One Thousand and One Stories
I am also a consultant to the Swedish Institute.
Previously I have worked as a Turkey and MENA correspondent for the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (2001-2012). I was awarded the Swedish Publisher's Great Award in 2008 (Publicistklubbens stora pris).
For three years (2013-2015) I was a self employed journalist and writer, contributing to various publications, giving lectures, commenting current events in panel debates, Swedish radio and TV. I also moderate debates, sometimes in English. For more info, check this link.
In 2014 my book Gulfen – en framtida krutdurk, featuring the six GCC monarchies, with a special focus on Saudi Arabia, was published (in Swedish, see picture). The first edition is sold out. An updated edition was released in 2015.
I am also the co-author of several other books. The latest is about the possibilities for non-violent resistance in times of wars, conflict and terror.
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 decided to become a journalist while I was working as a librarian at Bir Zeit University on the occupied West Bank 1982-1983, before the first intifada.
I have 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.
I have interviewed Asian migrant workers who have been deprived of their rights in the Gulf countries; women in shelters who live in fear of being killed in honorary crimes in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan; tormented refugees in squalid tent camps in many countries; victims of wars; revolutionaries and rebels, plus presidents, princes and kings in their palaces. I have reported from many hot spots – including Gaza, Iraq, Syria and Libya – throughout the years.
I have interviewed Hamas former prime minister Ismael Hanieyh (2014), Turkey’s Abdullah Gül while he was the president (2013), Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad (2010), Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (2009), the late grand ayatollah Fadlallah in Lebanon (2005), Jordan’s king Abdullah II (2003), Turkey's strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2002) while he was stilled banned from running for parliament, and Israel’s Shimon Peres just before the declaration of the Oslo accords (1993).
I have also interviewed many outstanding 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 and Yaşar Kemal – as well as some of the most courageous advocates for human rights.
In Istanbul I met the Turkish-Armenian editor-in-cheif Hrant Dink. Sadly he was murdered a few weeks after my interview. In Iran and Saudi Arabia I have met with many women's rights defenders.
In Saudi Arabia I interviewed the founders of two human rights organizations, Dr Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani (in 2011) and the lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair (in 2013), an Olof Palme Laureate. They were both later sentenced to horrendous terms in prison (10 and 15 years respectively) – for their peaceful activities as HR defenders.
During the Arab Spring I covered popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. I reported from Saudi Arabia during these days of turmoil. I have covered Turkey since the early 90’s, including eight elections.
I have worked with many fantastic photographers like my former colleagues at Svenska Dagbladet, Malin Hoelstad, Yvonne Åsell, Dan Hansson, as well as with excellent free lance photo journalists like Fadi Yeni Turk from Lebanon, plus Martin Edström and Stefan Bladh from Sweden. Stefan Bladh also kindly contributed to this site with several of his outstanding pictures from our joint travels.
My husband and frequent travel companion Per Luthander, a free lance after a long career as a reporter at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, contributed with many pictures to my articles, as well as to my book on the monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula. I have also had many of my own pictures published, when I have been a traveling reporter on my own.
Below is 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 and very elementary Turkish.