You are the chairman of MGIMO’s Middle East club. Could you tell us about its operations?
 
— I have been the club’s chairman since Jan 2017. Our club hosts events on the history, politics and culture of the region. We organize roundtables, meetings with experts, and conferences. We also invite journalists who cover developments in the Middle East. Back in February, we had RT Arabic’s Anna Knishenko who shared her impressions from her time in Syria.
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Our goal is to give students an opportunity to get new knowledge, check theory in practice and polish public speaking skills.  
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In March, together with the Indo-Iranian and Turkish club we organized debates on the Middle East. We used the British model of parliamentary debates, with two teams of two speakers who represent the government and the opposition, respectively. September saw an event on Iraq’s Kurdistan together with MGIMO’s Negotiation Club where students simulated talks between Baghdad and Erbil. Just before the talks, the students enjoyed a lecture by Mr. Mamedov, coordinator of Middle Eastern programmes of the Russian Council for International Affairs. 
 
We focus a lot on education. We run an account in the VKontakte social media where authors post short reviews of the regional political developments. Just recently we published the last piece of a series of articles on Israel.
 
Do you conduct any sessions in the Arabic language?
 
— Yes, we had a joint Arabic-language meeting with the working group of the Oeconomicus Club in May where we discussed Sudan. President of the Association of Sudanese Students Hassan Mohammed Habbab Yusuf gave a lecture on the history of Sudan and its ancient monuments. It was followed by the review of the current status of our bilateral ties. This is a format that we are planning to develop moving forward.
 
On September 29, 2017 MGIMO’s Middle East club held the first joint conference with its sister organizations from the Higher School of Economics and the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University. What benefits does it have? What plans do you have for the future?
 
— Indeed, it was first joint conference but it was just the beginning of an important tradition. On Oct 5, 2017 the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University hosted our second conference on the role of the media in the Middle East.
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The three clubs will meet again on December 2 at MGIMO for a joint conference entitled “Iran and the Arab World: Cooperation or Confrontation.” 
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This format of cooperation provides for vast opportunities. We can now organize bigger events thanks to concerted efforts from several stakeholders. 
 
What has inspired you to launch this campaign? 
 
When I was taking part in the Middle East Club and the Moscow International UN Model, I got acquainted with talented and exciting people who demonstrate time and again that everything is possible in this world. The Model’s secretariat and the teams of the Club and MGIMO’s Scientific Student Society are responsible and disciplined people ready for any mission. What I really appreciate most in my capacity is team work.
 
You represented the Arab League during the London International UN Model. Could you share your impressions?
 
—  I was sent there by the Secretariat of the Churkin* Moscow International UN Model (I was the Committee’s expert on women’s rights, and discussions were in Arabic).
 
It was a very exciting time. Unlike our Model where you could have Arabic language students and Arabs, London was the place where I was the only non-native speaker. Nevertheless, I took an active part in the debates and even introduced a number of major amendments to the final document that were critical for the country that I represented.
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The UN Model is a unique platform of multilateral diplomacy and an excellent opportunity to represent the interests of a nation in the Arabic language.
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Next April we plan to have Arabic as the main working language of the Human Rights Council as part of the Churkin Moscow International UN Model. It is open to students in bachelor’s, master’s and postgraduate programmes.
 
What is so appealing about studying cultural and political environment of the Middle Eastern countries for young people? What else can be done to attract them?
 
— Unfortunately, this region is often associated with permanent conflict. But historically the Middle East has been the bedrock of Abrahamic religions, a region with a rich history and culture. We need to host more cultural events that would help reveal the beauty of the Middle East.
 
* The Model now bears the name of late Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin for his outstanding contribution to peace and stability and role in Russia's diplomacy.
 
Alyona Orishchak