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A photograph of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, covered in dust and blood after an Aug. 17 airstrike in the Syrian city of Aleppo wrenched our hearts, and reminded us that the country's civil war is not just some geopolitical football. Omran was lucky to survive. Tens of thousands of other children have not, including Omran's own 10-year-old brother, Ali.


It's not clear if the recent one-week-long ceasefire negotiated between the U.S. and Russia is driven more by geopolitics or the recent burst of public empathy for the likes of Omran and Ali. Nonetheless, beginning last night, Syrian government troops were supposed to stop bombing certain rebel-held areas and humanitarian aid was finally due to reach the many civilians in need. In turn, rebels were supposed to cut off their affiliation with militants formerly linked to al-Qaeda.


But just a few hours after the ceasefire was slated to start, government helicopters reportedly dropped barrel bombs on an Aleppo neighborhood and troops shelled a route intended for humanitarian aid, The Washington Post reports. Syrian media loyal to the government accused rebels of attacking a southern province. Still, according to UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there were no civilian casualties in the first 15 hours of the truce.


In a better world, the haunting image of Omran's face, one eye wounded shut, would lead directly to a lasting negotiated settlement in Syria. We hold no illusions that the real world doesn't work quite that way. But if even temporary ceasefires can't hold, the empathy that Omran inspired is bound to be another victim of this endless war.

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Geopolitics

A Bitter Road Back For Hong Kong Students Arrested During 2019 Protests

Thousands of students and young people were detained during Hong Kong's democracy protests in 2019. Now with criminal records, many are struggling to re-integrating into a changed society

Demonstrators in London hold signs at a rally, gathering in Parliament Square on the third anniversary of the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

Hye-kwan Lee and Stanley Leung

HONG KONG — Shortly after his release from the Detention Center, Ah Tao received a phone call from his secondary school headmaster. The headmaster told the Hong Kong teenager that it might not be a good idea for him to continue his studies, and that there were some barista courses outside school he might as well try.

Tao did not respond to the suggestion, and hung up after a few pleasantries.

Back when he was arrested on the street in 2019, Tao had completed his third year, and the school promised to hold his place. However, they stated that if he committed any offenses again, he could be expelled. Tao was already prepared for such a phone call. At that moment, he felt strongly that he was just a young person who had broken the law, and even his school did not want him anymore.

In 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment bill on extradition that would allow the transfer of fugitives from between Mainland China and Hong Kong. The bill received widespread criticism, with fears it would hamper political dissent in Hong Kong and led to large-scale protests.

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