“C’est lui?” exclaimed a dark-haired boy of roughly nine years old from the market stall sidelines as a commotion passed in front of him. Fuzzy microphones on long handheld booms and news cameras poked above the crowd as it tightened to fit the narrowing space between vendors of vegetables and antiques and records and roast chicken.
The man beside him smiled toward the boy as he affirmed that it was indeed the new French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, come to the Sunday market in Caen after President Emmanuel Macron appointed him last Tuesday to replace Elisabeth Borne as head of the French government. In the scant days since his appointment, Attal has been busy selecting ministers to form his government and taking his first trips outside the capital as he begins his new role of determining and implementing the nation’s policies. Scant too is Attal’s age—the 34-year-old is France’s youngest ever prime minister.
REPORTING BY ABDUL BASIR BINA AND SHIKIB AHMAD NAZARI
The summer and fall harvest seasons offered a fleeting respite for numerous Afghan households grappling with the challenge of securing sustenance. But now winter is arriving, with January and February being the months with the harshest weather. According to the UN World Food Programme, 4 million people in Afghanistan are acutely malnourished, including 3.2 million children under age five.
The living standards in Afghanistan, already tenuous before the Taliban assumed control in August 2021, plummeted further amid their power seizure and the ensuing economic collapse. In particular, reports the International Rescue Committee, “Food insecurity remains the greatest threat to everyday Afghans. Currently, 40% of the country’s population are facing acute food insecurity¬—the fourth highest figure in the world.”
Accounts of people “lifting themselves up by their bootstraps” have been around for more than a century, since the phrase took on its current meaning. Critics say that hard work is not enough, but true stories of success from unlikely starts abound.
Thierry Marx, French chef of the year in 2006, is one of those stories. He was a poor student from a bad neighborhood. His grades weren’t good enough to get into hotel school, and he dropped out of a school for building trades. “I was furious…,” he told The Figaro, a French newspaper. “I messed around, got into fights. I ran away, I escaped to Paris … Champigny-sur-Marne, the city where I lived, was a ghost town, a wasteland.”
DOCUMENTARY & PHOTO BY W.H.
INTRODUCTORY TEXT BY HEATHER M. SURLS
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” This quote from Disney’s animated film “Mulan” aptly describes Maryam, Khadija, and Fatima Kawsary, teenage Afghan sisters living outside of their home country and still cultivating their passion for art.
In Jordan’s Baqa’a camp for Palestinian refugees, I sat with several women and piles of their cross-stitch embroidery. A fan blew the late May heat through a simple but neat room, where we sat on brown couches drinking small goblets of juice, followed by Turkish coffee and tea. Zahieh Ahmad Saeed Abu Rases and her relatives showed me embellished pillowcases, a mirror framed in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, clocks stitched on white Aida cloth, and sections of unfinished thobes, traditional Palestinian dresses.
A byproduct of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and media focus on the war’s developments is that growing tensions between other former Soviet republics wanting their place in the world are largely obscured. The rumblings that have serious local effects aren’t reaching the world’s eyes and ears while the louder conflict drowns out these smaller ones.
Thirty-one years after claiming its independence, Azerbaijan is trying to move through a slippery world of history and judgments and war with its neighbor Armenia to become recognized as a neutral, non-aligned country, a friend of both NATO and Russia.
If you’re a woman born and raised in Afghanistan, you live in war against nearly everything in life. Too often, even from your very first breath outside the womb, you are not really welcomed by your own family—or if you’re blessed with good parents, society and certain people’s mindsets work to steal the smile from your face.
Aliakbar turned 34 years old in June 2022. He was a loving father to three boys and a devoted husband to his supportive wife, Karima. Originally from Dushi, Baghlan, he was an IT expert and CEO of his IT consultation company. Aliakbar was heavily involved in charitable and humanitarian projects throughout his adult life. He founded HikeVentures Afghanistan in 2017 to help others develop skills in mountaineering, climbing, and trekking, and to enable people to safely enjoy Afghanistan’s unparalleled natural beauty. He was at the forefront of raising funds for underprivileged communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and collected and distributed aid to victims of natural and manmade disasters.
After waves of COVID-19 and the impending effects of war in Ukraine for the upcoming winter, France has been facing a pénurie d’essence—a gas shortage—for much of October.
Strikes that began in late September continued across the country last week. France’s second largest trade union, CGT, had called for employees in all public sectors to defend “wage increases and the defense of the right to strike.”
The French government reacted with sweeping measures in mid-October as the gas crisis worsened, forcing employees of the two ExxonMobil refineries to return to work or risk fines or jail time.
I spent a May afternoon rushing through the wide halls of the U.S. Senate office buildings. It wasn’t the first time I was on Capitol Hill this past spring, but this time I chanced being late for an important flight because the clock was ticking on this issue that kept me coming back to the Hill. The next morning, I learned that day’s meetings had seemingly been for naught.