A leading journalist travels through the hot spots of the Middle East and Central Asia, from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria and Egypt.
Winner of the Ottawa Book Award for English Non-Fiction, 2013
Less than a year before 9/11, Michael Petrou trekked through al Qaeda’s backyard in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. He was back in Central Asia within weeks of the attacks – this time as a reporter, slipping into Afghanistan as rockets and tracer bullets lit up the night sky, carrying notebooks, stolen blankets, and a satellite phone.
In the decade that followed, Petrou has returned repeatedly to the greater Middle East, where political Islam, liberalism, ethnic and religious nationalism, and Western military intervention shape and batter the lives of those who live there. In the process, Petrou has established himself as one of Canada’s premier foreign correspondents.
Petrou details a world in the midst of great turmoil and tells the stories of people who have long been held down by dictatorship and extremism and who are finally beginning to shake themselves free.
Michael Petrou, an award-winning senior writer at Maclean's, has covered wars and conflicts across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. He is the author of Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, and he holds a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford. Petrou lives in Ottawa.
"Petrou is a wonderful storyteller and the book is replete with intriguing vignettes of the multitude of people he worked with, and against."
…a searing medley of gritty narratives…
Petrou’s clandestine travels in Iran and his visits with that country’s diverse and far-flung underground of brave democrats, intellectuals and dissidents provide an exceedingly rare insight into the workings of the Khomeinist police state... But it’s Petrou’s dispatches from the front lines of the “first war” of the book’s title, the freedom struggle that Canadians usually call the “war in Afghanistan,” that lend the book its heft.
One of Canada’s leading foreign correspondents presents a searing medley of gritty narratives drawn from a decade of reporting across the greater Middle East... The human narratives, in their unpredictable and subjective particularity, are collectively compelling.