Posts Tagged ‘Tim Sebastian’

8:00am, Wednesday morning, Istanbul airport (and just had a surprise Skype visit from Chelsea!)

Last evening in Doha, Tim Sebastian, moderator of The Doha Debates, introduced this motion:

This House believes the Middle East would be better off with JOHN McCAIN in the White House.

After nearly an hour of raucous debate and audience questions, the overflow crowd of 300 voted against the motion, 87% – 13%.  You can watch The Doha Debates at various times this weekend on BBC World, and later on the debate website.

Immediately after, Sebastian, the debate participants, and our small Azerbaijan delegation, gathered at The Four Seasons Hotel for a post-debate dinner.  At midnight, we were off to the airport for our long return to Baku.  

In case you didn’t see Tuesday morning’s edition of Gulf Times, the first English language newspaper in the Persian Gulf, there’s a story about our visit which, as you will see, includes a few comments from yours truly.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been referred to as an “Azeri official.”

Speaking of which…

Khazar, Fariz, and I paid a courtesy call to the Azerbaijan Embassy in Doha before the debate, and visited with Ambassador Eldar Nadir Oglu Salimov, Azerbaijan’s main guy in the Persian Gulf.  It was strange.  Entering the embassy after three days in Doha kind of felt like home.

A few thoughts about Doha.  There’s not much to see except water, camel races, and massive construction.  Qatar has the highest GDP in the world, thanks to vast natural gas deposits.  And the money is being spent quickly on unique high rises, roads, etc.  I was told another 37,000 laborers arrive in Doha each month, mostly from South Asia.  That’s noticeable in a country of only 1.3million, of which only 250,000, or so, are Qatar nationals.

All this time, I have been “burying the lead.”  As I blog, Roberta is flying to Baku by way of London.  She arrives at midnight, a few hours after I do!


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This House believes the Middle East would be better off with JOHN McCAIN in the White House.

That will be the motion posed to the 300-member audience that will gather tomorrow night for the next edition of The Doha Debates.  It’s the 5-year running “Oxford” style debate program that originates here in Qatar, an island of social moderation in the middle of the Persian Gulf.  A selected panel of partisans from the US and Middle East will debate the motion, and take questions from the audience which, at the conclusion, will vote.  The results will be revealed immediately.  For instance, last month, a motion was introduced which read:

This House believes that progress towards democracy has halted in the Arab world.

The motion carried 64% – 36%.

The Doha Debates will air this weekend on BBC World, a channel available in the US only on a small number of television systems.  Too bad.  Open debate is unusual in the Arab world, and exists here only because former BBC correspondent and Doha Debate moderator, Tim Sebastian, believed Qatar was ripe for the challenge.  After all, this is where Al Jazeera, the first Arab news channel was launched.  Qatar is by no means a “functioning democracy.”  It’s ruled, constitutionally, by the Al Thani family.  However, the family has spearheaded a nationwide education campaign, the crown jewel being Education City, a sprawling, and still developing campus offering students western education through branches of seven US universities including Georgetown, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon.  It’s all part of the Qatar Foundation which funds The Doha Debates as well.   We sat in on production meetings and rehearsals all day.  I hope to blog the results before we hop on our midnight flight back to Baku, by way of Istanbul, of course.

By the way, The Four Seasons Hotel….

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