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Articles by Brian Whitaker


This is a selection of my articles about the Middle East, mostly written for the The Guardian newspaper and its website. The articles are grouped according to subject.

General topics:

Gender and sexuality 
Religion (including Islamic militancy)
Society and culture


Saudi Arabia 
United Arab Emirates 

Click here for my blogs on 'Comment Is Free'

Click here to search for Guardian articles

Recent articles

It’s dangerous to be so cosy with the Gulf’s autocrats 
Comment Is Free, 11 Nov 2014
Why is the west still so close to reactionary monarchies in the Middle East when all the evidence suggests they’re on their way out?

Most Arab states share Isis’s ideology. They’re trying to have it both ways
Comment Is Free, 28 Oct 2014

Isis may be more brutal but many Arab governments are on the same ground – asserting the superiority of Islam

Yemen is being reshaped by rebellion and intrigue 
Comment Is Free, 9 Oct 2014

While the world’s attention is on Syria and Iraq, the pieces of the kaleidoscope have been shaken in Yemen – with regional implications

Beyond Syria: five Middle East stories you may have missed 
Comment Is Free, 3 Sep 2013

Syria is rightly dominating the news. But from Egypt's spying stork to Israeli-Palestinian talks, here's a look at what else is going on

The US view of Yemen as an al-Qaida hotbed is a travesty of the truth 
Comment Is Free, 7 Aug 2013

Yemen is a real place where people are demanding social justice and democracy. Their cause is only harmed by the US

Unsorted articles

Older articles are placed in their relevant categories. Those below have not yet been sorted.


Express delivery of Arab revolts  
A review of the first books about the Arab Spring. Portal 9, Autumn, 2012.

The ongoing battle for gay rights in the Arab world 
The Middle East Channel, 12 March 2012

Slow thaw for gays in Arab world 
Haaretz, 2 March 2012

There is more awareness now that gay Arabs do exist and that the challenges posed by sexual nonconformity won't go away.

Syrians should beware of some of their foreign 'friends' 
Comment Is Free, 26 Feb 2012

Syrians should fear eastern, not western, intervention – especially autocratic 'friends' like Saudi Arabia

Syria's protesters are on their own 
Comment Is Free, 9 Jan 2012

While Arab League monitors have failed to stop the bloodshed, this may be preferable to protracted talks about political 'reform'

This week in the Middle East 
Comment Is Free, 23 Dec 2010

Charities that fund the settlers; Egypt's vanishing migrants; Christmas extravagance in the Gulf, and an unhappy New Year

Persian Gulf? Arabian Gulf? One big gulf in understanding 
Comment Is Free, 27 Oct 2010

Has the US switched from calling the Persian Gulf 'Arabian' just to annoy Iran? It would seem that way

With all due respect, Mr President
Comment Is Free, 18 Nov 2009

Barack Obama has talked about 'respect' on his Asian tour, but risks getting into a muddle over its meaning

What Obama will say in Cairo 
Comment Is Free, 2 Jun 2009

Changing Arab and Muslim perceptions of the US will be top of Obama's agenda – but don't expect too much on Israel or Iran

Is exclusion the best policy? 
Comment Is Free, 19 Mar 2009

The editor of a Hezbollah newspaper has been denied entry to Britain. It demonstrates the Home Office's confusion on the issue

Warsi wades in 
Comment Is Free, 20 Feb 2009

Is there a serious problem with polygamy in the UK, or is the Baroness's attack simply cultural point-scoring?

A letter to Barack 
Comment Is Free, 6 Nov 2008

Please resist the temptation to fix the Middle East, and make sure your own country leads by example

Reclaiming orientalism
Comment Is Free, Jun 19 2008

Orientalism at 30: Research for the sake of genuine mutual understanding should not be confused with the imperialism of the Iraq war

Middle of where?
Comment Is Free, Jun 4 2008

The Middle East may be a crucially important region politically and economically, but try getting your hands on a decent definition of it

Your flexible friend
Comment Is Free, Feb 22 2008

It's smart, organised and, er, can squeeze through very small gaps. Let's hear it for the humble cockroach

Is the end in sight?
Comment Is Free, January 11, 2008

It's easy to understand the scepticism over Bush's current intervention in the Middle East, but we shouldn't write off the initiative just yet

Gratuitous violence  
Comment Is Free, November 22, 2007 

YouTube has a policy against violent postings. Fine, but what happens when you need to highlight state brutality?

A spoof too far? 
Comment Is Free, October 11, 2007

A satirical US attack on a questionable conference has been taken seriously, a sad reflection on that country's ability to debate Islam.

Food for thought 
Comment Is Free, October 3, 2007 

As preparations are made for Benazir Bhutto's farewell dinner, there are ample grounds for asking whether she is fit to hold office in Pakistan.

US hate department   
Comment Is Free, September 3, 2007 

An experienced American diplomat is facing trial on two charges of racial intimidation and sending threatening messages.

