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New Arab Debates to focus on turmoil in Egypt

By JT - May 17,2014 - Last updated at May 17,2014

AMMAN —  Audiences at  two public debates in the capital this week will discuss the turmoil in Egypt just days before the country elects a new head of state, following the army’s removal of former president Mohamed Morsi last year.

Organised by the New Arab Debates (NAD), the event will argue the motion: “Egypt is a disappointment to the rest of the Arab world,” according to a statement released by organisers. 

British television journalist Tim Sebastian, who founded the NAD in early 2011, will moderate the English session on May 19, with Manar Rachwani, editor of the opinion pages at Al Ghad newspaper, arguing for the motion and Senator Hani Al Mulki, a former foreign minister and ambassador to Egypt, speaking against the motion.

A day later, former BBC radio and television journalist Dima Hamdan will present the Arabic version, where Nabil Al Kofahi, who has been expelled by the Muslim Brotherhood for joining the “Zamzam” initiative, will speak for the motion, while Senator Saleh Qallab, a former information minister and a pan-Arab political commentator, will argue against it.

The statement quoted Sebastian as saying that he would have liked to hold a similar debate in Egypt, but the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood had made it impossible to seek the views of its former members in a public forum. 

“We try to make our debates as inclusive as possible... If one group is prevented from speaking, the event might appear biased or slanted,” he said.  

“In Jordan, anyone can participate, so it’s a good opportunity to gauge Arab reaction to the events in Egypt. Are people heartened or disappointed by what they have seen there?  Did the army save the country from disaster, or create more problems? We hope the answers will give us a valuable insight into the mood in the Arab world as it decides the direction of its political transition.” 

The NAD, funded by the Norwegian and British governments, “encompasses an extensive outreach campaign in schools and universities, aimed at encouraging young people to participate in political life”, the statement said. 

Both debates will be transmitted for the third year on Deutsche Welle TV in English and Arabic along with its global and regional network of partners including Egypt’s ONTV, Roya TV in Jordan, Hanibal in Tunisia, and Watan TV in Ramallah. 

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