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Research

2020

  • After Islamic State: Local-State-Global Heritage Dynamics in Syria and Iraq (ARC Discovery Project)

    Research Team:  A/Prof. Benjamin Isakhan and Prof. Lynn Meskell
    Research Synopsis: When the militant jihadist network known as the ‘Islamic State’ seized large swathes of territory across both Syria and Iraq, they unleashed brutal genocidal pogroms against innocent civilians and devastated several key heritage sites such as Palmyra and the Mosul Museum. In response to the heritage destruction perpetrated by groups such as the IS, a number of state institutions and global bodies have launched initiatives to reconstruct the heritage of Syria and Iraq. While such efforts are undoubtedly well-intentioned, they often rely on problematic assumptions about how the people of Syria and Iraq value and engage with their heritage, how they perceive and interpret its destruction, and the value they place on its reconstruction. Utilizing country-wide surveys, interviews and archival research, this project offers the most robust and nuanced study to date of Syrian and Iraqi public opinion on heritage and the extent to which it converges with, or diverges from, the attitudes and actions of key state and global actors.
    Research Timeline: 2020-2022

2019

  • Women Know MENA Australia-Lebanon exchange (DFAT Council for Australian-Arab Relations)

    Research Team: Dr. Dara Conduit & Ms. Marika Sosnowski (University of Melbourne)
    Why are women frequently overlooked in policy and media debates on the Middle East? 65% of 2014 MENA (Middle East and North Africa) events run by six US think tanks lacked any female speakers, let alone a woman from the region. Women Know MENA (WKM) was established in 2019 to combat this disparity, creating a contact list of more than 250 female MENA experts for journalists, humanitarians, researchers and event organisers. The project’s applicants are WKM members. This project will fund events that foster links between Australian and Arab women leaders in order to elevate the work of women, develop strategies to further raise women’s voices (particularly those from the region), and to interview WKM members on why women are frequently ignored. The team will arrange and attend a WKM symposium and networking event in Beirut, and will publish the project’s findings in an OpEd.
    Research Timeline: 2019-2020

2018

  • Assessing the impact of external actors in the Syrian and Afghan proxy wars, (Carnegie Corporation)

    Research Team:  Prof. Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dr. Dara Conduit and Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed
    Research Synopsis: Regional proxy conflicts have become a most significant threat to peace and security in the Middle East and South Asia. This is a dangerous trend because the involvement of foreign actors in domestic conflicts risks the spread of tension across two of the world’s most volatile regions. With the Carnegie Corporation’s support, the proposed project will undertake a comparative analysis of the proxy wars in Syria and Afghanistan to examine the impact that external players have had on the conflicts, and to advance new understandings on the evolving role of states and non-state actors in the regions. This project represents an exciting opportunity to bridge the divide between researchers and policymakers. It will bring together policymakers, academics and practitioners from across the Middle East and South/Central Asia as stakeholders to explore multilateral policy alternatives. These stakeholders will be involved in the project at every step of the way, from setting initial priorities, to providing policy recommendations and giving feedback on the final report. The deep involvement of local expertise will support the development of locally driven and evidence-based policy responses to proxy conflicts, and maximise the project impact.
    Research Timeline: 2018-2020

  • Women's NGOs and Gender-Sensitive Policy Change in Iran (Australian Research Council: Discovery Project)

    Research Team: Prof. Shahram Akbarzadeh and Dr. Rebecca Barlow
    Research Synopsis: This project aims to investigate how Iranian women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work to influence gender sensitive policy change in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This project will generate new knowledge on the causal mechanisms behind NGO-driven policy change in Iran, leading to a theory of change on NGOs and gender sensitive policy change in Islamic political systems more broadly. The expected outcomes will enhance scholarly understanding of Iranian civil society, and build the capacity of the Australian government to foster ties and invest in successful strategies for progress with Iran.
    Research timeline: 2018 – 2021.

