Iraq and the Levant

Remembering Jewish Arabists and Arab Jews June 2021 – In these polarised times, the social, political and cultural influence and fluid identities of Jews and Jewish Arabists is largely forgotten when it should be commemorated and celebrated. After ISIS, former Yazidi sex slaves are caught between trauma and taboo February 2020 – Safia, a Yazidi teenager from Iraq, was captured by the Islamic State, sold into sexual slavery, raped, tortured and made pregnant, leaving deep psychological scars. Her ability to come to terms with the trauma are thwarted by taboo, shame and her forced separation from her daughter. Island of despair November 2018 – While the outrage of Europeans has been turned to Donald Trump's wall and the handling of migrants at the border with Mexico, they ignore a humanitarian disaster closer to home. The has left to handle the influx of refugees on its own and those stuck on Lesbos are living in abysmal conditions. An explosive musical comeback May 2018 – Arab audiences are not ready for the return to music of a pop superstar who became a Salafist extremist and allegedly took up arms against the Lebanese state. “Instead of protecting me, they treated me like a murderer” March 2018 – In the two years since the EU's inhumane deal with , the plight of traumatised refugees arriving on the Greek islands has worsened significantly. Instead of refuge, they are being offered prison.

Post-ISIS Mosul, pt 2: Home is where the hurt is

December 2017 – Despite the destruction, pain, trauma and dread for the future, Mosul's tough and long-suffering are returning to the ruins of their devastated city. Post-ISIS Mosul, pt 1: The final death of a city? December 2017 – Its building turned to dust, its citizens traumatised and impoverished, Mosul may have been ‘liberated' from but it has become a graveyard. Can this razed and devastated city ever be free again?

Angela Merkel: The ‘Arab' chancellor

September 2017 – If Arabs could have voted, Angela Merkel would have won by a landslide, rather than the embattled situation she currently finds herself in following the shock gains scored by the far-right. The adventures of Rami and his magic violin September 2017 – Syrian Rami Basisah and his violin have been through hell and high water together. His childhood dream of becoming a world-famous musician is about to come true. But the trauma of losing is country means he cannot enjoy his success.

Greek island teaches Europe how to welcome refugees

August 2017 – The Greek island of Tilos has hosted more than seven times its population in refugees… and has done so with dignity, respect and with almost no external assistance. Dreaming of a vanished Syria August 2017 – “A lot of Syrians are indulging in a nostalgia that requires a lot of denial,” says Syrian-American author Alia Malek. “This is why I'm a student of history, not to live in a fantasy but to learn why and how we are where we are today.”

Mosul in my heart

February 2017 – The Mosul I have always loved, whose sky was our protective shield, has been replaced by an alien city of death, destruction and destitution.

Trapped inside Fortress Europe

January 2017 – The plight of the 63,000 refugees and migrants still marooned in Greece should give Europeans pause for thought.

Syria and freedom from death

September 2016 – Where once Syrians struggled for the ideals of freedom, equality and dignity, the liberty that most counts in today is the freedom from the fear of death.

The generous of the earth in the most wretched of places

September 2016 – If you're feeling dejected by the troubled times we live in, remember that human generosity lives on, even in the most wretched of places.

Turkey: “Everywhere I look I see fear”

July 2016 – Turkey's failed military coup has been a “gift from God” for Erdoğan, who is now cementing his grip on dictatorship.

This is not a refugee “hotspot”. It's a prison!

May 2016 – Following the EU-Turkey deal, refugees in Greece are being held in so-called “hotspots”, which are actually prisons, and many are now on hunger strike.

Discovering Sushi Islam April 2016 – By following two young girls on their voyage of discovery of Sunni and Shia Islam, a new documentary highlights the insanity of Islamic sectarianism. Bombing ISIS in Syria will not tackle extremism in Brussels

April 2016 – Rather than airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS), Belgium should strike at the root causes of homegrown extremism.

The myth of the European jihadist hordes

March 2016 – The terrorist attacks in Brussels will reinforce the idea that returning jihadists pose an existential threat to . But the facts say otherwise.

Brussels attacks: A stark new reality

March 2016 – In Brussels, people are resigned to a stark new reality of uncertainty and insecurity until a way is found to channel destructive energy positively.

Syria: Return to a dying land

March 2016 – As Europe turns its back on refugees, Syrians who can't afford the “luxury” of fleeing are making the perilous journey back to their ruined homeland.

Lesbos: “No matter how hard you swim, you can never save all of them.”

January 2016 – Despite the massive efforts of volunteer lifeguards, refugees are losing their lives in the . Europe must act… and out of compassion.

