I relocated to the Mideast two years ago because I thought there was a need to break through deafening western-constructed narratives on the region, and believed it was important to do this from inside the region, close to events. Blogging for Lebanese news outlet Al Akhbar English didn’t limit me to an Arab audience either – readers from around the world, eager to follow fast-moving events in the Mideast, came to the website for authentic coverage that they were not reading elsewhere.
Protests in Syria were only just starting to break out as I packed up my possessions for the move to Lebanon. Little did I know that later that year I would start to write about Syria – tentatively at first; more determinedly as the picture cleared for me – and that my Syria coverage would become meaningful in helping to break through false narratives propagated in most western media.
My experiences inside Syria changed my worldview forever. The nastiness of geopolitical games, the disregard for human sacrifice, the wretched suffering of innocents – these are life-changing experiences.
But Syria didn’t just impact lives in the Levant. This conflict has fundamentally shifted the global political landscape and ushered us into an era of multilateralism, altered alliances and new priorities.
The foreign media has fallen behind in its coverage, struggling to make sense of a Mideast that has moved beyond sophomoric soundbites and dumbed-down stereotypes. It is local media that is taking the lead, breaking stories and predicting outcomes today. And it is local media, ultimately, that needs to take the lead in defining the future of the Mideast – with home-grown, not foreign, narratives that “frame” developments and aspirations here.
In the next year I hope to do more work with regional media – either in English or for translation. I’ve been fortunate to have many articles translated into French, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Italian, Spanish, German and other languages. But the greatest gratification has been when they appear in Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.
So to kick things off before the New Year, here is an interview on Syria I gave to Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari for publication on Iran’s Fars News website. The interview was conducted in November and appeared a few days ago on Fars’ English website. Am hoping we will see a version in Farsi too: (more…)