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TOPIC: syrian civil war

This Happened

This Happened—November 6: Raqqa Revisited

At the height of the Syrian Civil War, a group of forces came together to reclaim the northern region of Raqqa from the Islamic State. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who were largely comprised of Kurdish fighters, led the offensive.

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Dictators And Us, The West Falls Back Into Appeasement Trap

-OpEd-

TURIN — Fifty years ago, in January 1968, the reformist leader Alexander Dubcek rose to power in Czechoslovakia. His ascent began a brief era known as the Prague Spring, which ended when peaceful protests against the presence of Soviet troops in the country were violently put down by Russian tanks as the West passively looked on.

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Meanwhile In Damascus: Pro-Regime Optimism Far From Aleppo Siege

The worst fear in the capital is a lasting truce between Russia and the United States, which they believe would halt the Assad regime's offensive and delay the total victory.

DAMASCUS — At the Masnaa border crossing between Syria and Lebanon, mothers and children wait in line to return to their homeland. For the first time in Syria's brutal five-year civil war, the flow of refugees has inverted — though just barely. Returnees only number a few dozen out of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees that have fled their country.

The border officials are curt with the new arrivals. "We treat them a little badly at first," says one official. "They were wrong to flee when things were bad, now that things have changed they're coming back. But we'll help them, they are welcome."

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The Shammar, The Tribe Fighting ISIS On The Front Lines

Spread between Syria and Iraq, the Saudi-financed tribal army engages the Islamic State head-on.

RABIA — In late September 2014, as the international coalition began to engage the Islamic State (ISIS) in earnest, Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Syrian forces seized Rabia, a city near the Iraqi-Turkish border.

It was a huge victory — one of the first in the long war against ISIS. And it may not have been possible without the assistance of another key group: the Shammar, a powerful tribe from the border regions of northern Syria and Iraq.

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South Korea
Jason Strother

Ahmed's Story: From Syria To A South Korean Island

For Syrians able to escape the horrors of war, Europe is the preferred destination. But some have ventured farther afield. One 22-year-old refugee landed on Jeju island, a popular honeymoon spot off the coast of South Korea.

JEJU — With its black volcanic rocks that jut out of the sea, Jeju Island is best known as a honeymoon getaway for South Koreans. But it also has a local population of approximately 600,000, nearly all of them Korean. Ahmed Lababidi is a rare exception in that regard. He's not even Asian. He's from Aleppo, in Syria.

It's a typically windy day here, so we go into a nearby cafe to have a chat. The 22-year-old wears glasses, is clean-shaven, and has dark hair that he's growing out. His journey out of Syria, he explains, began in 2012, when war engulfed his hometown. Ahmed and his family managed to escape — to Turkey.

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LA STAMPA
Fabrizio Assandri

In Italy, Training War Refugees To Preserve Antiquities

TURIN — Refugees have come to Italy from all across war-torn Iraq and Syria, from the monasteries of Mosul to the Assyrian villages of the Khabur valley and the Christian churches of the Nineveh plains. Among the millions now languishing in refugee camps are people from all walks of life, including government bureaucrats, university professors, archaeologists, and museum curators who saw artworks and monuments destroyed in war.

With that in mind, the Italian government is introducing a program that allows a small number of asylum seekers to take advanced courses on protecting cultural heritage sites from attack, weather damage and antiquities smuggling. The hope is that refugees will later be able to return to their home countries and help rebuild damaged cultural sites.

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LA STAMPA
Giordano Stabile

With Syria Ceasefire Holding, Damascus Is Quietly Reborn

After gains by regime troops, with Russian air support, calm and nightlife have returned to the capital. And locals are back to betting on Assad's survival.

DAMASCUS — Looman Rustom is a 32-year old web designer in the Syrian capital. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he says he loves living life to the fullest, which he had always channeled through the spirit of his native city. "If your time has come, you'll die even if you lock yourself at home everyday," he says. "Why not get out and live your life, even if there are bombs and suicide attacks?"

In Damascus, four years of siege and civil war seem to have rather suddenly disappeared. Since a cessation of hostilities between Bashar al-Assad's government forces and opposition fighters took effect a month ago, the capital's streets have filled back up with traffic on weekends, which begin Thursday nights here.

