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Entries in The National (14)


Kuwait Feature: Youth Take Up Battle Against Bureaucracy (Dickinson)

Photo:Stephanie McGehee/ReutersThe story spread like wildfire among young Kuwaiti friends because everyone could remember a similar experience. A young man, trying to renew his passport and tired of waiting, called his friend, who in turn knew someone who could help.

That wasta, or connection, wasn't a high-level official or even a bureaucrat. It was the expatriate server who poured tea for employees at the passport office. Sure enough, with the waiter on board, more wasta followed, and suddenly, the renewal was rushed through.

The story may have been told in jest, but one of the most common grievances among young Kuwaitis is not jobs, health care, or even politics. It is the bureaucracy.

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Iran Feature: The Fear in the Corridors of Evin Prison (Theodoulou)

From grim experience, Maziar Bahari knows the fear that is probably gripping eight Iranian journalists who were arrested late last month and taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

Mr Bahari was among the approximately 100 journalists detained in June 2009 during the tumult following president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

The latest crackdown on reporters affiliated with reformist news outlets appears to be aimed at muzzling dissenting or independent voices, and suggests that as Iran gears up for its next presidential election in June, the regime's fears of unrest are escalating.

"My guess is they're all in solitary confinement," said Mr Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker who spent 118 days in Evin, all but 11 of them alone in a small cell.

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Syria 1st-Hand: An Emotional Road Trip Through Idlib Province (Hanano)

Syrian family leave Taftanaz after shelling by regime forces (Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP)

As I walked away, I saw a tall, elderly man with a red-and-white scarf on his head speaking with men from the neighbourhood. He gestured with his hands and repeated over and over: "This is my home, did you see it? This is my home." They tried calming him, telling him to be grateful that none of his loved ones had been killed in the strike. He responded, crying: "This is my home." Our eyes met and I was ashamed that I had embarrassed him by meeting his tearful gaze. I looked down and walked away.

Sitting alone in the car for the first time that day, my own tears escalated into uncontrollable sobs. I thought I would have felt these emotions when I crossed the border, when I saw the graffiti, when I saw the destruction, but the old man was the missing connection. These primal expressions of despair are absent from the images and even the videos. You can't imagine them from a distance. You have to be close enough to see the tears.

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Iran Feature: Spotlight Returns to Detained Opposition Leaders Mousavi and Karroubi

Before the Detentions: Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi KarroubiTwo of Iran's main opposition leaders are in their 70s and in poor health but 23 months of house arrest have failed to crush their "unshakeable spirit", their families said last week.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are standing by their "righteous and principled position", they added in a statement that demanded their immediate release. That position is primarily a call for the "ruling apparatus" to recognise "the people's right to self-determination".

Cut off from the outside world, the two men --- along with Mr Mousavi's charismatic wife, Zahra Rahnavard - have been denied free access to newspapers, television, the internet and regular family visits.

But all three are now back in the Iranian spotlight ahead of polls in June to elect a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Fire and Ice in the Refugee Camp (Hanano)

Olive Tree Refugee Camp (Sarab Al-Jijakli)Manar spoke slowly through her tears, holding her small Nokia phone in her hands, clicking between five photographs: two of her son, one of her daughter, and an image of each of their small graves. She paused between the images, crying, stroking, remembering.

"I fled with them here from so far away to be safe. We fled our home in Binnish because of the shelling. They were my entire life. I don't care about my life any more. I lost my home, my children, my possessions, what's left to lose? All I have is dirt; no Diya' and no Fatima."

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Syria Opinion: "Leadership is Nowhere to Be Found" (Hanano)

Leadership on Syria is nowhere to be found, not in Syria nor in the rest of the world. Instead, the Syrian crisis has been reduced to these cliched statements, by politicians, journalists and pundits, that seem to create some kind of equality between the two sides.

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Syria Opinion: Opposition Is Letting Down Residents in the East (Hassan)

Insurgents in Deir Ez Zor Province

Every region of the country can be an asset to the uprising in its own way. Aleppo has been an important province to secure supplies through Turkey, and to bring the fight to the regime in the country's second city. Deir Ezzor is also a vital province for the regime because of its resources, and it could be the key to freeing the country's east from regime control. Why cannot the political opposition take advantage of all of its potential assets?

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Syria Opinion: Heady Days of Revolution Give Way to Grim Reality (Hanano)

Mass protest in Hama, 23 March 2012

Now the lows exceed the highs. Now we talk about what has been lost more often than what will be gained. And the losses have been heavy: some of the people we once spoke to daily are no longer in Syria; some have abandoned the revolution; many have died. Peaceful protests have dwindled as the bombs drop onto our cities and villages. Civilians are caught in the crossfire; thousands have become refugees --- outsiders just like us.

And everyone is depressed.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Fleeing Aleppo (Hanano)

During the brief phone calls we could make when landlines were working, my mother asked my father to do seemingly mundane - yet strange - tasks: leave the curtains open but lock the balcony doors; move furniture away from the chandeliers. Fragile objects were wrapped and placed on the floor in case of shelling; doors barricaded in case of looting; valuables moved elsewhere. The house was slowly stripped of what made it a home, until the moment arrived when it was stripped of its final inhabitant.

Choosing to leave was tainted with guilt; guilt that our family was lucky, that we were the ones who could leave, the ones who had another country to call home and the ones who had not lost a relative yet. So we were ashamed to speak of trivial, material things. But we did speak of them, because it's our home.

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Syria Snapshot: The University Students Caught in the Conflict (Mohajer/Morris)

Students at Al Baath University in Homs burn their IDs and refuse to attend exams, 23 May 2011

Wedged between the Sunni neighbourhood of Baba Amr to the west and Alawite areas to the east, the Al Baath university campus is at the heart of the conflict that has ripped apart Syria's opposition stronghold of Homs.

It is a university in turmoil. Alawite students, from the same sect as the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, are pitched against Sunnis, who make up the bulk of the opposition.

But amid the tumult, many students are still desperately trying to complete their degrees, dodging violence and checkpoints to sit their end-of-year exams.

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