🌏 Afghan women are suffering under Taliban rule
Plus: Vietnamese President to step down amid anti-corruption crackdown
Hi there Intriguer. RIP to Sister André, a French nun who died on Tuesday, just shy of her 119th birthday. Sister André was born in 1904 🤯, survived two World Wars, two major global pandemics (she even contracted and beat Covid-19), and lived through 18 French presidents. The title of the world’s oldest person has now passed to Maria Branyas Morera of Spain, who will turn a spry 116 in March.
Today’s briefing is a 4.5 min read:
- 🇦🇫 Afghan women are suffering under Taliban rule.
- 🇻🇳 Vietnam’s leadership gets an unexpected shake-up.
- ➕ Plus: The pandemic made economic inequality worse, how the papers are covering the World Economic Forum, and Elon Musk says he refuses to attend Davos, but he hasn’t been invited since 2015.
– VC & EP
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan has added several new models of Turkish-made drones to its arsenal. The country has boosted defence spending after clashes along its border with Tajikistan in September.
- 🇺🇦 Ukraine: Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrsky, died in a helicopter crash outside Kyiv on Wednesday morning (18 January). The crash killed more than a dozen people, but its cause is still unknown.
- 🇳🇿 New Zealand: In a surprise announcement, Jacinda Ardern told Labour Party members that she would step down as New Zealand’s prime minister no later than 7 February. She’s been in office since 2017.
- 🇪🇨 Ecuador: The CEOs of 12 state-owned enterprises, including state oil firm Petroecuador, have been fired amid graft accusations. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso believes some have fled the country.
- 🇬🇲 The Gambia: President Adama Barrow announced that Vice President Badara Alieu Joof died in India on Tuesday (17 January) “after a short illness”. Reports in Indian media suggested the vice president was in India for medical treatment.
🇦🇫 AFGHANISTAN | HUMAN RIGHTS
A former Afghan lawmaker’s death is a worrying sign for Afghan women
Briefly: A former member of Afghanistan’s National Assembly, Mursal Nabizada, was shot and killed in her Kabul home last Saturday (14 January). The National Assembly was effectively dissolved by the Taliban when they retook power in 2021. Police have not identified a suspect.
Nabizada’s supporters viewed her as a symbol of Afghanistan’s more liberal future – she was only eight years old when the Taliban collapsed in 2001 and only 26 when she took office in 2019 as one of 69 women in Afghanistan’s 250-seat parliament. She had remained an outspoken critic of the Taliban.
Women’s rights: Human rights groups say Nabizada’s death is a distressing reminder of the deteriorating situation for women in Taliban-led Afghanistan. Women cannot visit public parks, travel long distances without a male companion, or attend universities. On 24 December, several humanitarian groups suspended operations after the Taliban barred NGOs from employing women of any nationality.
Intrigue’s take: Afghans desperately need humanitarian assistance. According to the International Rescue Committee, nearly 30 million Afghans are without essential health services, and almost 19 million are experiencing food insecurity.
But humanitarian groups and Western governments are reticent to cooperate too closely with the Taliban to facilitate aid, lest they be seen as implicitly sanctioning the Taliban’s abuses. There are no good options.
Also worth noting:
- A top-ranking female UN official, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, arrived in Kabul on Wednesday (17 January) for gender equality talks with the Taliban.
- Twitter faced backlash after several top Taliban officials purchased Twitter verification. The platform has since removed their checkmarks.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How newspapers are covering: The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week. (According to WEF, about half of Davos attendees come from just three countries: the US, the UK and Switzerland).
Links: Arab News, El Economista, Global Times
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🇻🇳 VIETNAM | POLITICS
Anti-corruption crackdown forces Vietnamese president to step down
Briefly: Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc resigned on Tuesday (17 January) amid an unprecedented purge of Vietnam’s top leadership. He is the first Vietnamese president to ever resign from office.
Phuc resigned (rather than get fired) after two deputy prime ministers were also dismissed for alleged corruption. Phuc is a veteran of Vietnamese politics and served as Prime Minister from 2016-2021.
Intrigue’s take: There’s no doubt that corruption is an issue in Vietnamese politics. But the anti-graft drive is also a perfect opportunity for the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, to consolidate his power.
In fact, Vietnam’s purge reminds us of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign in China: Everyone in elite communist party politics in both China and Vietnam is corrupt to some degree, it’s just a matter of who gets caught.
Also worth noting:
- Vietnam’s economy grew 8.02% in 2022, its fastest annual growth rate in 25 years.
- In 2021, Vietnam ranked 87th out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perception Index, earning a score below the global average.
📝 REPORT OF THE DAY
One step forward, two steps back…
Almost two-thirds of the wealth generated since 2020 went to the globe’s richest 1%, according to an Oxfam report that coincides with the World Economic Forum Davos Summit.
You might be surprised to learn that global inequality (inequality across everyone in the world) actually decreased between 1994 and 2019 for the first time since the industrial revolution.
Covid-19 has reversed that trend: several studies have found that government responses to the pandemic have significantly worsened inequality both within countries (the kind of inequality most people notice) and between countries (inequality between developed and less-developed countries).
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
Now that we’ve mentioned Davos (sorry), here are the most interesting things we’ve read about this year’s gathering:
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Should Western governments cooperate with the Taliban?
Yesterday’s poll: How much longer will Europe remain united in its support for Ukraine?
🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤐 Not much longer, the fractures are starting to show (21%)
🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🪖 Until the end of the year (24%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 💪 As long as the war continues (55%)
Your two cents:
- 💪 V.W: “It is the right thing to do. Even if people might be “getting tired”, it is in Europe’s own benefit to continue to do so.”
- 🪖 K.A: “US and UK election cycles will be a problem. Germany remained lukewarm about its position.”
- 🤐 J.W: “As this drags on and costs continue to climb, Europe’s resolve will waiver. ”