As part of our academic careers my husband and I had the privilege twice of living and teaching in the Arab Muslim world and thus have special interest in news reports from the region. While in Syria we experienced the conflict between the Assad regime and its political adversaries that culminated in the 1982 destruction of the historic city of Hama. In Yemen in 1992 we observed campaigning for the first democratic parliamentary elections after the contentious reuniting of the north and south.

While in Damascus, we met Joshua Landis, then a Fulbright graduate student. Now he is a University of Oklahoma professor married to a Syrian and regularly visits the country. He uses this unique perspective for a Syria commentary that combines his own and others’ analyses with translations from Arab news reports at his blog.

An added bonus of our Damascus Fulbright year was visiting relatives in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley and seeing firsthand the damage from sectarian divisions and strife. Years later I got acquainted with Rami G. Khouri, one of Lebanon’s most respected journalists. More precisely than most western commentators, Khouri can place the current uprisings in the context of many decades’ worth of post-colonial citizen-led movements.

Read more: “No surprise: Spring always follows Winter” in the Daily Star (Lebanon), 13 April 2011.