MESSA Opening Ceremony 2013

Qatar Tribune: DOHA

Prominent young Yemeni blogger and social activist Sarah Ahmed has made it clear that she is an activist, not a politician.

In her keynote address at the Second Undergraduate Conference on Middle Eastern Affairs held at Georgetown School of Foreign recently, Ahmed said that she belonged to the streets.

“I am an activist, not a politician. You can’t be both. I belong to the streets; I cannot scream my guts out in a hotel room, but I sure can on the streets,” she stated while responding to a query regarding her withdrawal from the National Dialogue during the uprising in Yemen.

She shared with the audience her experience throughout her involvement in the Yemeni uprising.

“Do we really choose to become activist? Or do we become activists when we live in chaos and we just try to make sense of things?” she asked the gathering of students.

She urged them to contemplate the motivations for activism.

“I remember the day I buried my first friend. I remember that I did not cry and I thought it was because I was brave enough not to cry. But I was wrong, because deep inside I was very scared,” she stated.

“I remember also not crying after burying my 10th friend and after being displaced for three months.

Deep down I was very sacred; but I am not scared of death, I am scared of getting used to it,” she further said.

Sarah, who is the cofounder of the ‘Support Yemen - Break the Silence’ campaign, termed activism in the Arab world as both a ‘general popular struggle’ that creates gradual social change, and an ‘inner uprising, the process of finding a home.’ Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Mehran Kamrava, director of the Centre for Regional Studies at Georgetown, said, “Everything you do to understand the world, and to understand how to make it a better place for every one, is activism. It starts in the papers that you will be presenting during this conference, and it will end with the changes your work will eventually bring about in the real world.” Dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar Dr Gerd Nonneman, said the conference was in line with the school’s strategy to encourage student research.

He said the event has been successful in offering a platform for young researchers to share their perspectives.

“This is a uniquely Georgetown Qatar campus event, and its success has encouraged the Washington DC campus to launch a similar initiative by and for students”, he remarked.

After the annual conference, MESSA organisers plan to publish participants’ papers, as well as other independently solicited student research papers, in a peerreviewed Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

The conference saw the gathering of undergraduate participants from top universities across the US, as well as from Qatar universities present their works pertaining to issues relevant to the Middle East region to scholars and policymakers.