Since the outbreak of the Arab uprisings 10 years ago, many people from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries have fled or been forced to flee their countries of origin. The demographics of these new communities are diverse and powerful, but policy makers in the West do not deal with them adequately.
These emerging and politically active post-2011 Arab communities include politicians, former diplomats, academics, activist lawyers, civil society professionals, doctors, judges, journalists, and artists. Many of these diaspora actors plan to return home as soon as the situation allows them to do so safely. They put a fair amount of effort into trying to influence and inform policies that affect their original condition. While the role of states remains pivotal in the conduct of international relations, policy makers should pay more attention to these new Arab communities and use them to identify solutions to armed conflict and governance problems.
Most importantly, it forms part of a file the new A diaspora community rather than a more established diaspora whose ties to the country of origin are remote. While many members of the new Arab diaspora are young intellectuals and civil society professionals, many of them are also experienced politicians and human rights lawyers, whose work is primarily the reason they were forced to flee. They maintain strong relationships with their home country and have access to host country policy makers, international policy makers, NGOs and the media; and for War Crimes Prosecutors in Europe.
Arab states increasingly view these new diaspora actors as a threat. Saudi journalist killed in Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi It is one of many examples from across the Arab region. Nabila Makram, Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs, has made it clear how far other governments will go to warn their citizens abroad ominously. Makram warned during a visit to Canada in 2019 that anyone who criticizes Egypt abroad will be “punished” and she is pointed out With a chopping motion across her neck, she makes this observation. Earlier this month, Makram advertiser That Egyptian researchers abroad are among the most dangerous segments of the Egyptian diaspora, arguing that they import ideas that harm Egypt.
Such examples attest to the remarkable influence exerted by expatriate professionals who are actively involved in issues related to their home country. They are mobile and relatively safe compared to their peers back home, though Increasing attempts to suppress them across national borders الحدود. They influence issues ranging from seeking accountability for crimes committed in their home countries, to generating and exchanging policy-oriented ideas to help resolve conflict, combat oppression, and build peace at home.
Foreign policy practitioners should do more to engage systematically with these new Arab communities. So far, this post has been largely customized.
A strategy that creates safe spaces for sustainable engagement will allow the knowledge and experience of these expatriate actors to better inform policy making to address the complex challenges facing the Arab region. This is particularly important because many countries are either experiencing armed conflict and state fragmentation or renewed authoritarianism.
However, diaspora actors must be handled carefully. Excessive reliance on certain individuals, especially exiled political elites who have been abroad for a long time, can be harmful. Some are either far removed from contact with the mother country, while others have a self-indulgent political agenda that detracts from and even challenges the broader goals of conflict resolution and improved governance. Like the former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad ChalabiFormer Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi, and even the Libyan military leader Khalifa Hitter are examples of such individuals. While adept at garnering support from Western policymakers, their legitimacy was immediately called into question once they reached a position of power at home.
But this is why it is so important to engage with new Arab communities more – not less – to engage with new Arab communities. This is particularly true for expatriate academics, policy professionals, and civil society professionals working in a variety of fields including public health, education, security, human rights, counterterrorism, and peacebuilding. Since many of them left or were forced to flee after the dissolution of the Arab uprisings, their work abroad is an extension of the work they did before. This lends a certain level of legitimacy to these new expatriate actors with their compatriots back home. However, the longer they remain abroad, the greater the chances of their perceived legitimacy weakening.
The shrinking of civic space in many countries across the Arab region, which has seen the enactment of obsessive laws restricting the work of NGOs as well as their presence, has resulted in many CSOs relocating outside their home countries. Many have also established new think tanks and civil society organizations abroad, where they coordinate efforts directed toward policy formation, knowledge production, and the pursuit of accountability.
It is these groups of the new Arab diaspora that foreign policy makers should work with more systematically to better inform policy making.
For example, while efforts to end the war in Yemen continue to fail, Yemenis in the new diaspora, particularly those who have fled since 2014, have identified and proposed approaches to a political transition that would carefully lay the foundations for Yemeni-led governance.
One Like this suggestion It is the establishment of a presidential council with limited powers in Yemen. Such a council would oversee peace talks and appoint Yemenis to high-level government positions, including that of prime minister. Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies Argues That this council would be “a first step in a much-needed process of comprehensive governance reform”.
Nothing prevents such a council from including some of the most experienced and politically intelligent Yemenis in the diaspora. Ironically, while the current Yemeni government headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi operates from outside Yemen – in Riyadh – the potential replacement for this weak government could partially include those who (unintentionally) resided outside Yemen.
He created the new Syrian diaspora important achievements in transitional justice. In addition to the strong Syrian documentation movement, lawyers active in the Syrian diaspora, along with victims and relatives of victims who became refugees, have built many criminal cases In several European countries targeting high-ranking officials of the Assad regime. They did this in cooperation with Syrians inside and outside Syria. These developments are a testament to the value of effective collaboration between experts from the designated diaspora and their allies in the international community.
still, knowledge production Arab thinkers, practitioners, and policy analysts in their countries of origin and in the diaspora often continue to be ignored, and even rejected, by international policy makers. More attention is needed to effective ways of interacting with experience And the experience of these communities.
Finally, the main challenge facing the new Arab diaspora is the polarization fueled by social media, disinformation, cross-border surveillance by the mother country, and many other factors. In my conversations with active Yemenis, Libyans, and Egyptians in particular, the lack of sufficient safe spaces in which they can exchange ideas without fear of repercussions is a major obstacle to effective coordination and mobilization.
Foreign policymakers can and should work to create safe spaces and weaken the transnational reach of repressive state security agencies targeting their own citizens abroad.
As I argued on this Brookings reportDiaspora members must be essential partners in shaping international and domestic policies that affect them, particularly as they are an immediately accessible and valuable resource for policy makers during conflict, transitional, and post-conflict periods.
This can be done in at least three ways. First, the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs could appoint an official to liaise with key Arab diaspora actors temporarily resettled in the United States. There should be a concerted effort to search for civil society professionals who work in multiple sectors whose safety can be ensured. During this type of sharing. Language and experience of the area will be vital.
Second, since members of the Arab diaspora are scattered and stationed in various locations throughout Europe, North America, the Gulf region, and Southeast Asia, an effective strategy would be to appoint diaspora liaisons through major US embassies in other parts of the world. The primary role of these officials is to create and grow a network of new Arab actors in the diaspora who have the knowledge and experience needed to inform policy making. In doing so, policy makers will be able to keep their fingers on the pulse of policy transformation and on realistic approaches to policy that can generate desired outcomes.
Finally, as think tanks continue to exercise their influence in policymaking, they must make conscious efforts to provide more platforms for new Arab actors in the diaspora to share their thoughts on pressing policy issues facing their countries of origin and the wider region. Such platforms should include both public and confidential sharing spaces, which would encourage those who are wary of “The long arm of the Arab stateTo participate. Strategic engagement with new Arab communities in this way would diversify and enhance the political solutions available to practitioners.