Remembering Rosemary Hollis (1952-2020)

Professor Rosemary Hollis, a highly respected authority on the Middle East, died suddenly last week. Rosy is remembered with great respect and affection, as a colleague and a friend.

News release Published 12 June 2020 Updated 24 November 2020 2 minute READ

It was with shock and sadness that the directors and staff at Chatham House learned of the sudden death last week of Rosemary Hollis at her home in London.

Rosemary was a major influencing force in the study and understanding of the Middle East throughout her career, including during her time at Chatham House overseeing our work on the region and, latterly, as the institute’s Director of Research.

Rosemary led Chatham House’s Middle East Programme between 1995-2008, publishing her analysis regularly, chairing high-profile meetings, including with Mohammed Khatami, President of Iran, and Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, travelling regularly to the region, and establishing deep relationships with governments and institutions across many countries.

Rosemary built and led an outstanding team of Middle East specialists, establishing Chatham House as the lead UK institution for policy on the region. One of her main achievements was convening a long-running series of events addressing the regional dimensions of the fate of Palestinian refugees.

These generated a remarkable repository of learning and a valuable network of connections. She also led frequent high-level Track II diplomatic meetings with extraordinary skill and energy, including charged and difficult conversations concerning Iran, Libya and Syria.

In the lead-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, Rosemary led workshops with US counterparts, government personnel, the military and business experts. In their reports they explored scenarios for ‘the day after’ a military invasion, with warnings – conveyed in briefings to the UK government including prime minister Tony Blair – that the fallout would destabilize Iraq, the region and beyond.

Dr Robin Niblett, Director and Chief Executive, Chatham House, said: ‘Rosemary’s untimely passing robs the world of one of the most thoughtful and well-informed voices on the politics of the Middle East. Rosy’s work was highly regarded across the region, whether by governments or their critics, as well as in the UK, US and Europe.

‘I also know from many colleagues at the institute how unremittingly supportive she was of them in their early careers. This alone would be a proud legacy for Rosemary, but it stands alongside the deep respect and recognition she gained for her knowledge of, and passion for, the peoples and politics of the Middle East.’

Dr Lina Khatib, Research Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House, said: ‘Rosy had boundless energy and enthusiasm and she gave many early career scholars their first professional opportunity in the think tank world. She achieved much in her life and undoubtedly did an immense and positive amount for Chatham House’s work and reputation in the region.

‘Rosy set in motion what the Middle East and North Africa Programme has become today, and for that I will always be grateful. I will miss her kind words and support.’

Rosemary Hollis was born in 1952 in Dudley, in the West Midlands, England. She graduated from King’s College, London, with a BA in History in 1974 and MA in War Studies in 1975 and gained a PhD in Political Science from George Washington University, Washington DC where she also lectured in Political Science and International Affairs between 1980-89.

She held positions at the Royal United Services Institute between 1990-95 and at Chatham House between 1995-2008. Between 2008 and until her retirement in 2018, she joined City University, London, where she was Director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme and Professor of Middle East Policy Studies.

Her most recent book, Surviving the Story: The Narrative Trap in Israel and Palestine, was published in 2019.

Rosemary is remembered at Chatham House with great respect and affection, as a colleague and a friend.

Selected Writing


What next for the Middle East?
May 2014

Dr Robert Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Professor Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate, Carnegie Middle East Centre
Chair: Professor Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, City University

Can the Two-State Solution Be Saved?
July 2013

Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland (1994-2000); Nobel Peace Laureate, 2008
Lakhdar Brahimi, United Nations-Arab League Special Representative to Syria
Jimmy Carter, President of the United States (1977-81); Nobel Peace Laureate, 2002
Chair: Professor Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, City University

Other links


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