ليست سورية هي المسألة، المسألة هي العالم

يناير 2016 – في لقاء موسع، يتحدث الكاتب والناشط البارز ياسين الحاج صالح هنا عن سوريا الماضي، الحاضر المأساوي والمستقبل المجهول.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh: “Syria is a unique symbol of injustice, apathy and amnesia”

January 2016 – In an exclusive interview, prominent Syrian writer and dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh talks about Syria's past, tragic present and uncertain future.

Watanili: Helping Syrian children to rediscover childhood

January 2016 – Through art, film and education, Watanili is a grassroots initiatives which is working to give traumatised Syrian kids a dose of normal childhood.

ISIS and the mash of civilisations

November 2015 – Counterintuitive as it may sound, ISIS is proof that the clash of civilisations is a myth. The reality is that interests clash, while cultures mix.

The Brussels connection: Turning the tide on radicalisation

November 2015 – Belgium says it is working to combat radicalisation in Brussels. But is it doing enough to counter jihadist narratives and address exclusion?

The UN's Insecurity Council

November 2015 – The Security Council has a long track record of failing to resolve conflicts. Now it is also in danger of bringing the major powers to blows.

Saddam Hussein: Laughing in the face of tyranny

October 2015 – In light of the continuing legacy of  Saddam Hussein's rule and the US invasion of Iraq, is it appropriate to stage a comedy about the former despot?

Invading Europe without invaders

October 2015 – Any objective observer can see  that the refugees of today are not the invaders of history. So why are so many Europeans afraid of refugees?

Refugees who just want to dance

October 2015 – An Iranian engineer who is seeking asylum in Europe because he wants to pursue his passion, dancing, would probably be rejected. Should he be?

Prisoners of love in Syria

October 2015 – In Syria, Amer and Raghda found liberation from political prison in love. But as refugees in Europe, their love became hostage to politics and guilts.

The West's hidden tribalism

September 2015 – Tribalism and sectarianism afflicts Western societies too. So why is that they seem to be tearing the Middle East apart?

Syrian refugees: The civil rights movement of our time

September 2015 – Rather than threatening Europe's way of life, refugees are, through their struggle, helping to preserve the most precious of European values.

A utopian refuge for refugees?

September 2015 – Can an Egyptian billionaires vision of turning a Mediterranean island into a just republic for refugees help solve the refugee crisis?

A Syrian ‘ode to joy' on Europe's border

September 2015 – A violinist's inspired and impromptu choice of music at the Greek-Macedonian border tells us a lot about the Syrian refugee crisis.

The ghost of conflicts past, present and future

September 2015 – With all the wars and conflicts raging in the Middle East, collective trauma carries very serious consequences for the region.

Europe's collective refugee shame: How can it be?

August 2015 – How can it be that we Europeans greet the biggest refugee crisis in living memory with indifference, xenophobia and hostility?

The long march from Syria to Europe

August 2015 – Joining on their long trek to the EU, Boštjan Videmšek discovers how easy it is to lose faith in humanity and how hard to restore it.

Greek islands: No holiday in the sun for Syrian refugees

June 2015 – Kos is straining under the influx of Syrian refugees.  Though locals are hospitable, the refugees are desperate to move on but where or how eludes them.

War and peace in the Middle East and Europe

April 2015 – Europe's history of total war and mass displacement can help create more sympathy for today's refugees and keep hope alive in the Middle East.

Young and futureless in Iraq under ISIS April 2015 – Mosul's youth are desperate, disillusioned and terrified because “ISIS will never let us have a future, we could die any second.” Living in a selfie-centred world March 2015 – The selfie fad has reached epidemic proportions, but we don't live in more narcissistic times. Selfie-absorption is as old as civilisation itself. ISIS's war on women in Mosul February 2015 – Before ISIS began targeting Iraq's minorities and cultural heritage, it set to work veiling women in a new dark age, reversing decades of hard-won gains. The real battle against ISIS February 2015 – If ISIS is a virus, then fighting it with the antibiotic of ill-conceived deadly force and repression could create ever-more deadly strains.

The language of Arab (dis)unity

January 2015 – The romantic myth that Arabs share “one heart and one spirit” led pan-Arabism to talk unity while walking the path of disunity.

Arabic: The language of confusion?

December 2014 – If an Arab says he'll kill you, don't  worry – he wants to buy you dinner. Whether Arabic dialects are a single language is politcal, not linguistic.

The destruction of Mosul's past, present and future

December 2014 – With ISIS's destruction of Mosul's heritage, it is no longer the “Pear of the North”. But it's people will rise up and reclaim their ancient city.

Mosul's lost diversity

December 2014 – The Islamic State's (ISIS) destruction of Mosul's ethnic diversity is more heart-breaking than the erasure of its architectural and cultural heritage.

The ISIS disease in Mosul

October 2014 – For those who have refused to flee the Islamic State (ISIS), formerly close-knit Mosul has become a dangerous city robbed of its diversity and dignity.

