SOAS University of London

February-March Edition of The Middle East in London Hits Newsstands

6 February 2012
Middle East in London Cover February-March 2012

The The February-March Edition of The Middle East in London, the bi-monthly magazine of the London Middle East Institute, is now available.

The magazine is a leading resource on Middle Eastern communities in London. It includes event, film and book reviews, as well as original articles on cultural, political, economic and other issues that affect these communities.

If you search newspaper headlines on Iran since the elections of 2009 they make for a grim read. So far this year, in January alone, little seems to have changed: Why Iran could start the next global recession (January 5), Iranian court sentences 'CIA agent' to death (January 9), Iran bans MPs from standing for re-election to parliament (January 10), Iran nuclear scientist killed in Tehran motorbike bomb attack (January 11), UK businessman loses extradition fight overalleged export of arms to Iran (January 13). The Middle East in London this month goes some way to present another face of Iran, while not entirely overlooking the first. Our attention is drawn to the sober side of the current situation in Iran vis-à-vis the West by Lord Lamont’s analysis of the political cost of sanctions, while the writer and journalist Azadeh Moaveni explores the war waged by the Iranian government against its citizens' use of the internet.

A magazine issue on Iran at this time of year would be incomplete without highlighting the Norouz festival of the New Year – a national day, with its roots in pre-Islamic Iran that today transcends geopolitical boundaries. Iranians both religious and secular, as well as communities living in the ‘Persianate world’, celebrate Norouz in the various ways that it has evolved through the centuries, including in its most ancient and traditional forms. Both the historical and the contemporary approaches to this festival are outlined in this issue by Rashna Writer and Baqer Moin respectively.

Poetry, cinema and painting bear witness to the continued creative engagement with the arts by Iranians, whether living in Iran or abroad. The artistic contributions by Iranians in Britain are oft en viewed as a fusion of the two cultures. The accuracy of this assumption is considered in the interview with the painter and sculptor Shirazeh Houshiary and the work of the poet Mimi Khalvati.

As usual, the magazine offers an insight into the Middle Eastern love affair with its cuisine and the ritual preparation of food, whether for a special occasion or in a bustling market cafe. Sally Butcher looks at the history and rich variety of traditional vegetarian food from the region which has established its own place on the London culinary scene.

In the review section Ionis Thompson takes us behind the scenes of the much anticipated Hajj exhibition at the British Museum, which gives a comprehensive, visual account of the journey, the rituals and what it means for those who have undertaken the pilgrimage to Mecca. All other forthcoming Middle East related programmes are as usual listed in the Events in London section.

It is with immense sadness that we mark the death of Sandy Morton with an obituary by George Lane. Sandy will long be remembered at SOAS and beyond with great affection and held in high esteem for his contribution to many fields of Persian studies. A memorial service will be held for him at St George's Bloomsbury on February 9 at 4pm, followed by a reception.

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