Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, left, speaks during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, prior to their working lunch at the Elysee palace in Paris, April 29, 2021 (AP photo by Lewis Joly).

As the world held its breath for the results of France’s presidential election on Sunday, another pivotal vote took place elsewhere in the European Union. Voters in Slovenia chose a new government, and there, as in France, the result was a harsh blow to the far right. An election in Slovenia, a small country of just 2 million people, may seem like a minor sideshow on the geopolitical stage, but its significance should not be underestimated. It’s undeniable that a far-right victory in France could have proven calamitous for the EU and for the prospects of democracy around the world. […]

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company,
near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Sebastian
Scheiner).

The international trade in digital surveillance tools has long been controversial, particularly their sale to repressive governments that have allegedly used them to target dissidents and journalists. That controversy reached a new level last year, when a handful of Israeli cyber firms were accused of selling highly sophisticated spyware to authoritarian regimes. One firm, in particular, the NSO Group, became the focus of an international investigative consortium, composed of 17 leading media organizations, including the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and Haaretz, as well as Amnesty International and a media nonprofit. The consortium’s dozens of articles detailing its investigation were further amplified […]

A woman holds up a banner during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia, April 10, 2022 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

In the fall of 2012, as Syria plunged into civil war and the Eurozone crisis generated panic across global markets, a parliamentary election in Ukraine signaled trouble ahead to those who were paying attention. The results that trickled out on Oct. 28, 2012, indicated that then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions had secured a strong position through dubious constitutional maneuvers and ballot manipulation. In the aftermath of the elections, Yanukovych’s corrupt and Russia-friendly clique tried to bend Ukraine to their whims. The simmering discontent among large parts of the population over Yanukovych’s power grab was the first escalation in political […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

The government of Rwanda announced earlier this month what it described as a “migration and economic development partnership” with the United Kingdom, in which the U.K. claims it would send migrants who had reached British territory to Rwanda for processing of their asylum claims for possible settlement in the U.K. But in practical terms, the asylum seekers will be transported to Rwanda permanently. Almost immediately after the agreement was announced, it came under fire, with critics calling London’s role in it a legally dubious violation of international humanitarian norms that treats human beings like commodities, all to help the U.K. “outsource its refugee problems.” But […]

An anti-government protester waves a Lebanese flag in front of a burning barricade on a road leading to the parliament building, Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

The events of recent years have made it increasingly clear that the assault on human rights and democracy in the West and the Middle East are not merely parallel phenomena—they are directly connected. As both regions experience an intense surge of authoritarianism as well as the resulting popular resistance to it, it’s imperative for sound analysis and policymaking to identify the dynamics linking today’s crises across national borders and geographic regions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with exceptionalism and the limitations of regional frameworks, after decades of writing about the Middle East and U.S. policy there. And […]

Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Wali Sabawoon).

A month ago, when all eyes were on the war in Ukraine, the Taliban quietly reneged on their promise to put school-age girls back in classrooms. This followed a six-month period in which women faced crippling restrictions on their employment, freedom of movement, dress, access to healthcare and participation in sports, plus gender-based violence, torture and arrest if they protested. But the international community’s initial response—to pull humanitarian aid, for instance—threatens to make matters even worse. Since the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021, U.S. government agencies and representatives, like the wider international donor community, have been struggling to determine how best to support women’s human rights in […]

A man walks past a wall with posters depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Warsaw, Poland, March 24, 2022 (AP Photo by Petr David Josek).

Today’s standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine can be traced back to 2004, a little more than a decade after the end of the Cold War. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin was just embarking on his second term, and he began nurturing a cult of personality, voicing grievances about perceived threats on Russia’s security perimeter, and positioning himself as the defender of Russia’s great power status. By some accounts, Putin’s sense that Russia is under threat goes back to historic invasions of Russia: Batu Khan’s in the 13th century, Karl the XII’s in the 18th, Napoleon’s […]

Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks on Dec. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City (AP photo by Rick Bowmer).

