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With US-Afghanistan security deal in limbo, girls' education is too

With an agreement on the table that would allow some US soldiers to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, education advocates remain committed to holding, and continuing, the progress they've made in the past 12 years.
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Razia Jan with students at her school in Kabul Province, Afghanistan (Principle Pictures/GlobalPost)

KABUL, Afghanistan — After a four-day meeting in Kabul of more than 2,000 Afghan tribal leaders, President Hamid Karzai rejected the assembly’s recommendation that he promptly sign a long-term security agreement with the United States, pending further negotiations. In the meantime, Afghans from all walks of life and members of the international community wait and worry about the country’s future.

Many fear rampant and well-documented corruption will reach new heights and that Taliban power will again strangle the country after an American troop withdrawal in 2014.

But there is an alternative being embraced by those who have led progress in the country over the past 12 years and have no intention of sitting quietly by and watching it all slip away. Afghanistan’s peaceful majority refuses to make the future an adversary, the unknown the enemy.

Pessimists and determined optimists alike agree that a continued US security presence is key, particularly if Afghanistan is going to continue its current advances in girls’ education and steps toward equality for women. As former US First Lady Laura Bush said in a recent Washington Post op-ed, “these gains are fragile, and there is a real danger that they will be reversed.”

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Hearing JFK's message of peace in John Kerry's diplomacy

Analysis: Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Secretary of State John F. Kerry's diplomatic agenda seems in line with Kennedy's call for "a more practical, more attainable peace."
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President John F. Kennedy speaking at American University's Spring Commencement on June 10, 1963. (American University/Courtesy)

BOSTON — On a beautiful day in June 1963, when John F. Kennedy’s voice resonated with the confidence of Camelot, when his hair was streaked with gold from Cape Cod sunshine, and when the darkness of Dallas was as distant as the chill of November, he chose to speak to young people.

It was a commencement address at American University and it is widely considered one of Kennedy’s most memorable and enduring speeches.

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GlobalPost announces GroundTruth reporting fellowship on rising youth unemployment 

We present an international journalism fellowship for 20 young reporters of any nationality who will be chosen to create multimedia projects related to the youth unemployment crisis.
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Eduardo Cordero, 19, from the Dominican Republic poses for a portrait in his room shared with his brother in the family apartment. Eduardo arrived in Spain in 2011 with his family. He was working without a contract until June, when he was fired, and is now seeking a job through the Exit Foundation. According to the latest Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) figures the new youth unemployment rate is 54.37 percent, reaching 79 percent among those 20 to 24 years old. (David Ramos/AFP/Getty Images)

They have been called the “lost generation” and “generation jobless.” In Algeria, they are known as hittistes — wall-leaners. In Egypt, they were called revolutionaries — until the established powers pushed them back to the fringe. And in Nigeria, young men in gangs called Area Boys bear tattoos reading “Born and Thrown Away.” 

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Damascus: A city changed by war

Correspondent Reese Erlich returned to Syria's capital after being away for two years. He inquired about journalist James Foley, who went missing nearly one year ago.
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Mourners carry the coffin of one of the children killed the day before when mortar rounds hit a school bus on November 12, 2013 outside al-Moujtahed Hospital in the Syrian capital Damascus. Four students were killed when a mortar hit the vehicle they were riding in. (AFP/Getty Images)

DAMASCUS, Syria — The regular crunch of artillery and the persistent crackle of machine gun fire are everywhere here, and the closeness of the war caught me by surprise.

They are the sounds of daily fighting in and around Damascus as the Syrian army attacked rebel positions on the outskirts of the capital. The artillery rounds are so common that locals don’t even flinch when they explode and rumble across the city. I definitely flinch.

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Exclusive: GlobalPost speaks with Syria's minister of justice

As the government retakes significant positions from the rebels, President Bashar al-Assad's confidant Najm al-Ahmad discusses the war.
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad hold their weapon as they stand near a tank in Tel Hasel, Aleppo province after capturing it from rebels November 15, 2013 (George Ourfalian/Reuters)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Within the last few days the Syrian Army has retaken areas on the outskirts of Damascus, as well as parts of Homs and Aleppo, according to Najm al-Ahmad, Syria’s minister of justice and trusted confidant of President Bashar al-Assad.

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Surge in Nigeria's communal violence punctuates peace conference

A suspected Boko Haram attack and a land dispute claimed as many as 42 lives Saturday, but did not deter those trying to heal a culture of fear.
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Umar Farouk Mohammed, of Kaduna's Interfaith Mediation Center, on a site visit to Redo, a community plagued with violence between Muslims and Christians. He stands with the head of a Muslim family whose home, in the background, was set ablaze in the communal violence. (Allan Leonard/GlobalPost)

KADUNA, Nigeria — The momentum of communal violence here doesn’t pause for peace conferences.

At the close of an inspiring week of shared perspectives at a six-day International Forum for Cities in Transition, delegates from around the world packed their bags and headed back to their own divided societies while Nigeria’s Sunday newspapers told of the mounting violence that continues apace.

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Delegates from divided societies offer help in Nigeria

Christian-Muslim violence has claimed thousands of lives here, but survivors from Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Israel and Palestine are working with local leaders to quell the conflict.

KADUNA, Nigeria — The bridge over the Kaduna River divides this city.

In many ways Kaduna stands as a microcosm of Nigeria itself, with Christians living to the south and Muslims in the north. Like all of Nigeria, it suffers from desperate poverty that cuts across both communities and shares a pervasive culture of fear as the country continues to plunge into communal strife that has claimed nearly 20,000 lives since 1999.

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Peacemakers gather under heavy guard to confront Nigeria's Christian-Muslim violence

An Irish activist and scholar who has dedicated much of his life to bringing peace to places like South Africa, the West Bank and Northern Ireland has convened a special meeting in Nigeria.
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Pastor James Wuye (L) and Imam Muhammad Ashafa (R) with conference organizer Padraig OMalley (C) in Kaduna, Nigeria. (Allan Leonard/GlobalPost)

KADUNA, Nigeria — Soldiers with automatic weapons flanked our convoy and armored personnel carriers guarded the entrance as we arrived at the opening of a peace conference here.

This city, which has been a flashpoint in Nigeria’s ongoing violence among Christians and Muslims and a counter-insurgency campaign against Islamic militants, is serving as host of the 4th International Conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition.

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Qatar: A poet sits in a desert cell for reciting his work at home

Op-Ed: Poet Mohammed al-Ajami will spend 15 years in prison for his Arab Spring-inspired poem — unless Qatar's new emir can be convinced to grant him a pardon.
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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2013 in New York City. (Brendan McDermid-Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — We stood outside the guard house in the desert wind on the outskirts of the city. Doha Central Prison rose on the horizon of a barren, rock-strewn landscape, electric wires cutting across a cloudless sky. We had been told we had permission to visit Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, whose 15-year sentence for two poems had been confirmed the previous day by the high court.

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US soldiers in Afghanistan adapt to life further from the fight

Combat situations are the bread and butter of infantrymen, but US forces are learning to go without as Afghans take over.

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The glowing hot embers of America's war in Afghanistan, embodied by the military's far-flung combat outposts, are winking out one by one. The few remaining outposts will be turned over to the Afghan military soon, as the US drawdown advances to its uncertain conclusion next year. 

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