Original source: Gulf Times, Thursday, 3/2/2011 February
By Peter Townson
As violence continued on the streets of Cairo last night, Doha Debates held an open forum at Georgetown University in Qatar where students and experts discussed the issues surrounding the recent and current political instability in Tunisia and Egypt.
The forum was the first of its kind to be organised by the debates team, and drew a strong audience of various nationalities and ages who took part in a lively discussion.?
More than 110 audience members questioned experts, Ibrahim Arafat, professor of political science at Qatar and Cairo Universities, and Ibrahim Sharqieh, Deputy Director of the Brookings Doha Centre, on the current situation and how it could affect the future of the region.
Arafat explained that the Egyptian people have simply lost trust in Mubarak and his regime, stating: “What we must wait and see now is whether Egypt will have a Tunisian-style democracy or become a new Burma.”
He suggested that Western fears of an extremist-led government replacing Mubarak were misguided, but warned that Western inaction would lead to condemnation from the Egyptian people in the future.
Sharqieh said: “History is in the making and the situation is moving quickly. The landscape of the Middle East is changing forever.”
He suggested that reconciliation will depend on undoing the harm that the people of Egypt have suffered, as well as stamping out the corruption that has infected Mubarak’s government and regime as a whole.
Sharqieh added that the injustices brought upon people of all ethnicities and socio-economic groups in Egypt led to the unity which played a major part in the instigation of the revolution.
Students asked numerous questions, touching on a variety of issues, including the importance of social networking and modern media, which the speakers said have been an important aspect of the fight, but not the cause of the revolution.?
“This is a dignity revolution,” said Sharqieh, adding that the relative deprivation of the people has led to the current standoff.
The speakers opined that the events in Tunisia and Egypt would send warning signals to other leaders in the region, and make them realise that they must serve their people before it gets too late.
They suggested that other countries in similar situations such as Jordan, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and even Sudan might face reactionary responses to the revolutions in the region.
“Revolutions are like viruses – they can spread,” argued Arafat.
Both agreed – as it seemed did the audience – that Mubarak cannot stay in power for any longer, and suggested necessary changes to repair the damage he has caused his country.
However, the very nature of the conflict is that is happening now and circumstances were changing even as the talks took place, meaning that much of what was discussed could change dramatically in the coming days.
Doha Debates’ series producer, Tanya Sakzewski explained that although this was the first non-televised forum organised by her team, it will by no means be the last.
“This is such an important issue in the region,” she told Gulf Times, adding “we felt we needed to offer a forum for people to discuss their views and ask experts any questions they may have.”
She said she was delighted with the response to the event, mentioning that there will probably be a similar forum organised next week to keep people up-to-date as the story continues to unfold in Egypt.
“Events on the ground in Egypt and in other countries are changing quickly and have potentially far-reaching implications for the region. It is important for students to have a venue to examine and question the issues and their implications,” added Sakzewski.