Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
“Some Tips for the Long-Distance Traveller” by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, London Review of Books
The flight of migrants from the Middle East to Europe has consisted mostly of the young, educated and middle class.
A Kurdish friend of mine in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq recently posted an image of a hand-drawn diagram on his Facebook page. With little arrows and stick figures and pictures of a train and boat or two, the diagram shows how to get from Turkey to the German border in twenty easy steps. After you’ve made the thousand-mile trip to western Turkey, the journey proper begins with a taxi to Izmir on the coast. An arrow points to the next stage: a boat across the Aegean to ‘a Greek island’, costing between €950 and €1200. Another boat takes you to Athens. A train – looking like a mangled caterpillar – leads to Thessaloniki. Walking, buses and two more worm-like trains take you across Macedonia to Skopje, and then through Serbia to Belgrade. A stick figure walks across the border into Hungary near the city of Szeged. Then it’s on to Budapest by taxi, and another taxi across the whole of Austria. At the bottom of the page a little blue stick figure is jumping in the air waving a flag. He has arrived in Germany, saying hello to Munich, after a journey of some three thousand miles, taking perhaps three weeks, at a total cost of $2400.
“Meet the American Vigilantes Who Are Fighting ISIS” by Jennifer Percy, the New York Times Magazine
A ragtag group of fighters from America and Europe have joined the fight against extremists in Syria. But with little training and no clear leadership, do they know what they’re doing?
May was the flowering month for the Syrian thistle. The pink heads grew from the rubble in a small village south of the city of Tel Tamer, in northern Syria. A local Kurdish militia had liberated the village from the Islamic State, or ISIS, in the night. Coalition airstrikes had set fire to the grass and blackened the earth. Concrete buildings and small mud-brick homes were charred and gutted, riddled with bullet holes. The belongings of residents confettied the ground. At a curve in the road lay the corpse of an ISIS fighter.
I found a 26-year-old American civilian named Clay Lawton standing alone, just outside the village. Square-jawed, with large eyes and bright teeth, he was a volunteer freedom fighter with the local militia. ‘‘I’m from Rhode Island,’’ he said. ‘‘You know it? Most people confuse it with Staten Island or Long Island.’
“In Sweden’s Ikea attack, two migrants, two slayings and rampant fear of refugees” by Michael E. Miller, the Washington Post
A flash of knives, a “heart-rending” scream and a horrific crime that fueled Europe’s anti-migrant movement.
Kerstin Söderström was considering which frying pan to purchase when she heard the screams.
Söderström and her next-door neighbor, Eivy Albinsson, had just finished eating lunch in the cafeteria of an Ikea in Västerås, Sweden, when they headed downstairs to shop. Söderström, a middle-aged woman with glasses and a green thumb, stopped to admire the big box store’s flower selection. Then the two friends walked to the kitchenware department.
That’s when they heard it.
“A shriek-like sound,” Albinsson would recall later. “Heart-rending screams,” according to another Ikea shopper. Screams so piercing Söderström couldn’t tell whether they belonged to a man or a woman.
“Lagarde-ian of the Galaxy” by Isaac Chotiner, Huffington Post Highline
The first female chief of the IMF on the Greek meltdown, a historic refugee crisis and one thing Hillary Clinton has in common with an “old crocodile.”
morning scene at New York’s Carlyle Hotel is about the most perfect illustration of the term “power breakfast” that you could envision. On the ground floor of the opulent art deco hotel—a longtime favorite of American presidents, and the preferred Manhattan residence of visitors from Princess Diana to Mick Jagger to George Clooney—impeccably attired men enjoyed the buffet as several different security details milled about the lobby.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was sitting at a secluded table with an aide. Since Lagarde, 59, replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF—a formerly staid institution created in 1944 to ensure financial stability largely through the maintenance of exchange rates—she has found herself at the center of not one but several global emergencies.
“The Gun Smuggler’s Lament” by Elizabeth Dickinson, Foreign Policy
In 2011, Osama Kubbar ran Qatari-supplied arms to Libyan rebels battling the Qaddafi regime. Today, he is watching from afar as his country is torn apart by two warring governments and a web of rival militias. This is the story of a failed revolution and the people it engulfed.
Perched in a seaside villa in eastern Tunisia, Osama Kubbar had anxiously waited for days for the final news about his guns. It was May 2011, five months into the Arab Spring, and Kubbar, a Libyan smuggler, was remotely tracking the slow movements across the southern Mediterranean of a fishing vessel he’d arranged to transport 600 Belgian FN rifles, 10 machine guns, 200 grenades, 100 bulletproof vests, and 200 kegs for packing explosives. The boat was bound from Benghazi for his hometown, the coastal city of Zawiya, some 370 nautical miles away, where beleaguered rebels were battling the mightier forces of longtime Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi. Guns, Kubbar hoped, might help shift the tide in the fighters’ favor.
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images; SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images; JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images; JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images; STEPHEN JAFFE/IMF via Getty Images; MATHIAS DEPARDSON