Professor Seeks Clarity in Turbulent Middle Eastern Issues

May 26, 2015

Dr. David Romano

Dr. David Romano’s loved ones sometimes ask if he’d prefer to study a less volatile part of the world – Norwegian beaches, perhaps?

But, that’s not him. He’s especially interested in social movements that take up arms for their cause.

“It doesn’t even occur to me not to be impassioned about it.” 

The opportunity to examine such questions drew his attention to the Middle East and ultimately to Kurdish communities in the region.

Romano, who holds the Thomas G. Strong Chair for Middle Eastern Studies in the political science department at Missouri State University, starts with an overview of the current state of affairs in the Middle Eastern region.

Romano has written two books tackling life-and-death questions that affect Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Though Americans have grown accustomed to hearing of turmoil and troubles in the Middle East, the complexity of the region is something he’d like to impress upon listeners.

Romano’s tactile understanding of the Middle East and network of connections – both products of his extensive travel – are great assets to his current research, a global comparison of the factors that contribute to extremism. The cross-case study started as an offshoot of a 1999 governmental report entitled “Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?” Over the course of the project, an international team of collaborators will examine radical groups in Europe, Latin America and Asia seek answers to one of today’s most anxiety-inducing questions: Why would someone resort to violence in these situations?

Romano notes that the 3-year study focuses on groups that use radical tactics rather than assessing whether their goals are radical. 

“For the purposes of this analysis, it’s the means they are willing to resort to that define whether someone’s a terrorist. Someone struggling for a clean environment for poor people will be a terrorist if they set bombs against civilians in order to accomplish it.”