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August 31, 2007- The fifth annual 2007 Middle East & Central Asia (MECA) Politics, Economics, and Society Conference will be held at the University of Utah September 6 through 8. Two hundred researchers, academics, journalists, and representatives of public policy and civil society organizations, government officials, members of think tanks and military personnel are expected to attend.

John Francis, senior associate vice president for academic affairs, is scheduled to deliver the welcoming address and expects the conference to provide a range of thoughtful perspectives on a number of critical issues facing Utah and the nation. He notes that the Middle East and central Asia are of increasing importance for the rest of the world due to the “growing role of these regions in U.S. foreign policy, ongoing tensions regarding minorities, the dependence of the western powers on the natural resources in the two regions, as well as the regional dynamics of change.”

In addition to 35 panel discussions, the conference will host three distinguished plenary lectures and a roundtable session on Iraq. Robert Olson, an internationally renowned professor of Middle East politics, and a leading international authority on the foreign relations of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds, will deliver the kick-off lecture, “Wither Kurdish Nationalism?” on September 6. Olson is a professor of Middle East and Islamic history at the University of Kentucky, and is the author of several books and research articles that have been translated into Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Olson’s presentation will take place on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 9:15 a.m. in the Hinckley Caucus Room in Orson Spencer Hall.

University of Chicago professor of political science, Robert Pape, will deliver a plenary lecture entitled, “Why the War on Terrorism Goes South.” In addition to numerous articles in leading political science journals, Pape recently published Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House 2005). Pape”s commentary on international security policy has also appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and on Nightline, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and National Public Radio. Pape’s presentation will take place on Friday, Sept. 7 at 10:20 a.m. in the Saltair Room in the A. Ray Olpin Union.

Uli Schamiloglu, chair of the Central Asian Studies Program and associate director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will discuss “Islamic Civilization in the Russian Empire: Lessons for the Modern Muslim World?” Schamiloglu is the author of numerous books, and other scholarly work, including Muslims in Russia (Mason Crest Publishers: 2006). Uli Schamiloglu’s talk will take place on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 11:10 am in the Saltair Room of the A. Ray Olpin Union.

On Sept. 8 two roundtable discussions will take place. At 9 a.m., a session on the recent elections in Turkey will be held in the Collegiate Room of the A. Ray Olpin Union. At 4:40 p.m., “The Middle East after Iraq War” roundtable session is scheduled for the Saltair Room of the A. Ray Olpin Union. The panel will be composed of Robert Olson, Peter Sluglett, professor of history, University of Utah, and Eric Hooglund. Hooglund is a professor of Middle East studies at Bates College and has been serving as the editor of Critique, an influential academic journal in the field.

The conference will host a book fair and film festival and will include a live performance of Turkish folk music by Group Anatolia on Sept. 6 at 8:30 p.m. in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. A Middle Eastern and Central Asian Dance Extravaganza by Lloyd Miller and Katherine St. John’s Eastern Arts will round out the days’ events on Sept. 8 at 8:45 p.m. also in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

All panels, plenary lectures, film screenings, and dance and music performances are open to the public. For the full schedule of events, visit the conference Web site at