GlobalPost delivers stories that inform and entertain, taking people to far flung places around the globe most will never visit but where events are shaping all of our lives.


After months of violence, unrest and a rising death toll, Iraq is now disintegrating.

Within a matter of days, the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its allies have overrun the second largest city in Iraq — Mosul — and several other towns. They now have their sights set on Baghdad.

Several reports suggested Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s security forces discarded their uniforms and weapons, fleeing cities without even engaging ISIL, despite the fact that they far outnumber the militants.

Where ISIL, the jihadist group that is seizing Iraq, came from and what it wants

The militant group taking over Iraq and Syria right now is seriously scary

How the US helped turn Iraq into an Al Qaeda haven in just 53 steps

What the Iraq mess means for oil


Photos via AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK — Ever since Thailand’s military seized power in late May, dissent has grown dangerous. Even meek displays of public disapproval — such as crying out for elections on a street corner — can get offenders hauled away and detained.

But on Facebook, Thais seething over the coup have proven much harder to shut up.

The military has swiftly deposed an elected government, corralled hundreds of officials and critics into camps, seized the airwaves and much more. But it still struggles to stop citizens from mocking or maligning the coup on Facebook.

The junta’s solution: creating a patriotic, easy-to-censor Facebook rival of its own design.

Fed up with Facebook dissent, Thai generals are developing junta-friendly social media

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK, Thailand — They materialize suddenly, by the dozens, raising a three-finger salute toward the sky. Then they vanish as quickly as they appear, melting into crowds to evade scores of armed troops and police.

They are Bangkok’s anti-coup flash mobs. Under Thailand’s new military junta, which seized power from an elected government in late May, protesting the armed takeover is a crime.

Those daring enough to defy the coup have been reduced to cat-and-mouse games — swift public demonstrations designed to evaporate before police or soldiers can haul off offenders.

The flash mobs’ three-finger salute is inspired by The Hunger Games, the popular science-fiction series depicting a futuristic totalitarian regime. In The Hunger Games series, dissent toward a cruel dictatorship is signaled by raising three fingers; in Bangkok, the salute draws an unflattering comparison to the real-life junta that just seized power.

Bangkok’s anti-coup flash mobs have adopted the ‘Hunger Games’ salute

Photos by AFP/Getty Images

“Nazi-inspired bullyboys, far-left firebrands, anti-immigration and anti-EU nationalists, old-style Communist diehards, and a Polish monarchist who wants to deny women the vote: They will all have a home in the new European Parliament.”

Senior Correspondent Paul Ames on the consequences of Sunday’s European Parliament elections

HENIN-BEAUMONT, France — The ultra-nationalist National Front swept to a landslide victory in Henin-Beaumont during municipal elections, ending decades of left-wing rule.

Now the party is hoping to repeat that success at a national level by harnessing voters’ anger with the political mainstream to become France’s biggest political party in this week’s elections for the European Parliament.

"They promised us prosperity, we got recession," party leader Marine Le Pen told supporters at a rally last week. "They promised us strength, we got dependence and humiliation. They promised us security at Europe’s borders, we got Romani camps and out-of-control immigration."

That kind of rhetoric is striking a chord across France.

The scary return of a radical, far-right Europe and what it means

And how it could give Putin a boost while dealing a blow to trans-Atlantic trade

Photos by AFP/Getty Images

In many troubled nations, coups are quick and bloody affairs. But Thailand is now witnessing a slower breed of coup in which an elected government is dismembered bit by bit.

In declaring nationwide martial law, the Thai army has just hacked another limb off Thailand’s sickly democracy. Without notifying the government, troops have been deployed to the capital’s streets with near-unlimited authority to search and detain — and to quell protests with great force and little impunity.

Televised announcements seek to reassure the public that “this is not a coup,” an ominous refrain heard in advance of past military takeovers. And there have been plenty: 18 attempted and successful takeovers since the direct rule of kings ended in the 1930s.

Thailand’s army chief, asked by Thai reporters if martial law required government consent, shot back, “Where is the government?”

Thailand’s democracy is being dismembered, limb by limb

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK — For months, she had outmaneuvered forces seeking her ouster. But the powerful foes of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female prime minister, finally got their way.

Yingluck — 46, mild mannered, nicknamed “crab” — is no longer Thailand’s premier. On May 7, influential judges finally made good on threats to kick her out of office for actions “lacking in ethics and morals.”

Her actual offense makes for an extremely dull scandal. Three years back, Yingluck promoted the national police chief to a new job as her top security advisor. That opened the police chief job up to her former brother in law.

It was a nepotistic plot, the courts ruled, warranting the ouster of the nation’s elected premier.

But her political camp says the court proceedings amount to a judicial coup.

In Thailand, it’s now incredibly easy for courts to throw out elected prime ministers and even whole political parties.

With its prime minister ousted, here’s what to expect in Thailand

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

CAIRO, Egypt — Field Marshal Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, who resigned his position as armed forces chief and announced his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency Wednesday, is the most popular figure in modern Egyptian politics. Polls suggest he is likely to win the upcoming election by a landslide.

But what would a Sisi presidency look like?

His vague public pronouncements, filled with calls for national unity and praise for the common man, have won him millions of Egyptian admirers, for whom he represents a much-needed aspiration of stability after the turbulent past three years.

