MIDDLE EAST

Arab Spring and terror through the eyes of a roving reporter

Jenan Moussa’s twitter page opens a unique window to her life and times. The young and happening Dubai-based roving reporter with a regional news channel is completely different from the armchair journalists most of us have become in Dubai.

She isn’t found on front seats of press conferences nor does she seek PR contacts on social media. Instead, she cultivates sources far away from her comfort zones, and frequently flies out to dangerous places such as Idlib, Aleppo and Benghazi to pursue and document “real stories”.

The thrill for her is talking to common folks on the ground. “I don’t believe a word of what is said unless I have experienced things first hand,” Jenan says.

Jenan’s forays into troubled hotspots keeps her on the edge though. There is always a possibility that the official who has promised access could turn out to be a dreaded terrorist or a mere ransom-seeker looking for a high-value target.

As they say, where there is a will there is a way. Seeing her determination, local commanders and activists come forward to help with information and documents. She has developed such close contacts with some that even their staff know that in the worst of circumstances “Madam Jenan” can be trusted with documents.

Sometimes, terrorists who are on US watch-list “criticize” her reports. After all, in her own words, she specializes in “checking garbage bins for secret documents and ISIS laptops”.

Jenan has been doing this for seven years now – almost coinciding with the so-called Arab Spring – and wants to continue for a long time. In a way she embodies the spirit of youth in the Middle East, working hard and trying to make a mark yet not too optimistic about the future.

A real reporter, with feet on the ground and antenna up, is almost like a soldier who guards the borders while we sleep. What Jenan gathers from the ground are valuable facts that have become sacrosanct in today’s post-truth era

Ehtesham Shahid

The Arab Spring

Back in the secure space of Dubai, and away from the shadows of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, I managed to take Jenan down memory lane last week. Our conversation mostly veered around the youth of the region and what they have been through since Tunisia went up in flames in the winter of 2010.

According to her, political affiliations and skepticism apart, Arab Spring at least ignited hope among the youth that something will change for the better. Needless to add, those hopes were not just mercilessly dashed most youth would probably wish this had never happened at all.

However, it is today’s climate of terror that Jenan is most worried about. She is aware that it is this menace that keeps her relevant to us all, yet longs for the day when violence ceases to be a daily headline.

According to her, if at one level, terror is the outcome of Middle East’s political failures then its recent manifestations in Europe are as much about their failures on the social front and their inability to nip extremism in the bud.

This stirring conversation meant there were bound to be takeaways. A real reporter, with feet on the ground and antenna up, is almost like a soldier who guards the borders while we sleep. What Jenan gathers from the ground are valuable facts that have become sacrosanct in today’s post-truth era.
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Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham and he can be reached at Ehtesham.Shahid@alarabiya.net.

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Last Update: Thursday, 8 June 2017 KSA 10:11 - GMT 07:11
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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