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Geopolitics
Noella Nyirabihogo

DRC, Where Armed Groups Are Targeting Pregnant Women

In just three months, armed groups in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo killed nearly 500 civilians. The statistics fail to capture the full scale of the suffering, as limited health care access also claims the lives of pregnant women and infants.

ITURI — On a typical day, this village would wind down by 7 p.m.: the animals back in their stables, the men at a local pub huddled over a battery-powered radio, the women at home preparing dinner. But those predictable rhythms came to a halt one night in May 2021, as armed men descended on the village, setting fire to mud houses and murdering the people who lived in them.

Esther Wabiwa fled the region of Fataki, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that night, along with her husband and two young children. They stumbled through the bush for three days, spending their nights sleeping fitfully on wet leaves. Wabiwa, pregnant with her third child at the time, was gripped by contractions. The farther they walked, the stronger they grew.

“This isn’t the time,” her husband said, anxious and overwhelmed. “Can’t he wait a bit longer?”

He couldn’t. “His head was already between my thighs,” says Wabiwa, 29. The baby was born in the middle of the night, delivered on bare, wet ground. “I cut the umbilical cord with my own teeth,” she says. “I didn’t have anything else on me.” Then, fearing that rest would cost them their lives, the family walked for another three days.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

"No One Is Forcing Us" — Kyiv Pushes Back On Reports About Negotiations

A senior Ukrainian official said that Kyiv was not being pressured to negotiate with Russia, but would do so under certain strict conditions: restoring Ukraine’s borders, compensation for Russian attacks and punishing those responsible for war crimes.

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Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukrainian official advisor to the head of the Office of the President, speaking to Radio Liberty, dismissed reports that the U.S. was forcing Ukraine to sit down at the negotiating table with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Ideas
Cameron Manley

Was The Crimea Bridge Explosion A Suicide Attack? Why The Question Matters

We may never know the exact cause of the explosion that damaged the strategic Kerch bridge. But it is quite plausible that it was carried out by a Ukrainian suicide bomber. Yes, it’s come this far — and for a very simple reason.

-Analysis-

As cold-blooded as it was, Russia’s barrage of missile attacks aimed at civilian targets across Ukraine was no surprise. But as indiscriminate as the revenge killings were, it cannot erase the single strike that happened two days earlier: the precision targeting of the Kerch bridge, linking Crimea to mainland Russia, a well-orchestrated blow with both major symbolic and strategic consequences.

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The bridge had been both a source of enormous pride for Russian President Vladimir Putin ever since it opened in 2018, and an important logistical component to transport supplies to Russian troops. And of course, the attack came the day after Putin’s birthday.

Thus, for the Russian President, revenge was in order — and in terms of a human toll, he made sure it would be grossly disproportionate, with the sole objective to terrorize the Ukrainian nation.

Comparing the two attacks, there is little mystery about how Russia carried out its response: firing more than 80 missiles at civilian targets and basic infrastructure in Kyiv and other major cities around Ukraine.

Instead, the details behind Saturday’s bridge attack are unknown (and largely unknowable) — but it is a story all its own that may help to shed further light on the difference between how Ukraine and Russia see the war.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Putin Says World Facing "Most Dangerous Decade" Since WWII

Vladimir Putin gave a major speech in Moscow on Thursday, outlining his view of the current stay of geopolitics, declaring that the world has the "prerequisites for a revolution.”

Article updated Oct. 27, at 12:40 p.m EST

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an extensive speech Thursday to lay out his geopolitical views, warning that the world is facing major new risks and declaring the war in Ukraine is "almost like civil war."

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During the address at the Valdai Club think tank in Moscow, Putin blamed NATO for the war in Ukraine and predicted that the world at large is changing radically. "

“The unipolar world is a thing of the past. We are at a historical frontier," he said. "Ahead is the most dangerous, unpredictable and at the same time important decade since the end of World War II.”

He warned that the conflicts around the world today contained the “prerequisites for a revolution.”

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Geopolitics
Morgane Le Cam

Jihad Rising: Will Afghan Failure Repeat Itself In Africa?

In Mali and elsewhere in northern and western Africa, al-Qaeda factions have been held back with the help of the French military. Fears are rising of a future pullout after watching the debacle in Kabul.

Iyad Ag Ghali did not wait for the fall of Kabul to celebrate the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. The jihadist leader of the West African branch of al-Qaeda (Group To Support Islam and Muslims, or GSIM) broke his long silence on Aug. 10, not having spoken since November 2019. In an audio message, he paid tribute to the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, for the withdrawal of the invading U.S. forces and their allies." He said the reversal "is the culmination of two decades of patience."

It is no coincidence that the Taliban's relentless offensive resonates to the far reaches of the Sahel region in northern and western Africa. When GSIM was created in 2017, Iyad Ag Ghali pledged allegiance not only to al-Qaeda, but also to Afghan Islamists. The Taliban and the Sahelian fighters are cut from the same cloth. "They share on-the-ground insurgency know-how, which is a byproduct of the al-Qaeda matrix," says Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the School of International Studies at the University of Kent in Brussels. "They also have the same ultimate goal: the application of Sharia law."

