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

Annabelle Sreberny
1 June 2011

Richard Sennett calls 'we' a weasel word. Which 'we' is hailed in this project? Let's say that this 'we' is in the West, and that it doesn't include politicians and policy-makers but ordinary people.

My answer to this question is certainly different than it would have been six months ago. Then, I might have said that 'we' do not understand the youthful populations of the MENA region well, that we don't understand what their expectations, sources of inspiration and creativity are, since their voices are rarely heard both within their own countries and on Western media. But since the start of 2011, 'we' have watched transnational television screens – especially Al Jazeera English – which have brought images of the insurrectionary movements in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond into 'our' living rooms. We have been fascinated, exhilarated, terrified – perhaps the same movement of emotion that pushed the UN Security Council to finally vote on 18 March for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Now 'we' want to know what kind of democracy they want to build. What will be the role of women and minorities in these new social formations? How will the arts, music, film flourish in a more open environment? What contributions to world science can now be fostered there? Can popular political insurrection be followed by real social change? Perhaps 'we' and they can learn that there is much in common.

Annabelle Sreberny

is Professor of Global Media and the Director of the Centre for Iranian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

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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.