What We Are Reading Today: State of Repression — Iraq Under Saddam Hussein

Updated 13 July 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: State of Repression — Iraq Under Saddam Hussein

  • In her book in State of Repression, Lisa Blaydes challenges this belief by showing that the country’s breakdown was far from inevitable.  

How did Iraq become one of the most repressive dictatorships of the late twentieth century? The conventional wisdom about Iraq’s modern political history is that the country was doomed by its diverse social fabric. But in State of Repression, Lisa Blaydes challenges this belief by showing that the country’s breakdown was far from inevitable.  

Drawing on archival material captured from the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba’th Party in the wake of the 2003 US invasion, Blaydes illuminates the complexities of political life in Iraq, including why certain Iraqis chose to collaborate with the regime while others worked to undermine it, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

She demonstrates that, despite the Ba’thist regime’s pretensions to political hegemony, its frequent reliance on collective punishment of various groups reinforced and cemented identity divisions.

At the same time, a series of costly external shocks to the economy—resulting from fluctuations in oil prices and Iraq’s war with Iran—weakened the capacity of the regime to monitor, co-opt, coerce, and control factions of Iraqi society.

In addition to calling into question the common story of modern Iraqi politics, State of Repression offers a new explanation of why and how dictators repress their people in ways that can inadvertently strengthen regime opponents.


What We Are Reading Today: Design Magazine: Spirituality, by Raghad Alahmad

Updated 19 July 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Design Magazine: Spirituality, by Raghad Alahmad

I obtained a copy of Design Magazine by chance while covering an art event in Jeddah. I was mesmerized by the cover, designed by artist Raghad Alahmad: A recreational tree, people who look like they have come out of a book on the Islamic era, and a very catchy yellow background.

Issue 55 covers numerous topics, beginning with an interview with an interior designer and her passion for Islamic art, “not only for its beauty, but for the many stories each artifact and monument carries.” 

This is followed by a piece on the night lights of Islam’s capital Makkah, and how time plays a part in its significance.

The brains behind the magazine, Kholoud Attar, has worked with artists and designers to shed light on the scene in Saudi Arabia, and to discover unknown talents.