Student winners announced for annual essay competition in honour of Professor Rosemary Hollis.

By Hamish Armstrong (Senior Communications Officer), Published

Comparative responses to refugees fleeing Ukraine and the Middle East, and widespread drug distribution in Saudi Arabia were the subjects of this year’s winning Rosemary Hollis Essay Prize entries at City, University of London.

Professor Rosemary Hollis

The annual award was established in memory of Rosemary Hollis, former Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at City, who passed away in June 2020. The prize, open to students in the School of Communication & Creativity and School of Policy & Global Affairs, requires entrants to submit a 1,000-word essay on a subject of their choosing related to ‘encounters in and between the West and the Middle East’.

This year’s winner from the undergraduate category was Sami Al-Sayyad, a second-year BA History and Politics student, for his essay titled ‘Saudi Arabia’s Captagon Problem: The Economic and Cultural Challenge Fuelling Bashar Al-Assad’s Narco-State’ which sheds light on drug addiction in the Middle East.

Sami said he was inspired to enter his essay due to a strong interest in Arab politics and desire to explore what is very much a taboo topic in the region.

Sami Al-Sayyad

“Winning this prize is hugely gratifying,” he said.

“I decided to enter this award to both assess and challenge my essay writing abilities, while delving into subject matter that remains largely concealed despite its profound social, political and economic implications.

Drug addiction in the Middle East has experienced a significant and detrimental impact in the last decade, so I wanted to explore the challenges associated with this.

“The study of Arab politics has always captivated me, not only due to its exciting spectacle but also for its profound impact on understanding my place in the world. The region's geopolitical significance, historical complexities, and diverse cultural heritage weave together into a rich tapestry that inspires me to explore deeper into the realm of politics.”

The postgraduate award was won by Nadim Khan, from City’s MA International Politics course, for his essay ‘Disparities Between the Responses of the UK and EU to Refugees Fleeing Conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East in the 21st century’.

Nadim’s work examined the disparity between the ways in which Western states have responded to the refugee crisis in Ukraine compared to that of the Middle East. He said he wanted to convey the importance of removing biases to respond effectively to refugee needs. This effort chimes with Rosemary’s most recent book on the role of perceptions and narratives in conflicts.

Nadim Khan

“I chose to write my essay after observing how the suffering of non-white refugees has been marginalised,” he said.

“By highlighting some of the biases in official policies, I hope to encourage other academics and professionals to address them where possible.

While more needs to be done to ensure long-term support for Ukrainian refugees, the immediate positive responses show that Western states are capable of responding effectively to refugee needs when they are not hampered by internal biases.

“I wish to see more tolerant narratives and inclusive approaches adopted in future.

“I am very grateful that my essay has been recognised with this award.”

The Rosemary Hollis Essay Prize is funded by Dennis Shane Miller, a City alumnus who was taught by Rosemary and wished to honour her memory in this way.

Dr James Rodgers, Reader in International Journalism and one of the competition’s organisers, extended his congratulations to the prize recipients.

“The high standard of work in this year’s winning entries is a tribute to Rosemary Hollis’ legacy,” he said.

“We are grateful to Dennis Shane Miller – himself a former student of our late colleague – for his generous sponsorship of the prizes.”

Professor Hollis was a recent posthumous inductee into City’s Extraordinary Women – a celebration of some of the many colleagues whose work or study at City forms part of a remarkable story of achievement.

Dr Sara Silvestri, Senior Lecturer in International Politics, said the recognition and award in Professor Hollis’s name were fitting tributes.

“I am delighted that Rosemary’s continues to be honoured through these marvellous students’ essays, spanning intercultural relations, perceptions of the ‘other’, and various aspects of politics in and about the Middle East,” she said.

“Through the Rosemary Hollis Essay Prize, and her recent addition to City’s Wall of Extraordinary Women, ‘Rosy’ continues to inspire us to be inquisitive, open-minded, professional, kind, dedicated, frank, and sincere as she was.

“The international community misses her sharp analytical mind in these times of conflict.”

Read more about Rosemary Hollis in Dr Silvestri’s co-authored memoria.

Read more about City’s Extraordinary Women.

Find out more about City’s BA History and Politics course.

Find out more about City’s MA International Politics course.