Iran’s 'shadow commander' steps into the spotlight

Less than two years ago, the New Yorker magazine ran a lengthy profile of Major General Qassem Suleimani, a discreetly influential Iranian military operative, dubbing him “the shadow commander” for his role helping Bashar Al Assad fight rebels in Syria. Recently, however, Suleimani has been moving out of the shadows and square into the spotlight. Read more...

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Kabul woman wears armour to protest sexual harassment


An Afghan artist walked through the streets of Kabul wearing metal armour in a bid to denounce sexual harassment, a courageous performance that nearly got her lynched. She tells us what happened…
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The Iraqi gypsies living on the fringes of society


Iraq's gypsies are one of the country's tiniest minorities. They're also one of its most scorned. Deprived of work and education, the gypsies live like pariahs in ramshackle villages completely cut-off from major cities. Our Observer visited one such village in the region of Diwaniya, 200 kilometres south of the capital Baghdad. Read more...

Video: Israeli soldiers attack Palestinian teen with dog


A video has emerged online showing Israeli soldiers threatening a Palestinian teenager with their dogs, one of which bit the boy, who ended up in the hospital. The army has promised an investigation, but our Observer says that’s not enough – she believes it should put a full stop to using dogs against Palestinians in the West Bank. Read more…
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New life breathed into Algeria's French colonial heritage


Algeria's thorny relationship with its French colonial heritage is starting to change. In Oran, residents have founded a non-profit organisation to renovate a former military hospital that they say is part and parcel of the country's history and identity. Half of the hospital has already been renovated. Read more...

Mexicans in shock after retired teacher's 'murder' by police


A retired teacher was killed during bloody clashes between teachers and police three days ago, in the southern Mexican city of Acapulco. Thirteen protesters have also disappeared. The teaching community is in shock, as our Observer explains. Read more…
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How migrant smugglers evade patrols to reach French island of Mayotte


An amateur video showing a migrant boat from the Comoro Islands landing on the French island of Mayotte has made headlines in France's overseas territory. The footage shows the vessel landing in broad daylight without any sign of border police – evidence of a serious problem, according to media outlets. Our Observer, who has made the Comoros-Mayotte journey several times, reveals the smugglers’ tactics. Read more...
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India's indigenous tribes caught between rebels and army


Several thousand people from India’s Adivasi tribe protested against the arrest of ten local villagers in eastern India last week. The local population feels persecuted by authorities, who for their part suspect tribe members of supporting the Naxalites, a Maoist rebel group formed in the 1960s. Read more...
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People unwittingly locked into ruling party rally in Tajikistan


Tajikistan's ruling party organised one of its final rallies last Sunday before key parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on March 1st. Yet many students and civil servants present at the meeting at a park in Dushanbe, the nation’s capital, didn't know why they had been invited there. When they finally realised it was to take part in a ruling party rally, some tried turning back... only to find the park gates locked. Read more...
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Desperate copper hunters putting DR Congo trains in danger


Copper diggers are everywhere in Kolwezi, in the southeast Democratic Republic of Congo. The precious mineral is such a sought-after commodity in this part of the country that some diggers are now excavating railway tracks – a dangerous practice that puts both trains and themselves at risk. Read more…
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