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Migrant Lives

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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Ukraine-EU, U.S. Gun Law Battles, Big Bacteria

👋 Halo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Kyiv gets EU candidate status in Brussels, while Ukrainian forces retreat from Severodonetsk, there’s good and bad news in the U.S. for gun control advocates, and scientists discover one big bacterium. Meanwhile, Persian-language news website Kayhan-London looks at the reasons behind the harsher tone the West has adopted toward Iran in recent weeks.

[*Sundanese, Indonesia]

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A Trans Soldier Fighting Abroad For Freedom Is Denied Her Own Back Home

A German soldier was reprimanded because of an online dating profile. She was punished for her sexual freedom — the same freedoms that the armed forces claim to be fighting for abroad.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Anastasia Biefang completed two foreign missions in Afghanistan. For two years, she was the first trans woman commander of a battalion of the Bundeswehr, Germany's national armed forces. Her rank: lieutenant colonel. She defended and fought for Western values such as democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and freedom of the individual.

And this freedom, for which she endangered her own life, is now being denied to her – by her employer, the Bundeswehhr, after all, and the Federal Administrative Court of Germany. “Commanders must consider the impact on their professional reputation when making private internet appearances,” reads a recent press release from the Federal Administrative Court.

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Why Ukraine War Won't Slow Iran's Quest To Become A Nuclear Power

A new round of comments from inside Iran's leadership ranks reaffirms its intention to produce a nuclear bomb, a decades-long cat and mouse game between the regime and an ever cautious West that hasn't seemed to change even as the Russia-Ukraine war brings in a new world order.

-OpEd-

Ali Mottahari, a former deputy-speaker of the Iranian Parliament, recently revealed that "right from the start of our nuclear activity, our aim was to build a bomb and strengthen our deterrent force. But we couldn't keep this a secret." It appeared he was admitting to what regional and Western states have long suspected and Iran's regime denies — that it wants to make nuclear bombs.

Mottahari's father, Morteza Mottahari, was a prominent theologian and confidante of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This has allowed his son to speak with relative freedom under the Islamic Republic. In comments to a local press outlet broadcast on April 22, Mottahari blamed the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a Marxist opposition group, for revealing Iran's supposed nuclear plans.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Emma Albright and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Ukraine War, Phase 2: The Battle For Donbas Begins

👋 Moien!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where the battle for Donbas begins, tensions are rising in Gaza after Israel’s airstrike and Biden’s mask mandate for air travel is struck down. Meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage zeroes in on the strategic significance of the city of Mariupol in this second phase of the Ukraine war.


[*Luxembourgish]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger

Russia’s Deescalation Pledge Raises Int’l Eyebrows

👋 Dydh da!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Western leaders share their skepticism after Moscow promises to scale back its offensive in Ukraine, Israel is rocked by a third terror attack in eight days, and Pluto may host ice volcanoes (and a hidden ocean). Meanwhile, Persian-language media Kayhan-London looks at Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards and the role they may play in helping revive the country’s nuclear deal.

[*Cornish, UK]

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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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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin

Sanctioning Putin Directly, Relaxing COVID rules, Mekong Species

👋 Grüezi!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the U.S. threatens Vladimir Putin with personal sanctions, COVID restrictions are easing from Beijing to Copenhagen and we count the Mekong region’s newly discovered wildlife. Weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique also looks at Morocco’s unique counseling-centered response to Islamic extremism.

[*Swiss German]

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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
Ahmad Ra'fat

Out of Cash, Iran Puts Dream Of Shia Empire On Pause

Under sanctions and deprived of funds, Iran's clerical regime has placed its dreams of regional supremacy on hold, at least until it can reach a multilateral pact on its nuclear program.

-Analysis-

It has been two years since a U.S. drone strike on a convoy in Iraq killed the Iranian Revolutionary guards commander Qasem Soleimani and 10 others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the heads of the Iran-backed militia, Hashd al-shaabi.

In spite of his efforts and backing from his government, Soleimani's successor as head of the Revolutionary guards' Quds force, Ismail Qaani, has failed to prevent the depletion of the Axis of Resistance.

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

China Less-Than-Zero-COVID, Saudi Raids In Yemen, Space Diamond

👋 Привет!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where China further clamps down its COVID controls, Saudi Arabia launches air raids on the Yemeni capital and Indonesia gets a new capital. Meanwhile Les Echos’ Théophile Simon finally sees brighter days at hand in Iraq, during an extensive tour of the reconstruction efforts around the country.

[*Privet - Russian]

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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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