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Geopolitics
Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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Ideas
Apoorvanand

Modi And The "Ideology Of Islamophobia" In India

The Gulf region's public reaction to the controversial comments on Prophet Muhammad made by two senior officials from India's ruling party is worrying Muslim Indians who feel this intervention might do more harm than good. For the author, the BJP's "ideology of Islamophobia" is the center of the problem.

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — As Muslim countries started condemning the abusive comments two leaders of the ruling BJP party made against the Prophet, a friend’s mother remarked: “We saw what happened to those who protested hate speech against Muslims in Kanpur. Like after every attack, we felt that the highest form of public humiliation of Indian Muslims would be normalized."

She added that when condemnation from foreign governments protesting started pouring in, I was reminded of the story of a swarm of ababeel [swifts] defending the holy Kaaba against an army of wild elephants.”

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drueten, Christine Kensche

Erdogan's Opening? Why Turkey Sees Ukraine War As A Chance To Target Kurds In Syria

As the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia meet to discuss the situation in Syria, the West is closely watching Turkish President Erdoğan's moves on Kurdish separatists in northern Syria, now that Moscow is focused on Ukraine.

-Analysis-

It wasn't long ago that Moscow dictated what happened in Syria. Vladimir Putin has been the most important ally of Syria's regime, which would have likely collapsed long ago without Russia's support.

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But the war in Ukraine has shifted the political balance in the region — and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can see his chance.

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Geopolitics
Elise Vincent and Morgane Le Cam

The Killing Of Chad's President Is A Blow In Battle Against Jihad

Paris has considered Chad's army to be the most solid, experienced and tenacious in the region. But the death of Idriss Déby could change the dynamics in the French-backed fight against jihadists in the Sahel region of Africa.

The strategists of Operation Barkhane could not have imagined worse news. The announcement Tuesday of Chadian President Idriss Déby's death as a result of his wounds "on the battlefield" has stunned the French military. This authoritarian leader, who has been in power for more than 30 years, had been their main ally in the fight against terrorism in the vast Sahel region of north-central Africa. And now, this key player in a protracted war that began in 2013 is gone.

Military cooperation between France and Chad dates back to 1986. And as soon as France launched the regional anti-jihadist Operation Barkhane in 2014, Chad hosted its main command post. Since then, it is from the capital of N'Djamena that most of the actions on the ground are centralized and coordinated — even though the French military has forward bases in Mali. N'Djamena is also one of the two air bases — along with Niamey, in Niger — from which Barkhane planes take off.

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Rafat

Quds v. Revolutionary Guards: Why U.S. Sees Iran's Two "Terrorist" Forces Differently

Is there calculated diplomacy or just confusion behind the Biden administration's ambivalent positions on what can only be defined as 'terrorism' of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards?

-OpEd-

For weeks now there has been talk of removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards from the West's list of international terrorists, to meet one of Iran's conditions for renewing the 2015 pact on its nuclear program, or agreeing on a similar pact. Tehran says removing the terrorist label from the Guards and lifting all sanctions on this key military force constitute a 'red line' that must be included in any deal in ongoing, though stalled, talks on its program.

Recently U.S. President Joe Biden and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, voiced opposition, without specifically citing the Revolutionary Guards, to ending the terrorist label for one particular unit of the Guards, the Quds Force. This is a regional task force suspected of meddling in the affairs of several neighboring states, and the previous U.S. administration of President Donald Trump took out its powerful leader Qassem Soleimani in 2020, saying he was a threat to U.S. forces.

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Society
Sukanya Shantha

India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners

While growing up inside a prison leads to a range of difficulties for children, those separated from their mothers and left on the outside also face different traumas. In this in-depth reportage for India's The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha talks to mothers who had to give birth in jail and those who went without seeing their children for years to keep them protected.

MUMBAI — Raginibai was at the construction site when a large police search team came looking for her. Her husband was found brutally murdered, and his body — wrapped in a jute bag — had been buried several feet under the construction debris close by. The police suspected that Raginibai, along with a man they claimed was her “lover,” was involved in the murder. Raginibai denied this charge vehemently.

But at that moment, neither her husband’s death nor the police’s suspicion could unsettle her. The well-being of her five-year-old son, who shadowed her everywhere at the construction site in Taloja, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was all that she worried about.

Raginibai, a landless migrant labourer and a Dalit woman from Kalahandi — one of the most backward districts in the eastern Indian state of Odisha — feared that the police would take her child away and she would never be able to see him again. In desperation, she requested that the police hand her child over to a person she claimed was her sister. This was a claim that the police was legally bound to — yet never bothered to — independently ascertain.

Raginibai was arrested on November 15, 2019. She was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a girl, her third child, inside an overcrowded Kalyan district jail, over 50 km away from Mumbai city.

Her eldest, a 12-year-old daughter, was away at Raginibai’s mother’s house in Odisha at the time of the arrest. With no parental support or financial backing, her daughter had to drop out of school and is now being forced into child labor in a paddy field, many kilometers outside her village.

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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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