Articles by Brian Whitaker

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

Articles in chronological order:
2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998

Articles listed by country:
Algeria | Bahrain | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Kuwait | Lebanon | Libya | Oman | Palestine/Israel | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Tunisia | United Arab Emirates | Yemen


Archive: Saudi Arabia

Alwaleed bin Talal: from Saudi prince to king of Twitter? 
Comment Is Free, 20 Dec 2011

The $300m deal has caused some alarm, but this royal family member is much more progressive than his relatives

Saudi Arabia's message to Syria, decoded
Comment Is Free, 8 Aug 2011

It is Iranian influence, not the killing of civilians, that Saudi Arabia is concerned about as it recalls its ambassador in Syria

Saudi Arabia's subtle protests are serious 
Comment Is Free, 1 Mar 2011

Saudis may not be massing on the streets like others in the Middle East, but their petitions and complaints are momentous

Between heaven and earth
Lecture at Cafe Diplo, 21 Feb 2011

Saudi Arabia in the age of globalisation

Saudi fatwa on female cashiers is an own goal 
Comment Is Free, 10 November 2010

In signing a fatwa about female cashiers, Saudi scholars have defied government policy and misjudged the public mood

Saudi Arabia's juggling act on homosexuality 
Comment Is Free, 13 Sep 2010

As a gay diplomat seeks US asylum, Saudi Arabia seems torn between wanting a civilised image and appeasing traditionalists

Are Saudis being served?  
Comment Is Free, 22 Feb 2010

The kingdom has got its knickers in a twist over the delicate question of who should be allowed to sell underwear to women

A tale of two parties  
Comment Is Free, 25 Jun 2009

While 69 revelling Filipinos face prison and flogging in Saudi Arabia, wealthy British expatriates are left to party in peace

A night out in Riyadh  
Comment Is Free, 22 Jun 2009

More than 70 men have been arrested in the Saudi capital for being in an 'unnatural state' and wearing women's clothing

Saudi Arabia's sewing machine stitch-up  
Comment Is Free, 21 Apr 2009

Learning by rote at school has no real value – and it certainly doesn't prepare you for life in the scam-filled modern world

Hello, democracy – and goodbye 
Comment Is Free, 24 Feb 2009

Saudi Arabia has quietly abandoned the municipal elections that were due to take place this year

A bad joke  
Comment Is Free, September 14, 2006

An alleged quip about the Prophet's penis led to torture and 13-years in jail in Saudi Arabia.

Mecca is for men 
Comment Is Free, September 11, 2006

After 1,400 years of mingling with men in the Grand Mosque, an (all-male) committee is trying to push women out.

Victory for the Riyadh girls  
Comment Is Free, October 9, 2006

The hottest novel ever to hit Saudi Arabia has survived a legal attempt to ban it. 

The moral minority  
Comment Is Free, July 4, 2006

These are tough times for Saudi Arabia's unpopular religious police.

Compromise or collusion?  
Comment Is Free, May 13, 2006 

Several Saudi newspapers, including the English-language Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, carried stories yesterday about a woman who was allegedly "humiliated" at Munich airport. 

When poachers turn gamekeeper 
Comment Is Free, May 10, 2006

Congratulations to Saudi Arabia: the kingdom famous for public beheadings, floggings, secret trials and the suppression of women has just won a seat on the UN's new human rights council.

Sex and shopping in Israel and Saudi Arabia  
Comment Is Free, April 19, 2006 

Some interesting light has been cast on the similarities between Wahhabi Muslims and Haredi Jews.

Anyone for Mecca?  
Comment Is Free, April 13, 2006

In a rare bout of perspicacity, Colonel Gadafy suggests Jews and Christians - even George Bush - should be permitted to visit the Kaaba.

Prince Charles, the Islamic dissident  
Comment Is Free, March 27, 2006 

Regarded as an anachronism at home, Prince Charles made a revolutionary speech in Saudi Arabia.

'Straightforward is the word most often used to describe him, but it is not always meant as a compliment' 
Guardian, Friday March 24 2006

Meetings with monarchs may be an everyday occurrence for Prince Charles, but on his visit to Saudi Arabia he must be careful not to let slip the customary words "your majesty". King Abdullah doesn't like it.

Men barred from selling women's lingerie 
Guardian, Tuesday March 21 2006

The Saudi labour ministry has warned shops selling lingerie that from June it will begin inspections to ensure men are not serving customers. 

Saudi driving ban on women extends to golf carts 
The Guardian, March 03 2006

Saudi Arabia's longstanding ban on female drivers went an extra mile this week when women were barred from using golf carts to move around a cultural festival, according to Saudi newspapers.

Veil power 
The Guardian, February 21 2006

In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sexual apartheid rules. But things are changing - the world of work is opening up to women and economic freedom is beginning to empower them in other ways, too. Brian Whitaker reports

Hotel collapse in Mecca leaves at least 18 pilgrims dead 
The Guardian, January 06 2006

Tragedy struck the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca yesterday when a building collapsed just a few yards from the Grand Mosque, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens more.

