Middle East

A rebel stronghold on the southern edge of Damascus, the Syrian suburb of Daraya, was violently isolated by the Assad regime for almost four years – a ruthlessly protracted attempt to starve out the city’s pro-democracy insurgency. Power and water supplies were cut, crops were burned, and humanitarian aid was barred. There was no food, no medicine, and no way out.

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The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era by Lin Noueihed and Alex Warren & Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi by Alison Pargeter

by
September 2012, no. 344

The danger in writing about unfolding dramas is that they keep unfolding, potentially stranding both writer and reader. Not so with these two fine books, whose authors have long experience of the Middle East. Quite different in scope – a sweep of the Arab world contrasting with the ascent and decay of Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal régime – they deal with past, present, and possible future events in a lucid, compelling way. Anyone with an interest in what is at stake in the Middle East would be well advised to read them.

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‘Arab France’ will immediately suggest to some readers debates about the wearing of Muslim headscarves in public schools and, more generally, about the place of North African migrants in contemporary French life, as well as the riots that erupted in 2005 in suburbs with substantial Arabic populations ...

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It has been raining all week, persistent drizzle unlike the brief downpours that are more typical of Beirut. The city is slumbering. I am staying with my parents. My father goes out less often. My mother is snuggled under the blankets. She hopes the war won’t happen. The kettle is boiling like a purring cat. The house is quiet. Rain is the soporific of cities.

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