Birth of a myth  
Comment Is Free, August 21, 2007 

Rumours of the demise of Holocaust education have been greatly exaggerated, but that doesn't stop the chain emails flying.

Cheney: prophet of doom 
Comment Is Free, August 16, 2007

A 13-year-old video shows Dubya's right-hand man opposing - yes, opposing - war in Iraq.

The wrong kind of surge  
Comment Is Free, August 2, 2007

Despite escalating evidence to the contrary, the Bush administration continues to support the military surge in Iraq. 

A green light to oppression  
Comment Is Free, July 31, 2007 

In the name of 'fighting extremism', the US is arming two of the Arab world's leading human rights abusers: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Wish you were here? 
Comment Is Free, July 11, 2007

The main goal of Hizb ut-Tahrir is to set up a theocracy based on discrimination against non-Muslims and women.

Family values  
Comment Is Free, June 13, 2007

An 'honour' killing caused shockwaves in Britain but it is part of a wider social tyranny that has blighted the Middle East.

Mobile madness  
Comment Is Free, March 14, 2007 

Aren't you sick of being forced to listen to other people's phone conversations?

Wiki ways  
Comment Is Free, February 21, 2007

It contains information on a wide range of useful subjects - but is Wikipedia just a refuge for the lazy?

The end of history - or hysteria?  
Comment Is Free, January 31, 2007 

I am not convinced that Francis Fukuyama was ever a real neocon - at least, not the wild-eyed variety.

Laughing down the line  
Comment Is Free, January 24, 2007 

Now and again, Radio 4 does something quirky, funny and totally amazing, as one of its current comedy shows attests.

Bring on Mahatma Brown 
Comment Is Free, January 19, 2007 

It comes as a relief to learn that our amply-proportioned chancellor finds inspiration in the work of Mahatma Gandhi.

Soothsayer of the Year 
Comment Is Free, December 29, 2006

It used to be a fair bet that whatever a columnist predicted on January 1 would be long forgotten come December 31. Not any more.

Hundreds burned alive in Lagos pipeline fire  
Guardian, Wednesday December 27 2006

More than 260 people were killed yesterday - burned alive when a ruptured oil pipeline burst into flames in Lagos. 

A microcosm of Arab malaise 
Comment Is Free, December 6, 2006 

An article in a Lebanese newspaper provides an antidote to the simplistic picture of the Middle East found in some sections of the media.

World's youth believe 'war on terror' counterproductive  
Guardian Unlimited, Monday December 4 2006

Young people overwhelmingly believe the US-led "war on terror" is not making the world safer, according to a poll conducted in major cities across the globe. 

Resisting the clash of civilisations 
November 22 2006

“Clash of civilisations” is a catchy phrase but also a dangerous myth. 

UN says politics lies behind rift between west and Muslims 
Guardian, November 14 2006

Politics - not religion - lies at the root of a growing divide between Muslim and western societies, according to a report presented to the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, yesterday.

Rush for deal as tests point to genuine nuclear test 
Guardian, October 14 2006

The US last night refused to confirm that North Korea had joined the nuclear club, despite the discovery of a gas consistent with a nuclear blast in the atmosphere close to where Pyongyang claimed it had detonated a device on Monday. 

Not so polls apart 
Comment Is Free, October 11, 2006 

Surveys of Arab opinions show that the clash of civilisation theory, promoted by Islamists and neoconservatives alike, is basically hot air.

Condi's top priority  
October 6, 2006

The purpose of Condoleezza Rice's visit to the Middle East is becoming clear - to encourage Arab states to form an alliance against Iran.

The cost of improper payments  
Comment Is Free, October 4, 2006 

Companies often try to shrug off bribes as a way of fitting in with local customs, but the consequences can be serious.

Mr Bush's mirage  
Comment Is Free, September 20, 2006 

The US president's speech yesterday highlighted his desire to see only what he wants to see in the Middle East.

The thinking person's Oscars 
Comment Is Free, September 4, 2006

White, European, male, you could be in line for a Nobel Prize. So how does its selection process work?

Peace in our time? 
Comment Is Free, August 31, 2006

We are enjoying the longest period of peace between nations in more than half a century, apparently.

Peril British troops face in Afghanistan 'was underplayed' 
Guardian, August 31 2006

Britons were probably not aware of the daunting problems ahead when the government sent additional troops to Afghanistan this year, the Ministry of Defence conceded yesterday.

Growing pains 
Comment Is Free, August 29, 2006

Is the rise of euro-cannabis necessarily a bad thing?

Comment Is Free, August 24, 2006 

Learning a foreign language helps you to understand other societies and cultures, and what makes people tick.

Apocalypse postponed 
Comment Is Free, August 22, 2006

So far, so good. Despite predictions that Iran would launch nuclear war today, the world has not ended quite yet.

Iran's cyber-president  
Comment Is Free, August 14, 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not really get the point of blogging.

World to end on August 22 
Comment Is Free, August 9, 2006

While the Middle East smoulders, commentators of an apocalyptic bent are lining up for a date with Armageddon.


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Last revised on 14 November, 2014