Annual Suhoor Gala:

Creatives and Youth Activism in MENA

April 10, 2023

Monday, April 10, 2023
9:00 pm GMT - 10:00 pm GMT
Intercontinental Beach and Spa Resort Doha


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to one of the world’s youngest populations, with 24% of its inhabitants aged between 15 to 29 years old. This generation will face the crises of the future, with climate change intensifying conflicts, destabilizing states and economies, and driving migration. Empowering youth to participate in solving these problems is essential. Already, youth activists are driving social change and showcasing the region’s immense potential to face the coming challenges. In this context, young artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and cultural leaders can play a significant role in raising awareness of critical issues facing their communities.  

To provide a platform for young voices, the Middle East Council on Global Affairs (ME Council) hosted a Suhoor Gala, featuring a panel discussion with a group of youth creatives. From film and tech to art and fashion design, the panelists explored the different forms of expression that have been used to amplify youth voices and catalyze social movements in the MENA region, with the ultimate aim of improving the prospects and well-being of the youth and broader population across the region.  

Tarik Yousef, senior fellow, and director of the ME Council, introduced the Suhoor Galawith a short address welcoming everyone to the event and thanking them for showing their shared commitment to enhancing prosperity and human development in the region. He ended his speech by saying, “We’re back as an institution. Doha is thriving and looking forward to a better, brighter, bigger future. We plan to be a part of it, making a small contribution in our own space of public policy and international affairs.” Then the floor opened for the panelists to discuss the topic of the role of creatives and youth activism in the MENA region, with Marc Owen Jones, nonresident senior fellow at ME council, as the moderator.  

Jones began by asking the panelists to introduce themselves and discuss their motivations for supporting and enacting youth activism. Yemeni filmmaker and director Mariam Al-Dhubhani emphasized her initiatives in war-torn remote villages in Yemen to inspire youth to take control of their own narratives through the medium of film and “replacing guns with cameras.” Qatari inventor and youth advocate at Education Above All (EAA), Mohammed Al Qassabi described the power of using football as a tool to empower youth, raise awareness, and create change. Sarah Hermez, the founder of Creative Space Beirut, related her own story of deciding to merge her passion for creativity with social justice at a young age. She spoke about the importance of fostering environments to encourage creativity during times of crisis, so that “creative people can continue to be able to dream towards a future, as opposed to just survive.” Lastly, Othman Khunji, a Bahraini artist and educator, reflected on his own journey toward becoming an artist. His interests were deemed as “not being masculine enough” or unlikely to lead to a financially stable career. Now, as a portfolio development counselor at VCU-Q, he helps young people who face doubts he did, by facilitating intergenerational dialogues and providing a listening ear for struggling young creatives.  

The discussion concluded with each of the panelists giving a final message to the audience. Khunji advocated for the power of listening, calling on parents and educators to listen to the individual stories of young people, celebrating and supporting their different interests and passions. Hermez emphasized the importance of continued support of creative education, given the sheer amount of talent waiting to be fostered in the region. Alqassabi encouraged young people to take initiative and think outside the box to solve problems facing them and their communities. Al-Dhubhani echoed the sentiments of other panelists’ and urged everyone to support regional creatives by consuming their work and supporting it. Jones closed the panel, leaving the audience with a message about the power of community building to instil hope amidst difficulty.  



Nonresident Senior Fellow


Sarah Hermez
Founder and Director, Creative Space Beirut
Othman Khunji
Interdisciplinary Conceptual Artist
Mariam Al-Dhubhani
Journalist, Filmmaker, Curator
Mohammed Alqassabi
Inventor (AI), Winner of Education Excellence Award (Qatar) , Youth Advocate EAA