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Iraq

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Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

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The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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Biden-Putin Call, Olympic Boycott, Lockdown Of Unvaccinated

👋 Mbote!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Biden and Putin go face-to-face on Ukraine, China threatens U.S. over Olympic boycott and the world marks 80 years since Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, we go back to the small town that recorded Italy’s first coronavirus death back in February 2020, which is now a stronghold for vaccine skeptics.

[*M-boh-teh – Lingala, Democratic Republic of the Congo]

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Inside Iraq's Tuk-Tuk Revolution

What began as a slogan shared among Facebook users has since morphed into a full-blown, youth-led movement for deep structural changes in the war-torn country.

BAGHDAD — "I'm going out to claim my rights." This was the phrase posted by Iraqis on Facebook in the final days of September. Then on Oct. 1, mass demonstrations were mobilized against corruption, unemployment, political quotas, and the interference of neighboring states — particularly Iran — in Iraq's government and policies. Protesters sought to make these demands heard in all of Iraq's provinces. Nearly six weeks later, the protests continue.

The demonstrations did not come out of nowhere. Recent years have seen regular demonstrations in the summer months, as climbing temperatures bring the electrical grid to a halt everywhere in the country but in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Continual power cuts drove Iraqis to turn out every summer to decry poor services and the general political situation. After a few weeks on the streets, the protests would eventually subside after the government purchased electricity from Iran and announced a set of reforms, which would be viewed as superficial. Other demonstrations have been periodically mobilized at the behest of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia political and religious leader of the Sadrist movement, the most popular grassroots movement in Baghdad and the southern provinces. But something is different about the October protests, which in a matter of days turned into a full-fledged revolution.

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Iraq
Hélène Sallon

In Iraq, The Revolt Of Generation 2018

Young people with little memory of the Saddam Hussein era are fed up with unemployment, public sector corruption and unfulfilled government promises.

BASRA — In one photo, Makki Achour stares at the lens, his eyes bright, his hair — like many Iraqis his age — in little tufts. In another, the frail young man appears in a military uniform, smiling proudly. The photo was taken in the field, where, as a member of the Popular Mobilization Front, a state-sponsored paramilitary organization established in 2014, Achour fought the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

These snapshots, along with those of other young faces, are brandished by demonstrators in Basra, a large city in southern Iraq, and shared on social networks as a sign of solidarity. Achour has become an icon since he died what demonstrators call a martyr's death on Sept. 3. He was 26. The young man was shot and killed during a demonstration in front of the governor's seat in Basra. His death rekindled a dispute that has shaken the Shiite south since July and cost at least 27 people their lives.

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Iraq

Watch: OneShot — Sadr City Bus Stop

OneShot — Sadr City bus stop, 2008 (©Andrea Bruce/NOOR)

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Iraq

Watch: OneShot — Saving Mosul

OneShot — The Battle for Mosul, 2017 (©Ivor Prickett)

An unidentified young boy who had survived the siege of last ISIS-controlled area in the Old City of Mosul is cared for by Iraqi Special Forces soldiers.

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Iraq

Watch: OneShot — The Battle For Mosul

OneShot — The Battle for Mosul, 2017 (©Ivor Prickett)

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Iraq

Watch: OneShot — Mother's Comfort

OneShot — Mother's comfort, 2004 (©Andrea Bruce/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Iraq
Emilienne Malfatto

In Baghdad's Sadr City, Where Women Practice Weightlifting

BAGHDAD — Her hands, covered in magnesium carbonate for a better grip, are white. Her face is flush. Her gaze fixed. Huda Salem, 20, exhales loudly — twice — into the already sweat-saturated air. Her face contorts. Then, a shout as she lifts 70 kilos of cast iron.

Behind the young woman's massive, muscular figure, hanging from a wall, is an Iraqi flag. Allahu akbar, the flag's giant green letters read: "God is the greatest." The scene takes place in Sadr City, a poor suburb northeast of Baghdad that is better known for bombing attacks than sporting exploits. Inhabited almost exclusively by a Shia Muslim population, Sadr City is regularly targeted by Sunni extremist groups, such as ISIS.

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Iraq
Stuart Richardson

Al-Qaeda To ISIS And Beyond, The Battle Is Not About To End

-Analysis-

The Islamic State is now on the run in Syria and Iraq. Following the terror group's defeat this summer in its self-declared Iraqi capital of Mosul, ISIS has now been driven from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. This comes more than four years after ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his "Caliphate" from the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul.

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Iraq

Kurdistan To Catalonia: Rightful Nation Or Naughty Region?

-Analysis-

Is there ever a good time to hold an independence referendum? Of course the answer to that question, from Kurdistan to Catalonia, depends on whom you ask. For those looking to declare a new nation based on ethnic, economic or political claims, there's no time like the present to take destiny into your own hands and finally right the course of history.

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Iraq
Georges Malbrunot

A Visit To Karbala, The Bustling Heart Of Iraq's Shia Revival

KARBALA — Inside the shrine and mosque covered by mosaics, the crowd is rushing to touch the silver edge of the martyr's tomb. Among the crowd is Manjour, 37, who came all the way from Gurajat, India, to honor his "leader," Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali, the third Shia imam.

Even as fierce battles and terror attacks have plagued Baghdad and Mosul to the north, millions of pilgrims travel here each year from across the Muslim world to pay homage to Imam Husayn, next to whom lies the remains of his eldest son, Ali al-Akhbar, and 77 other martyrs of the battle of Karbala in 680, the starting point of the Sunni-Shia war that continues to rage 14 centuries later.

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Iraq
Alain Barluet

Mosul, A New Textbook Case For Urban Warfare

-Analysis-

To win back Mosul, the Iraqi armed forces paid with their blood. But the difficult victory — obtained with the help of the international coalition — also marks a rebirth. Against all odds, the Iraqi army, federal police and anti-terror units have all been successfully rebuilt.

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Iraq
Thierry Oberlé

Meanwhile In Baghdad, Don't Forget Another City Under Siege

BAGHDAD — A continuous flow of cars, scooters, and three-wheeled vehicles pour onto the avenues of Sadr City, Baghdad's massive Shia district, where roundabouts honor the memories of martyrs killed at the front-lines. Ahmed Houcham el-Alabiad, 29, rides his bike on the wrong side of the road until he reaches home, a shack located in the midst of warehouses dedicated to repairing refrigerators and air-conditioners. He meets his brother and two friends, who are mine-clearing experts like him fighting ISIS in the Iraqi government-backed People's Mobilization Forces.

In his teenage years, Houcham el-Alabiad fought with the Mahdi Army, a militia created by Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadr, against the U.S. invasion. "I can handle an AK-47 perfectly as well as rocket launchers," he says. "I joined the Saraya Ashura brigades in 2014 when we learned that ISIS was on Baghdad's doorstep. I wanted to take part in the resistance. That was before the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a call to mobilization that saved our city from the terrorists' assault."

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Iraq
Samuel Forey

In Mosul, Tales Emerge Of Sadistic ISIS Female Police Unit

MOSUL — Leila Khaled hadn't felt well that morning. It was the end of August, when the Iraqi summer sun had hit the walls and windows hard, like the wind in the middle of a powerful storm. Mosul was still in the clutches of ISIS. The war was still far away; it was being raged in the south of the city.

Leila decided to go to the clinic in the Tahrir neighborhood in the suburbs of eastern Mosul. She got dressed. This required meticulous preparation. She had to follow the strict ISIS dress code. The terror group didn't allow anyone to flash the slightest bit of skin.

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