Shahira Samy remembered (1972 - 2012)
Posted: 24 Mar 2012
With great sadness, we remember our colleague Shahira Samy, who passed away in Egypt on 21 March 2012 after a long illness.
Shahira was Jarvis Doctorow Junior Research Fellow at the DPIR and St Edmund Hall between 2007 and 2010. Her particular focus was on the politics of post-conflict reparations and the challenges of displacement in the Middle East. She was a committed member of both the Department and St Edmund Hall, where her friends and colleagues will miss her, and remember her fondly.
Before coming to Oxford, Shahira had worked as a refugee status determination officer at the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and an intern at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Damascus. From 2001 to 2008, she worked as Assistant Lecturer in the Political Science Department of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Alexandria. During 2006-7, she was a Lecturer at the Political Science Department of the British University in Egypt. She also wrote for Egypt’s foremost English-language newspaper, Al-Ahram Weekly.
Shahira completed her Bachelors degree at the University of Alexandria and her Masters and doctorate at the University of Exeter in 2006. Her doctoral thesis, ‘The Politics of Reparations in the Case of Palestinian Refugees’, was awarded an honourable mention by the committee of the Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies in 2008. She had conducted fieldwork in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, authoring a number of studies and reports on refugee issues in these countries.
At Oxford, Shahira began research on the Iraqi refugee issue, which she discussed at the Middle East Centre under the title ‘Is there an Iraqi refugee crisis?’ on 27 October 2009. She also acted as a consultant to the UNHCR and published ‘Surviving in the city: a review of UNHCR’s operation for Iraqi refugees in urban areas of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria’, with Jeff Crisp, Jose Riera and Jane Janz in 2009. She also consulted for Adam Smith International and the Palestinian Negotiations Support unit, the CARIM Network at the European University Institute in Florence, and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network.
Shahira went on to publish her doctoral research with Routledge in 2010: Reparations to Palestinian Refugees: A Comparative Perspective. Her book launch was held at the Middle East Centre, Oxford, on 20 May 2010. Also on Palestinian refugees, she published several studies, including the article ‘Would sorry repair my loss? Why Palestinian refugees should seek an apology for their displacement,’ for the International Journal for Human Rights (14.3) in May 2010.
During her time at Oxford, Shahira returned to writing for Al-Ahram Weekly with this piece on two Middle East experts whom she admired at the DPIR, Dr Karma Nabulsi (her mentor at St Edmund Hall) and Professor Avi Shlaim, entitled: ‘The Struggle Goes On’ (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 September 2009).
Shahira’s career was devoted to investigating and highlighting the plight and rights of victims of war and displacement in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine and Iraq. Some of her last work was on irregular migration in her own country, Egypt. She leaves behind a legacy of important research that will inform future students and scholars in this field, and warm memories with friends and colleagues in Oxford and beyond. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.
Reem Abou-El-Fadl (Jarvis Doctorow Junior Research Fellow in International Relations & Conflict Resolution in the Middle East), March 2012.