Blog archive: All

  • 6th September 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    In 2012, as armed conflict raged in Syria, the Assad regime gave assurances it would never use chemical weapons against its own people, "no matter what the internal developments in this crisis are". Speaking at a news conference, foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi insisted the country...
  • 5th September 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    A public relations firm which became notorious for assisting dodgy regimes – including several in the Middle East – has finally got its comeuppance. London-based Bell Pottinger has been expelled from the PRCA (the trade body for "respectable" PR firms) for bringing the industry into...
  • 31st August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Writing about conflicts in the Middle East for the New York Times yesterday, columnist Thomas Friedman talked of "the power that is lost to a society like Syria or Iraq that needs an iron fist to make its many into one, and when that fist is removed, how the society fractures into small shards"....
  • 29th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    On August 8 Muhammad Fadli, a fashion photographer from Singapore, arrived in Abu Dhabi for a photo shoot, accompanied by his friend, Nur Ibrahim. The next day they were arrested in the food court of a shopping mall for the allegedly indecent act of "wearing women's clothes in public". Both...
  • 28th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Russia has "just finished dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal" according to a headline on the "alternative" website Voltaire Network. The story says Russian forces have destroyed two chemical weapons sites belonging to the Syrian army which "had been occupied by jihadists".  A...
  • 25th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Iraq's education ministry has quietly dropped a chapter about evolution from its biology textbooks. The ministry has so far given no explanation but the change has brought complaints and ridicule from Iraqis on social media. Among the complainers, Dr Mohammed Fawzi, who studied genetic...
  • 17th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    At a news conference in Damascus yesterday, Syria's deputy foreign minister accused the US and Britain of supplying rebel fighters with chemical weapons. The claim has excited Russian media – especially Sputnik News which has published multiple stories on the topic. Sputnik wonders if...
  • 11th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Bahrain recently joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt in calling for the Qatari broadcaster, al-Jazeera, to be shut down. But a more obvious candidate for closure would surely be the Bahraini government's official mouthpiece, the misleadingly-named Bahrain News Agency (BNA). Whatever you...
  • 10th August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Covering the face with a burqa has become a contentious issue, and several countries have imposed bans or restrictions. The debate, to quote a BBC report, "takes in religious freedom, female equality, secular traditions and even fears of terrorism". What people usually have in mind...
  • 6th August 2017
    By
    Mustafa Habib
    Over the past few weeks, there has been a rash of attacks on medical professionals in Baghdad. It has caused protests, debate, bad memories and more than a few doctors to consider leaving the country. The article below is re-posted from the Niqash website. by Mustafa Habib Last...
  • 2nd August 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    A prominent public relations firm which secured a $1.2 million-a-year contract from Egypt's intelligence apparatus – the mukhabarat – has pulled out of the deal after only seven months. In January, New York-based Weber Shandwick signed a deal with Major General Khaled Fahmy, head of the General...
  • 31st July 2017
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Saudi Arabia has accused Qatar of "declaring war" on the kingdom in a dispute over the hajj – the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. At a press conference yesterday Saudi foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir said Qatar was seeking to "internationalise" the holy sites (Mecca and Medina...

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