Welcome to the second issue of Manara for 2020!
Our theme this issue was ‘As Crises Unfold: How the MENA Region Responds’ – a pressing and prescient topic which, in many ways, is explored in real time within these pages. The core of our August issue is, of course, focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: one of the biggest and most significant global public health crises of recent years. In this issue, you will find Aaron Boehm’s comprehensive exploration of coronaviruses in Saudi Arabia, which explores the numerous socio-political factors which led the Kingdom from major mishandlings of virus patients in 2014-15 to veritable containment success in 2020. Accompanying this are pieces such as Natalia Vasnier’s examination of the impact of COVID-19 in Syria, providing a background to the brutal consequences of the virus’ arrival in the region, and Aalekh Dhaliwal’s evaluation of the severity of the pandemic’s hold in Yemen.
This issue also aims to consider the more abstract consequences of COVID-19, in the context of Middle Eastern inter- and intra-state relationships. Felicity Garvey’s piece imagines the human body as a model for the body of the state – in doing so, exploring the idea of authoritarianism as a co-morbidity which massively increases the risk to citizens’ health and wellbeing.
Without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of the pandemic to consider is the exacerbating effect it has had on numerous existing issues and emergencies in the MENA. In my first full-length editorial for Manara, I took the opportunity to speak to members of refugee support organisations, such as Help Refugees/Choose Love and Students and Refugees Together (START), to learn more about the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted vulnerable, refuge-seeking communities across Europe and the Middle East and what readers can do to offer support.
Other predominant topics in this issue, all under the umbrella of crisis, are migration in the Gulf – in particular the issue of the political disenfranchisement of the Bidoon people in Kuwait, at a time when access to healthcare is paramount – and MENA-China relations, with Jemima Baar exploring the redefinition of ‘soft power’ in the age of COVID-19. Finally, this issue also features an opinion essay from the Right Honourable Alistair Burt, former FCO and DFID Minister, in which he places the priorities and capabilities of a new ‘Global Britain’ into the context of the MENA, as well as many more pieces on topics ranging from digital currencies to Libyan state security.
Due to the pandemic, and the ensuing lockdown across the UK, all of the Forum’s events of the last few months have been conducted online. Anyone who is interested in finding out more can head to our Facebook and YouTube channels for recordings of our recent speaker events, and to find video interviews with the writers from this issue and the previous one.
I would like to offer huge thanks to all of the contributors in this issue – it was a pleasure working with you all – and to my fellow Committee member Patrik Kurath, for his valuable time and input. I enjoyed the process of collating this issue immensely, and I hope it is equally enjoyable to read.
Editor in Chief, Manara