The Levant Express The Arab Uprisings, Human Rights, and the Future of the Middle East Micheline R. Ishay

Publication date:
22 Oct 2019
Yale University Press
352 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
33 b-w illus.
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A surprisingly hopeful assessment of the prospects for human rights in the Middle East, and a blueprint for advancing them

The enormous sense of optimism unleashed by the Arab Spring in 2011 soon gave way to widespread suffering and despair. Of the many popular uprisings against autocratic regimes, Tunisia’s now stands alone as a beacon of hope for sustainable human rights progress. Libya is a failed state; Egypt returned to military dictatorship; the Gulf States suppressed popular protests and tightened control; and Syria and Yemen are ravaged by civil war. Challenging the widely shared pessimism among regional experts, Micheline Ishay charts bold and realistic pathways for human rights in a region beset by political repression, economic distress, sectarian conflict, a refugee crisis, and violence against women. With due attention to how patterns of revolution and counterrevolution play out in different societies and historical contexts, Ishay reveals the progressive potential of subterranean human rights forces and offers strategies for transforming current realities in the Middle East.

Micheline R. Ishay is Distinguished Professor of International Studies and Human Rights and Director of the International Human Rights Program at the Josef Korbel of School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

"Comprehensive and refreshing, The Levant Express provides perceptive, timely, and provocative analysis and much-needed insight for those seeking to address the new and even unforeseen challenges facing the Middle East."—Mahmood Monshipouri, San Francisco State University and University of California, Berkeley


"Micheline Ishay observes history and the Arab uprisings and applies a human rights lens on a possible 're-routing of the Levant Express' for the region as a whole.This master of the metaphor has produced a highly readable study that is well documented, empathic, and hopeful."—Valentine M. Moghadam, author of Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East


"Deep empathy accompanies Micheline Ishay’s scholarly lament for the Arab Spring. Ever the optimist, she believes the train can be put on the tracks again. Only time will tell."—Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"The Levant Express is a beautiful, challenging, and deeply humane book that combines a  journey of personal discovery with a cosmopolitan commitment to human rights. ...A seminal work that is essential reading for anyone interested in the politics of our times."—Stephen Eric Bronner, Board of Governors Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University