Born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the nonprofit Cape Ann Forum — a project aimed at advancing understanding of global political and social issues — will kick off its 11th year on the 10-year anniversary of the massive assault.
Human Rights Watch's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Joe Stork, will be the keynote speaker for the Forum's Sept. 11 program, which is set to run from 7 to 9 p.m. in Gloucester City Hall's Kyrouz Auditorium.
The Forum, which is free and open to the public, will be one of several events next weekend commemorating the anniversary of the attacks, from memorial services hosted by city and town officials and fire departments in each of Cape Ann communities, to a Sunday night reading of "Three Weeks After Paradise," a play by noted local playwright Israel Horovitz at 8 p.m. at Gloucester Stage Company.
The Forum's City Hall presentation will focus on how this year's death of Osama bin Laden fits into the mix of protests that have risen up to challenge and in some cases overthrow deeply entrenched, repressive regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and beyond, with protests spreading in August to Israel, where Jewish and Arab activists set up tent camps to call for reforms there.
Stork, whose engagement with the region goes back 40 years and who frequently travels there for Human Rights Watch (HRW), will address these and other questions at the special Cape Ann Forum designed to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington, said Ellen Solomon, one of the Forum organizers.
Stork supervises HRW field staff, conducts field investigations, and drafts reports and recommendations for policymakers. He consults regularly with officials in the U.S., Europe and the region, as well as with global media, on behalf of Human Rights Watch.
His current work focuses on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by states and armed groups, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and freedom of religion issues in Egypt.
A former Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey, Stork co-founded the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP) in 1971 and was the chief editor of Middle East Report, its bimonthly magazine, until 1995 when he joined HRW.
His articles on Middle East developments have appeared in The Nation, the Middle East Journal, World Policy Journal, Index on Censorship, Le Monde Diplomatique, Colliers Encyclopedia, the Oxford Companion to World Politics, and other journals and books.
From 1999 to 2006, Stork chaired the Middle East Studies Association's Committee on Academic Freedom. In 2006-2007, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World in the Netherlands. He has also served as an advisor to the American Friends Service Committee, Foreign Policy in Focus, and the Iraq Revenue Watch project of the Open Society Institute.
The Forum, now a recognized nonprofit organization, is rooted directly in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and was founded later that year by a group led by Dan Connell, chairman of the Cape Ann Forum and a professor at Simmons College, and the late counselor and local activist Mitchell Cohen.
Soon after the attacks, Solomon recalled, "Dan Connell gave a talk titled 'Who Are They and Why Do They Hate Us?' at Gloucester's Unitarian Universalist Church," and the idea for a regular forum was born.
In the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, there have been more than 60 Forums, with guest speakers, films and slides, all followed by questions from and discussion with the audience.
For more information, go to the Forum's Web site at www.capeannforum.org.