Good morning, gentle readers! This week we’re delving into some rich, complicated longreads from the Middle East to South Central Los Angeles, exploring immigration and transgender people in the military, and more. Please join us — and drop your favourite longreads in the comments!
‘Slaves of Isis: the long walk of the Yazidi women‘ (Cathy Otten for The Guardian)
This is an intense, and superbly reported, longread on the Yazidi women who have been taking the brunt of abuse from Daesh. Their stories are colourful and complex, and speak to the oppressive actions of the group that claims to be acting in the name of Islam while committing rape and murder. While this is not an easy read, it is a good one.
The Yazidis are a majority-Kurdish-speaking religious group living mostly in northern Iraq. They number less than one million worldwide. The Yazidis, throughout their history, have been persecuted as infidels by Muslim rulers who demanded that they convert. Rather than formal ceremonies, their religious practice involves visiting sacred places. Yazidis participate in baptism and feasts, sing hymns and recite stories. Some of the stories are about historical and mythical battles fought in protection of the religion. Others, told over the centuries by generations of women, detail methods of resistance to the same threats that Yazidi women face today.
‘Zoë and the Trolls‘ (Noreen Malone for Select/All)
Zoë Quinn grew internationally famous as the figure at the heart of Gamergate, but this story goes beyond this, looking not just at how the sustained harassment and abuse campaign started, and where it went, but how it affected her. It’s a strikingly humanising read, and one that challenges the reader to think about relationships to online spaces.
Quinn can be analytical when talking about what happened to her: She believes that abusing her turned into a game in which participants tried to outdo one another with their vitriol; upvotes and retweets on social media showed them they’d scored. She also believes that Gjoni knew exactly the kind of situation he would create when he posted in the gamer forums. “Look at Elliot Rodger,” she told me, referring to the man who, in 2014, went on a killing spree at UC Santa Barbara. “He posted in the same places. Look at Dylann Roof. It’s like you’re playing Schrödinger’s murderer with all these people. Are they a shitty fucking edgelord” — a 4chan term of art for a certain kind of nihilist omnipresent on the site — “or are they actually going to kill me?” She also believes that he was taking advantage of his knowledge of her mental-health history. “Imagine all of the shitty tapes that play in the mind of a depressed person, externalized and with Twitter accounts blasting at you constantly.”
‘The Life of a South Central Statistic‘ (Danielle Allen for The New Yorker)
It can be challenging to tell a story that is a personal narrative of family history, and also a larger exploration of inequality and the circumstances that can lead people to a series of terrible life decisions. Allen does it well here, looking at the life and ignominious career of a cousin caught in a familiar web.
The narrative so far is familiar. A kid from a troubled home, trapped in poverty, without a stable world of adults coördinating care for him, starts pilfering, mostly out of an impatience to have things. In Michael’s first fourteen years, his story includes not a single incidence of violence, aside from the usual wrestling matches with siblings. It could have had any number of possible endings. But events unfold along a single track. As we make decisions, and decisions are made for us, we shed the lives that might have been. In Michael’s fifteenth year, his life accelerated, like a cylinder in one of those pneumatic tubes, whisking off your deposit at a drive-through bank. To understand how that acceleration could happen, though, another story is needed.
‘I’m a Trans Veteran Who Served Six Tours in the Mideast. What Does Trump Have Against Me?‘ (Sona Avedian for Politico)
The news last week that Donald Trump wants to expel trans people from the military was met with considerable concern, and anger, amongst trans veterans and servicemembers. They’ve been speaking out eloquently about how and why they came to military service, and what inclusion meant for them — a better future, for themselves and the military.
Last year, when the Defense Department announced that transgender troops could stay in uniform and serve openly, I knew from lived experience what a difference it would make in the lives of thousands of brave men and women. The country they were sacrificing so much for was taking a major step toward accepting them for who they are.
‘John Kelly’s Promotion Is a Disaster for Immigrants‘ (Julianne Hing for The Nation)
While the Trump Administration has been characterised by bumbling ineptitude, one branch of his government has been quite industrious, and efficient. The Department of Homeland Security has turned into the real-life vision of some activist’s worst nightmares with John Kelly at the head. So what happens now?
Indeed, in the last six months, Kelly has turned the DHS into one of the most productive arms of the Trump administration. Kelly managed to translate much of Trump’s brazen anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into actual policy. And if the numbers are any indication, Kelly has certainly flourished. Arrests since Trump took office in February increased by 40 percent over the prior year. But perhaps more important than the numbers is Kelly’s impact on immigrant communities, where apprehension and fear now reign.
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