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.

This is Danny Pearl's Final Story, by Asra Q. Nomani, Washingtonian

The author spent a decade reporting the facts of Daniel Pearl's murder. Little did she know she would also learn something about myself.

It's May 5, 2012, the first time in three and a half years that KSM -- as he's known to American officials-has appeared in court, outside his prison cell. We are at Guantánamo, where a US military commission is about to arraign him and four other men for the September 11 attacks, in a courtroom that feels like a movie set. Erected atop an abandoned airfield on the base, it's as big as a warehouse and has small trailers outside set up as holding areas, one for each defendant. When the courtroom door opened for the men, the Caribbean sun pushed its way into the room first.

I'm in seat number two in the first row of journalists and spectators, separated from the defendants by a wall outfitted with soundproof glass. A video system feeds sound and pictures to screens above us. I'm about 30 feet behind KSM, and there are 40 of us in the gallery. Yet as KSM takes his seat, it feels for a moment as if we're the only two people in the room.

"Allahu, Allahu, Allahu," I whisper.

For the families of those who died on 9/11, the day marks the start of what's likely to be a years-long trial for justice against KSM, the self-described architect of the World Trade Center attacks. For me, it's something else. KSM is the man who bragged about taking a knife to the throat of my Wall Street Journal colleague and close friend Daniel Pearl.

Eagle Scout. Idealist. Drug Trafficker?, by David Segal, the New York Times

Is Dread Pirate Roberts, the man behind the world's largest black market for drugs, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht?

Far from the bloodless kingpin portrayed by the government, Ross Ulbricht, by the accounts of friends and relatives, was soulful and sensitive. In a conversation with his childhood friend Rene Pinnell, recorded in 2012 through StoryCorps, a national oral history project, and still posted on YouTube, Mr. Ulbricht said that in college he initially refused to sleep with the woman he described as his first love, for fear that he would wind up heartsick.

"We didn't have sex for like three months," he said. "But we'd make out, and really, like, get close but never go there. And when we finally did, it was amazing."

It seems nearly impossible to reconcile the government's version of Mr. Ulbricht with the warm, compassionate person that others describe. Which leaves at least three possibilities.

One, that the government has, in fact, collared the wrong man.

Two, that Mr. Ulbricht is a sociopath who concealed a dark side from everyone for years.

Three, that Mr. Ulbricht is Dread Pirate Roberts -- and that the two are not really that different.

A Countryside of Concentration Camps, by Graeme Wood, the New Republic

Burma could be the site of the world's next genocide.

A year later on the streets of Rangoon, Burma's Great Unclenching is a beautiful thing. The Burma I first visited in 1998 was a snakepit of secret police and muzzled dissent. But last fall, I heard people openly express love for the leader of Burma's democratic opposition, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. On every street corner, kiosks sold dozens of vibrant tabloids free from routine censorship. Burma's economic isolation once forced foreign visitors to pack in bundles of crisp hundred-dollar bills. Now brand-new ATMs disgorge money just like in Paris or Buenos Aires.

But Arakan state looked a lot better when things were still clenched. Muslims and Buddhists who recently lived with each other peacefully now squat on opposite sides of barbed-wire fences and plot each other's elimination. Old women and children too infirm to run from raiding parties have been speared or beaten to death in their homes. The fortunate ones are fleeing to other countries on overladen, leaky boats. In Sittway, the state capital, Buddhists have surrounded the old Muslim quarter, starving its residents into submission. "It's a concentration camp," a diplomat in Rangoon told me.

The Disappeared, by James Traub, Foreign Policy

Reporting and surviving a war with no rules.

The early days of the war saw a number of tragic deaths of journalists, including the Sunday Times of London's Marie Colvin and freelance photographer Remi Ochlik, killed by regime shelling during the bombardment of Homs. And then things took an even nastier turn. On August 13, 2012, Austin Tice,3 an American former Marine, law student, and sometime journalist, was nabbed, apparently by the regime. Nothing has been heard from him since October 2012. Two months later, the NBC reporter Richard Engel and his team were kidnapped by what Engel described as the pro-regime militia known as shabiha. They escaped after five days when their captors drove into a rebel checkpoint. Those were just early mile markers on the road to anarchy. Today, rampant kidnapping has become the norm.

Covering wars is, of course, a dangerous job; that's one of the things many war correspondents like about it. But Syria is dangerous in a way that is less thrilling than sickening. Stephanie Freid, who covers the war for the Chinese CCTV network, says, "I've never been in a bleaker, darker setting; it's a godless place. Whenever I go in I feel like, 'Just let me get out alive.'" While some major news organizations continue to work inside Syria, many of the world's most experienced war correspondents -- including C.J. Chivers of the New York Times, Paul Wood of the BBC,4 and Janine di Giovanni of Newsweek5 -- stopped crossing into Syria in September 2013. They're not afraid of being killed, at least no more than any sentient being would be in such a dangerous place.

"I can take anything but kidnapping," says di Giovanni.

Our Man in Africa, by Michael Bronner, Foreign Policy

America championed a bloodthirsty torturer to fight the original war on terror. Now, he is finally being brought to justice.

Foulds excused himself and rushed to inform the ambassador, Richard Bogosian, and the CIA's chief-of-station. They lit up the phones to Washington to seek instructions and, if possible, assistance. "The bottom line is that he was worth saving," Bogosian said of Habré. "He helped us in ways not everybody was willing to."

