Exile in Uganda and Victory in Raqqa: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

Ugandan soldiers of the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia stand before sunrise.
Ugandan soldiers of the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia stand before sunrise near the capital, Kampala, on March 9, 2007.  (Stuart Price / Getty)

In Exile, In Little Mogadishu
Anne Ackermann | Roads & Kingdoms
“To document migration from within Africa, I met the young women in Kampala’s Little Mogadishu, for whom exile felt like life in a parallel universe. Connected to family, friends, and dates all over the world almost 24/7, they seemingly maintain their bonds through telephone, internet, social media, rotating wedding videos, and gossip rather than living in the actual country they inhabit. We’re in Uganda, but could be anywhere, really.

While they hold on to everything Somali––what they remember of the food, customs, traditions––exile is an overall liberating experience. Stricter cultural authorities are weakened by circumstance, and practices like female genital mutilation are harder to execute in this environment. Life feels a little more free.”

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Dark Victory in Raqqa
Luke Mogelson | New Yorker
“The Syrian civil war has produced many strange bedfellows. But it’s especially curious that Öcalan’s revolution, which strives to eliminate ‘capitalist modernity,’ has made its recent advancements under the patronage of the United States. In Rojava, Kurds often refer to Donald Trump as Bâvê şoreş—‘Father of the Revolution’—and in Kobanî there is a kebab restaurant called Trump, with the President’s visage painted on its window. I met a Y.P.G. fighter who’d named his infant daughter America.”

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Highway Through Hell
Ty McCormick | Foreign Policy
“Until a little more than a year ago, Agadez was the epicenter of massive waves of migration from Africa that began in 2011, when the fall of Libya’s dictatorship opened a clear path through weak and failing states to Europe’s southern border. In 2016, a record 181,000 people arrived on Italy’s Mediterranean coast. Most of them were sub-Saharan Africans fleeing poverty, war, and oppression. More than half of them likely traveled through Agadez on their way.”

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Israel at 70: My Return to a Divided Country
Adam LeBor | Financial Times
“Next year Israel turns 70. On one level, the state’s existence is a miracle. In one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, a ragged band of Zionist pioneers, refugees and Holocaust survivors built a Hebrew state, rebooted an ancient language of prayer and established a functioning democracy with a prosperous economy and independent institutions. Outnumbered and outgunned, Israel fought four wars for its survival and several smaller conflicts. Today, it no longer faces an existential threat.

But the Israel of today is a very different place from that of 1948. It has some tough questions to answer. What does it mean to be a Jewish democracy ruling over 2.9 million Palestinians in the West Bank, in the territories captured in 1967? One that subsidizes paramilitary settlers who appropriate that captured Arab land under claim of a divine mandate, and then constructs an infrastructure of roads, water and electricity for Jewish settlers while often ignoring the needs of local Palestinian communities? More, what does it mean to be a Jewish democracy whose flag, anthem and government emphasize Israel’s essential Jewishness, when 1.8 million people—nearly a quarter of the population—are Arabs?”


The Paradox of Uzbek Terror
Marlene Laruelle | Foreign Affairs
“Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been one of the most repressive countries in Central Asia in terms of religion. Several thousand people have been imprisoned—and some tortured—for alleged Islamist convictions. Friday prayers are written by the state, and imams are encouraged to repeat them verbatim, without adding personal commentary. Religious education is kept to a minimum, and forbidden for minors. Imported religious literature is banned. Those who study Islamic theology abroad have trouble finding jobs when they return home.

It might seem logical that such repression would lead to an increase in Islamist violence at home: for years, many NGOs and self-proclaimed security experts claimed that radicalization was on its way. But, so far, there has been no such uptick. ”