21 Can't-Miss Stories On World Affairs From This Year

These articles beautifully navigated 2015's many crises.

23/12/2015 6:02 AM AEDT | Updated 23/12/2015 6:02 AM AEDT

The Syrian refugee crisis, Greece's debt saga and brutal attacks by militants from the self-declared Islamic State are just a few of the complex topics that have dominated international headlines this year. Throughout 2015, journalists have tried to make sense of these events by writing deep dives that explore those stories.

Some of their pieces have distilled global crises by looking at the experiences of individuals, while others have taken stripped them of their international context and then used them to ask universal questions. All of them exhibit impressive, time-consuming effort by writers, editors and artists to create stories that matter.

Here are our favorite longreads on world affairs this year.  


Extreme City

By Michael Specter

A look at the vast inequality that has emerged in oil-rich Angola, where wealthy elites can spend $1,000 on a single bag of groceries while half of the country lives on less than $2 a day.


The Mixed-Up Brothers Of Bogotá

By Susan Dominus

An unbelievable story from Colombia details the divergent paths of two sets of identical twins that each had a brother switched at birth and raised by another family. The unlikely event separates the twins into vastly different economic classes, and the article examines the immense ramifications of the hospital's mistake.


A Thousand Miles In Their Shoes

By Sophia Jones

The WorldPost's Sophia Jones and Syrian-American Journalist Hiba Dlewati spent weeks traveling with refugees as they journeyed into Europe, across seven countries. Jones' account of the refugees' path and those who help along the way is an in-depth look at one of the defining crises of 2015. 


The Desert Blues

By Joshua Hammer

The story of two friends who built a pillar of Mali's internationally renowned music scene called the Festival in the Desert, and how the nation's turbulent politics tore them apart. The festival has been canceled for the past three years, in part due to the violent Islamist insurgency that one of the two friends is helping to lead.


The Avenger

By Patrick Radden Keefe

In 1988, the bombing of a Pan Am aircraft over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 270 people. Patrick Radden Keefe profiles fellow journalist and brother of one of the victims, Ken Dornstein, who has spent much of his life obsessively dedicated to finding who was really behind the bombing.

Dornstein's amazing three-part documentary that followed the release of the article is a must-watch.


What ISIS Really Wants

By Graeme Wood

The most-read article in The Atlantic's history caused intense debate this year after it assessed the apocalyptic beliefs of Islamic State militants, and discussed the group's relation to Islam. 


The Drone Papers

By The Intercept Staff

An eight-part series based on secret documents leaked to The Intercept that offers a stark look at the realities of drone warfare. The articles range from detailed descriptions of how targets are chosen for drone strikes to the human cost of such operations.

John Moore via Getty Images

The Deadly Business Of Human Smuggling

By Der Spiegel Staff

The refugee crisis in Europe is rife with human smugglers who illegally transport people across borders and into the continent. Der Spiegel examines the dangerous underground economy of human smuggling and those who profit off it.


America's Best Allies Against ISIS Are Inspired By A Bronx-Born Libertarian Socialist

By Akbar Shahid Ahmed

Syria's Kurds are one of the key actors in the attempt defeat and degrade the Islamic State. As Kurds seek to control and govern territory of their own, they are taking inspiration from an unlikely source: a Bronx-born, Vermont-based philosopher who has been dead for over a decade. 


What They Missed: The Anti-Terror Raid That Asked All The Wrong Questions

By Joshua Hersh

A nuanced report on a deadly raid in Belgium that took place 10 months before the terror attacks in Paris, and on Brussels' immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek where the attackers grew up. 


ISIS And The Lonely Young American

By Rukmini Callimachi

The sad story of an isolated 23-year-old woman in rural United States and the predatory Islamic State members who attempted to recruit her. 


Five Hostages

By Lawrence Wright

A behind-the-scenes account of how media power player David Bradley led a largely doomed attempt to rescue five hostages held in Syria, and how their families coped with the tragedy.


The Believer

By Will McCants

A profile of Islamic State militant leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by one of the top experts studying the group. The rise of Baghdadi from a stoic young soccer fan to a powerful fanatic is the most complete picture of the reclusive terrorist figure to date.


The Outlaw Ocean

By Ian Urbina

A sprawling five-part investigative report on the varying human rights abuses and crimes committed at sea. The articles detail illicit practices ranging from slavery in the fishing industry to murders that go unreported. 


The Death And Life Of The Great British Pub

By Tom Lamont

An examination of the changing face of London through one of its iconic institutions: the local pub.


ISIS Women And Enforcers In Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish And Escape

By Azadeh Moaveni

In a rarely heard side of the conflict in Syria, women who formerly worked with ISIS speak about their past and contemplate their future.


How The Red Cross Raised Half A Billion Dollars For Haiti And Built Six Homes

By Justin Elliot and Laura Silverman

A stirring indictment of misused international aid and how good intentions can go wrong when it comes to development.




Displaced In The DR

By Rachel Nolan

Hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly made stateless in the Dominican Republic after the nation changed its immigration laws. This story is an extensive look at the brutal humanitarian fallout of that decision.


The Agency

By Adrian Chen

A fascinating plunge into the bizarre world of paid Russian Internet trolls, and their surprising reach into the real world. 


The Greek Warrior

By Ian Parker

A profile of Yanis Varoufakis, who rose from obscurity to become one of the central figures in Greece's debt crisis and a controversial political figure across Europe. 


The Myth Of The Ethical Shopper

By Michael Hobbes

Hobbes' piece takes aim at the persistent myths around how people can ethically buy consumer goods without contributing to sweatshops and other labor abuses. Through detailed analysis and illustrative examples, the piece makes a strong argument that it's time to re-evaluate how activism works.

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