Abdalla Hassan was a student in my seminar “Globalization, Empire, and the Law” (spring 2009). Because of the numerus clausus of the seminar and of the heavy requirements involved—extensive multidisciplinary readings required for class participation, weekly reaction papers, writing of a substantial paper followed by its in-class presentation—I had the chance to interact with him extensively and to form a well-founded opinion of his qualifications and credentials.
After the end of the academic year he has stayed in regular contact with me, and thus I am apprized of his plans, aspirations and additional credentials. It is always a pleasure to read his articles published in the international press—actually I constantly ask him to forward them to me—for they are well researched and eloquently written, demonstrating a profound knowledge of the subject matter and an equally rare perspicacity of analysis and thoughtful impartiality. I am especially referring to his articles on the Arab Spring and the ongoing political developments in Egypt as well as the Middle East in general, which I found of great value in my capacity as someone involved with government work on international affairs.
His experiences as a journalist and a witness to history would form the basis of his recently published book Media, Revolution and Politics in Egypt: The Story of an Uprising, published by I.B.Tauris and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. His book unpacks Egypt’s media and politics dynamic—tracing events through the period leading up to the 2011 revolution, 18 days of uprising, then military rule, an Islamist president’s year in office, his ouster by the army and the reestablishment of the military presidency.
Moreover, I would like to particularly praise his publication Changing News, Changing Realities: Media Censorship’s Evolution in Egypt, University of Oxford, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2013. It is a very remarkable work, the first to be published on this special topic and a must read for anyone interested in freedom of press and/or political history of modern Egypt. I had the opportunity to discuss the book extensively with him for its inception took place while he was my student and he was writing a paper for my class (see below). I was then impressed by his drive, mastery of the facts and historical details, dispassionate thoughtfulness and power of analysis, and I urged him to write down everything in the form of a book.
On a related issue: in the seminar I taught he got an A albeit I would have gladly given him a higher grade if such one existed pursuant to the AUC Law Department grading system. The paper he wrote on a most difficult and extremely fascinating subject, “The Cult of Personality Ideologies and the Shaping of National Policies: A comparison between Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, China’s Mao Zedong, and Cuba’ s Fidel Castro” is excellent in every respect and worthy of a separate publication. Its merits and overall quality exceed by far all expectations an instructor might have of a seminar paper and are truly inspiring. His writing and ideas are perspicacious and analytical, refreshingly original and critical, courageously challenging of established clichés and “orthodoxies”; his arguments and thoughts never linger on the surface of facts but, animated by a lively intellectual curiosity, penetrate deep beyond all superficial statements and explanations and leave none aspect of the subject, even the most controversial or secret one, unexplored. Regarding methodology and stylistic requirements his work is exemplary as well for it is eloquently written, solidly structured, impeccably and rigorously supported by strong and meticulous research and a vast number of variegated bibliographical sources, and last but not least it is excellently footnoted. The final paper was followed by an equally strong impressive in class presentation that confirmed my high esteem of Abdalla Hassan’s first-rate skills and high potential.
Moreover, he performed so well even though he was working full time for the American University in Cairo Press. Personally, I have urged him to expand the paper into a lengthy article and to submit it for publication to the most established journals and reviews in the field; furthermore, I have also encouraged him to develop his brilliant work into a fully-fledged book on the very same topic, which he actually did but by tackling a broader and more variegated topic, as I explained earlier.
Besides the paper, his overall class performance and his reaction papers reinforced the high opinion I have formed of him. He is open to dialogue, both to other people’s ideas and to the instructor’s suggestions, articulate in debate and in making his views clear, very intelligent and intellectual, always eager to learn more, responsible and respectful, gifted with a thoughtful personality, a calm and low-profile but at the same time highly investigative nature, and with a genuinely nice, honest and trustworthy character.
—Eleni Martsoukou, Ph.D.
