Babel: Translating the Middle East

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From the Center for Strategic & International Studies


Media – Babel will take you beyond the headlines to discuss what’s really happening in the Middle East and North Africa. It features regional experts who explain what’s going on, provide context on pivotal developments, and highlight trends you may have missed. Jon Alterman, senior vice president, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts the podcast along with his colleagues from the Middle East Program. This podcast is made possible through the generous support of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed here should be understood to be solely of those of the speaker(s).


May 4, 2021

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Khaled Dawoud, who was arrested amidst rising political tensions in Egypt in September 2019 and was released from prison two weeks ago. Upon his release, Khaled returned to his jobs as assistant editor of Al-Ahram Weekly and a professor of journalism at the American University in Cairo. Khaled talks about his time in prison, how he became involved in politics, and how his journalism career was shaped by his time in the United States. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and McKinley Knoop continue the conversation with a discussion about the relationship between journalism, politics, and activism.

April 27, 2021

Calculating the beginning and the end of Ramadan is an annual debate in the Middle East, and politics, sectarianism, and ethnicity are never far from the equation. This is a short mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.

April 20, 2021

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks about Jordan with Dr. Bessma Momani, professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and one of Canada’s leading experts on the Middle East. Dr. Momani and Jon explore the recent controversy over former Crown Prince Hamzeh and the government’s concerns over public discontent. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp discuss Jordanians’ relationship with the state.

April 13, 2021

Being single in Iran could become very expensive if a conservative cleric gets his way. This is a short mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.

April 6, 2021

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Jessica Obeid, energy consultant, a senior global advisor at the London-based consultancy Azure Strategy, and an academy associate with Chatham House’s Energy, Environment, and Resources Programme. They talk about the Lebanese power sector and what its shortcomings tell us about broader fissures in Arab society. Then, Natasha HallWill Todman, and Jon continue the discussion about sectarianism and renewable energy, and discuss our new report.

March 30, 2021

A short mezze episode from the Middle East Program at CSIS. The Egyptian government is trying to block doctors from leaving the country, but they aren’t incentivizing doctors to stay, either.

March 23, 2021

To mark a decade since protests first began in Syria, we are bringing you the stories and experiences of five different Syrians, in their own words. Omar Alshogre is now a student at Georgetown University, and he was 15 when he attended his first protest in 2011 and was subsequently imprisoned for the first time. Zaina Erhaim is an award-winning journalist, communications expert, and trainer originally from Syria who is now working with journalists throughout the Arab world. Ibrahim is from Madiq Castle, and was forcibly displaced to northern Syria in 2019, where he now lives. Wafiqa was a teacher in a town close to Damascus but was forcibly displaced in 2016. She now lives and teaches in Idlib. Finally, Ibrahim is from Madaya, a small town near Damascus that was under siege for several years.

We are honored to bring you their voices, and thank you to Omar, Zaina, Ibrahim, Wafiqa, and Ibrahim for entrusting us with their stories.

Special thanks to Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad for the use of their song “A Sad Morning, Every Morning” and to Abdul-Wahab Kayyali for the use of his song “يا فجر لما تطل.”

Voice overs were provided by Natasha Hall, Mahmoud Ghanem, and Humzah Khan. Many thanks to our team at WeEdit who helped us edit and produce this episode. Thanks to McKinley Knoop for scripting the episode, Will Todman for suggesting guests, and Danny Sharp for his promotional efforts.

March 16, 2021

Yemen’s once flourishing fishing industry is now on the rocks as the country’s conflict has turned previously tranquil shores into a warzone.

March 9, 2021

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Stephanie Williams, formerly the acting special representative of the UN Secretary-General and the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya. They talk about why the conflict in Libya has lasted this long, the importance of facilitating a Libyan-Libyan resolution to the conflict, and her role as a mediator in the process. Then, Natasha HallWill Todman, and Jon discuss their own experiences with mediation elsewhere in the region.

March 2, 2021

If social media influencers in the UAE want to capitalize on their fame, they have to acquire a license from the UAE government. This is a short mezze episode from the Middle East Program at CSIS.


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