Why bother with Arab blogging – at Middle East Youth

Rima, writing at Middle East Youth, explains the importance of Arab blogging when asked by DW Radio:

“When asked whether or not blogging is a waste of time, I expressed that in the Arab world it’s far from it. In fact this is the only way for us to truly communicate with one another considering the amount of censorship we have to deal with and also lack of tool to communicate with people of neighboring countries.

Mideast Youth is a perfect example to revolve the conversation around because it exemplifies how we’re bringing together youth from all over the Middle East to discuss the issues that affect us all. This is especially true when it comes to minorities whose presence you can witness here on the site, as a way for everyone to not just understand them but also a way for us to involve them in our everyday lives, even though they are still isolated in many ways. We are using the power of blogging to change that.”

I’ve been reading Middle East Youth for a while now, as you can tell by my previous posts about them on my other blog.

(They shouldn’t be confused with the other Middle East Youth, a programme run by the Brookings institution).

Earlier in the year, Middle East Youth launched a new Arabic version. This avoids any idea that they are only aiming for a Western, English speaking audience – which would not in itself be a negative practice, but would perhaps add less to the development of an online democratic voice to the region than one accessible to Arabic speakers.

MEY, which is student orientated state their mission as:

“To inspire and provide young people with the freedom and opportunity of expression, and promote a fierce but respectful dialogue among the highly diverse youth of all sects, socio-economic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs in the Middle East”

Above all else, MEY has a distinct focus on minority rights in the region, including the Baha’is, about whom little is normally heard or broadcast in both Western and Arabic media. They also run interfaith programmes, including the Middle East Interfaith Blogger Network.

The website is not balanced, though doesn’t claim to be, but is suitably critical of Arabic and Western governments, along with those who perpetuate violence in the Middle East. As for development in the region, Middle East Youth is somewhat of a half-way house. On the one hand, especially now that it is also in Arabic and is run by individuals primarily in the region, it is an example of a non-Western website promoting it’s own vision of the Middle East.

However, with an audience that has often been English speaking, it also leans towards being labelled as an outsider, looking at the rest of the Middle East from afar and suggesting what could be better.

Considering their promotion of minorities and the programmes they are involved with however, one can justifiably admire their commitment and effort without suggesting they are unengaged.

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