An extraordinary meeting 
The Guardian, December 12 2005

Leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries met in Saudi Arabia last week for an event billed as "The Third Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference". The title was quite a mouthful and it failed to set the western media alight with excitement

Islamic leaders unveil action plan to rescue a 'nation in crisis' 
The Guardian, December 09 2005

Leaders of more than 50 Islamic countries at a summit in Mecca called by Saudi Arabia's ruler, King Abdullah, adopted an ambitious plan to combat extremism and poverty throughout the Muslim world yesterday.

Saudi women make electoral breakthrough 
The Guardian, December 01 2005

Two candidates became the first women to win elected office in Saudi Arabia yesterday when they took seats on the board of Jeddah's chamber of commerce.

Saudi boy, 14, faces execution 
The Guardian, October 29 2005

A 14-year-old boy is facing execution in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty in a flawed trial of murdering a three-year-old girl, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. The girl, Wala abd al-Badi, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a park

Cartoons herald return of cinema to Saudi Arabia 
The Guardian, October 19 2005

After an absence of about 20 years, cinema will make a tentative return to Saudi Arabia next month with a screening of cartoons for an audience of women and children. A one-hour programme of foreign cartoons dubbed into Arabic will be shown at a hotel

Short, simple funeral for extravagant Saudi king 
The Guardian, August 03 2005

Holding rainbow-coloured golf umbrellas above their heads to shade themselves from the sun, members of the Saudi royal family buried King Fahd yesterday in an unmarked grave at a public cemetery in Riyadh.

A traditionalist who watches 33 TVs at once 
The Guardian, August 02 2005

Among members of a royal family noted for their extravagant lifestyles, Saudi Arabia's new ruler stands out as one who hankers after the simple life of the desert.

Long-lived the kings 
The Guardian, August 01 2005

In a halting voice, Iyad bin Amin Madani, Saudi Arabia's information minister, read out the announcement on television

Saudis tiptoe to democracy
Middle East International, Saudi 18 February 2005

Oh what a lovely jail 
The Guardian, December 16 2004

Al-Qaida supporters detained in Saudi Arabia have appeared in a television documentary about al-Haer jail, 25 miles south of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and delivered rave reviews of life inside.

Paying the price for incompetence 
The Guardian, May 31 2004

How on earth can a small group of gunmen go on a shooting spree that kills 16 or more people, become totally surrounded by security forces on the ground and commandos hovering in helicopters overhead ... and then escape? ...

Tourists invited to Saudi sea and sun 
The Guardian, February 26 2004

The sun and sand are guaranteed, but Club 18-30 devotees should think twice before stripping off on the beach or canoodling under the palm trees. There's no vino to slake the throats of lobster-coloured visitors, and those with a taste for wacky baccy ri...

Saudi ban on female doll imports
The Guardian, December 18 2003

Saudi Arabia has banned imports of female dolls and teddy bears, and shopkeepers have been given three months to dispose of any stock. The ban also applies to non-Islamic religious symbols, such as crosses and statues of the Buddha.

Saudi system condemned
The Guardian, August 09 2003

The immigration card that foreigners fill in when they arrive in Saudi Arabia has a warning note printed in red ink: drug smuggling carries the death penalty.

Religious police told to smile
The Guardian, June 10 2003

Saudi Arabia's feared religious police are being given special training to "deal effectively and pleasantly with the public", the Jeddah-based daily Arab News reported yesterday.

Censor sensibility 
The Guardian, May 19 2003

From black marker pens to an internet crackdown, Saudi efforts to control the media are flawed and doomed to fail ...

Four days on, Saudis step up security but most residents have flown their gilded cage
The Guardian, May 17 2003

They used to call it the gilded cage. The 2,000 people at al-Hamra compound in Riyadh had everything they needed for a comfortable life: swimming pools, tennis, squash and basketball courts, a gym, a sauna, a bowling alley, a restaurant ...

The cloaked Saudi who seeks to lay down arms
The Guardian, March 25 2002

It is curious that the man who controls a quarter of the world's oil reserves, and whose Middle East peace initiative will take centre stage at the Arab summit this week, gets only a seven-line mention in the International Who's Who.

A tug of war - but will the rope snap?
The Guardian, October 06 2001

The university application form makes no mention of fees but says: "State the amount of the Holy Koran you have memorised." For some courses, there is no admission unless the answer given is: "All of it."

A Saudi woman's lot is not a happy one
September 29 2000

Saudi Arabia celebrated its National Day last week. In London, the country's embassy marked the occasion with a party in a huge marquee, which vaguely resembled a bedouin's tent.

Briton injured in shooting by Saudi student 
The Guardian, August 10, 2000 

One person died and three others - including a Briton - were injured during a shooting incident near a housing complex for foreigners in Saudi Arabia yesterday.

Amnesty call for investor policy 
The Guardian, June 21, 2000

Amnesty International yesterday called on investors to help safeguard human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Saudis claim victory in war for control of web
May 11 2000

There are now many internet cafes - constructed to keep male and female surfers apart - and around 30 commercial internet service providers, but the apparent range of choice belies the fact that all traffic passes through the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology in Riyadh, which is the country's only link to the web.