More Arab Studies in US [Archives:1998/01/Law & Diplomacy]

January 5 1998

Ms. Barbara Stowasser is the director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. She teaches Arab and Islamic culture at Georgetown University. Ismail Al-Ghabiri of Yemen Times talked to Ms. Stowasser, and filed the following interview.
Q: What are your impressions of Yemen so far? A: This is my first visit to Yemen which has been absolutely delightful. I’ve met many wonderful people and scholars. I met Sheikh Ismail Al-Akwa’a who is quite a famous scholar. I had a wonderful discussion with him about Yemeni culture. I’ve been received by H.E. the Prime Minister who is an old friend of my center and who actually invited me to come to Yemen this time. I’m very very grateful to all of them including Mr. Khalid al-Akwa’a who is also responsible for this trip and your ambassador to Washington, Mr. Abdulwahab Al-Hajri who is also a friend of this center. I’ve met a number of Yemeni graduates of Georgetown University as well as of other American universities and I feel very much at home. It’s really a wonderful visit. It is like a home coming.
Q: About what is the lecture you gave in Sanaa university? A: I called it “A Study of Arab and Islamic Issues in the United States.” I tried to speak about all the programs that we have in the US for the study of Arab politics, culture, and Islamic issues. Then I spoke of the political role of establishments such as the one I work with in educating the American public and administration because these are issues on which the general public is not fully informed.
Q: How do you assess the democratic process and the general political situation in Yemen? A: Well, I just got here; it’s very early to ask me this question. But I was very impressed by the free speech allowed in Yemen. I was also impressed by a visit to the Consultative Council where I’ve found out they are dealing with human rights questions in a major way. I got a newspaper this morning and there were some very open, quite critical articles in it and some are quite satirical, which I found very positive.
Q: How do you see the future role of the Yemeni women? A: I don’t know much about that. That is why I didn’t speak of women issues in my lecture. I’ve very much wanted to but I’m not familiar with the social reality of the country. I would like to study it. I would like to come back, interview women and find out women’s’ role in the political process, in the economy and so on. But I am too ignorant at present to say anything much about it except that I was impressed by the fact that some of these young women today in the lecture had some extremely intelligent questions. So, apparently women are taking full advantage of the educational opportunity that has been given.
Q: What studies are currently being prepared by your center? A: Yes, we have done a lot of work. Our specialist on Yemen is Michael Hudson. He has written seven long analytical pieces about the country including a very nice piece, about the last elections when he was here as an observer. I myself, after this lovely visit, have decided to have a Yemen Day at the center in spring, during this spring semester. We’ll discuss the history, politics, economy, and social development in Yemen. And we will invite both American politicians and also people from the media to attend in order to spread information about the Yemen.
Q: As an American intellectual how do you see the American policy concerning the conflict in the Middle East? A: It is a biased policy and there are however, people who are very concerned with rectifying the bias. I think that we will see progress. I think that the development is hopefully toward greater justice in this issue in the US.