But away from the speeches, there is another Sisi.

Between October and December 2013, a series of private recordings appeared on YouTube and were publicized by Rassd, an online news outlet associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Jazeera. The recordings, which included off-the-record interviews between Sisi and unidentified journalists as well as internal military video, are thought to have taken place between late 2012 and shortly before they became public, though it’s difficult to tell, as the Egyptian Armed Forces refuse to comment.  

What the recordings reveal might surprise Egyptians who think Sisi is their ticket out of hard times.

"The people think that I’m a soft guy,” the military commander’s voice is heard saying in one. “It’s not like that … Sisi is torture and suffering." It isn’t clear whether or not he’s being ironic.

What a Sisi presidency in Egypt would look like

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Activist Dmytro Bulatov went missing around the time that a few other prominent activists were apparently kidnapped during the Ukraine protests.

Bulatov proved more fortunate than one of the activists who was found dead in a forest, but he emerged bruised and bloody, with an account of being tortured and hung up by his wrists.

"My hands… they crucified me, nailed me, cut my ear off, cut my face," Bulatov told Channel 5 television on Friday. “Thank God I am alive.”

"I can’t see well now, because I sat in darkness the whole time," he said, through a swollen face and bruised body, still covered in blood.

Bulatov is a member of the activist Avtomaidan group, which helped ferry protesters and supplies during the ongoing protests in Kyiv.

Missing Ukrainian activist emerges bloody, beaten as tensions continue (VIDEO)

The situation in Ukraine remained tense on Friday, with the army calling on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to take “urgent steps” to ease the crisis.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet Ukraine’s opposition leaders over the weekend in Munich.

The latest from Dan Peleschuk in Kyiv:

Ukraine’s revolution grows radical

The EU’s Ukraine dilemma

7 reasons Russia wants to keep Ukraine all to itself

Photos via AFP/Getty & Dan Peleschuk/GlobalPost

BANGKOK — In Thailand’s capital, voting can require not just a sense of civic duty, but also nerves of steel.

A self-proclaimed “people’s coup” movement — which has already invaded government ministries and vowed to abduct the premier — is now hell-bent on stopping an upcoming election by forcibly preventing voters from entering polling stations.

On Jan. 26, an advance voting day preceding the big Feb. 2 election, the movement gave Thailand a preview of its tactics.

Throngs of protesters successfully shut down almost all of Bangkok’s polling stations. In some districts, they shackled gates with steel chains. In others, they sprawled on the ground to form a sea of bodies, and dared would-be voters to step on their heads.

Many undeterred voters were physically restrained or jeered by noisy mobs.

This generated several unflattering scenes that ricocheted through social media: a would-be voter violently choked at one precinct; a middle-aged woman manhandled in another. There was also resistance: a protest captain was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while shutting down polls. The killing was captured by a camera phone.

“Of course, voters may feel afraid,” said Chaiya, a 36-year-old merchant and protester, who aided a throng of hundreds in forcing a polling station to shut its gates. “We don’t mean to hurt anybody. But they need to know nothing good will come of this election.”

You need nerves of steel to vote in Bangkok

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK — Though life in Bangkok is hardly predictable, there are three constants. It’s hot, it’s loud and the traffic is dreadful.

But the Thai capital’s gridlock — already infamously bad — is set to get a lot worse.

Seven of Bangkok’s most-congested intersections are now blocked off by legions of anti-government protesters. Their strategy relies on generating traffic jams so unbearable that the government will cancel elections and surrender power to an unelected council.

This uprising, called “Operation Occupy Bangkok,” is the latest maneuver by a protest movement that spent much of December invading key government key ministries. That offensive compelled the ruling party — elected in 2011 — to dissolve parliament and call for new elections early next month.

But even that concession has failed to satisfy protesters. Operation Occupy Bangkok’s leaders and their faithful vow to barricade the Thai capital’s traffic choke points until the government capitulates. They refuse to negotiate.

“We’re beyond fear. Past being afraid,” said protester Kwan Issa, 48, who drove from the nearby province of Chonburi to reinforce a blockade on Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s busiest thoroughfares. “We don’t want the army to stage a coup. We want the people to do it themselves.”

Bangkokalypse: Thai protestors deploy epic traffic to bring down government

Photos by AFP/Getty Images 

NEW DELHI, India — Ever since 1947 when South Asians threw off the yoke of the British Raj, India has been dominated by the Congress party, led by the Gandhi family, with occasional interruptions from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Now a new force in Indian politics has emerged that threatens to wreck the established order.

Late last year, the Aam Aadmi Party, a ragtag collection of political amateurs, crushed the Congress party in elections for the Delhi assembly. And against everyone’s expectations, the party has taken the reins of power to govern the Indian capital.

The party’s leader, former tax inspector Arvind Kejriwal, engineered a political decapitation by defeating local Congress leader Sheila Dikshit, ending her 15-year tenure as Delhi’s chief minister. He did it resoundingly, with a whopping 25,600 margin.

AAP won 28 seats out of 70. That left Congress with only 8, and ruined the BJP’s hopes of a landslide victory by limiting them to 32 seats. The two big parties dared Kejriwal to form a government and he called their bluff

Anna Hazare-inspired ‘common man’ party takes first step toward its Indian revolution

Photo by AFP/Getty Images