Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Introducing the Doha Debates Chez Chiara

The Doha Debates are a series of debates, following the Oxford Union Format, from the Gulf country of Qatar, sponsored by The Qatar Foundation, and produced and broadcast on BBC World, with former HARDTalk host Tim Sebastian as chair/moderator (now a less pugnacious, but still feisty presence).

Since their creation in 2004 by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (founded 1995, chaired by her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned), they have been highly successful, and are widely viewed and followed. The debate results make headlines on themes of importance to the Middle East, or to Westerners about the Middle East; and the series is now in its 6th season.

I particularly admire the high quality of the productions, the panelists, the moderator, and the audience members, who are for the most part students of leading world universities at their campuses in Qatar’s Education City, and come from all over MENA and the world. I was initially struck by the opportunity these debates provide for Westerners with no other contact to hear and observe the brains behind the niqab, beneath the hijab, below the ghutra, and under the shemaugh. Yet there is much more to these inspiring interactions. The Doha Debates motto--“The power to change minds”--is proving true.

The Overseas Debates are held in other countries, and settings including Cambridge, Oxford, Georgetown University, and the upcoming debate at St Stephen’s College in New Delhi, India. They provide an opportunity for selected Qatar based students to travel and experience another culture, and for other students to participate in the Doha Debates directly. “Special Debates”  feature only one guest, like Bill Clinton, Shimon Perez, Desmond Tutu, Amre Moussa, Ayad Allawi, Mahmoud Al Zahar, or Mohamed ElBaradei, and their interaction with the audience members.

Emblems of the genesis of the Doha Debates

Education City, Doha Qatar

Below: setting up for the Doha Debates in the Qatar Foundation Headquarters

Below: Let the debating begin!

The Doha Debates Chez Chiara are an attempt to honour and give more exposure to these debates, and to allow the community of readers and commentators here to share their ideas on the topic. As the motions are deliberately set to be dichotomous, “I agree” or “I disagree”, proposals, they are somewhat artificial but genuinely stimulating. Commentators here of course are not held to one side, or required to vote, but are free to share their impressions, views, experiences; and, if you wish, how you would have voted (you can in fact vote on the recent motion online on The Doha Debates site if you wish).

I expect to do a series of posts based on The Doha Debates which are most relevant to the Saudi themes of this blog, including the broader contexts of the GCC and MENA cultures and religions, and their interactions with the West and the rest of the East, as well as global socio-political concerns. Where the themes are relevant, “Overseas Debates” and “Special Debates” will also be featured. Each of the posts includes a summary of the debate and links to the full transcript, video, and particular debate site. I have created a separate blog Category called “Doha Debates” (DohaDebates). The posts are also all cross-categorized as ChezChiara, Students, and then to the blog categories of relevance to the specific debate.

The first of the Doha Debates Chez Chiara follows on directly from this introduction. I hope you will find it, and the others, stimulating, and contribute your reactions in the comments. If you have a favourite debate, or an upcoming one you would like to see on the blog, let me know in the comments.

The Doha Debate at the Oxford Union

Any comments, thoughts, experiences, suggestions?


Qusay said...

I've watched the debates a couple of times a long time ago, but I cannot remember one debate that stuck in my mind.

Having said that, I will try to watch a few of the debates if they are available online.

Guess who has been inspired by this post :)


Susanne said...

Sounds exciting. Eager to read more when they are available. :)

Chiara said...

Qusay--You are welcome! I too hadn't seen the most recent ones, but really appreciate the opportunity to see the whole debate online and have the speakers' bios, and full transcript available. Let me know if you find one you would like to see here.

Susanne--I'm looking forward to your comments on the topics. I think you will especially enjoy the first one. LOL :)

Nasser said...

Great blog Chiara! :))

I'm really fortunate, not only to be Qatari, but also to be attending one of the universities in Education City

Here are the links for each university if ou didnt know about them already..







Some other links that pertaining to Education City that might interest you...




Also, thought this particular blog might interest you. Dr. Amal Al-Malki is a professor at Carnegie Mellon university in Qatar; the first Qatari to teach at Education City..


Chiara said...

Nasser--welcome and thank you for your praise and all the great links! I didn't have those specific uni links and Dr Almalki's blog is great both in concept and execution. Congratulations to her as well on her professional success!

You are indeed very fortunate, to be Qatari and to study at Education City. Have you had a chance to attend any of the Doha Debates? How are they viewed on campus?

If you are interested in sharing more of your experience as a Qatari student please send me an email to:

chiaraazlinquestion AT yahoo.com

It could be anonymous or under a different blogonym if you prefer, and everything not in the post would be confidential. Examples of other personal stories on the blog are in the category "Personal Stories" on the side bar, including those of students Ellen and M.

In any case, I hope you will comment on newer and older posts that strike your interest.


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