Egyptian farmer Makhluf Abu Kassem, center, sits with farmers under the shade of a dried-up palm tree in Fayoum, Egypt, Aug. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan has long been a hotbed of civil unrest and instability. In 1979, at the height of the Islamic Revolution led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, segments of the province’s large minority Arab population led a violent push for autonomy. The oil-rich province on the border of Iraq was also at the center of the first major offensive in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. In 2005, a wave of bomb attacks set off by Arab separatists rocked Khuzestan’s provincial capital, Ahvaz. Six years later, in 2011, an Iranian government crackdown on protests inspired by […]

A protester holds a sign with “Resign, Thief” printed over a portrait of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the National Palace in Guatemala City, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The Biden administration’s strategy to combat mass migration from Central America by tackling its “root causes” just suffered a harsh blow in Guatemala with the ouster of the country’s top anti-corruption official. Juan Francisco Sandoval, the respected chief prosecutor in the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, known by its Spanish acronym FECI, was fired Friday and promptly fled the country, fearing for his life.   Sandoval’s ouster prompted street protests and demands for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Above all, Sandoval’s dismissal, and his belief that he might be killed if he remained in […]

Members of the Lithuanian Police Anti-terrorist Operations Unit ARAS arrive at the refugee camp in the village of Vydeniai, Lithuania, July 10, 2021 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Months after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko effectively hijacked a plane in order to arrest a Belarusian dissident, and weeks into a crisis in which he is encouraging migrants to cross Belarus’ shared border with the European Union as retaliation for Western sanctions, Brussels still has no plan for how to deescalate tensions with Minsk. Lithuanian […]

Anti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021 (AP photo by Eliana Aponte).

When I became a correspondent covering the Caribbean and portions of Latin America—my first overseas job for the New York Times—in the spring of 1990, Cuba’s then-leader Fidel Castro already seemed like an antiquated figure to many observers, a literal greybeard at the age of 63. This impression was accentuated for me in part due to the youthfulness of his country’s population, not to mention my own. It also derived from political history, as well as the geopolitical context of the moment. Castro had already been in power since 1959, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. […]

Candles on the graves of people killed during the Syrian war, in the town of Qamishli, Syria, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by a civil war that has seen numerous atrocities committed against its civilian population, including torture and war crimes. In the face of such abuses, there have repeatedly been calls for accountability. But how can perpetrators be held accountable, and by whom?  In criminal law, including international criminal law, the state is primarily responsible for seeking and carrying out justice. But the idea that the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad would hold credible trials—especially into his regime’s own conduct—is fantastical at best.  Another option, then, might be to seek accountability through the International Criminal […]

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, puts goggles over his eyes during a post-launch news briefing from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021 (AP photo by Tony Gutierrez).

Last week, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, journeyed to the edge of space in a Blue Origin rocket christened the New Shepard. Bezos’ trip came only nine days after his fellow billionaire Richard Branson had done the same in a Virgin Galactic space plane.  So, what else is new? Wealthy industrialists have always enjoyed building themselves expensive toys. Think Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose. What sets these voyages apart is their techno-utopianism. Bezos and Branson, along with Space X founder Elon Musk, are the modern avatars of Icarus. They believe that humanity’s destiny lies not on terra firma but in the heavens—and that exploring, exploiting […]

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo attends a mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, June 20, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

After being away for a decade while on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, former President Laurent Gbagbo returned home on June 17 to Cote d’Ivoire, where he was greeted by jubilant crowds. A few months earlier, on March 31, ICC judges confirmed the acquittal of Gbagbo and his co-defendant, former Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude. They had faced charges of inciting violence and committing human rights abuses during the electoral violence that took place in the aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed 2010 election.  The 76-year-old Gbagbo continued to exercise influence even during his absence, and […]

Young minors lie inside a pod at a detention center for unaccompanied children run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Donna, Texas, March 30, 2021 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

Over the past few weeks, activists led by former border patrol agent turned refugee advocate Jenn Budd gathered at Fort Bliss military base outside El Paso, Texas, to protest the continued detention of children, many of them unaccompanied, in crowded conditions while they await asylum hearings. The protests are a continuation of direct action sparked off two summers ago by then-President Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies, which included forcing immigrants to await asylum hearings in the dangerous city of Juarez, Mexico, rather than in El Paso; separating children from their parents or guardians upon detention, while deporting 1,400 parents back to their […]

A nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital fills a syringe from a vial of the Covid-19 Covishield vaccine in Nairobi, Kenya, March 24, 2021 (AP photo by Robert Bonet).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. We are all in this together. COVID-19 is the great leveler. The pandemic knows no borders. Build back better together.  The coronavirus pandemic has yielded enough shopworn cliches to last an entire lifetime of Model United Nations speeches. Yet, nearly 18 months after Africa’s first recorded case […]

Activists wearing masks depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden hold signs reading “Free the vaccine” and “Waive the patents,” in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, July 14, 2021 (AP photo by Fabian Sommer).

