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First Person

For Many, ‘Passing’ Means Survival in the Holy Land

‘Passing’ in Israel and the West Bank

The Palestinian Authority currently sets the dates for Daylight Saving Time (DST), which are not the same as those observed by Israel. So for chunks of the year, the two operate on different clocks, temporarily out of sync. This is a deliberate act of political resistance, with roots in the First Intifada.

Love Is All You Need: Ukrainian Woman Recalls Keeping Culture Alive Under Siege

Preserving Ukrainian Traditions Against Tyranny

Generation after generation, everything that could have made Ukrainians proud — productive farms, the famed Kozak military of peasant-warriors, aspiring artists — was expropriated, exiled or killed. After 300 years of deliberate cultural genocide by the Russians, little of the Ukrainian culture remained. Still, it couldn’t be completely eradicated. Tiny seeds slipped through the cracks of the Russian repression machine and hid deep in the crevices of everyday life, just out of reach for government officials.

Qaradawi and the Struggle for Modern Islam

Qaradawi and the Struggle for Modern Islam

Early in my career as a student of the contemporary Muslim world, it became clear to me that not knowing Qaradawi was not an option. Yet knowing the prolific writer was not easy either, especially if, as in my case, you do not come from either an Arabic-speaking or a Muslim household but from a well-nigh atheist, East German family.

A Newfound Will to Live

A Newfound Will to Live

I am a scientist, so I analyzed my suicide plan further, concluding that the physics of the jump I was considering wouldn’t end my life fast enough. No bridges here were high enough. I would suffer. I would be in the water freezing to death. That was not what I wanted.

A Schoolgirl’s First Day in Iran’s Islamic Republic

A Schoolgirl’s First Day in Iran’s Islamic Republic

My 10-year-old sister’s arms and legs were flailing. She kicked, desperate to get a foothold in backward motion. The school inspector was pulling her by the collar, choking her. “Whore! Scum!” the inspector shouted. “I’m going to break your arms, then I’m going to break your face!”

What a Hunger Strike in Egypt Says About Power

What a Hunger Strike in Egypt Says About Power

Only when I experienced prison myself and grasped the power dynamics did I understand: Prisoners go on hunger strikes not because they cannot resist anymore but because the only act of resistance left to reclaim their body is to destroy it.

Somali Pirates Insisted on Muslim Burial for Hostage

Somali Pirates Insisted on Muslim Burial for Hostage

In the years that followed our abduction, I think we all recovered in some uneven way. The suffering welded and changed us. Now we were scattered around the world in an intensely remembered network, and even if there would be no grand reunion, cohesion wasn’t totally lost.