The death throes of Arab thuggery

October 2014 – Arab civilisation has not collapsed but the thuggish political, economic and religious mafias dominating the region are dying violently.

The Syrian Kurd who went blind because he'd seen too much

October 2014 – From the man literally blinded by horrors to the girl whose dream is to read books,  we meet the Syrian Kurds fleeing the ISIS onslaught on Kobani.

The social media's Islamic state of terror

September 2014 – ISIS has skillfully manipulated social media as a powerful propaganda tool.  Should the online community self-censor to deprive it of free publicity?

The caliphate illusion: “restoring” what never was

July 2014 – The tyranny of Arab secular dictators and destructive Western hegemony combined to enable ISIS to “restore” a brutal caliphate which never existed.

Bush, Blair en de blitzkrieg in Irak

Juni 2014 – Gezien de verreikende gevolgen van de Amerikaanse invasie van Irak, laten we het idee om Bush en Blair voor het gerecht te brengen nieuw leven inblazen.

Criminally reckless in Iraq

June 2014 – The US invasion and occupation caused Iraq to implode into anarchy and then explode into civil war. For that reason, its architects must be prosecuted.

Syria needs joint Arab action to end violence

September 2013 – It is up to the Arab world to stop the bloodshed in Syria – unlikely as this may sound, and despite Arab League failure so far.

US intervention in Syria: Not kind, but cruel

September 2013 – Punishing a dictator for killing his own people by killing yet more of them is not the answer. It didn't work in Iraq, and it won't work in Syria.

Islamism is the illusion

August 2013 – Islamism is not the solution but is built on an illusion. Islam's past strength was actually a secular one based on free thought.

Syria's Sunni v Shi'a myth

June 2013 – Insisting falsely that the Syrian conflict is sectarian will tear the country apart once Assad  is gone and place the Alawite minority in grave danger.

The Middle East's sinking leadership

June 2013 – From Egypt to Turkey, Middle Eastern uprisings have not only been leaderless but have even been a rebellion against the idea of leadership itself.

A brief history of Western ‘jihadists'

April 2013 – From Guy Fawkes and Lord Byron to Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell, Westerners have an ancient tradition of doing ‘jihad' in foreign lands.

The clash within civilisations

March 2013 – This year marks the 20th anniversary of the clash of civilizations theory, but Samuel P Huntington was wrong.

The mash of civilisations

September 2012 – There is no conflict between Islam and the West – only clashes of interests between and within them. But there is a very real mash of civilisations.

High time for a fly-in to Syria

May 2012 – Though risky, a civilian fly-in to Syria will send out a clear message that the world cannot stand idly by while ordinary people are slaughtered.

Can Hizbullah reinvent itself?

February 2012 – As Hizbullah sides with its brutal backers in Damascus, are the Shi'ite movement's days numbered or can it regain its popularity and credibility?

9/12: Turning over a new leaf in the Middle East

September 2011 – On the 10th anniversary of the day after 9/11, it is high time to trash the ‘clash of civilisations' theory and the ‘war on terror' and start a new chapter in the West's relationship with the new Middle East.

Stop press

May 2010 – Jordanian journalists believe they do not enjoy enough freedom – a malaise shared with the rest of the Middle East. But why?

Foreign hegemony or repressive self-rule?

February 2010 – The Arab world may debate the merits of external occupation versus repressive self-rule, but neither are acceptable.

Diagnosing the Middle East's ills January 2010 – Author and journalist Brian Whitaker diagnoses the Arab world's problems. Who's responsible for the Arab world's mess? August 2009 – A UN report has reignited the controversy over who is to blame for the sorry state of the Arab world: Arabs or the West? The truth about Arab science July 2009 – Can we look forward to a boom in Arab science or will poverty, bureaucracy and religion be insurmountable obstacles? Is Obama's change simply cosmetic? June 2009 – Obama may gain some trust, but America's deceptive belief that it is not an empire condemns its leader to repeating old mistakes. The Middle East must look to the future April 2009 – A secular society confines religion to the spiritual sphere where it belongs, and leaves worldly affairs to human resourcefulness. Shock and awe on a shoestring December 2008 – An Iraqi journalist expressed his contempt for President Bush in a manner familiar in the Arab world: by throwing his shoes. The Middle East on Biden August 2008 – Does Obama's choice of running mate mean he's shaping up to be just another establishment candidate for the White House? Bridging the road to Damascus August 2008 – Israeli voters should give their next leader a clear mandate to negotiate an equitable peace with Syria. Wanted: a gesture from Syria August 2008 – A return to the negotiating table is encouraging, but Syria will have to make a daring gesture to win Israeli public sympathy. The human cost of cluster bombs September 2008 – Cluster bombs continue to hurt people and their livelihoods years after they were dropped.


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