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What do we need to know about the MENA region today?

Lina Khatib
1 June 2011

The Middle East today is witnessing a clash of visual narratives. Images of aging dictators clinging on to their youth, clash with those of fresh-faced protestors. Scenes of medieval methods of curbing freedom of expression – as seen in the thugs on camel and horseback in Tahrir Square in Cairo – clash with those of peaceful demonstrators fighting for their rights with their bare hands. The delusions of grandeur of regimes that refuse to face reality, and which are 'immortalized' in banners, billboards and statues all over the region, clash with the steadfastness of those risking their lives to start a new page in history, as they tear down, burn and destroy those symbols of a dormant near-past.

The Middle East is awakening, and the world is watching. There has never been a moment in the life of the region where visual narratives have been as prominent as they are now. Political struggle in the region is conducted on the world stage as a spectacle that shocks and awes. The Middle East is inviting us to gaze, but also to recognise the power of the gaze as a wakeup call and a means to tell others that yes, you can do it too.

Lina Khatib

is Program Manager for the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at Stanford University.

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A platform is a space for speaking in public. It is an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts. It also suggests the formal declaration of a stance or position on any given subject.

Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.