Yale Law School Fellow
Former Head of Office for International and European Affairs
General Secretariat of the Greek Government
I have closely observed Abdalla’s academic and professional trajectories. He originally majored in the natural sciences and intended to pursue a career in medicine. On the verge of achieving this goal, however, Abdalla decided that his real passion was for writing and journalism. He won admission to the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and, although not having experience in the discipline, managed to complete its rigorous program with distinction. . . .
A few years back Abdalla did a year-long stint at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. His major writing project was a 700-page monograph titled Changing News, Changing Realities: The Evolution of Media Censorship in Egypt. It focused on, but also put in historical perspective, the challenges currently confronting the Egyptian media. He turned his research into a book titled Media, Revolution and Politics in Egypt: The Story of an Uprising (published by I.B.Tauris and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism). It is the most exhaustive account to date of not only media coverage during the Revolution, but also the unfolding of the Revolution itself. Abdalla was out in the streets everyday, risking life and limb to chronicle for an international audience a heroic yet tragic chapter in Egyptian history. He produced many feature stories on the Revolution that appeared in the New York Times. Abdalla has now turned his attention to teaching, as he wants to invest in the future and potential of the next generation. . . .
Abdalla endured every conceivable hardship to stand fast by his convictions. In my experience of teaching some 30 years, I’ve not met any student with this degree of personal integrity. It has been genuinely an honor to know him.
—Norman G. Finkelstein, Ph.D.
Author and Political Science Professor
Abdalla is a talented filmmaker and self-starter who was the most capable among students in a graduate course in documentary filmmaking I taught at the American University in Cairo.
His project in that class was a film called Fan Mandur (The Art of Mandur), which profiled the work and life of famous Egyptian potter Mohamed Mandur and his son, who struggles to make a name for himself in his father’s shadow. Abdalla performed every task on that documentary himself, including shooting and field production, writing and editing. The result was the most well-rounded and nicely polished piece of the course. I also had the pleasure of overseeing some of Abdalla’s work in a new practicum, where he filed several reports on issues in Egypt.
But to focus on solely on his graduate work is a disservice to Abdalla, who is not a typical graduate film student. He is a mature and thoughtful man with a keen sense of story. . . .
His research interests involve an examination of the history of media censorship in Egypt, and the response to authoritarianism. His research aims will hopefully lead to a book, and a documentary film on how Arab media is being shaped today in an age of technological alternatives and what effect it is having in changing political realities. . . .
Abdalla has the connections to reach the people who know the inside story, the insight and intellect to boil the issues down to their essence, and the skills and craft to bring the story to life on screen.
Professor, Northwestern University
Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
On his last day as an intern, Abdalla volunteered to stay late in order to translate Egyptian television broadcasts for the ABC News Foreign Desk. He provided valuable assistance to our staff utilizing his extensive knowledge of Egyptian language and culture. During his stay at ABC News he has been a personable, intelligent, and eager member of our staff. Abdalla’s ability to quickly master the intricacies of broadcast news operations has gained him our respect and appreciation.
ABC World News Tonight
I first came to know Mr. Hassan when he enrolled in my six-credit, study abroad course “The Socio-historical Development of the Dominican Republic” in the summer of 1993. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in History and went on to obtain a Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York City.
As a student, Mr. Hassan was very conscientious about his work; he was well prepared and ventured into areas of study that were new to him, but he ably pursued them with great enthusiasm. He is a mature and serious individual. Abdalla is creative. He takes captivating photographs. He served as the official photographer of the study abroad course; his photos were publicly displayed and continue to be part of the visual component for out curriculum on the Dominican Republic. He is also a gifted writer. He wrote several timely articles (which featured his photos) about East New York, Brooklyn, and its efforts to rise from the ashes. Nowadays it is a vibrant community that has gone a long way. Abdalla has been in Cairo working as a print journalist for some time now, and I am proud of his accomplishments. I hope that he will soon return to the U.S. and contribute to building our future here.
—María E. Pérez y González, Ph.D.
Chairperson and Associate Professor
Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College