Earlier this month, the American Library Association released a list of the “top 10 banned books” of 2021 to mark an unprecedented surge in attempts to drop books from school curricula in the United States. The list included best-selling titles such as “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, which have been criticized for, respectively, “providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content” and for promoting an “anti-police message.” Book banning is not a new phenomenon. Adam Laats, a historian of American education, told Vox that when it comes to book banning, “history repeats itself.” Since the early […]

Customers look through empty shelves at a supermarket in Shanghai, China, March 30, 2022 (AP photo by Chen Si).

Shanghai is gradually easing the draconian lockdown it implemented since late March following the largest nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. The extended shutdown led to widespread shortages of food and supplies across China, triggering an uproar against the country’s “Zero-COVID” policy. But with the number of daily infections topping 20,000 this week and the virus spreading to other provinces across the country, China is far from out of the woods. The two-phase lockdown was originally supposed to last four days each for Pudong and then Puxi, which comprise the city on either side of the Huangpu River. But it […]

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Editor’s Note: This article contains descriptions of police abuse, abduction and torture. The soldiers arrived at the Kampala home of Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, the award-winning Ugandan novelist, on a mid-afternoon in late December. Armed with machine guns and sledgehammers, they beat him and dragged him out, shoving him into the backseat of an unmarked car. The writer, desperate, attempted to call a lawyer, but his phone was swiftly confiscated by his captors. Rukirabashaija spent the next two weeks in the bowels of a detention facility, where he was tortured daily. He emerged 26 pounds lighter and unable to walk on his own, […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with Yogi Adityanath during the latter’s swearing-in ceremony as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state in Lucknow, India, March 25, 2022 (AP photo by Rajesh Kumar Singh).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, put on an extraordinary performance in recent state elections, winning 4 out of the 5 states that went to the polls in February and March. Not only did the BJP manage to win reelection in the states of Goa and Uttarakhand, despite polls suggesting high levels of anti-incumbent sentiment, it also put on a commanding performance in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with a population of over 200 million and nearly one-sixth of the country’s population. This allowed incumbent Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a hardline Hindu monk and BJP member, to become […]

A demonstrator holds a poster outside the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022 (AP photo by Valentin Bianchi).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unexpectedly put the issue of European Union enlargement back into the spotlight. But whereas before the war, most of the focus when it came to new EU membership was on the Balkans, now all eyes are on Ukraine. For those hoping that the EU would respond to the war by acting on Kyiv’s emergency membership bid, the EU’s summit conclusions on March 25 made for disappointing reading. The wide-ranging discussions covered various potential responses to the Russian invasion, among them sanctions on Russia’s energy exports to Europe, various proposals to support Ukraine’s military effort and a […]

Workers work at Lusail Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Lusail, Qatar, Dec. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Last week, the draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup stoked the excitement of football fans worldwide. But it also reignited debates about the appropriateness of the event’s host, Qatar, which has frequently come under fire for human rights abuses. Gareth Southgate, the manager of the English national football team, reportedly hosted meetings with his current squad in order to discuss how the team could show its opposition to Qatar’s human rights abuses. Unsurprisingly, news of this meeting was poorly received by the CEO of the Qatari partnership that is organizing the tournament, Nasser al-Khater, who urged Southgate to “pick his words carefully.” Full disclosure: I […]

Protesters wearing masks portraying Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stand behind a mock jail during a rally near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, March 8, 2022 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Although the actual election isn’t for another six weeks, current polling suggests Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is all but a lock to succeed Rodrigo Duterte as the Philippines’ next president. Marcos, a former senator and son of the late longtime Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., has opened up a massive lead against his nearest challenger, current Vice President Leni Robredo. A survey released by the respected Pulse Asia in March found that Marcos led Robredo by a whopping 44 points, with 60 percent of respondents expressing a preference for him. That actually increased his polling lead by 11 points from a prior Pulse Asia […]