Friday, September 14, 2007

Live at the Doha Debates in Qatar

Last week on September 5 I went to the Doha Debates in person! Yes, this internationally acclaimed series of debates that are fostering freedom of speech and critical analysis in the Middle East is held on my school campus!!!
Here is the Qatar Foundation building where they are held.


The Doha Debates are an initiative of Qatar Foundation (my boss) and aim to foster free speech in the Arab World. They are televised by BBC World and chaired by Tim Sebastian, known as the former presenter of the BBC's flagship HardTalk.

The subject for this debate was:
"The House believes it is time to talk to Al Qaeda"

Speakers for: Terry Waite (former hostage and hostage negotiator) and Asad Durrani (Former head of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence:ISI)
Speakers against the motion: Laith Kubba (Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the national Endowment for Democracy) and Adam Holloway (British MP and member of the House of Commons Defence Committee)

It was exciting being in the same room as all of these people. We were ushered in through security and sat in tiered seats. There were a number of ushers, organisers and cameras. I was sorry I didn't take my camera. Thinking it would be not allowed I left it at home, only to find there were many personal digital cameras being used.

The audience was a mix of western and Arabic. I guessed a large part of the audience were from the educational institutions on Education City. There were also many tertiary students who asked questions.

Each audience member also had an electronic voting device. At the conclusion of the debate Tim asked us to vote for or against. The majority, about 63% voted for the motion that it is time to speak to Al Qaeda.

You can watch the Doha Debates, including this one, as a webcast.

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