About the Debates

The Doha Debates are chaired by the award-winning former BBC correspondent and interviewer Tim Sebastian, who founded them in 2004 and secured their editorial independence.


The Doha Debates are a unique venture in the Arab world, providing a battleground for conflicting opinions and arguments about the major political topics of the region.

While governments around the world tighten restrictions on press freedom, the Doha Debates openly dissect the vital issues of the Middle East in front of its people and on global TV.

For the first time in their life, many young Arabs are having their say on key political questions – challenging politicians and experts face to face.

They engage in time-honoured rivalry – where the only weapons are words.

They practice the art of peaceful disagreement: understanding and respecting different views.

It’s a new reality.

A new way forward.

Although the Debates are financed by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, no government, official body or broadcaster has any control over what is said at the sessions or who is invited.

Televised eight times a year by BBC World News, the Debates are based on a centuries-old format, refined by the famous Oxford Union. They focus on a single, controversial motion, with two speakers for and against. Once they have outlined their arguments, each speaker is questioned by the chairman and the discussion is then opened up to the audience for argument and a final electronic vote.

The 350-strong audiences are drawn mainly from Qatar’s student body and come from all over the Arab and Islamic worlds. In several debates they have adopted radical and unexpected positions.

Clear majorities have stated that Muslims are failing to combat extremism and that the Palestinians risk becoming their own worst enemy. A student at Texas A&M Qatar says the Doha Debates have taught her things of great importance. “I have learned not to judge, but to think with maturity and logic, and not to accept things straight away; instead I require proof and evidence.”

Internationally, The Doha Debates have attracted wide attention and are broadcast to more than 400 million homes globally on numerous broadcasters.