For most Syrian women, the war has been a disaster. For some, it has also been liberating.
Winter has not yet hit this nearly besieged city, but children are already attending classes in winter coats and stocking hats.
At the largest refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, young Syrian mothers and pregnant women are considered relatively lucky.
The woman who walked into the Islamic Front (IF) media office near the Turkish border was on the verge of fainting under the hot Syrian sun, but all she cared about was her infant son.
Numerous mechanics, tyre and car body shops used to line the busy streets near the Old City of Syria’s previous industrial and commercial hub.
Volunteer civil defence units operating here in Syria’s largest city careen through crater-pocked routes of precariously hanging, pancaked concrete where barrel bombs have struck.
The single, heavily damaged supply road remaining into the rebel-held, eastern area of the city is acutely exposed to enemy fire.
Concerns about supporting a national army collaborating with a ‘terrorist organisation’ in Lebanon have in recent times been superseded by threats inherent in growing regional conflict.
The Shatila Palestinian camp has no library, nor does adjacent Sabra or Ain El-Hilweh in the south. And, after recent statements by Lebanon’s foreign minister, some fear that the thousands of Syrian refugee children within them will soon have even slimmer chances of learning to read and write.
Gaunt, haggard Syrian children begging and selling gum have become a fixture in streets of the Lebanese capital; having fled the ongoing conflict, they continue to be stalked by its effects.
In the mountains east of the coastal port of government-held Latakia, three years of regime bombardment has left swaths of blackened stumps in the mountain forests and crumbling concrete structures in Sunni villages, most of whose inhabitants support opposition forces.
As once-eliminated diseases resurface and barrel bombs and alleged chlorine attacks target civilians, doctors in rebel-held areas and across the border struggle with issues of how best to serve their profession.
Heavy reliance on water intensive crops, a major upstream dam project for the Nile basin, and rising groundwater levels pushing at pharaoh-era monuments will be pressing issues for the next Egyptian president - whether military or civilian.
In northern Lebanon’s largest city, Tripoli, Syria Street cuts through neighbourhoods that back opposite sides of the war raging in Syria, 30 km away. Clashes between them resumed this weekend after a cross-border rocket attack.
Concerns are rising that courts run by Islamic clerics in many of Syria’s rebel-held areas may serve as a prelude to Taliban-style justice in what was long a violently repressive but secular state.
Free Syrian Army fighters stand guard over the state cable company premises to avoid looting in Khan Al-Assal, a district 14 kilometres west of Aleppo. Much of the rest of the place seems a nightmarish ghost town.
The prisoner is led, handcuffed and dirty, into what until last year served as a school. “A shabiha
,” said one of the anti-regime rebels in the room. “We found him two days ago at a checkpoint.”
Scorching flames from a makeshift oil refinery sting eyes and the fumes choke throats near the top of a hill in northwestern Syria, where Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters gather for fuel, coffee and phone calls as darkness falls.
Despite impressive advancements in enrolment rates, media reports of gas attacks on girls’ schools, shoddy books, and a lack of classroom facilities continue to mar the reputation of the education system in Afghanistan.
As Afghanistan prepares for the 2014 withdrawal of foreign forces that have occupied this country for over a decade, investors are already beginning to bid a hasty retreat amid rumours that “chaos” and civil war will replace NATO’s boots on the ground late next year.
While global attention is fixed on the scheduled pullout of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, women here have a much more immediate concern: how will they survive another day at work?