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A female teacher trying a gun.
A female teacher trying a gun.
Mudassar Shah

PESHAWARSchools in Peshawar now look like police stations, equipped with barbed wire, surveillance cameras and snipers after the Taliban's December assault on a school that killed 132 students.

Officials told schools to be prepared for other attacks, and in an extraordinary measure, the Khyber Pakhtunkua government is allowing teachers to keep guns at school. The local police are also now training female teachers in how to use guns.

Ashraf Khan teaches in a primary school not far from the army public school that the Taliban attacked in December. The first thing he does in the morning when he enters the classroom is put his automatic Kalashnikov rifle next to him.

"I don't like having to carry a gun all the time, but the law-and-order situation is not good now," he says. "I know it's not a good mental state to be in for teaching children, but the militants will think twice before attacking schools if they know teachers have guns."

Provincial education minister Muhammad Atif says that if teachers are being threatened, then they have the right to carry weapons inside the school. And while almost every Pashtun male is trained to use guns and weapons from a young age, most female teachers need training to learn too.

Zaman pushes her headscarf slightly to the side, then leans down, lines up her gun and fires at the target. A group of male police watch on. She is one of 10 female teachers taking part in this training run by the local police. "It is a very good initiative of the government to train female teachers like this," she says. "Self defense comes first, then we can learn in peace."

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Geopolitics

Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.

U.S. flag and Chinese flag

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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