March 30, 2016

How Art Can Help Diffuse Middle East Tensions New

Visitors look at "Morocco" by Farid Belkahia displayed at Christie's first public Modern and Contemporary art sale in the Middle East at a Dubai hotel, United Arab Emirates, May 22, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Visitors look at "Morocco" by Farid Belkahia displayed at Christie's first public Modern and Contemporary art sale in the Middle East at a Dubai hotel, United Arab Emirates, May 22, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah


by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a Gulf-based columnist

(CNN) — Over the past few months relations between Iran and the Arab Gulf States have gone from bad to worse. In January Iranian protesters torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran following Saudi's execution of an influential Shia cleric. Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf capitals then either cut or downgraded diplomatic ties.

This coincided with the lifting of sanctions against Iran, which were in place for over three decades. Ironically, these very Gulf cities, with their developed infrastructure and logistics hubs, were in a prime position to benefit from the sanctions relief. Instead, a period of uncertainty, not only diplomatically but also economically and socially, looms.

One area where the pan Gulf relations have not only persisted but flourished is the cultural sphere. Some Gulf Arab cities led by Dubai have defied the regional swing into sectarianism and suspicion by publicly displaying art from across the Middle East.

Read the full article at CNN.com.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a Gulf-based columnist and Twitter commentator on Arab affairs. He will be speaking at the 2016 Chicago Forum on Global Cities.

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