Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet Chief international correspondent

Come here for my thoughts on places in the headlines, people who live behind or beyond front lines and who live ordinary lives in extraordinary ways

Syria crisis: Russian roulette of random attacks

17 April 2014
Family in Old Aleppo

Minutes later… or before. Metres on one side… or the other. That can be the measure between life or death in Syria. That's the cruel consequence of random attacks in a ravaging war.

"If the mortar had landed 15 minutes later, the children would have been in their classrooms," lamented a school official in the Bab Touma area of the Old City of Damascus not long after a mortar slammed into a schoolyard full of children this week.

"At 07:45 in the morning, nearly 300 children were playing outside."

Mortars are inaccurate, indiscriminate, and many more are landing in cities across Syria.

They're believed to be fired by rebels, but the government is also accused of launching them into neighbourhoods under its control. So brutal is this war that nothing is considered unthinkable.

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Afghans set to defy the Taliban in presidential vote

3 April 2014
An Afghan National Police (ANP) officer loads concertina wire, which will be used to secure polling places ahead of presidential elections
A huge security operation is being launched in advance of Saturday's presidential vote

There's nothing like an election when it's not certain who will win, when candidates campaign like every vote counts, and voters are engaged.

That's Afghanistan in 2014.

This third presidential race since the fall of the Taliban is also certain to be marred by rigging, recrimination and violence.

The run-up to this historic poll on 5 April has already been the bloodiest.

And fears of electoral fraud are pronounced.

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Kabul guest house attack: Stories of survival

28 March 2014
Foreigners take refuge behind a generator after they were evacuated from a guesthouses during an attack by Taliban gunmen (28 March 2014)
Evacuated foreigners take refuge behind a generator

All five men were visibly shaken. Some were bloodied from scratches. But theirs is an extraordinary story of survival after a four-hour long attack on their Kabul guest house.

"I'm amazed to be alive," one survivor kept repeating as he recounted how he hid under his bed on the third floor of the guest house for more than two hours.

"The gunmen went room to room, firing their weapons, but they never found us," said another man who told me how he crouched in the bottom of his wardrobe for hours.

The US-based Roots of Peace organisation said in a statement the Taliban had launched a "complex assault" on its compound and a nearby day-care centre.

It spoke of "a suicide car bomb followed by at least three armed men" that left two guards with the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) injured and one expatriate with minor cuts from flying glass.

A house burns as Afghan police and special forces surround the area after suicide bombers attacked an "office of foreigners" in a neighbourhood of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 28, 2014
The guest house shook with the volume of grenades being fired

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Kabul ushers in uncertain New Year

28 March 2014
Turkmen musicians in large furry hats
Performers from across the region congregated in Kabul for this year's International Nawroz Festival

Kabul's Salaam Khana was once a stately palace where kings were crowned and Afghans gathered to salute their royal ruler.

This week it set the stage for a new chapter in Afghanistan's chequered history.

"We have broken the silence," marvelled Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast, founder and director of Afghanistan's National Institute of Music.

"After 30 years, a new generation of Afghan musicians is playing music here," he exclaimed before he took to the stage to conduct a specially composed song to mark the start of the Persian New Year, known as Nawroz.

There were no kings in this audience to appreciate the uplifting melody and verse. But four Presidents, and senior officials from a dozen countries, along with Afghan dignitaries and diplomats, packed the elegant hall for the International Nawroz Festival.

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Lyse answers your questions on Iran

18 March 2014
Screen grab from Reddit

Yesterday I took part in a special "Ask Me Anything" session on social news site reddit, taking questions about my recent trip to Tehran.

You can read a selection of comments from the session here.

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Four days in Tehran

17 March 2014
Nowruz shoppers in Tehran ( picture by Natalie Morton)

Four days in the teeming mega-metropolis of Tehran is not enough. But it was just enough to savour what's long been special about this city.

There were also moments of surprise. And even a short stay was enough to appreciate the enduring centrality and sensitivity of Iran's engagement with the wider world.

Elegant chinar trees still soar over Vali-e-Asr, the avenue reputed to be the longest in the Middle East, possibly the world. Sadly, there are fewer trees now, but their stately presence is still a lovely Tehran landmark.

The infamous traffic congestion seems much worse than on my last visit five years ago. Preparations for the much anticipated New Year (Nowruz) swells the slowly flowing streams. Travel time had to be factored in to every decision about where we would head next.

Magnificent Islamic architecture, with intricate Persian patterns and decorative brickwork still make you pause.

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Iranians hope for better fortunes in Persian New Year

14 March 2014

Iranians are preparing for the Persian New Year - the Nawroz festival that symbolises happiness, health and new hope.

The country's shops and bazaars are packed with shoppers but many Iranians are experiencing the hardships caused by crippling economic sanctions.

So how much hope is there this year?

Here's my report from Tehran.

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Ashton visit to Iran sparks co-operation and controversy

12 March 2014
Catherine Ashton talks to Iranian officials, including Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran
Catherine Ashton attended a meeting with Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran on Sunday

A visit to explore the potential for a new relationship between Iran and Europe has also ended up highlighting the enduring sensitivity of the old.

Hardliners have been on a political warpath this week after the first visit to Tehran by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

"Do you think our country has no order that you can go anywhere you want and see anyone you want to see?" the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, demanded on Tuesday night.

Leading clerics from the holy city of Qom have now added their voice, accusing the West of "reviving the plot of the soft revolution", a reference to the widespread street protests - blamed on foreign powers - that were sparked by the disputed 2009 presidential election.

When Baroness Ashton first landed in Tehran last weekend, moderate newspapers hailed her arrival as an "achievement" of the reformist President Hassan Rouhani.

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About Lyse

Lyse has been reporting for the BBC for nearly 30 years, with posts in Abidjan, Kabul, Islamabad, Tehran, Amman and Jerusalem. In 1999 she joined the BBC's team of presenters but most of her time is spent going back to regions where she lived, and also discovering new ones too.

Lyse often presents from the field for BBC World News, and the BBC World Service's flagship Newshour programme, as well as the News Channel. She works as a correspondent too, reporting across the BBC's global and domestic TV and radio outlets. She also writes for BBC online and posts - judiciously! - on Twitter and Facebook.

Lyse feels at home in many places but is still Canadian. She was educated in Canada, at Queen's University, and the University of Toronto, and has been awarded several honorary doctorates as well as major journalism awards.

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