An online network for the Middle East initiated by the independent pro-democracy civil society organization the Young Civilians has organized its first summit to bring together Arab Spring activists from across the Middle East to tell their own stories of the movement.
The Nahda network, which was set up by the Young Civilians to enable young civilian activists of the Middle East to voice their aspirations and contribute to the future of politics in the region, will hold its summit at the Point Hotel in İstanbul’s Taksim Square on Nov. 18-19. Human rights activists, journalists and artists from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine are set to attend the conference, which kicks off on Friday morning. Among the participants, well-known broadcaster, actor and activist Khaled Abol Naga from Egypt, world famous Middle East specialist Robert Fisk, and Egemen Bağış, the Turkish minister of European affairs and chief EU negotiator, are scheduled to attend. In addition, some of Turkey’s important journalists, among them Mete Çubukçu (NTV) and Bekir Berat Özipek (Star and Zaman), will act as moderators at the summit. Many diplomats and international journalists are expected to follow the conference and simultaneous translations will be available in Turkish, Arabic and English. Ceren Kenar, one of the founders of the network and a leading coordinator of the conference, told Today’s Zaman that through the conference Nahda wants to bring to the fore the stories of activists who were actively engaged in the Arab Spring and who organized peaceful civilian movements to stand up against authoritarian regimes.
“From the beginning we [the Young Civilians] have been closely watching the movements across the region. Three to four months ago, we formed the Nahda [Renaissance-Enlightenment] network, but did not announce it publicly. We decided to bring the activists together to learn about their involvement in the uprisings and as a result of many attempts, the idea of holding a conference in İstanbul came into being,” Kenar said. Claiming that the present and future of the Arab Spring has been debated at length by politicians, experts and academics, but not by the people who engaged in the civilian uprisings, Kenar said, activists will be able to make their opinions known to the world in the upcoming conference.
On speaking about the name “Nahda,” Kenar said it means enlightenment, a renaissance, and has nothing to do with Tunisia’s Ennahda political party.
“The emergence of Nahda dates back to the 19th century, when a new intellectual reawakening swept across the Arab world in the face of colonization, which began to threaten the region,” Kenar asserted, and noted that the Young Civilians consciously chose the concept in defiance of how the West had called the movements across the entire Middle East and North Africa the “Arab Spring,” which was especially prompted by Al Jazeera and Western media.
There are certain Arab intellectuals and others who also do not like the term “spring.” It does not explain the ongoing social transformation beneath the scene, Kenar said. “We need to use the language of the region, its terms. Arab Spring sounds like an oriental description, which depicts the events from a Western point of view.”
The Young Civilians claim they are ordinary civilians trying to bring more democracy to Turkey’s political landscape by standing against any non-civilian intervention in politics with regard to Turkey’s history of military coups d’état and do not accept the hegemony of any group over the people of Turkey.
The Nahda network carries out most of its activities via the Internet and their activities can be followed at www.nahdanetwork.org and their Facebook and Twitter pages.