Ammar Karkour, Rahaf Abutarbush and Abdullah Shaar were the first team from Education City to compete in Arabic debate.
Ammar Karkour, Rahaf Abutarbush and Abdullah Shaar were the first team from Education City to compete in Arabic debate.

Carnegie Mellon students win national Arabic debate championship

A team of students from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, won the QatarDebate Arabic National Universities Debating Championship, with all three debaters placing in the top ten speakers of both the tournament and championship. 

Rahaf Abutarbush, Ammar Karkour and Abdullah Shaar had a perfect record in league competitions this academic year, placing first in the Arabic National Universities League. In the championship final, they faced off against a team from Qatar University, and were ultimately victorious. This is the second consecutive year the team has won the Qatar national championship, and the second consecutive year that Shaar won best speaker.

Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q, congratulated the students on their win. “A Carnegie Mellon education encourages students to explore, examine and interrogate different ideas. Rahaf, Ammar and Abdullah have embraced this approach, and we are exceptionally proud of their accomplishments.” 

All three students are graduating from CMU-Q this year: Abutarbush will receive her degree in information systems, Karkour will receive his in computer science, and Shaar will complete dual degrees in biological sciences and computer science.

“It’s a common misconception about debates that you have to be from a social sciences background,” said Abutarbush. “At the base of all good debate is logic, so people from scientific fields do very well.”

Karkour thinks that debate has strengthened his skills in computer science. “In debate, we often have to describe a technically complex concept in easy terms that the judges will understand. It’s a good skill to take something that is abstract, technical or mathematical and put it into simple terms.”

The three graduates credit their coach, Mohammad Khader, for helping them hone their debating skills. They also praise QatarDebate for providing a platform to develop debate, and especially debate in Arabic. Shaar said, “QatarDebate is doing so much to promote debate, and the Arabic language. We are all certified judges, so we would like to stay active and involved after we graduate.” 

The team will compete one last time at the sixth International Universities Debating Championship in June. 

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