESP is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to the advancement of scientific and scholarly knowledge in Middle Eastern cultures, languages, history and politics.  We are a community of educators, scholars and students who every day carry out cutting-edge research and knowledge production, and engage in world-class teaching and  learning.  We  empower  our  students  by  teaching  them  skills  that  are  critical  not  only  for their academic and professional development, but also for participation in public life as global-minded citizens.

The education of the citizenry is the key. In the absence of such education, the democratic experience  suffers  and  leads  to  deterioration  of  our  freedoms  and  the  rule  of  law.  Throughout the year, we organize workshops, panels, language tables and cultural events, which are attended by hundreds of students and community members. As the director, I am happy to report that we continue to grow as a program and shine as a beacon of knowledge and learning on our campus, in our city, in our state, and in the nation.  

We are aware of our intellectual responsibilities and civic duty. We are working very hard to succeed in them. In the days ahead, we will work even harder to make sure we are not just educating our students, but also contributing—in meaningful ways—to the intellectual evolution of our communities beyond the campus. 

I would like to thank our deans at the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences, the staff and leadership of the Moynihan Institute, our dedicated faculty, our students, the friends of the program and our donors for their generosity and continued support. I hope that you will consider supporting our programs and activities by making a tax-deductible donation at http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/giving (please designate “MESP” as the recipient in the comment box).