Looking to expand your knowledge of hot-button issues in the
Arab and Islamic world, or even the world at large? Look to
The Doha Debates, funded
by The Qatar Foundation, chaired by a renowned BBC correspondent
(Tim Sebastian), and presented on BBC World
Held eight times each year, the Doha Debates offer a rare,
undistorted view of public opinion within the Arab world.
The Doha Debates seek to demystify the Middle East for the
300 million people who follow the event on television,
online, and via podcast.
The makeup of the debates is simple: pick a controversial
Middle Eastern topic; invite two speakers from the "For"
camp and two from the "Against" camp, and allow them to
state their cases, be questioned by the chairman, and then
be questioned by the audience of 350 ticket-holders.
The debates are free of interference by any government body
or entity, and the organizers can have debates on any topic
they wish, and invite any representative they wish for the
"For" or "Against" side.
At the end of each debate, the audience is asked to vote
anonymously for the most convincing camp. Recent subjects
covered include: "This House believes resistance to the Arab
Spring is futile"; "This House believes the world is better
off with Wikileaks"; "This House believes France is right to
ban the face veil"; "This House believes Dubai is a bad
idea"; and "This House trusts Iran NOT to build a nuclear
bomb." Other topics have discussed women's rights,
Palestinian/Israeli conflict, conflict within Islam, the
plight of Darfur, and much, much more.
Since the Qatar Foundation Funds the debates, the majority
of attendees are local and Gulf college and university
students, although anyone can apply for tickets, as long as
they are 15 or older. Demand to see the debates is such that
it has been necessary to create a waiting list for all those
interested. However, the debates themselves are easily
accessible since they are broadcast to 200 countries.
In addition to the regular Doha Debates, there are also
'Special Debates.' These special broadcasts feature a
question and answer period with a guest of interest.
Previous special guests have included Bill Clinton, Shimon
Peres (President of Israel), Amre Moussa (former Secretary-
General of the Arab League), and Ayad Allawi (former Interim
Prime Minister of Iraq). Guests are able to express their
true feelings on certain controversial topics without fear
of repercussions. Topics have included humour, e.g., "Comedy
special: This House believes women are superior to men" and
serious issues, e.g., "Doha Debates Special Event:
The Doha Debates serve as the voice of the voiceless. Their
aim is to encourage open, fair, and non-partisan debate
about topics which are rarely publicly touched upon. Their
hope is to inspire a future generation of Arabs to question
and analyze issues which are controversial within society
and the world at large.
Want to see the next debate? It's on November 5, on BBC
World News, also online.