Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Endless Exile: The Tangled Politics Keeping a Uyghur Man in Limbo

Annie Hylton | The Walrus | February 28th, 2022 | 8,160 words

While trying to flee persecution in China, Ayoob Mohammed, an Uyghur man, found himself in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded the country in response to 9/11. Mohammed was among more than a dozen Uyghur men who were caught and sold to the U.S. for bounty as an alleged terrorist, held for four years at Guantánamo Bay, and finally exonerated. Still, 16 years after being released, he is still trying to prove he’s innocent. This story is exceptionally reported and told with nuance and empathy by Hylton, who traces Mohammed’s journey from his Uyghur homeland in northwest China to Guantánamo to Albania, where he has since resettled — and continues to be a victim “of politics among nations, a sacrifice to their interests.” Hylton examines the “invisible geopolitical forces” that “have bent his story to their will” and have kept him from reuniting with his wife Mailikaimu and their kids in Canada, and also shows the challenges of long-term family separation through their story. —CLR

2. A brilliant scientist was mysteriously fired from a Winnipeg virus lab. No one knows why.

Justin Ling | Maclean’s | February 15th, 2022 | 3,959 words

Ten years ago, Winnipeg microbiologist Dr. Xiangguo Qiu discovered a way to combine three monoclonal antibodies in a cocktail that saved people near death after contracting Ebola. What’s more? The therapy had promise far beyond Ebola: “Others have also built on the breakthrough. Monoclonal antibodies used to treat COVID-19 have cut the risk of death by as much as 70 per cent, while the first monoclonal antibody therapy was recently approved to treat and prevent HIV infection. The possibilities are endless.” Mysteriously, in July 2019, Dr. Qiu was removed from her lab and put under investigation by her employer and the RCMP. CSIS, Canada’s national security intelligence agency, was said to be involved too. She was finally fired in January, 2021. But why? Some allege there was a paperwork issue that would prevent Canada from claiming credit for breakthroughs from research done on the virus samples she shared with China. Some say that paperwork was deemed unnecessary. Did she hand over Canadian intellectual property to China as some claim? Nearly three years after being removed from her lab — one in which she made scientific breakthroughs that will save countless lives — Dr. Qiu has yet to be formally charged. However, as Justin Ling reports at Maclean’s: “It remains an open question: what happened to Dr. Qiu?” —KS

3. Does My Son Know You?

Jonathan Tjarks | The Ringer | March 3rd, 2022 | 2,738 words

The Ringer has always refused to stick to sports; its spiritual predecessor, Grantland, was the same way. But Tjarks, one of the site’s most prolific basketball journalists, rarely veers from his usual beat. In May of last year, he did so to write about his cancer diagnosis; now, he does so again to reckon with how the disease has changed his experience as a young father, and what he learned from his own father’s struggle with Parkinson’s. “I don’t want Jackson to have the same childhood that I did,” he writes. I want him to wonder why his dad’s friends always come over and shoot hoops with him. Why they always invite him to their houses. Why there are so many of them at his games. I hope that he gets sick of them.” It’s an unblinking and plainspoken piece, no less affecting for its lack of affect — and yet another reminder that regardless of where one’s passions or expertise or faith may lie, the messiness of being human has a way of spilling over any edges that may otherwise divide us. —PR

4. How to Apply Makeup

Nicole Shawan Junior | Guernica | February 24th, 2022 | 6,300 words

I had never heard of dermatillomania, an obsessive disorder in which the afflicted person picks at their skin so often and so hard that it leaves permanent damage, until I read this wrenching essay. Yet it somehow felt familiar. Nicole Shawan Junior’s words will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with — or loves someone who’s struggled with — OCD, cutting, an eating disorder, or another physical manifestation of mental illness. Organized around instructions for applying foundation, concealer, and other parts of a makeup regimen, this piece is about the harm we do to ourselves and the ways we try to hide our scars. It is as raw and honest as essays come. —SD

5. Getaway Driver

Lauren Hough | Texas Highways | March 1st, 2022 | 3,135 words

Initially, I thought this beautiful essay would be about Bonnie and Clyde, but it turns out they are just a side note. Hough resists any temptation to glamorize her story with the famous crime gang — instead, it is the small yet compelling details about her grandpa and the community of Shamrock that drew me in. I could envision the scene as Hough describes chatting to her grandpa on the porch, smelling his pipe tobacco as he blew “smoke rings for me to slap apart before they floated to the ceiling.” The stories her grandpa relays are pulled from the haze of the Alzheimer’s that is gradually consuming his thoughts. He is particularly animated telling his childhood tale of Bonnie and Clyde hiding in the family barn and giving him a box of chocolate bars. It could be true. Hough visits the scene in Shamrock and finds out the gang was indeed there at one point. Hough vividly paints the characters she meets in the community, who question her doubting her grandpa’s story: “‘Why wouldn’t it be true?’ Hazel responds. ‘It’s his story.’” And so is this essay — it is a touching homage to her grandpa, no one else. —CW