The couple who want to rebuild their shattered city

  • 21 April 2017
  • From the section Magazine
Marwa al-Sabouni and Ghassan Jansiz

Someday, what seems like Syria's forever war will end. Then the focus will shift to rebuilding a country shredded and scarred by conflict. A husband and wife, both architects, who witnessed their city's devastation are already thinking about how to restore it.

"It's not easy to rise from the ruins, it's not easy," reflects Marwa al-Sabouni.

We're standing in the cool dark depths of a hammam - a public bath dating back to Roman times in the old quarter of Homs. Its thick stone walls are now rough blotches of black and brown, dappled by shafts of light streaming through holes in a domed ceiling designed to draw light into this ancient warren.

The history within these walls is even darker.

"This was a major battleground," Sabouni explains as we walk through the hammam's main chamber, with what remains of a water fountain at its centre.

Read full article The couple who want to rebuild their shattered city

Eta's violent campaign ends with hardly a whisper

  • 10 April 2017
  • From the section Europe
View of graffiti in support of Eta in San Sebastian, Basque Country, northern Spain (09 April 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Eta still exists even though it has now closed an important chapter of its history

In the final days before the Basque separatist group Eta gave up its guns, mediators spoke of "jitters" over whether this long-awaited moment would go according to plan.

And as we drove into San Sebastian, in the heart of Spain's Basque region, we were halted by road blocks and stern faced police in black uniforms, guns pressed against their chests.

Read full article Eta's violent campaign ends with hardly a whisper

Islamic State leaves trail of destruction in Syria's Palmyra

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Media captionLyse Doucet surveys the damage to Palmyra's Roman-era theatre

Fariha remembers the exact moment when Islamic State fighters shattered her life in Palmyra.

"It was a quarter to five in the morning. We were asleep and heard a knock on the door," she tells me as we sit on thin, grey mattresses in an abandoned school in Homs, 160km (99 miles) from her home.

Read full article Islamic State leaves trail of destruction in Syria's Palmyra

Is Saudi Arabia on the cusp of change?

A Saudi woman wearing a Niqab gets into a taxi at a mall in Riyadh as a grassroots campaign planned to call for an end to the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia on October 26, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia

Ask about change in Saudi Arabia.

The reply used to be: it will come, in its own way and in its own time, in the conservative kingdom.

Read full article Is Saudi Arabia on the cusp of change?

Syria peace talks: Armed groups come in from the cold

  • 23 January 2017
  • From the section World
A view of Astana's Rixos President Hotel, the place that will host Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan (22 January 2017) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Those attending the talks at Astana's Rixos President Hotel must brave sub-zero temperatures to get there

There's a new venue, new brokers, and new negotiators, but can Syria talks here in Astana resolve the old intractable problems?

"Everything has changed since Aleppo," says a Western diplomat who's been engaged on Syria for the past several years. "There's a new equation."

Read full article Syria peace talks: Armed groups come in from the cold

Aleppo siege: 'We are crying and afraid'

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Media captionThe children of eastern Aleppo have never known a life without war

A biting winter's chill seeps through embattled Aleppo as a city braces itself for what could be the worst months of a war approaching its sixth year.

Driving into government-controlled west Aleppo, through military checkpoints, a landscape of skeletal buildings is a monument to Syria's spiral into violence.

Read full article Aleppo siege: 'We are crying and afraid'

Can dealmaker Trump seal Middle East peace?

President-elect Donald Trump pictured at Trump International Golf Club, on 20 November, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The world is waiting to see where Donald Trump stands on complex issues in the Middle East

A president-elect who prides himself on the "art of the deal" is about to confront a mire in the Middle East where deals are sorely needed, but so very hard to clinch.

Across the Middle East and beyond, many are pondering Mr Trump's declarations in the heat of the campaign, his still sketchy comments in sit-down interviews, and his first choices for his team in White House Inc.

Read full article Can dealmaker Trump seal Middle East peace?

Why is Russia engaged in Aleppo?

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Media captionHow the conflict in Aleppo has changed the fabric of the city

Russia has launched a major new assault on what it calls "terrorist targets" in Syria as a brief calm around Aleppo is shattered by devastating air strikes.

Moscow says its first warplanes to take off from its aircraft carrier now stationed off the Syrian coast did not target Aleppo itself.

Read full article Why is Russia engaged in Aleppo?

New UN chief Antonio Guterres will listen to the world

  • 18 October 2016
  • From the section World
Syrian men remove a baby from the rubble of a destroyed building following a reported air strike in the Qatarji neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo (21 September 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Securing an end to the conflict in Syria has been identified by Mr Guterres as a priority

Talk to people who know Antonio Guterres and you hear the same refrain - the newly elected UN secretary general is a very good listener.

"He has this ability to stand his ground on important issues but still make you feel he's heard and understood your point of view," reflects Ninette Kelley who now heads the New York office of the UN's Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

Read full article New UN chief Antonio Guterres will listen to the world

'New Canadians' settle in as refugee acceptances slow

English language classes

Canada has settled more than 25,000 refugees, meeting a promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the rate of acceptance has slowed

I went to Toronto to meet some of these 'New Canadians', as Mr Trudeau calls them, and to speak to the private groups sponsoring these refugees.

Read full article 'New Canadians' settle in as refugee acceptances slow