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maandag 16 juli 2018

D66 Day of the Middle East: Stories of the Unusual Suspects

The 6th edition of the D66 Day of the Middle East! 

On the 15th of September 2018, the annual edition of the D66 Day of the Middle East was held. It was a colourful day with 20 interesting speakers from various countries across the MENA region, participating in parallel sessions and lively discussions.

The day started out with the opening speech of Ali Fathollah-Nejad who spoke about Iranian-European Relations and the future of Iran, voicing criticism over Europese lackluster response to Iranian human rights abuses.

The first round of parellel sessions zoomed in on the Riffian protest movement and the ‘Kurdish Question’. The former was an interactive session where the speakers got to the core of the meaning of Amazigh identity, while also dissecting the struggles of Riffian activists through the personal stories of Dutch journalist Willemijn de Koning and a Moroccan activist. The latter focused on the complexities of a ‘Kurdish nation’, and the history underlying Kurdish identity.

After a lunch break – during which the inspirational photography of the Thana Faroq could be enjoyed – a speech was held by Diana Moukalled, a renowned Lebanese journalist.

Diana made the personal political as she told her story about the intricacies of her upbringing and what freedom meant to her. She touched upon the importance and the impact that storytelling holds on individuals, and how she is contributing to it by launching her own independent journalism platform, where she tells the stories of women. Her captivating anecdote was followed by a Q&A which launched the guests into the second round of parallel sessions.

The last two sessions revolved around female sexuality, LGBT+ issues in Iran and the division between Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus. Discussions on Iranian society were engaging and exciting and laid bare the nexus between women, sexuality and Iranian society, and the challenges the LGBT+ community faces. To show that knowledge and understanding of other cultures can be gained through more than speech alone, musicist Balout Khazraei put on a wonderful performance, in which music of many inspiring Iranian women could be heard. Not only were we taken on a cultural journey through Balout´s performance; she also reflected on the role of women in Persian culture.

The fourth and final session was a very informative one in which the three different speakers shed light on the complex situation often called ´a diplomatic graveyard´: Cyprus. Some points of discussion were the alternatives for a solution, being a two-state solution, a step-by-step method to solving the problems or reunification of the Northern and Southern part of Cyprus. Symbolic for the conflict as a whole, perhaps, no concensus between the speakers was reached. However the fierce, but fair and honest debate they were engaged in during, but also long after, the session, was a hopeful sign.

The day was concluded by Salima Belhaj who emphasized the value of free thought, dialogue and the need for other voices to be heard. In short, an accomplished day with lots of questions raised and thoughs provoked.


Click here for the full programme!