New Global Center Opens in Istanbul

November 21, 2011

From left: Shelia Coronel, of the Graduate School of Journalism; Asli Tunc, of the School of Communications at Istanbul Bilgi University; economist and writer Mohamed El Dahshan of Egypt; Jillian York, advocacy director, Electronic Freedom Foundation; and Nelly Nikenjad, founder of the Tehran Bureau

The University launched its sixth Global Center in Istanbul in early November with a series of events and scholarly panels in that city attended by University President Lee C. Bollinger, Interim Provost John Coatsworth and a host of Columbia faculty and deans as well as scholars of the region.

Ipek Cem-Taha (SIPA’93, BUS’93), a Turkish journalist and businesswoman, was appointed interim director of the new Global Center. A prominent columnist for major daily newspapers in Turkey, she has also produced and hosted a television program called Global Leaders, featuring one-on-one interviews with international political and business figures.
As with the University’s existing global centers, Istanbul’s will be a regional hub for a wide range of activities and resources available to the University community. The inaugural events held Nov. 1–3 focused on free speech and democratization—pressing issues in a nation that is part of the European-based NATO alliance even while it plays an increasingly assertive role in a changing Middle East.
The first event was a panel on Nov. 2 titled “Is the Internet Too Free?” moderated by Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lemann and ProfessorSheila Coronel, who directs the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. Writers, scholars and human rights workers discussed the difficulties faced by journalists reporting in countries hostile to an open press, including the technical challenges posed when governments block access to the Internet or to social media services like YouTube.
The following day, another panel compared Egypt’s democratic transition to the more gradual process that took place in Turkey in the early 20th century. Moderated by Safwan Masri, who directs the Columbia Global Center Middle East, and Professor Karen Barkey, chair of the Global Centers faculty steering committee, this discussion centered on whether an evolving Middle East could follow Turkey’s example. Panelists also discussed the role of the military in filling the power vacuum left by toppled regimes, as well as influential groups in the region such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and whether the Arab Spring represents a unified movement.
Both panel discussions were streamed live on the web by the Columbia Alumni Association.
There are already several Columbia programs and projects based in Istanbul, including initiatives led by theSchool of the Arts, the School of International and Public Affairs, the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia Engineering. The Global Centers generally pursue activities and programs that evolve over time based on the active engagement of faculty and students.
The first two Columbia Global Centers—in Beijing and in Amman, Jordan—were launched in March 2009. Centers in Mumbai, India and Paris opened in March 2010. Last month, a center in Santiago, Chile, was announced. A center in Nairobi, Kenya, will open in early 2012. 
by Columbia News Staff