Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Good News Out of Qatar

Another revolution in the land of Al-Jazeera
Qatar, sinking billions into reform, introduces new debates

By Preston Mendenhall
NBC News

DOHA, Qatar - In the land that launched Al-Jazeera TV, there's another revolution under way. This time, they call it The Doha Debates, a monthly forum tackling issues at the heart of troubles in the turbulent Middle East.

Held in Oxford Union format, the debates pull no punches. No topic is off-limits. And there's no interference from the government in a region where free speech is a rarity.

The first two debates addressed Arab governments' aversion to reform - and the separation of mosque and state. The most recent debate, held ahead of the Iraq elections, asked whether that country's neighbors had any desire to see democracy succeed next door.

More here.

This doesn't sound like much, but a freestyle debate show is something that we take for granted in this country (John Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson anyone?). But, it is a rarity in the middle east. I spent some time deployed in Qatar with CENTCOM so I'm curious about what happens there. So far, I've been impressed with what the emir is trying to do in trying to avoid the traps that Saudi Arabia has fallen into. Anything that actually facilitates free speech and open discourse is a step in the right direction.


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