Stories By 'Rafia Zakaria'
If you want to experience an avalanche of unpleasant visual phenomena, all you need to do is turn on the television. As I write this, three-quarters of the screen is devoted to a speech being given by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. Every now and then the camera pans across the meeting or focuses on the speaker of the National Assembly, who sits bored and unshaven atop his perch.
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Two years ago, the forces of the so-called Islamic State Group (IS) descended upon the Shingar mountain range in north-western Iraq bordering Syria. Barren and rising up above the surrounding alluvial plains, the range, particularly Mount Shingar itself, has long been revered by populations of humans, forming the backdrop to many of history’s dramas. In the surrounding areas are some of the oldest human settlements that the world has ever known, some dating back many thousands of years.
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When I was little, I read history books, even textbooks, with a great deal of reverence. The record of the past, I thought, must be revered for it represented a sort of truth of the ages, the story that connected to the present. I had no idea that history, like so much else, can be created and laid in service for the accomplishment of this or that political or religious goal.
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THE most famous case in recent memory was that of the little girl in her pink jacket. Seven-year-old Zainab Ansari, the little girl whose face became familiar to Pakistanis for all the wrong reasons, was abducted, then raped and killed, by a 23-year-old neighbour. In the days after the crime, after he had thrown Zainab’s body in a trash heap in the neighbourhood, Imran Ali watched her parents suffer and search. He never said a word. Until he was arrested, Zainab’s parents had no idea that their worst enemy, the killer of their daughter, lived so close to them.
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Few Pakistanis noticed the death anniversary of Fatima Jinnah this Monday past. Even in her lifetime, she had apparently been largely a recluse. The political world had been too much for her, her run for the head of state was a trying if not debilitating expedition that ended in defeat.
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From the outside, Sweden looks like the most equal country in the world. What men do, women do as well. The streets of Sweden’s cities are full of both of them; they ride their bikes to work, they push children in strollers, they do groceries, they work in banks and they work in construction.
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