OMER Blog

Posts to the OMER blog do not have any length or topical restrictions. They are edited before publication by the OMER team, but they are not necessarily peer-reviewed, unlike articles printed in our annual review. Published blog posts reflect the views of their authors alone, and do not represent official views of the Oxford Middle East Review and its editorial team.

Evin Prison: Iran’s Notorious “House of Detention”

By Insiya Raja A massive fire broke out, supposedly coincidently, at one of Iran’s most notorious detention centres, Evin prison, located in the northern hills of its capital Tehran on October 18, 2022.[1] Accompanied by an infographic conveying basic statistics and information, this article briefly examines the systemic treatment of political prisoners in Evin, one of Iran’s most infamous and…

How virtual social networks translate into street protests: The case for Mahsa Amini’s death under IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran’s) Morality Police?

By S. I. Ejaz On September 16, 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini of Kurdish ethnicity, succumbed to wounds while in the custody of the country’s notorious morality police. What followed was a series of protests, both at home and abroad, against the incumbent Iranian regime, the flagbearer of the post-1979 Islamist ruling ideology. The presiding political communication scholarship…

“Kurds and Baluch are brothers, thirsty for the leader’s blood” – Iran’s minorities, the Mahsa Amini Protests and Iranian identity

By Guy Fiennes Kurds and Baluch have long complained of discrimination within the Islamic Republic of Iran. The nationwide protest movement following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in police custody has pulled the issue of longstanding tensions and state repression between the regime in Tehran and the minorities of Iran back to the fore. The regime specifically…

Fuel to the Fire: How the Islamic Republic has responded to civilian uprisings

By Henna Moussavi On the 8th of December, 2022, the Iranian government executed 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari in connection with anti-government protests on the charges of ‘enmity against god’. He was additionally accused by Iranian judicial news outlets of waging a knife on a member of the Basij paramilitary force in the initial weeks of protest, in September. Shekari was executed…

Contextualising the Current Uprising in Iran: A Short History of Mass Protest Under the Islamic Republic 

The most recent protests in Iran represent a culmination of grievances from seemingly disparate protests throughout the Islamic Republic’s history.  Protestors have combined various techniques from the repertoires of contention they have developed over the last forty years to present the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since its inception. The gravity of Iran’s current protests and the threat they…

“Yearning for a Regular Life”: The Failure of Reform in the Islamic Republic

By Natasha Parnian On September 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, was killed in custody after being arrested by the Gashte Ershad (Guidance Patrol) for wearing an “improper hejab”. What began as protests in reaction to her death have turned into widespread civil disobedience against oppression and autocracy. Today, protesters are not calling only for reform. The radically assertive…

Egyptian-Syrian Relations after the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel: Alliance, Union, Rivalry?

This paper analyses the relationship between Egypt and Syria and how it shaped the regional and international politics of the Middle East and North Africa since 1948. As their relations have been intertwined with the Arab-Israeli conflict, an outline of events and actors’ rationales figures as the background for a case-study of three major events in Egyptian-Syrian relations: the United…

Interrogating Foreign Aid Administration in Afghanistan

By Frishta Qaderi In August 2021, harrowing scenes from Afghanistan captured the world’s attention as the Taliban stormed Kabul, undermining years of largely western-driven development. While NATO forces, diplomatic staff, and foreigners evacuated the country, Afghans were left to face the return of Taliban rule. Overnight, women became largely barred from public life[1] and independent media shuttered operations.[2] As Afghans…

Elections in Lebanon: A Continuation of the “Permanent” Revolution?

By Charles Ough For the first time since the 2019 protest movement, the Lebanese people have voted in parliamentary elections which took place on 15th May 2022 and returned the highest number of independent candidates in the country’s history. These thirteen new MPs, while not united in a monolithic party or bloc, share a commitment to the goals expressed in…

What the Killing of Shireen Abu Aqleh Means for Israel & the Middle East

By Ethan Dinçer On the 11th of May, Israeli snipers shot and killed Palestinian-American journalist and Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh while she was on duty in Jenin, a city in the occupied West Bank. Abu Aqleh was covering an Israeli raid of Jenin when she was shot in the head, and reports have made it clear that there…

Two Interpretations of Religion: The Tudeh Party and Iran’s 1979 Constitution

By Kelly Skinner After Iran’s 1979 “Islamic” Revolution, Foucault noted that Islam was pervasive throughout Iran’s political discourse, rendering secular political options obsolete (Behrooz. Foucault in Iran, 82). This was largely due to the association of Islam with nationalism during the Revolution as it was used as a symbol of resistance against both the Shah and Western imperialism (Mirsepassi. Intellectual…