For just about anyone who spends time thinking about the future of the world, the fast-unfolding competition between the United States and China looms as one of the most important issues shaping both expectations and uncertainty over the near and medium term. The rivalry between these two countries, which boast the biggest economies and most powerful militaries in the world, is ostensibly over global leadership. The international crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, however, has revealed another darker reality: Where it counts most—meaning for the well-being of the largest numbers of people in the world—there is no real leadership competition. […]

Riot police stand guard in front of an American flag near the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, July 4, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  Washington imposed new sanctions on seven deputy directors in the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong last week. They are the latest addition to a list of 24 officials who have been blacklisted by the U.S. over their roles in undermining the city’s autonomy.  Separately, […]

Mounds of rubble, remnants of the battle to retake the city three years ago from the Islamic State group, remain in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Samya Kullab).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. MOSUL, Iraq—Last week, the inhabitants of Mosul observed the fourth anniversary of their city’s liberation from the Islamic State, in a cityscape scarred as much by the military operation to dislodge ISIS as by the rule of ISIS itself. The now-defunct caliphate, which governed Mosul from 2014 to 2017, still […]

A nurse prepares a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic has receded considerably in countries with high vaccination rates, despite the new challenge posed by the more contagious delta variant. So far, this mostly means that rich countries are finding it possible to restart their economies safely, while lower- and middle-income countries, whose populations continue to be brutally battered by the pandemic, are struggling with massive public health demands, along with the economic and political crises ignited or worsened by COVID-19. Nowhere is this relentless predicament more urgent than in Latin America, which is why multilateral organizations are urging the rich nations that have […]

A Border Patrol agent watches as a group of migrants walk across the Rio Grande on their way to turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, June 15, 2021 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

Last week, the British government introduced a bill that would allow asylum-seekers to be transferred outside the country while their claims are being processed. The measure, which was swiftly criticized by human rights groups, comes on the heels of a similar system being enacted in Denmark last month. On the latest episode of the Trend Lines podcast, Khalid Koser, the executive director of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss the troubling erosion of the right to seek asylum in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, even as the total number of forcibly displaced […]

Residents of the Port-au-Prince slum Cite Soleil make their way to the downtown market by foot due to an oil embargo, Oct. 26, 1993 (AP photo by Michael Stravato).

During my first reporting trip to Haiti, in January 1988, on my very first day in the country, I rode 50 miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to St. Marc, a coastal city to the north, to write about the atmosphere in the provinces on the eve of national elections. At a roadblock just shy of St. Marc, armed remnants of the feared militia of the country’s former dictatorship, the Tonton Macoutes, were burning vehicles and extorting money from passengers in broad daylight. One of the militiamen warned me that if they allowed me to pass, I would not be permitted […]

Protesters hold signs that read “Asylum is a Right” outside of the San Francisco Federal Courthouse, in San Francisco, California, July 24, 2019 (AP photo by Haven Daley).

According to article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” But that promise, which was enshrined three years later in the 1951 Refugee Convention, has never been completely honored. In fact, it has been progressively eroded in recent years across the Global North, even as the numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers around the world have swelled.  Just last month, the Parliament of Denmark passed a law allowing it to relocate asylum-seekers outside Europe while their claims are being processed. A similar measure is […]

Pakistani activists take part in an International Women’s Day rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Oct. 9, 2020 (AP photo by K.M. Chaudhry).

Of the many injustices in the contemporary world, modern slavery is among the most shocking. The trade in humans is a worldwide phenomenon. It spans the poorest and wealthiest countries and is deeply embedded in global supply chains. This is not only an ethical outrage but a threat to international security, prosperity, good governance and development. As the world seeks to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it must tackle the scourge of human bondage. Slavery is one of the oldest human institutions, and it remains stubbornly persistent. The global abolitionist movement, which originated in the late 18th century, […]

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