Throughout the 1980s, the man the CIA had dubbed the "quintessential desert warrior" had been the centerpiece of the Reagan administration's covert effort to undermine Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi, who had become an increasing threat and embarrassment to the United States with his support for international terrorism. Despite persistent and increasingly alarming reports of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and prison abuse carried out by Habré's regime, the CIA and the State Department's Africa bureau had secretly armed Habré and trained his security service in exchange for the dictator's commitment to ruthlessly pound the Libyan troops then occupying northern Chad. If Habré were overthrown, that near-decade-long effort would be undone.


A Bittersweet Legacy

Remembering a popular restaurateur killed in Kabul—and a policy of segregation that humiliated local Afghans.

A Taliban suicide squad killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners, in one of their brazen attacks in the heart of Kabul on the night of Friday, Jan. 17. Their target was the La Taverna du Liban, a popular restaurant. Among the dead are several high profile foreign officials, including the country representative for the International Monetary Fund.

But there is one individual whose death has sparked particularly widespread sadness and condemnation from the foreign community and locals alike in Kabul: Kamal Hamade, the Lebanese owner of the restaurant. Several media outlets have written about him over the past few days. Personally, the news has sparked bitter, underreported memories of the recent past -- in particular, of the first strange encounter I had with Kamal.

Back in 2007, many restaurants in Kabul owned by or catering to foreigners began apartheid-style service and would not serve Afghans, a practice that prompted minimal opposition. The stated rationale was that restaurants wanted to serve alcohol, and thus Muslims should not be able to enter. 

One day, my friend and I were stopped at the entrance of La Taverna du Liban for not holding foreign passports. I demanded to see the owner, and I vowed to stay there for as long as it took for that to happen. After a few minutes of waiting, the heavily armed guards -- not tall bouncers with big muscles, but the paramilitary-like forces that commonly guard diners in the city -- frisked us and let us pass the first entrance. (In Kabul, many restaurants have multiple gates, including metal-detector doorframes before the halls of restaurants open up.) At the second entrance, we met Kamal, who politely asked us, "Can I help you?" I furiously told him that Afghanistan was not 20th-century South Africa, United States, or Germany, where Jews and black people were not served in restaurants.

His response was simply that the government had issued orders to not provide alcohol to Muslims.

In a semi-shouting voice, I pointed out the flaws in his logic. This was a restaurant, not a bar, I said. Restaurants in other countries, including Western ones, that happened to serve alcohol didn't prevent everyone under the age of 21 -- or whatever the legal drinking age might be -- from entering. After around five minutes of heated discourse, Kamal finally decided to treat us as an exception.

He was surprised, however, when we refused to enter. We wanted to make a point and told him that we would return when the door was open to all Afghans.

I was not the only one humiliated by what amounted to segregation. Many of my friends who wanted to try newly available foreign cuisines in their towns were barred from the indulgence. Everyone knew the alcohol argument was a ridiculous excuse by restaurants owners who wanted to provide a Western atmosphere in which embassy employees, aid workers, and security companies' staff would feel at home -- a place where they could turn a blind eye to realities on the ground around them.

Certainly, it might have cost, say, an Afghan government employee his or her whole monthly salary to be able to buy dinner for a family of four at one of these establishments -- but that wasn't really the point. It was troubling that segregation was supported by and for the people who were purportedly there to help us after years of brutality and oppression under the Taliban regime. They said they would bring us freedom, but apparently, this didn't extend to the restaurants.

We left Kamal's restaurant and the next day published an article in one of Kabul's English newspapers, shedding light on the problem and asking the Afghan government and the United Nations to break their silence. Soon after, we launched an informal campaign to end the unjust practice. A handful of foreigners who empathized with us also stopped going to restaurants that banned Afghans.

Eventually, a handful of restaurants changed their policies. Still, many options remained non-existent for locals -- unless you were a lucky Afghan with dual citizenship.

La Taverna du Liban, commonly known as Taverna, was one of the few establishments that eventually opened its doors to Afghan guests. Although it never stopped serving alcohol to foreigners, Taverna adjusted its service in order to make the substance less visible to Muslim customers. For example, it served beer in tea mugs, while a bottle of red wine was provided to a table in a clay teapot along with teacups.

After 2009, I visited Taverna many times. I always saw Kamal with a big smile on his face. He remembered me, too, and teased me for my "nationalistic" reaction when we first met.

The restaurant became widely touted as being the safest in Kabul. Kamal was always around, either sipping coffee at a corner table or walking between the restaurant and the kitchen to keep the waiters on their toes. He was friends with many of the guests who frequented his place.

To add to Taverna's fame, new diners were always happily surprised when their table was filled with hummus and samosas and chocolate cake -- all on the house. Sometimes, I joked with friendly waiters to bring me just a soda, as the starters and the dessert were too filling to order anything from the list of entrées.

With the withdrawal of the foreign forces at the end of this year, many restaurants are already packing up or will soon be on their way out. While there will be too few people in Kabul who will remember and miss many of these "ghost restaurants," Taverna is not one of them. Its absence, after last week's tragic attack, is already deeply felt.  

Kamal, like many other foreign entrepreneurs, came to Kabul to make money. He could have made more, I'm sure, running a logistics company or security firm. But he chose to serve food -- and, ultimately, to welcome everyone into his business with equal warmth. His legacy is not only one of offering a place where people could make and share memories. It is one of finally making the right decision, in a place where so many people have done the opposite.