Three Strikes: Somaya’s Story

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault. Based on prevalence data from 2000 to 2018 across 161 countries, the World Health Organization estimated that 1 in 3 women throughout the world are survivors of sexual and/or physical violence. Insiya Raja interviewed Somaya Tarek, a brave Egyptian woman who exemplifies the…

Tunisia: A Reminder that Democracy is More than Elections

By A Contributor Al-Chaab Yourīd: This was the campaign slogan of Kais Saied, the dour and unassuming constitutional law professor who would become President of Tunisia. “The People Want” – it’s a stunningly simple commitment that seems to be based on a democratic idea – the people want, and I will provide for those wants. Throughout the campaign that would…

Review: Amazigh Politics in the Wake of the Arab Spring, by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

By Juliet O’Brien Bruce Maddy-Weitzman’s latest work, Amazigh Politics in the Wake of the Arab Spring, explores the complexities of the increasingly salient Amazigh identity movement in North African (and diasporic) politics and society since the so-called Arab Spring of 2011. His study possesses both depth and breadth, examining five case studies of Amazigh activism in Algeria, Libya, Azawad (Mali),…

Review of “Lebanon: Explosion of Anger” by Krzysztof Dzięciołowski

By Charles Ough Screened at the Middle East Centre (MEC), St Antony’s College, on February 24, 2022,  followed by a discussion between the director, Dr Michael Willis, and Dr Raphaël Lefèvre This striking and emotionally impactful new documentary by the award-winning Polish journalist and film director Krzysztof Dzięciołowski is urgent viewing for all those who still need to improve their…

Turkey or Türkiye? The Politics of a Name Change

By Ethan Dinçer In early December 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a series of communiqués that would begin to radically alter Turkey’s international image. Framed under the auspices of reforming and strengthening the Turkish brand, the policies set forth by Erdoğan would aim to shift domestic discourse on the country’s name by changing it from Turkey to Türkiye…

An Interview with Professor Dawn Chatty

By Erin Hayes Professor Dawn Chatty is a social anthropologist whose ethnographic interests lie in the Middle East, particularly with nomadic pastoral tribes and refugees. Her research interests include a number of forced migration and development issues such as conservation-induced displacement, tribal resettlement, modern technology and social change, gender and development and the impact of prolonged conflict on refugee young…

“The Dooley Doctrine”: A Conversation with Brian Dooley

Insiya Raja spoke to Brian Dooley, Senior Advisor at the US-based NGO Human Rights First, and asked him to reflect on four decades of activism in various contexts and for various organisations. We asked him what he’s learned since the early 1980s. ●       Care, Usefully. I think the best human rights researchers, activists, and policymakers thread a fine line between…

Book Review: Muslim Sources of the Crusader Period: An Anthology

MUSLIM SOURCES OF THE CRUSADER PERIOD: AN ANTHOLOGY. EDITED AND TRANSLATED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY JAMES E. LINDSAY AND SULEIMAN A. MOURAD. 312pp. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-62466-984-2, £19.99 (Pbk). By Charlie Ough Western conceptions of the Crusades are traditionally formulated around a Christian vs. Muslim dichotomy and bounded chronologically between Pope Urban II’s declaration of the First…

Economic Integration in the MENA Region: More of a Hope than a Reality

By Melissa Tomassini In the post-World War II period, there was an outstanding proliferation of regional economic blocs. In the wake of the call by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to ease international trade policies, discriminatory treatments were progressively cut down in an effort to foster growth on a global scale.[1] Against this backdrop, the Arab world…

On Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Conversation with Professor Avi Shlaim

By Wesam Hassan How can we study and teach the Arab-Israeli conflict? In this interview, I speak with Professor Avi Shlaim, an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. Professor Shlaim has published eight books on the Arab-Israeli conflict and has been teaching the subject for more than three decades. I was introduced to the academic oeuvre…

Book Review of Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud, by Sandy Gall

By Kelly Skinner Sandy Gall’s Afghan Napoleon tells the long-neglected story of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a figure who has loomed large in both the public imaginations of Afghanistan and its neighboring country of Tajikistan. Massoud is best known for his struggle against the Soviet Union as part of the Mujahideen and, later, for facing down the Taliban as they moved…

An Interview with Artist and Activist Bahia Shehab

By Erin Hayes Bahia Shehab is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, political activist, and historian whose work focuses on the intersection of modern identity and ancient cultural heritage. Her imaginative combination of calligraphy and Islamic art history produced cutting edge, beautiful, impactful street art during the Arab Spring and continues to inform her work. She is also a professor of the practice of design…

