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An interview with the queen

Eben Harrell
Queen Noor of Jordan appeared in Snowmass Village at a reception Monday to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Aspen Times photo/Devon Meyers.
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Yesterday, Queen Noor of Jordan made a rare appearance at a fund-raiser for the local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.She joined Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, a leading oncologist who is recovering from breast cancer, in supporting Aspen’s inaugural Ride for the Cure, a 100-mile race in September to benefit cancer treatment for the valley’s medically underserved population. Her husband, King Hussein, died of cancer five years ago.Queen Noor, a regular Aspen visitor, has been called the most prominent woman in the Arab world. She has worked tirelessly to stabilize the Middle East, particularly as an activist for children’s rights in the region. Born to an Arab-American family and educated in America, she also sees herself as a link between two cultures.Queen Noor agreed Monday to discuss the cancer research fund-raiser, her ties to Aspen and Middle Eastern politics.Let’s start with why you are here today at this fund-raiser.I am here because of my personal experience with cancer. My husband’s death of course was very public, and like everybody I have had many experiences with friends and others who have been effected by breast cancer as well as other forms of the disease. I was asked by (U.S. Sen.) Diane Feinstein, who is an old friend, to support this initiative. It’s one small way I thought I could contribute to a community that means a lot to me.

How long do you spend in Aspen?I am here for most of the summer. I spend a good deal of my time at The Aspen Institute, involved in conferences and meetings.Is Aspen a community you feel involved in?Yes, but this is the first time I’ve done something that’s not to do with the institute or a conference. But that’s why I said yes. Because it’s so important to help those who don’t have easy access and knowledge about what is available medically.Can I ask you a few questions about politics?It depends what the questions are.A friend of mine told me in preparation for this interview that Jordan is the only “grown-up state” in the Arab world. Do you have any idea what she meant by that?

We traditionally have been the most moderate and mediating force in the region and in particular in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace. I would imagine that is what she meant.I mean for me being in Aspen there’s a good number of instances when I felt I could provide a perspective from the Arab and Muslim world. I’ve found that people are really thirsting for information and understanding but don’t have easy access to sources.The Aspen Institute has done a wonderful job in this regard by bringing more voices together from the Muslim world and from different places in the Middle East.Aspen is an amazing place not only because it’s beautiful – Aspen has become a very important gathering site for minds around the world that will contribute to solving some of problems of the region.You seem to be an emblem that many people would hold up of an example of an ideal-led activist who has had a good deal of influence in world affairs. Were you an exception to the rule? Is there a role for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and ideal-driven groups in world politics?Indirectly there is, but I think that’s a good thing. I think the most successful NGOs are not going to be politicized or partisan. They are going to be those that can cross political lines, ethnic lines, religious lines and mobilize a community of people from different backgrounds by focusing on the same important problems. That’s the value of NGOs. NGOs working in the interest of the community over the course of many years will be able to provide a continuity and a credibility that often governments can’t. And plus they can get into the grassroots (system).

The (Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) is an NGO of sorts. Bringing people together around a topic that the government can only do so much about is so important. Often, the private sector can do a great deal more. This fund-raiser is an example.Clearly there are people in this community who are medically underserved, and while the community may be doing as much as it can this Ride For The Cure is now going to fan support for those who need it the most.I’m 24 and I became politically aware at a time of great hope in the Middle East, the time of the Oslo accords. Now it seems to have all fallen apart. What do you say to my generation about the Middle East? Is there hope?You never give up hope. We were just talking about NGOs and politics – there’s an organization called Seeds of Peace. It’s a program that brings young Israeli and Arab children together for summer camps in the United States. It’s about 11 years old. And those young people now after 11 years are peace activists that have met with political leaders in many countries.I hope they will have an impact on things politically, not just as future leaders but also by providing voices we don’t hear often. These voices are calling for mutual respect and rights and understanding and cooperation.Your generation – and this wasn’t the case for a while – is looking for ways to get involved. We need to tap into that because there is this great spirit there and this positive energy and your generation deserves outlets for it. You deserve to feel rewarded by your efforts. We have to do the best we can to provide those opportunities to the younger generation.I hope we’ll succeed better than we have in the past.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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