DOHA: An annual Al Jazeera Forum that opened here yesterday to discuss the changes taking place in the Arab world completely ignored Egypt.
The only way Egypt found a mention at the 8th Al Jazeera Forum was when Dr Mustafa Souaq, Acting Director-General of Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, talked of the four Aljazeera journalists being detained there.
“Al Jazeera will exert all efforts to free our journalists so they can return to their families and colleagues with dignity and honour and continue their media work,” Souaq said in his address.
The three-day Forum was opened by Souaq. The keynote address was delivered by former Tunisian prime minister Ali Laarayedh, and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arange also spoke. At last year’s Al Jazeera Forum (7th Al Jazeera Forum) held from March 16 to 18, 2013, Egypt’s Information Minister from the previous government, Saleh Abdul Maqsood, was present.
On the opening day of the Forum yesterday, speakers from different countries spoke on subjects mostly concerning the Arab world, the direction these changes would likely take, media freedom and human rights.
Many speakers focused on Syria but Egypt, where elections took place yesterday, was ignored in the whole agenda of the Forum.
In his opening speech Dr Mustafa Souag, Acting Director General of AlJazeera Network, promised that “AlJazeera will continue to cover human rights issues wherever possible, and will strive, as it always has, to give every human a right to defend their rights and make their voice heard because it is a voice for the voiceless and a platform for those who have no outlet”.
In his keynote speech to 8th AlJazeera Forum guests, Dr Ali Laarayedh, former Tunisian prime minister said that the situation in Arab countries would not regress to what it was at the end of 2010, despite setbacks and obstacles facing what have come to be known as the Arab Spring countries.
He said Arab countries continued to face monumental factors on their path to reform, including weak independent parties and organisations, violation of private and public rights, oppression, victimisation, marginalisation, unemployment, class-based rifts and poor economic development.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arange said that “By virtue of its annual congregation, the forum plays a very important role by addressing issues of the Middle East and beyond, making the title particularly fitting.
Looking at the Arab world, there is variation and diversity that does not allow generalisations. Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Syria, for example, all have their own unique characteristics despite their commonalities. The region has witnessed many changes and transformations, and despite the challenges, the spirit of change still exists.
Participants in the forum’s first panel proposed that each country is acting in a vacuum, leaving the entire region exposed and allowing Iran to find a vital role in Syria.
Some of the speakers said Iran was the primary beneficiary from what was happening in Syria and that the real danger lay in the fact that Syria may turn into a “Vietnam” for Iran.The Peninsula