Symbols of the Land: My Experiences in Israel and Palestine

By Kendra La Fave One Hot Summer in 2019 It was a bright June day in 2019, and I had just landed in Tel Aviv for my month-long study abroad trip in Israel and the occupied West Bank. As I sat waiting for the rest of my university group near baggage claim, I was overcome by a sudden onslaught of…

On Marginalized Arab Literature and Translation: An Interview with Professor Marilyn Booth

By Ethan Dinçer How do pieces of Arab literature make it to mainstream Western presses? What does the process of translating works and researching fringe literary actors look like? I spoke with Marilyn Booth, Professor and Director of Research in Oriental Studies and Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World at Magdalen College,…

British Self-Defeating Orientalism at Gallipoli

By Marc Martorell Junyent “When Japan defeated Russia in the war of 1904-05, the world was watching,” notes historian Patrick Porter. British General Ian Hamilton saw every detail, as he followed the war on the ground as a military observer.[1] The Japanese victory over a European power at the Tsushima Straits reverberated throughout Asia, challenging the validity of the West-East…

Solitary Daughter: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bedouine

By: Kelly Skinner When Azniv Korkejian, known by her stage name Bedouine, answers the phone, I’m initially struck by how similar her speaking voice is to her songs. Korkejian sings her modern folk songs levelly, with an intonation that is just as comfortable making wry observations about California, such as in her song “Back To You” – “They talk in…

Memories of Souq al-Hamidiyah

By Oisín Breen This city is an edifice, and its children blush.Yet its streets belong to everyone,And I, the people, sing. I sing for the millennia,In which we have constructed edifices,With a loose knit pageantry of space and difference, And I sing for the dream of us,Dipping our beaks in home-spun interlinears,Walking and falling together like drunken lovers on old…

An Interview with the Founder of OMER

On November 27, 2021, Managing Editors of the Oxford Middle East Review Sawsène Nejjar and Juliet O’Brien sat down with Andreas Björklund, one of the co-founders of OMER in 2016 and current Anthropology DPhil student. Andreas reflects on the process of founding a new journal at the University of Oxford, establishing an academic framework and preparing OMER for future success,…

An Interview with Tajik Poet Rustam Ajami

This interview was conducted by Kelly Skinner via email in Tajik and then translated into English. The author is not a professional translator nor a native Tajik speaker; please excuse any errors. Thank you to the OMER team for translation assistance. Дар соли ду ҳазору шонздаҳ шумо беҳтарин шоири ҷавон шинохта шудед. Барои кадом китоб ё шеъри шумо буд? Ҳар 5 сол…

Book Review for Contested Lands: A History of the Middle East since the First World War, T.G. Fraser

By Juliet O’Brien In under 250 pages, T.G. Fraser manages to offer a concise yet thorough account of history in the Middle East from the First World War to the present. In Contested Lands, Fraser focusses particularly on the interventions and interactions of European powers with the region, yet he avoids describing every major event through a Eurocentric prism. Contested…

What Remains is never quite Real

By Oisín Breen Once, in my old house in Damascus,We knew it as the Pink House,I was visited by a young American. And once, when the boiler rumbled, as it did, daily,He threw me beneath my bed at a bone-shattering pace,To save me from a phantasm, that hounded him. He had travelled 7,447 miles on the back of an absurd…

A Dialogue with Professor Eugene Rogan

This interview from September 10, 2021, was conducted between Jodie Wen, a PhD candidate at Peking University (PKU) in China and visiting student at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA), and Professor Eugene Rogan, professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. This interview was originally intended to reach a Chinese audience, and its…

#Masaktach: Social Media and Sexual Violence Against Women in Morocco

By Ella Williams* Abstract: This article addresses the issue of sexual violence against women in Morocco, including the legal, social, and cultural barriers facing women victims of sexual violence and the role of the media in perpetuating discourses of blame and shame. Drawing on fieldwork carried out in Rabat, she provides an in-depth exploration of #Masaktach, a Moroccan civil society…

Rehearsing Revolution : How Live Action Role Playing Contributes to the Palestinian Resistance Movement

by Johanna Svanelind Since its introduction to Palestine in 2011, LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) has been subverted and adapted by local groups in order to create authentic Palestinian forms of LARP. This article explores how LARP can be used as a tool of resistance, in ways similar to that of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre or ‘Izz al-Din al-Madani’s recreation of…