Syria

• Syria’s young girls are facing assault, early marriage and being forced into prostitution as the refugee crisis spirals. The IRC, selected by the FT for its 2014 seasonal appeal, is seeking to protect and empower them

• A motley crew of ex businessmen, academics and pro-Russia activists has seized control in Ukraine’s rebel republics Read more

Turkey’s role in the war against Isis
Gideon Rachman is joined by David Gardner and Daniel Dombey to discuss Turkey’s role in the unfolding war against the jihadist movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Does Turkey share western war aims or is the government of President Erdogan more interested in crushing the Kurdish movements that are fighting Isis?

Hugh Carnegy in Paris

France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament on Wednesday, has never faced a greater terrorist threat than that posed by homegrown jihadis who have fought alongside Islamist militants in Syria and IraqRead more

The Gaza strip was not the only place where civilians were suffering and dying last week. There were (and are) several other lethal conflicts underway. Take the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The current edition of The Economist reports that: “Ukraine’s offensive already seems to have featured pretty indiscriminate use of artillery. By July 26th 1,129 people had been killed in eastern Ukraine, 799 of them civilians, the UN has reported … shells have already begun falling in the centre of Donetsk: the potential for things to go lethally wrong is great.”

Civilians are also dying in large numbers in Iraq. Just yesterday over 50 people were killed in car bombs in Baghdad, while 60 were killed in an Iraqi government air-strike aimed at a Sharia court, set up by Isis in Mosul. Read more

What would an Erdogan presidency mean for Turkey?
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced he will run in the country’s first every directly elected presidential contest next month. Ben Hall is joined by Istanbul correspondent Daniel Dombey and FT columnist David Gardner to discuss how is the turmoil across the border in Syria and Iraq is changing the political dynamics ahead of the election, and whether an Erdogan victory would mean breaking the grip of Turkey’s old elite, or just another step towards authoritarian rule.

  • Borzou Daragahi reports on how the violence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is merging into a single sectarian war whose Shia and Sunni protagonists are receiving support from regional powers “amid a dizzying and ever-changing cast of militia leaders, jihadi adventurers, sectarian politicians and rogue gangs dressed up as political groups”.
  • As for the conflict in Ukraine, Courtney Weaver discovers that dozens of Chechen fighters have joined pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, claiming to have been ordered there by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. “They’ve killed one of our guys and we will not forget this,” said Magomed, a 30 year-old Chechen fighter with a wolf tattooed across his chest. “We will take one hundred of their lives for the life our brother.”
  • On the European front, “the outcome of the European elections (at home and elsewhere) paves the way for Italy to play an active role in Europe,” says the Bruegel think-tank as it chews over the success of Matteo Renzi and the Democratic party. But now that Renzi has a mandate, “Italy should play a role and put itself forward as a decided leader in the project of more European integration.”
  • One for a quiet moment and a cup of coffee: The Guardian has gone deep into “enemy territory” and produced an outsider’s guide to the City of London. “I am trying to understand the culture of the City; to find out whether those who work there have learned the lessons of the crash of 2007-08, and if the City can ever be made ‘disaster proof’,” writes Stephen Moss.
  • On that note, Martin Wolf ponders the crisis-prone nature of capitalism and asks what governments must do to minimise the damage without having to resort to the comprehensive measures needed after the last crash.

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♦ A potential split from Kiev is dividing the 200,000 miners around Donetsk whose livelihoods depend on Ukraine’s demand for coal.

♦ Anti-Assad rebel Abu Omar’s darkly comedic ‘Blockade Meals’ blog contains tips and recipes to help Syrians survive life under siege.

♦ Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. More than 60 have been killed there since the current conflict began and many others have been kidnapped as they become pawns in the conflict.

♦ Simon Schama argues that Scotland‘s exit from the ‘splendid mess’of Britain’s multicultural union would be a disaster.

♦ The town of Chibok, deep in the northeastern Nigeria bush and down the most Boko Haram-dense road in the country, is gripped by fear and pain after the terror group kidnapped more than 200 of its daughters. Read more

  • Gideon Rachman argues that India needs a jolt and Narendra Modi is the man to provide it.
  • When the political class tries its hand at populism it radiates inauthenticity, says Janan Ganesh.
  • The FT explores the looming crisis in the US infrastructure network.
  • A new and bloody front has been opened in eastern Syria as the country’s two most powerful jihadist groups battle for control of the region’s oilfields.
  • Judge Saed Youssef, nicknamed “the Butcher”, has gained notoriety in Egypt: he has sentenced 1,212 people to their deaths in the past five weeks.
  • The latest US sanctions don’t affect Putin’s personal fortune, they threaten Putin’s actual pressure point: the oil that is Russia’s lifeblood.

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  • Seoul’s response to the ferry catastrophe has added to growing accusations of authoritarianism.
  • As the European elections approach, Alex Barker looks at the European Parliament’s growing power.
  • Edward Luce argues that, with the US always struggling between a push for freedom and a Calvinistic urge to meddle, the pendulum is now swinging back towards intrusion.
  • A defence pact between Washington and Manila will help the US put more muscle behind its pivot to Asia.
  • Simon Kuper argues that inequality is the new apartheid: your life path is largely determined before birth.
  • As the tourism industry in the Sinai has slumped, bedouins are turning to illegal opium production.
  • The US has dispatched its first advanced weapons to Syria since the conflict began, raising hopes among rebels that the Obama administration will lessen its resistance to military aid.
  • Russia could create a weak, neutral Ukraine almost instantly. But will it?
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been discussing the blunders that have fed Putin’s myth that “fascists” have taken power in Ukraine.

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Patrick Seale, journalist and scholar, Middle East commentator and impassioned Syria expert, died last week after succumbing to brain cancer. He was 83.