2017

  • Sharing Syrian scholarship on the Syrian conflict with the Australian public (DFAT Council for Australian-Arab Relations)

    Research Team: Dr Dara Conduit
    This project brought the leading Syrian researcher Zaki Mehchy to Australia for a week in 2018 to give public lectures in Melbourne and Sydney, participate in closed-door roundtables with DFAT and academics in Canberra and Melbourne, and meet with members of parliament and ministerial advisors.
    Duration: 2017-2018.

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    • State and Society in Iran: Identity and the Securitisation of Minority Policies, (Gerda Henkel Stiftung)

      Research Team: Prof. Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dr. Costas Louatides and Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed
      Research Synopsis: This project seeks to examine the dynamic interaction between the Kurdish minority and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ethnic Kurdish identity transcends territorial boundaries, raising significant questions about the impact of conflict across the border on Iranian Kurds and how they interact with the state. Recent conflicts in the region involving Kurds adds to an already difficult relationship between Tehran and the Kurdish community. This project will test the increasing concern among the Iranian political establishment in relation to Kurdish assertiveness, and explore the implications of the prevalent tendency to apply a security lens to ethnic relations.
      Research Timeline: 2017-2018

    2015

    • Measuring Cultural Property Destruction in Iraq and Syria, (Australian Department of Defence)

      Research Team: Dr. Benjamin Isakhan
      Research Synopsis: In recent years, both Iraq and Syria have seen unprecedented degrees of heritage destruction, especially with the expansion of various forms of sectarianism and militant Islamist jihadi groups, including the ‘Islamic State’ (among others). This project aims to be the first global attempt to record this heritage destruction. The project involves the collection of primary and secondary material concerning the destruction of cultural property in Iraq and Syria, the analysis of this material and its entry into sophisticated databases cataloguing the destruction of heritage.
      Research Timeline: 2015-2017

    • Patterns of Humanization and Dehumanization and the Development of Trust: Unity and Divisions Within and Between the Muslim World (Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development)

      Research Team: Prof. Dan Christie and Prof. Noraini Noor. Co-Is: Prof. Cristina Montiel, A/Prof. Subramaniam Govindasamy, Dr. Shelley McKeown, A/Prof. Reeshma Haji, Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed & Dr. Fatima Sajjad
      Research Synopsis: In this project, Dr Ahmed’s project focused on the media discourse in relation to Pakistani Christians. This project collected pre- and post-9/11 data from the two most read newspapers in Pakistan. The data was analysed using the theoretical framework on de-humanization.
      Research Timeline: 2015-2017

    2014

    • Peace Education in Pakistan (United States Institute of Peace)

      Research Team: Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed,
      Research Synopsis: This project involved a thorough investigation of nine peace education projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab. The results of this project have been disseminated through a USIP special report, and journal articles in Peace Review, and Asian Journal of Peacebuilding.
      Research Timeline: 2014-2016

    2013

    • The Role of Islam in Iran's Foreign Policy: Central Asia and Afghanistan, (Australian Research Council: Future Fellowship)

      Research Team: Prof. Shahram Akbarzadeh,
      Research Synopsis: This project aims to investigate how Iranian women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work to influence gender sensitive policy change in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This project will generate new knowledge on the causal mechanisms behind NGO-driven policy change in Iran, leading to a theory of change on NGOs and gender sensitive policy change in Islamic political systems more broadly. The expected outcomes will enhance scholarly understanding of Iranian civil society, and build the capacity of the Australian government to foster ties and invest in successful strategies for progress with Iran.
      Research Timeline: 2013-2016

       

    • Sectarianism in the Middle East (Qatar National Research Fund)

      Research Team:  Prof. Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dr. Mark Farha and Dr Luciano Zaccara
      Research Synopsis: This project examined how the eruption of popular unrest across the Arab world opened up a sectarian divide in the region with far-reaching consequences. Through detailed study of original sources, the research team analysed the relationship between regional power rivalry and worsening sectarian tensions and conflict.
      Research Timeline: 2013 – 2015