An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: January 28, 2021: Hedayat Heikal

“Constitutionalism in the Middle East and the Question of Democracy: In Search of a Time Zero”

January 28, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


Modern constitutionalism defines itself as the “essence” of democracy.  Without rights protections, and especially judicial enforcement of these protections, democracy is at best incomplete. At worst a sham.  But some constitutional courts have gone further.  Building in part on the entrenched logic of the 1949 German Basic Law, courts in Hungary, India, Colombia, and Turkey among other examples have fashioned doctrines of basic structure or articulated visions of constitutional identity that legislatures are estopped from modifying.  While the concepts of basic structure and constitutional identity are often anchored in certain fundamental rights or a distinctive religious heritage, this talk builds on work from Middle Eastern courts to explore a more expansive definition of constitutional identity.

Hedayat Heikal’s primary research interests are in comparative law, constitutional law and theory, and the rise of the modern administrative state. Dr. Heikal holds both a Doctor of Law (J.D.) magna cum laude and a Doctorate of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School where she was a recipient of the Sears Prize and the Addison Brown Writing Prize. Her S.J.D. dissertation focused on the rise and fall of judicial activism on national identity questions in the Middle East. During her studies, she served as a Research Scholar in Law and the inaugural Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at Yale Law School for two academic years, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University in Cairo, as well as a Graduate Program Fellow at Harvard Law School. Between 2009 and 2013, she practiced as a litigation and arbitration attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York representing clients on a wide array of disputes and regulatory matters. Prior to law school, she graduated from the American University in Cairo summa cum laude with a degree in Electronics Engineering and Mathematics.

Next session: February 18, 2021: Tariq Tell (American University of Beirut) “Debating Representation and Democracy in early-Independent Jordan”

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

Cite this blog post
Nora Lafi (2021, January 21). Seminar Session: January 28, 2021: Hedayat Heikal. The Historicity of Democracy. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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