Best known as the biographer of Hafez al-Assad, the late dictator of Syria, and as a foreign correspondent, first for Reuters news agency and then as the Middle East correspondent for the Observer, Seale was also at different times an art dealer, a literary agent and in 1999 an intermediary in ultimately vain efforts to secure a peace treaty between Syria and Israel. Read more

♦ Thousands of young Muslims are being radicalised through social networks and propelled towards violence in Syria.

Latvia‘s ‘second class’ Russian residents are arguing for better rights, making many locals nervous amid the Crimea crisis.

Ukraine‘s ‘Kamikaze’ economy minister has one of the world’s toughest public administration jobs as he battles to deliver on unrealistic expectations.

♦ The rise of a US oligarchy amid widening inequality is threatening democracy, with both parties up for rent to wealthy lobbyists.

♦ ECB arch hawk Jens Weidmann often finds himself in a minority of one. But the appeal of being the person who is convinced everyone else is wrong seems to have waned. Read more

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The Syrian armed forces that took control of the Homs province town of Deir Balbi in 2012 wanted to show the locals they meant business and avoid attacks by approaching rebel units. So they forced children out of their homes, and allegedly placed them as human shields between their tanks and soldiers to dissuade the rebels from attacking.

The incident is described in a harrowing report issued by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, chronicling the devastating effects of the Syrian civil war on the country’s children, and adds fresh urgency to efforts to end the war. At least 10,000 children have died as casualties or combatants of war or under torture in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s prisons, the report estimates. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • The Sochi Olympics will only temporarily distract from Russia’s increasing economic problems, writes Kathrin Hille.
  • Figure skater Johnny Weir talks about the Russian obsession with skating and their attitudes towards homosexuality.
  • Journalists are arriving in Sochi for the start of the Winter Olympics to find their accommodation is still being built.
  • A New York Times interactive map series on the spread of violence in the Caucasus.
  • Egyptian actress Soheir al-Babli has called for “a man as strong as Hitler” to assert authority over the turbulent country.
  • Dr Hisham A Hellyer salutes the journalists in Egypt who are trying to hold power to account in a country that is increasingly hostile to their work.
  • Fatima Khan is determined to learn the facts behind the death of her son, Dr Abbas Khan, in a Syrian prison.
  • A UN report released on Monday details the abuses children are enduring in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
  • Vanity Fair examines the relationship between Wendi Deng, ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • John Kay’s open letter to Bill Gates restates his argument that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
  • Scarlett Johansson is at the centre of a growing storm surrounding a Soda Stream manufacturing plant in the occupied West Bank.
  • Borzou Daragahi reports on Egyptians’ zealous show of support for the military.
  • Syria’s Islamist rebels have gained control of the country’s oil and are selling fuel to the Assad regime in exchange for protection from air strikes.
  • Jan Cienski reports from Lviv – home to stalwarts of anti-Yanukovich sentiment and Ukrainian nationalism.
  • Upbeat duck accepts premature lameness, writes Edward Luce on Obama’s State of the Union speech.
  • Football stadia are at the forefront of the Chinese push for economic and political influence in Africa.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • New “blockbuster” drugs provide hope for a cure to Hepatitis C – an illness which now kills more in the UK than HIV.
  • Neil Buckley explores the tent city that has sprung up in Kiev’s Independence Square to house, feed, and protect the anti-government protesters.
  • Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy has begun a hunger strike to protest his detention without charge at the hands of Egypt’s military regime.
  • The New York Times reports on life without government in Lebanon.
  • Syrian government officials are facing anger from Syrians in Switzerland – the first time the regime has engaged with those directly suffering from the conflict.

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Simply by coming to the World Economic Forum, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is sending a message. He is the first Iranian president to have spoken in Davos for a decade. In a public speech at the forum and in private meetings with journalists, the president has sought to present a smiling and conciliatory face.

Certainly his personal style is a marked contrast to that of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, his predecessor. While Ahmadi-Nejad was all staring eyes and confrontation, Rouhani has a ready laugh and listens carefully to questions. Read more

By Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive Save the Children

The world has a habit of kicking off while Davis convenes and in past years I’ve been dismayed at the way the formal agenda carried on seemingly obliviously, for example when the so called Arab Spring began. Granted there’s been plenty of advance warning, but this year the Syria crisis is firmly on the agenda. From off the record discussions about the peace talks, to simulations of what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee, to press briefings on the need for humanitarian access. A startling combination of aid agencies and global financiers such as George Soros are collaborating to get attention to the impact on ordinary Syrian families caught up in the fighting, and call for aid to be allowed through and an end to the targeting of schools, hospitals and highly populated areas.

By Toby Luckhurst
  • Roula Khalaf muses on the lionising of broker Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s film, The Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Syrians have little hope for the talks in Geneva between the Assad regime and opposition forces, writes Borzou Daragahi.
  • Aboud Dandachi, a Sunni activist from Homs, describes life in the port of Tartous, an Assad stronghold.
  • The Catholic Church in Slovenia is in crisis after the “commercial misadventures” of clergy has placed the church in Maribor at risk of repossession.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina describes coming to terms with his homosexuality after the death of his mother.
  • Attitudes towards single motherhood in China are finally shifting.
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a citizens arrest from barman Twiggy Garcia for “a crime against peace” while dining in a Shoreditch restaurant.
  • Evidence of “systematic killing” perpetrated by the Syrian government leads to calls for war crimes charges against the regime.
  • Fethullah Gulen tells the Wall Street Journal that “democratic progress is now being reversed” in Turkey at the hands of prime minister Erdogan.
  • Charles Lane in the Washington Post calls for an end to the “corrupt quadrennial exercise” that is the Olympics.
  • There is little optimism about the Syrian peace talks after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s volte-face on Iranian participation in negotiations.

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