One Thousand and One Stories
I work at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) as the head of the Institute's Middle East & North Africa program – often contributing with analysis and comments to the public debate on Turkey and the MENA region. Latest seminar in English:
Geopolitical Realignements: Turkey in an Unstable Region. Co-arranged 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 Levin, director of SUITS. See all the seminar on YouTube:
In June 2017, the Global Policy Journal and Arab Digest published an article I wrote about Turkey under Erdogan
My article also appears as a chapter in the e-book The Future of the Middle East, edited by Alastair Newton and Hugh Miles.
For twelve years I 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).
In 2017 I was awarded the Argus Prize of Humanities (Arguspriset) by the Royal Society for Human Sciences in Uppsala. More about the award here (in Swedish).
For. three years, 2013-2015, I was a self employed journalist and writer, contributing to various publications, giving lectures, commenting current affairs 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 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 also the co-author of several edited books. The latest (2016) 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. While working as a librarian at Bir Zeit University on the occupied West Bank in 1982-1983, before the first intifada, I decided to become a journalist.
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 are 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, wars and conflicts – including Gaza, Iraq, Syria and Libya – throughout the years.
I 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 courageous Turkish-Armenian editor-in-cheif Hrant Dink just a few weeks before he was murdered. In Iran and Saudi Arabia I have met with many women's rights defenders.
In Saudi Arabia I interviewed 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 days of turmoil. I have covered Turkey since the early 90’s, including eight elections.
I have had the pleasure to work with many fine photographers like my 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 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. 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, a free lance after a long career as a reporter at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, contributed with pictures to many of 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 traveling as a 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.