Micheline R. Ishay


On her book The Levant Express: The Arab Uprisings, Human Rights, and the Future of the Middle East

Cover Interview of February 19, 2020


This book opens with a poem, “Farewell to Abu Dhabi,” which I wrote on the plane as I completed my Gulf sojourn and returned to Denver. Reflecting on the people I was leaving behind, I thought of them as uncertain travelers like myself, struggling to find their way through tempestuous times. “I will bring you along to my new refuge,” I wrote, “an ambassador for dreams yet to bloom.” While I use poetry and creative images to take readers to the realm of the possible, I advance and document practical proposals designed to draw the attention of an interested audience, analysts, and policy-makers.

No one can offer a blueprint for the future, but I sketch alternatives that are today obscured by sectarian conflict, religious extremism, and authoritarian repression. I invite others to enter into this conversation by adding, altering, or proposing different paths. I am gratified that some of these ideas are making inroads in palaces, parliamentary offices, businesses, and other audiences. Amidst war fatigue, such proposals, based on fundamental principles of rights, may present themselves as more realistic and viable alternatives. Roosevelt reminded us in an even darker time that “the world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity or it will move apart.” I agree, and would add that the stakes are too high and the world cannot afford to lose.