Lecture on Harm Reduction Strategies in the MENA region by MENAHRA's Executive Director in Oxford

1558409 10152156288485081 524269378 n Lecture on Harm Reduction Strategies in the MENA region by MENAHRA's Executive Director  in Oxford

It is an exciting time to speak about drug policy and harm reduction. After long years of  steadfast work against criminalising and punitive approach to drug using and drug addiction,  the harm reduction movement is achieving global resonance and its goals are more than ever shared by a great many.

  In this context, Elie Aaraj, executive director of MENAHRA, was invited to give a public  lecture at the University of Oxford on invitation of PhD researcher Maziyar Ghiabi, who  presented a paper at the closing session of the MENAHRA 2013 Conference.


The event was an important opportunity to open a wider and more participative debate with regard to harm reduction and drug policy in the MENA region. Despite the great attention that the MENA is attracting among academics, issues of drug use, HIV/AIDS and harm reduction have been discussed only marginally.

Elie Aaraj’s lecture was an important opportunity for the harm reduction movement and researchers working on the MENA to learn about the status of drug policy and HIV/AIDS in the MENA.

The lecture was also attended by a number of NGOs active in drug policy reform in the UK, including the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Students for Sensitive Drug Policy.

Dr Philip Robins, university lecturer in Politics of the Middle East and fellow of St Antony’s College, convened the lecture.

Elie Aaraj’s lecture assessed the current status of drug use and HIV/AIDS in the MENA, covering a lot of ground in terms of countries and social realities. He managed to point out the major challenges faced by drug user communities, for instance in problematic contexts such Libya and Syria. He also discussed in detail cases of success in establishing harm reduction strategies, pointing out at the experience of Iran.

He then went into the specific case of MENAHRA and how the organisation has been able to produce meaningful impact  on the horizon of drug policy in the MENA.

Elie Aaraj described the structure of MENAHRA and the modus operandi that the organisation has put in place to cope with the often unstable and challenging reality of MENA politics. His narration included personal stories, which exemplified in a concrete way what it means to do harm reduction in the MENA.

The lecture terminated with 45 minutes of Q&A, when students, academics and NGOs engaged into a thought-provoking debate about harm reduction and the case of the MENA.

Elie Aaraj’s visit to Oxford University and St Antony’s College was described in the words of one of the participants as “an opportunity for a rather conservative place like Oxford to open up its frontiers to new ways of understanding the Middle East, beyond the orientalising gaze. It doesn’t happen every day to learn about drug policy and harm reduction”.

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