Today in Islamic history: the Battle of the Zab (750)

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Zab, which took place in 750 and was the climactic battle in the Abbasid Revolution that ousted the Umayyads from the caliphate. Obviously you can find out more about the revolution elsewhere on this blog, but…

Today in Middle East history: the Republic of Mahabad is born (1946)

You may not have heard of the Republic of Mahabad. You may not even know anybody else who’s heard of the Republic of Mahabad. Maybe you’re looking askance at this blog right now, wondering if I’m telling the truth. Wondering if I’ve ever told the truth. Well let me assure you that the Republic of… Continue reading Today in Middle East history: the Republic of Mahabad is born (1946)

Today in Middle East history: the Battle of Bakhamra (763)

The various Shiʿa movements that have sprung up over the centuries trace their origins, obviously, to Ali b. Abi Talib, the cousin and son in-law of Muhammad. But apart from that common ancestry there have (again, obviously) been a number of disagreements within the Shiʿa community over which line of descent from Ali was legitimate.… Continue reading Today in Middle East history: the Battle of Bakhamra (763)

Today in Middle East history: Operation Desert Storm begins (1991)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the first airstrikes of Operation Desert Storm, the “oh, it’s just one play on the slots–what could go wrong?” of America’s full-blown gambling addiction to blowing things up in the Middle East. Thanks to YouTube, you kids out there can relive it as it happened, at least “as it… Continue reading Today in Middle East history: Operation Desert Storm begins (1991)

This date in history: January 16

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
I don’t have a long tale to share today, but January 16 is the anniversary of a few important days in Middle East-related history that should be commemorated. On this date in 929, Abd al-Rahman III declared that his Emirate of Cordoba was no more,…

Today in Middle East history: the Arab Spring makes its mark (2011)

The Arab Spring began on December 17, 2010, when a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on the streets of Sidi Bouzid to protest his perceived mistreatment at the hands of a city inspector. The city inspector was probably just doing her job, but Bouazizi’s self-immolation set off a national protest… Continue reading Today in Middle East history: the Arab Spring makes its mark (2011)

The Iran-Saudi pilgrimage dispute has historical precedent

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
Iran has barred its citizens from traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah, or lesser pilgrimage to Mecca, which is the recommended-but-not-obligatory pilgrimage that can be performed any time (as opposed to the obligatory Hajj, which has to be performed during the annual Hajj).…