This blog is maintained by myself, Hugh Pope, to fulfil a 2013 New Year’s resolution to create a small archive of my favourite pieces published in newspapers and magazines.
Some of them will I hope go a long way back. My writing began a month after I finished studying Persian and Arabic at Oxford University in 1982, when I bought a one-way ticket to Damascus with a suitcase, haversack, and my grandmother’s gift of an Olympia typewriter. For 25 years I worked as a foreign correspondent in and around the Middle East.
The pieces I hope to post result from a wide variety of jobs, not just writing for different publications but from my various roles as a fixer, Arabic translator, radio monitor, radio telex operator, photographer, radio spot maker, commentator, TV interviewee and editor. I started out with the Egyptian Gazette in the days when it was still composed by compositors working with lead letters, then went to the news agencies United Press International and Reuters, moved on to London’s Independent newspaper and ended spending a total of a decade with the Wall Street Journal in the broader Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia.
I set out one version of my experiences in my book Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East. It tries to paint a first-hand portrait of the region and what makes it tick (to read some of the Syria reportage, for instance, click here), as well as to explain how hard it is for reporters to explain events to western audiences and to change their often pre-conceived perceptions. It’s available in French as Rendez-vous avec al-Qaida.
My previous book is called Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World (Overlook, New York 2005), which follows my journeys in two dozen countries from Central Asia to West Virginia insearch of the essence of Turkishness. It was an Economist magazine ‘book of the year’, and Foreign Affairs magazine listed it top of 20 titles that it judged essential to read to understand Turkish politics. It has been translated into Turkish (Vatan Kitap, 2005) and Dutch (Atlas/Olympus 2006) and a French version was published in 2011 (Fils de conquerants, Presses de l’univeriste Laval).
My first book is called Turkey Unveiled: A history of modern Turkey (John Murray/Overlook Duckworth, 1997-2004), and is a New York Times ‘notable book’. Co-authored with my first wife Nicole Pope, it has been translated into Turkish.
I started studying Persian and Arabic at Oxford University in 1978, and have lived in my home base of Istanbul, Turkey since 1987. During this time I have been deeply involved in and have reported from 30 countries in the broader Middle East. Since 2007 I have worked as the Turkey/Cyprus Project Director for International Crisis Group, the conflict prevention organization, specializing in reports on the triangle of disputes between Turkey, Cyprus and the European Union. My op-eds and other work for Crisis Group can be followed here.