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Afghanistan

In The News

Ukraine Convoy Attack, Kabul School Blast, The King’s Coins

👋 Akkam!*

Welcome to Friday, where an attack on a line of civilian cars kills at least 25 in Ukraine, a suicide bomb attack in Kabul leaves 23 dead, and the first coins with King Charles’ portrait are unveiled. Meanwhile, Timour Ozturk reports from Istanbul for French daily Les Echos on how the historic Turkish city becomes the prime destination for Russians fleeing military conscription.

[*Oromo, Ethiopia]

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With Taliban Back In Power, Brave Afghan Girls Again Risk Everything For An Education

Certain teachers and female students face extraordinary risks in clandestine schools for girls, recalling similar secret education operations when the Taliban were in charge before 9/11.

In August 2021 the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and since then secondary education for girls in the country has been banned. However, there have been reports of clandestine girls’ schools operating despite the ban. Teenage girls are reportedly taking extraordinary risks to attend lessons. Their teachers bravely share knowledge, even if they do not have extensive experience or the backup of an education system.

Education for girls was also banned during the previous era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001). In this period, too, girls attended secret schools.

Not much was known about these schools during Taliban rule. A 1997 report noted that the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan supported 125 girls’ schools and 87 co-education primary schools and home schools. An article in the Guardian in July 2001 stated that aid agencies had estimated 45,000 children were attending secret schools.

After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the educational work of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which they carried out during Taliban rule, was much documented.

Before 9/11, there was very limited international knowledge of these secret schools for girls. But after 9/11, the misogynistic actions of the Taliban regarding women’s rights and girls’ education became a pillar of the argument for the U.S. War against Terror.

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How China Is Doing Business With The Taliban

After withdrawing from Afghanistan, the U.S. left a power vacuum. The Taliban regime is officially isolated internationally, but the country has vast mineral resources — on which Beijing is keeping a close eye.

KABUL — An hour's drive outside Kabul, at the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range, three men are drilling for water. It is day three of the construction work, and they are laying the foundation stone for a 130-hectare industrial park. They are being paid with Chinese money. The company China Town Kabul wants to use the industrial park to attract factories from the People's Republic to Afghanistan. The project has been approved by the Taliban, who have been in power in Afghanistan for a year.

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Ukraine Refutes Dugina Accusations, UK Migrants Record, Jupiter’s Auroras

👋 Dobrý deň!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukrainian ridicule Russian accusations that it is behind the murder Darya Dugina last week, the UK sees a record daily number of migrants reaching its shores, and the James Webb Telescope wows us again. Meanwhile, Hong-Kong-based outlet The Initium looks at the weight of new religious groups in Japan in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s assassination by a member of the Unification Church.

[*Slovak]

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

All Eyes On Zaporizhzhia, 21 Killed In Kabul Mosque Blast, Surfin’ Venice

👋 Molo!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Guterres and Erdogan meet with Zelensky to address the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a blast at a Kabul mosque kills at least, and surf’s up in Venice, much to the mayor’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Clarín visits an old friend: that botched restoration of a Christ mural, still a tourist hit 10 years on.

[*Xhosa, South Africa]

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Migrant Lives
Sara Perria, Monica Perosino

Taliban To Traffickers — The Perilous Journey Of Women Fleeing Afghanistan

Staying in a theocracy whose rulers subjugate women was not an option, but trying to get to destinations in Europe and beyond comes with unthinkable perils of its own.

ATHENS — Hariana* always knew that fleeing Afghanistan would not be easy. But it turned out far worse than that.

Now 29, she fled to Iran with her family two years ago, but was sexually assaulted by her employer in Tehran. That prompted her to leave on her own for Europe. Hariana found herself as the only woman following a smuggler on a perilous journey that would be on foot, by bus and by sea.

"Once on the bus I looked around and got scared," she recalled. "The trafficker told me to get off. He wanted me for himself."

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Society
Francesca Mannocchi

Taliban Education, Inside A Madrasa Islamic School Shaping Afghanistan's Future

No girls, no science, no foreign languages, only the Koran. This is how the Taliban want to erase the generation of students educated for 20 years by the "Western usurpers." La Stampa's Francesca Mannocchi visits one of the rigid, boys-only madrasas near Kabul.

KABUL — When I ask Mufti Hayatullah Masroor to choose a text for the morning lesson in the Al-Jami'a Al-Islamiya Al-Mohammadia-Kabul madrasa he oversees in Qala Haidar Khan, a village outside Kabul, he takes his time, approaches the shelf where he keeps his books, flips through it, carefully selects the lines, and reads this hadith aloud: "I heard the Messenger of Allah say, 'Every woman who dies will enter Paradise if God has been pleased with her behavior'."

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Geopolitics
Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn

Taliban Redux, Cleaned-Up Image Can't Mask Their Cruel Reality

Twenty years later the Islamist group is back in power in Afghanistan, but trying this time to win international support. Now that several months have passed, experts on the ground can offer a clear assessment if the group has genuinely transformed on such issues as women's rights and free speech.

The international community is closely monitoring the Taliban, after the group re-seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

There is legitimate reason for concern. The Taliban are again ruling through fear and draconian rules.

The Taliban’s last regime, in the mid-1990s, was marked by human rights violations, including massacres, mass detentions and rape. The regime collapsed on Nov. 14, 2001, shortly after the U.S. launched its global war on terrorism.

Even after the Taliban officially fell from power, their subsequent two decades of insurgency produced various gross human rights violations, an encompassing term under international human rights law.

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Geopolitics
Jan Koehler and Jonathan Goodhand

Inside The Taliban's Laissez-Faire Policy On Drug Trafficking

Unlike ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), drug cultivation and trafficking are not an ideological matter for the new rulers of Afghanistan — more likely a bargaining chip in negotiations with the West.

In the frontier town of Zaranj on Afghanistan’s border with Iran, young men jostle one another as they cram into pickups that leave at regular intervals to be smuggled across the border. Human trafficking is one of the few sectors of the Afghan economy that is thriving. Another is drugs.

Some 950 kilometers to the east of Zaranj, on a remote and cold mountain pass, men with backpacks follow the narrow path to the border-crossing at Tabai, before beginning their descent into the “tribal areas” of Pakistan. Hidden in their loads are bags of heroin, bound for markets in Peshawar and Karachi, with much of it ending up on the streets of the UK.

The trade in drugs and people are growing in importance as other sectors of the economy contract or shut down and poverty deepens.

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Geopolitics

Taliban And Iran: The Impossible Alliance May Already Be Crumbling

After the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban rulers retook control of Afghanistan, there were initial, friendly signals exchanged with Iran's Shia regime. But a recent border skirmish recalls tensions from the 1990s, when Iran massed troops on the Afghan frontier.

The clashes reported this week from the border between Iran and Afghanistan were perhaps inevitable.

There are so far scant details on what triggered the flare up on Wednesday between Iranian border forces and Taliban fighters, near the district of Hirmand in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Still, footage posted on social media indicated the exchange of fire was fairly intense, with troops on both sides using both light and heavy weaponry.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Taliban Decree On Women, Averted Shutdown, Metal Planet

👋 Sannu!*

Welcome to Friday, where the Taliban issue a decree on women’s rights, the U.S. avoids another government shutdown, and we discover the most metallic planet ever. Delhi-based news website The Wire also suggests Indians should pause before any nationalistic boasting about the choice of Parag Agarwal as new Twitter CEO.

[*Hausa - Nigeria & Niger]

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moisi

From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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