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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

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Symposium on Extremist Jihadi Groups
Wednesday, March 09, 2016, 06:00pm - 07:30pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Avenue, Room 120 Columbus, Ohio 43201


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Alam Payind

This event is sponsored by the Middle East Studies Center at The Ohio State University.

The symposium will address the complex issues related to extremist jihadi groups in the Middle East. The panelists will introduce the topic by providing detailed background information on these groups as well as the on area itself. They will then provide an up-to-date analysis on the current situation in these regions. It will conclude with a discussion of the implications for U.S. foreign policy followed by a Q&A session.


  • Alam Payind, Director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State - "Extremist Jihadi Groups throughout the Region and into Pakistan"
  • Amr Al-Azm, Associate Professor of Middle East History & Anthropology at Shawnee State University - "Challenge and Response: The Rise of Radical Jihadi Islamic Groups in Syria and Iraq from Al-Qaeda to ISIS"
  • Richard Herrmann, Interim Director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies & Chair of the Political Science Department at Ohio State - "The Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy"

Alam Payind is director of the Middle East Studies Center, senior teaching member of the International Studies Program and the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department, liaison for the Office of International Students and Scholars, and member of University's International Programs Task Force. Born and raised in Afghanistan, and previously a holder of government and academic positions in Kabul, he speaks Pashto, Dari and Urdu with native fluency.


He continues to conduct field work, provide consultations on a regular basis in Afghanistan and has visited the country 13 times since September 11, 2001. He travels extensively within the Afghan borders, and during recent trips he has been witness to the Taliban's resurgence in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, and other provinces of Afghanistan.

Besides being a professor at The Ohio State University, he is still part of the faculty at Kabul University in Afghanistan, and a consultant to the Afghan government in its educational reconstruction efforts.  In late 2006, Payind was appointed as ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Kingdom, which he turned down for personal and professional reasons.  He received his Ph.D. in political science and higher education, as well as a master's in political acience in 1977 from Indiana University, master's in higher education from Indiana University in 1972; and bachelor's in political science and Islamic law from Kabul University in 1966.

Payind served in the Afghan government as director general of cultural and roreign relations, and was a professor at Kabul University before the Soviet invasion in 1979 forced him to seek refuge in the United States.  He has seen Afghanistan through many phases: under King Zahir Shah, President Dawud, the 10-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Mujahiddin regime, followed by the Taliban regime, and the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequent Karzai government.  Unlike most political scientists, he has fluency in the languages of the region he studies and literary competence, as well.

Richard Herrmann

His combination of academic qualifications and life experience uniquely qualifies him to give the cultural, historical, and current social context for recent events.

Payind is a founding member of the National Council of Area Studies Center Directors, and a board member and former president of the Eastern Consortium in Persian and Turkish. His concurrent appointments and position on the task force provide the Middle East Studies Center with a strong link to the academic units charged with administering and realizing the university’s international vision and education goals. He has a direct impact on students lives as an adviser for Middle Eastern students adjusting to American educational system and culture, and to American students majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

He teaches International Studies 2200: Introduction to the Modern Middle East, and the interdisciplinary upper-division International Studies 5645: Contemporary Issues in the Middle East, offered through International Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. He co-directs the Center's Summer Institute on Middle Eastern Cultures with Merry Merryfield, and has taken the lead role in organizing area studies centers' support for her online course and website on global studies and world cultures. In addition, he provides vital consultations to press and news agencies on Middle Eastern affairs and delivers an average of 70 public lectures on Middle Eastern issues per year.

Amr Al-Azm was educated in the UK, reading Archaeology of Western Asiatics at the University College, London and graduated with a doctoral degree in1991. He was the Director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums (1999-2004) and taught at the University of Damascus until 2006. From 2006-2009 he became a visiting Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio.

Whilst working in Syria Amr Al-Azm was a first hand observer and sometime participant of the reform processes instigated by Bashar Al-Assad thus gaining insights into how they were enacted and why more often than not they failed. Furthermore he is an outspoken member of the Syrian opposition and a keen follower and commentator on current events in Syria and the Middle East in general. He has appeared as a Syria expert on leading television networks, including the CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, PBS and his voice can be heard regularly on NPR. He has written articles in numerous journals, and major media outlets including guest editorials for the New York Times and Time Magazine.

Amr Al-Azm is a founder and board member on The Day After project (TDA) and currently manages the Heritage Protection Initiative (HPI) for cultural heritage protection at the TDA. He is also a member of the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives team.

Richard Herrmann is interim director of the Mershon Center and chair of the Department of Political Science at The Ohio State University.

Herrmann has written widely on security affairs, international relations and foreign policy.  He is author or editor of three books, including:

  • Transnational Identities: Becoming European in the EU (edited with Thomas Risse and Marilynn Brewer) (2004)
  • Ending the Cold War: Interpretations, Causation and the Study of International Relations (edited with Richard Ned Lebow) (2004)
  • Perceptions and Behavior in Soviet Foreign Policy (1985)

Herrmann has also published more than 30 articles and book chapters.  His work has appeared in such journals as American Political Science Review, International Organization, International Security and World Politics.  From 1990-95, he was co-editor of International Studies Quarterly, the flagship journal of the International Studies Association.

Besides his scholarship, Herrmann also has a wealth of practical experience.  From 1989-91, he was a member of Secretary of State James Baker’s policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State.  From 1992-95, he worked with the U.S. Information Agency to hold conflict resolution workshops for scholars and policy-makers from India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United States. And in 1996-97 he was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations of New York task force that produced the book Differentiated Containment: Rethinking U.S. Policy in the Gulf.

Herrmann received the Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service in 2008 and was named Joan N. Huber Faculty Fellow in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences from 2007-10.  He received a National Science Foundation grant for "Understanding Global Tensions: A Sociology and Political Science Workshop," with Katherine Meyer in 2004.  Herrmann is also the recipient of fellowships from the Harriman Institute, Ford Foundation, and Mellon Foundation. 

Parking and Accessibility

Faculty, staff and students with an Ohio State parking pass may park in the appropriate spots in any of the campus parking lots or garages.  There is a small lot off Pennsylvania Avenue behind the Mershon Center.  The closest parking garage is the 9th Avenue West Garage. Off-campus visitors may use one of a few meters in the small lot off Pennsylvania Avenue behind the Mershon Center, or more reliable paid parking can be found in the Safe Auto Hospitals Garage near the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center at 185 Westpark Street. Further parking accessibility information is located here.


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