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Geopolitics
Lucia Sgueglia

The Bosnia Solution, How Russia Plans To Split Syria In Three

Moscow is quietly working toward a federal future for war-torn Syria, with a central government but the nation divided into three different ethnic zones. It's a nod to Kurdish ambitions and lessons from the Balkans.

MOSCOW — After intervening in the long-running conflict on Bashar al-Assad"s behalf, Russia is cautiously planning a federal solution for Syria. As the war sputters on during a temporary ceasefire, Russia is outflanking U.S. attempts at other solutions that don't foresee any partition of the country.

Moscow's plan is inspired by the "Bosnian solution" that arose from the 1995 Dayton Accords, which split Bosnia-Herzegovina into a federation of two ethnic states with a weak central government. "If all parties agree to a federal Syria and it guarantees the territorial unity, independence and sovereignty of the country, then who would object?" says Sergey Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister.

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Terror in Europe
Giacomo Tognini

In Paris Aftermath, Rising Fears Across All Of Europe

PARIS — As investigators follow possible leads from Syria to Greece and Belgium, Friday's deadly and meticulously coordinated assault in Paris was no doubt very much a European attack.

Governments across the continent are busy taking measures to enhance security against a growing threat of similar coordinated terror assaults.

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Geopolitics
Omar Abdallah

Recruiting Kids For War, Aleppo's "Unspeakable Horror"

ALEPPO — With Syria's civil war now its fifth year and showing no sign of ending, virtually all sides have been recruiting and training children to kill. Situated in the opposition-controlled outskirts of Aleppo, the Abdul Razzaq Military Academy is one of the most organized programs for preparing youngsters for the battlefield.

Established by Sergeant Abdul Razzaq, a Syrian army defector, the academy's instructors train some 150 children from surrounding areas on the grounds of an abandoned school in the village of Ehtemlat for two hours a day.

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Egypt
Giacomo Tognini

School Textbook Controversies Around The World

Governments around the world — democracies and dictatorships alike — often change school textbooks and courses to fit their own agendas. From US history to Syrian schoolchildren, here are some textbook controversies in the news recently:

EGYPT: TEXTBOOK REVOLUTION

Egyptian news site Mada Masr reports that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the 2011 revolution are posing problems for the country's educational system. The new education minister is leading a push to delete all mentions of violence from school textbooks, with the stated goal of combating extremism. But the move resulted in the removal of several chapters on the battles of early Islamic history, angering Islamist parties and many ordinary Egyptians who accuse the government of undermining Egypt's national identity. The textbooks include brief descriptions of the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, but do not significantly change the content on former President Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in power.

Muslim students take Koran lessons in makeshift school in Cairo — John Wreford/ZUMA

CHINA: NATIONALIST REWRITE

One of China's most popular history textbooks for high schoolers has been criticized for its overly nationalist tone. The book eliminates the historical context surrounding events such as World War II and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, portraying them instead solely as nationalist struggles against "humiliation" from outsiders. The new book also downplays Mao Zedong's role in the deaths of millions during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward and includes inflammatory language towards China's neighbors, calling wartime Japanese soldiers "inhumane beasts."

In a primary school in Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province — Photo: Zhang Hongxiang/Xinhua/ZUMA
UNITED STATES: AMERICAN (UN)EXCEPTIONALISM

The new curriculum for the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in United States History has been harshly criticized by conservatives. The Washington Post. reports that the new text gives lower priority to the idea of "American exceptionalism" and more to some of the darker sides of American history, such as slavery. The controversy caused several states, most notably Oklahoma, to propose legislation against the course, writes news site Politico. But College Board, the organization that runs the Advanced Placement program, argues that the curriculum is a "framework," not a syllabus set in stone, and that it is up to individual teachers to design lesson plans around the material.

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Israel
Patrick Strickland

Caught In Firing Line, Syrian Druze Reject Israeli Aid In Golan

MAJDAL AL-SHAMS — Anger is boiling over in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where local Syrian Druze on Monday attacked an ambulance and killed a wounded Syrian opposition fighter seeking medical treatment from the Israeli military.

The fighter was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) in Quneitra and the Golan, according to that group's Facebook page. The RCC is a coalition of different armed factions in Syria, many of which are hardline Islamist groups.

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