Christopher de Bellaigue was born in London in 1971 and has worked as a journalist in the Middle East and South Asia since 1994. His first book, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. His latest book is Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup. He lives in Tehran with his wife and two children.
Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam an exhibition at the British Museum, London, January 26–April 15, 2012
Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World an exhibition at the British Museum, London,
Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History by Thomas Barfield
Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic by Ray Takeyh
Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia Catalog of the exhibition edited by John Curtis and Nigel Tallis
The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America by Kenneth M. Pollack
The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876å?1909 by Selim Deringil
AtatÌ?rk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History selected and presented by Bernard Lewis
Iran: Comment sortir d’une revolution religieuse by Farhad Khosrokhavar, by Olivier Roy
Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran by Ziba Mir-Hosseini
Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah by Baqer Moin
Being Modern in Iran by Fariba Adelkhah, Translated from the French by Jonathan Derrick
Turkey’s Kurdish Question by Henri J. Barkey, by Graham E. Fuller
Exactly two years have passed since the self-immolation of a fruit-seller in a depressed provincial town spurred Tunisians to topple their authoritarian president. But the mood on the anniversary of that richly symbolic martyrdom is somber, even defeatist. To many Tunisians, the goals that animated the revolution no longer seem within reach.
The world has changed a great deal since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003–thanks in part to that invasion and to the earlier invasion of Afghanistan. And yet, watching President Barack Obama welcome home the troops at Fort Bragg on December 14, and the media coverage of that event, it struck me that one thing has not changed. Despite the vast expenses incurred by news organizations following the occupation, and the considerable time that politicians in Washington spent debating its merits, many Americans continue to see in Iraq a reflection of their own country’s ideals and contradictions. They will remember Iraq as an American trauma. But it was, above all, an Iraqi trauma.
Here is a map of Afghanistan. Versions of it adorn conference rooms in military bases, ministry buildings and NGO headquarters. The first question it raises is: “Why does Afghanistan exist?”