One Thousand and One Stories

Middle East analyst

Since August 2018 I work as a Middle East Analyst at FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency, at the Asia and Middle East Programme.

I am also a Senior Associate Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI).

Previously, 2017–2018, I was the Head of the Middle East & North Africa program at UI.

I have been a Senior Advisor to the Swedish Institute on Middle East issues, 2016–2017. The role of the Swedish Institute, SI, is to promote interest and confidence in Sweden around the world.

JOURNALIST, EDITOR, WRITER

For more than 30 years I worked as a journalist, mainly at the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, where I was the Turkey and Middle East Correspondent for twelve years, 2001–2012, partly based in Beirut and Istanbul. In 2013-2015, I was a freelance.

In 2016–2018 worked as the Editor and Publisher of Utrikesmagasinet, the online magazine of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

published author

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In 2014 my book Gulfen – en framtida krutdurk (The Gulf - a future tinderbox) featuring the six monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula, with a special focus on Saudi Arabia, was published (in Swedish, see picture). The first edition was sold out. An updated edition was released in 2015. 

I am the co-author of several edited books. One from 2016, Ickevåldets vägar: fred i terrorns tid (Marcus förlag) discusses the possibilities for non-violent resistance in times of wars, conflict and terror. The book is written together with Professor Isak Svensson at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Joel Halldorf, Associate Professor of Church History at the Stockholm School of Theology and Sofia Walan from the Study center Bilda.

I have also contributed to an edited book about the rise of ISIS/Daesh (2016), on the uprising in about Syria (2015) and about the Arab Spring in Egypt (2011).

Awards: 

Swedish Publisher's Great Award in 2008 (Publicistklubbens stora pris).

Argus Prize of Humanities 2017 (Arguspriset) by the Royal Society for Human Sciences in Uppsala. More about the award here (in Swedish). 

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Titles in English:

Authoritarian at home – Impulsive abroad: President Erdogan's foreign policy in the Middle East 

UI Brief, No 7, 2018.

The UI Brief can be downloaded for free on this link. It is an extended and elaborated version of a chapter on Turkey under Erdogan that I wrote for the e-book The Future of the Middle East, edited by Alastair Newton and Hugh Miles (2017).

It also appeared in Global Policy Journal and Arab Digest:

An Impulsive Actor in the Middle East. 

Background

I have traveled in the MENA region since I was young in the 70’s, first heading to Morocco and later to Lebanon during the civil war. I have also worked as a librarian at Bir Zeit University on the occupied West Bank in 1982-1983. During this period I decided to become a journalist.

As a correspondent for many years and later as a free lance I reported from Morocco in the West to Iran in the East, from Sudan and Oman in the South to Turkey in the North – plus the remote Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabach. During the 90’s I was Political and EU Affairs reporter of Svenska Dagbladet.

I have reported from many hot spots, wars and conflicts throughout the years. I covered the Arab Spring in 2011, traveling between Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya and Syria.

I have interviewed many high profile political actors, such as Hamas former prime minister Ismael Hanieyh (Gaza, 2014), Turkey’s Abdullah Gül while he was the president (Ankara, 2013), Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad (Damascus, 2010), Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (Damascus, 2009), the late grand ayatollah Fadlallah (Beirut, 2005), Jordan’s king Abdullah II (Amman, 2003), Turkey's strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Ankara, 2002) while he was stilled banned from running for parliament (Stockholm 2003), and Israel’s Shimon Peres just before the declaration of the Oslo accords (1993). 

 Picture from my interview with the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh, in March 2011. He was a highly respected personality in Saudi Arabia, calling for social reform while still in the Kingdom, and later, during his time in exile, calling for political reform and freedom of expression. He was savagely murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.  When I met him for the first time he had his office at the very top of the landmark Kingdom Center in Riyadh – a sign of what an outstanding position he used to have. Photo: Per Luthander

Picture from my interview with the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh, in March 2011. He was a highly respected personality in Saudi Arabia, calling for social reform while still in the Kingdom, and later, during his time in exile, calling for political reform and freedom of expression. He was savagely murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

When I met him for the first time he had his office at the very top of the landmark Kingdom Center in Riyadh – a sign of what an outstanding position he used to have. Photo: Per Luthander

 With Hrant Dink in his office in Istanbul in late November 2006, while he was under threat. He was murdered outside his office a few weeks later.

With Hrant Dink in his office in Istanbul in late November 2006, while he was under threat. He was murdered outside his office a few weeks later.

I have also interviewed many prominent writers from the MENA region – like Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Fatima Mernissi, Ahdaf Soueif, Alaa al-Aswany, Samar Yazbek, David Grossman, Orhan Pamuk, Yaşar Kemal – as well as the prominent journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Hrant Dink, who were both brutally murdered (2007 and 2018) because of what they wrote. I have also met some of the most courageous advocates for human and women's rights. Many of them in Iran, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

I have covered Turkey since the early 90’s, including eight elections. 

Cooperation with photo journalists

I have had the pleasure to work with many fine photographers like former colleagues at Svenska Dagbladet, Malin Hoelstad, Yvonne Åsell, Dan Hansson and Jurek Holzer, as well as with excellent free lance photo journalists like Fadi Yeni Turk from Lebanonplus Martin Edström and Stefan Bladh from Sweden.

Stefan Bladh kindly contributed to this site with several of his outstanding pictures from our joint travels. The picture above, by Stefan Bladh, is from our travel to rebel held territory in Syria in 2013.

My husband and frequent travel companion Per Luthander, who has had a long career as a reporter at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, contributed with his pictures to many of my articles. I also had many of my own pictures published, when I was a traveling reporter on my own.

Public speaker

I often comment current events for Swedish media, as well as speak or moderate public debates on issues related to the Middle East, often in cooperation with other organizations. Two examples below (in English):

Geopolitical Realignements: Turkey in an Unstable Region.

Seminar co-organized by UI and Stockholm University Institute of Turkish Studies (SUITS). In the panel Marc Pierini, former EU Ambassador i Ankara, now at Carnegie Europe; Michael Sahlin, former Swedish Ambassador in Ankara, now a fellow at SUITS, and my self. Moderator: Paul T Levin, director of SUITS. The entire seminar is available on YouTube: 

Below a video recording in English from the Cathedral of Visby in June 2015, a discussion about The Middle East beyond the headlines, with me, the Yemeni-Swedish blogger Afrah Nasser and the Swedish diplomat Jan Henningsson, moderated by Erik Lysén,  from the Church of Sweden. 

Languages spoken: Swedish, English, German, French and Spanish. Plus basic Arabic.