Essays

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Mawwin hides in a home in Cairo after a 1999 factory accident.

Snatched from a marketplace in Sudan and sold into slavery at the age of six, William Mawwin became one of millions of people in the world enduring some form of involuntary servitude. This is his extraordinary story.

The main street in Rogun, a modest town that hopes to be home to the world’s tallest dam, a relatively narrow clay and stone “embankment” dam more than 1,000 feet high. (Joshua Kucera)

Poor, landlocked, and bedeviled by its neighbors, Tajikistan is staking its future on the one resource it has in abundance.

Online review culture is dotted with black holes of bad taste.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Google, and the author of a book for women juggling their professional and family lives, "Lean In." NADINE RUPP / GETTY IMAGES

There is a booming market for self-improvement guides among Americans eager to redeem themselves from the sins of sloth, gluttony, or general discontent. But what qualifies one person to tell another how best to live?

The mass warehousing of convicts is a sign of America’s faltering belief in second chances. Considering how individuals atone for their crimes can help us restore rehabilitation as an ideal.

The ceaseless quest for redemption in politics and culture is one of the chronic infirmities of American national life. But God forbid we should ever give it up.

CHRIS WEYANT / CARTOON STOCK

If Washington seems to get much less done than it once did, it is partly because it is trying to do so much more.

Photo: Nelson Mandela, with his then-wife Winnie, waves to a crowd in 1990 on the day after he was released from prison. He had been jailed for 27 years. In 1994 he was elected president of South Africa, a post he held for five years. WALTER DHALDHLA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

In a process almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, Africa has become significantly more democratic since the early 1990s. Its transition toward political freedom offers both inspiration and cautionary lessons.

Art: Afghan painter Hangama Amiri’s “Girl Under the Taliban” depicts a burqa, the full-body covering that the militants forced women to wear. The artist fled to Canada with her family in 1996 when she was six years old. A 2010 visit to Afghanistan inspired her series The Wind-Up Dolls of Kabul.

Three Afghan women write about violence and shelter, the Taliban, and getting to vote.

Photo: Enough votes: Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev greets supporters in 2011 after being reelected with 96 percent of the vote. YURI KOCHETKOV / EPA / CORBIS

Recent history in the countries of the former Soviet Union suggests that the appetite for freedom may not be as strong everywhere as we assume.

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