MENA is a student initiative at the Graduate Institute that provides a platform for discussion and debate on the multiple and complex transformations, conflicts and challenges in the Middle East and North Africa region. At the same time, it strives to bring together students interested in the MENA region for informal exchange and networking, while introducing the region, its culture and history to those interested. We also collaborate ad hoc with other regional and thematic initiatives to provide students with dynamic events. The MENA Initiative also hopes to connect students with the arts and language of the region by using the Facebook page as a platform to share articles and resources for learning Arabic.
The initiative was founded at the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year by Yosra Nagui Saad and Paroma Ghose who, later that year, handed it over to Salmaa Elshanshory and Karina Elias. For the 2013-14 academic year, four new students were recruited to take over the board and expand MENA’s initiative, namely Jessica Elisa Gerken, Azra Avdagic, Olivia Mathys and Michael Bimmler. In the current academic year, the Initiative has expanded its outreach and visibility on campus, while trying out innovative event formats.
Summary of Events held Last Year
November 2015: We kicked off the semester with a screening of Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director. The screening was followed by a debate moderated by Professor Bourbonnais on gender and representation in the region.
- December 2015: The MENA Initiative invited students to meet and engage with asylum seekers from Afghanistan. A light lunch was provided and some of the men visiting shared their stories with us.
- February 2016: Amicale des étudiants francophones and the MENA Initiative joined forces in the screening of “Eau argentée,” a Syrian documentary film with firsthand video accounts of the violence in Syria filmed by activists in the city of Homs. After the screening, there was a debate with Professor Jordi Tejel.
- April 2016: Organized a screening of the movie Taxi Tehran, a film directed by Iranian film director Jafar Panahi. The film, in which Panahi rigs a taxi with three hidden video cameras and surreptitiously films a drive round Tehran, received the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival.
- May 2016: The MENA Initiative planned a panel discussion on Saudi Arabia and its current oil crisis. Professor Luciani and Dr. Koch will be engaged in a dynamic, interdisciplinary, and interactive panel discussion on the political and economic dimensions of the oil debate in Saudi Arabia.
- May 2016: The MENA Initiative partnered with the Human Rights & Conflict, Migration and Cooking Initiatives to host a fundraising dinner in support of “Help Refugees”, a British NGO supporting local groups, charities and volunteers who are currently at the front lines of the refugee crisis. We were also joined by a group of refugees currently living in Geneva who shared their experiences with us.
Check us out online for updates on the region, including music, arts, articles, Arabic practice and more.