Dossier: Shia Islam | Shiite Muslims

An election poster in Afghanistan (photo: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

Interview with Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig


"The violence threshold is low"

Having already served two terms, Afghan President Hamid Karzai cannot run for president in the election in early April. The end of his twelve years in office marks the end of an era for the country. Ulrich von Schwerin spoke to Thomas Ruttig of the "Afghanistan Analysts Network" about the political situation in Afghanistan after over a decade of KarzaiMore

An anti-government protester gestures towards riot police during clashes in the village of Sanabis west of Manama, November 6, 2012. Hundreds of protesters march on the street of the village defying the ban on protests set by Bahrain's Ministy of Interior (photo: Reuters)

The Bahraini Activist Ala'a Shehabi

"We Are Being Spied On"

The Bahraini activist and blogger Ala'a Shehabi is certain that freedom of the press is unattainable in Bahrain, even within the framework of the national dialogue between the country's opposition and the leadership of the royal family. In an interview with Hisham al-Douriush, she tells how she and her colleagues are subject to surveillance by the Bahraini security apparatusMore

King Abdullah and members of the royal family (photo: dpa/picture-alliance)

Saudi Arabia

Facing a Plethora of Fundamental Challenges

The deterioration of Saudi Arabia's political influence has contributed to a growing sense of national decline. King Abdullah's reform efforts have lost steam. An essay by Tarek OsmanMore

Beirut near the Iranian embassy after the attack on 19 November (photo: Reuters)

Hezbollah after the Beirut Attacks

A Battle on Many Fronts

In Syria, Hezbollah is backing the Assad regime in the fight against the rebels, as a way of defending the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance. This has been met with great hostility at home in Lebanon, and is provoking reactions on the Salafist front. Background from Juliane MetzkerMore

Shiite proitestors in Iran in 2013 (photo:

Sunni-Shia Relations

Plea for a Muslim Peace

The Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia-Herzegovina Sheikh Mustafa Cerić looks to the past for lessons on improving Sunni-Shi'a relations in today's Middle East. They are the key to regional stability, he saysMore

Lebanese army troops fighting radical sheikh al-Assir in Sidon (photo: Reuters)

Tension between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon

New Lines of Demarcation

The effects of the war in Syria are being felt in Lebanon. Violent confrontations are flaring up between the Sunnis and the Shiites in a country in which several religious groups have to coexist. And there is no reason to assume that the situation will improve. Mona Naggar reports from BeirutMore

Roxana Saberi (photo: Grenzgänger Fotografie)

Interview with Roxana Saberi on the Elections in Iran

''The Syrian Situation Is Sending a Message to the Iranians''

The Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced to an eight-year prison term on bogus espionage charges in Iran in 2009. She was released following the intervention of US president Barack Obama. Saberi does not believe that the presidential elections in Iran on 14 June will bring major political changes. An interview by Tobias KöberleinMore

Man registering to vote (photo: MEHR)

Iran in the Run-up to the Presidential Election

Electoral Poker in Tehran

The presidential poll this coming June is already shaping up as a final duel between the Islamic Republic's two longest-serving politicians – but also as a directional decision with an open outcome. Marcus Michalsen reportsMore

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsandjani (photo: ILNA)

Iran in the Run-up to Presidential Elections

The Reformers' Swan Song

For Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a man viewed as the architect of the Islamic Republic who was the nation's most powerful figure for two decades, the outcome of presidential elections this coming June has already been decided: The reformers don't stand a chance, as Supreme Leader Khamenei will in any eventuality install his chosen candidate. By Ali SadrzadehMore

Anti-government demonstration in Ramadi, Iraq, in February 2013 (photo: Reuters)

Iraq Ten Years after Saddam

Disenchanted Nation

Ten years after the start of the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi reviews developments in the country and considers whether things are better or worse now than they were before the Allied invasionMore

Photo symbolising an Islamic religion class in a German school (photo: dpa)

Islamic Religion Classes in German schools

Who Decides?

After years of discussion and debate, the first German states are now introducing Islamic religion classes in public schools. However, because there are many different branches of Islam and no central authority to offer guidance, the question as to who should be allowed to decide on teachers and lesson content is leading to serious conflict. By Claudia MendeMore

Christian service in the Serkis Church in Tehran (photo: MEHR)

Turning away from Shia in Iran


''A Tsunami of Atheism''

Iran's moral guardians are concerned: while Islam is increasing in political importance throughout the Arab world, people in the Islamic Republic of Iran are leaving the mosques in droves. As Ali Sadrzadeh found out, young people seem especially susceptible to the attractions of sects or ChristianityMore

Gallows in Iran (photo: MEHR)

Justice in Iran

Petty Criminals Sent to the Gallows

Iran has begun handing down death sentences for robbery – a crime that previously carried much less severe punishments. In socially and politically uncertain times, the regime is increasingly resorting to Draconian measures in the hope that these will serve as a deterrent, reports Stefan BuchenMore

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri (photo: Getty Images)

Reformist Theologians in Iran

The Search for Montazeri's Heirs

Three years since the death of the Shiite dissident, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, there is still no one in Iran who can assume his role as the spiritual authority of the reform movement. Many critical clerics have been silenced since the crushing of protests in 2009. Yet, there is increasing support for efforts to reform Islamic law in the country. By Urs SartowiczMore

Abdolkarim Soroush (photo: ISNA)

Iranian Reformist Thinkers in Exile

More Freedom, Less Impact?

Iran has forced intellectuals and clerics like Abdulkarim Soroush and Mohsen Kadivar into exile. These men once drove the debate about a reform of the political system and religion in Iran. They have found refuge in the West, where they can work, speak, and conduct research more freely. But what influence – if any – do they still have in Iran? By Urs SartowitzMore

King Abdullah surrounded by members of the Saudi royal family (photo: epa/Saudi Press Agency)

Saudi Arabia's Foreign and Security Policy

Categorical Imperative

Saudi Arabia's political maxim is stability for the petrodollar monarchy. Everything else is of secondary importance for the powers that be in Riyadh. But as long as Wahhabism remains the absolute ideology of state, there can be no real unity or real stability in the Saudi Arabian nation. By Loay MudhoonMore