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The year in people: our 12 favorite Saturday profiles of 2023


A teenager imprisoned in Egypt, determined to testify about the abuse he suffered during his years in detention. A supporter of peace in Colombia, overshadowed by death threats. A father in India, fighting against his own patriarchal impulses to give his two daughters a better life.

With reporting from six continents and 34 countries, Saturday Profile 2023 revealed people who are making a difference, many under the radar. Each week, our correspondents often sought out not the famous or the powerful, but the little-known with stories worth hearing.

A Muslim cleric in Ukraine, now a doctor on the front lines of the war. An anti-corruption whistleblower in Bangkok, with (he would be the first to admit) a disreputable past. Scientist and owner of a hair salon in Paris, dedicated to styling curly hair.

Some of our topics covered major news trends, such as Africa’s first thermal agent; a former fisherman determined to persuade his fellow Senegalese not to emigrate to Europe; and a rap producer in France, who lost his voice to ALS and was experimenting with artificial intelligence to replace it.

Using an ultralight plane, Johannes Fritz once taught endangered ibises a migration path over the Alps. Due to climate change, he decided he needed to use the same innovative method to show them a much longer path to a winter refuge, otherwise the birds, which had once disappeared entirely from the wild, would disappear one day. second time.

“Two or three years, and they would disappear again,” Mr. Fritz said.

— By Denise Hruby, photographs by Nina Riggio

Lisa LaFlamme was fired after a decades-long career in television, shortly after she stopped dying her hair, sparking debates across Canada about sexism, ageism and aging.

“Most of the comments I ever received were not about months in Baghdad or Afghanistan or whatever, but about letting my hair go gray, without exception,” Ms. LaFlamme said. “And I will say this, 98 percent positive, with the exception of a few men and one woman – it’s funny that I remember that – but they were summarily destroyed on social media because women support the women.”

— By Norimitsu Onishi, photographs by Ian Willms

Standing on stage in a darkened auditorium in front of 2,000 fans in central Tokyo, Shinjiro Atae, a J-pop idol, revealed something he has hidden for most of his life: he is gay.

“I don’t want people to struggle like me,” Mr. Atae said, making an extremely unusual announcement in conservative Japan.

— By Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida, photographs by Noriko Hayashi

After filming her role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” María Mercedes Coroy returned to her life as a farmer and trader in a Guatemalan town at the foot of a volcano.

“People ask me what I do after filming,” Ms. Coroy said. “I’m back to normal.”

— By Julia Lieblich, photographs by Daniele Volpe

After 17 years in France, Tharshan Selvarajah has not yet applied for citizenship. But he made bread for President Emmanuel Macron.

He said it’s his hands that make his bread special.

“My mother’s chicken curry and my wife’s chicken curry may have the same chicken in it, but they don’t taste the same,” he said. “God gave me the hands to make the best baguette in France!” I never get mad at the flour when I knead the dough.

— By Roger Cohen, photographs by Dmitry Kostyukov

The fight for change cost Narges Mohammadi her career, separated her from her family and deprived her of her freedom. But a prison cell couldn’t silence her.

“I sit in front of the window every day, I look at the greenery and I dream of a free Iran,” Ms. Mohammadi said in a rare, unauthorized telephone interview from inside Evin prison in Tehran. “The more they punish me, the more they take from me, the more determined I become to fight until we achieve democracy and freedom, and nothing less. »

In October, four months after this profile was published, Ms. Narges won the Nobel Peace Prize.

— By Farnaz Fassihi

Moha Alshawamreh is one of the few Palestinians working in the Israeli technology industry. His journey shows both the inequalities of life in the West Bank and an exception to them.

“My message is that we should learn more about each other,” Mr. Alshawamreh said. “Break down the walls, talk, put yourself in the other’s place and consider yourself as two traumatized peoples.”

(This profile was published in March, seven months before a Hamas-led attack on Israel led to war in Gaza.)

— By Patrick Kingsley, photographs by Laura Boushnak

South Korean writer Hwang In-suk feeds stray cats during his evening walks in Seoul. Routine informs his poems about loneliness and impermanence.

“I discovered worlds that I wouldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t fed the cats at night,” she said during a recent evening walk.

— By Mike Ives, photographs by Jun Michael Park

Dan Carter was on the streets for 17 years. His experience informs his political agenda as mayor of Oshawa, Ontario, a city of 175,000 people struggling with overdoses and affordability issues.

“For 17 years I was an absolutely horrible individual,” Mr. Carter said of his years of drug addiction. “A horrible individual. I lied, cheated, stole.

— By Ian Austen, photos by Ian Willms

For his fellow exiles, Sadiq Fitrat Nashenas, an 88-year-old star singer from a golden age, evokes the Afghanistan they left behind and which could have been.

“I was just trying to hold on to my music, because music takes me to God, to heaven,” he said before taking the stage for a recent concert, his first public performance in almost 20 years . “Life without music is a mistake.”

— By Mujib Mashal, photographs by Jim Huylebroek

Nomcebo Zikode, the South African singer of the pandemic hit “Jerusalema” that inspired a global dance challenge, wrote the chorus while battling her own depression.

“As if there was a voice saying you should kill yourself,” Ms. Zikode said, describing her depression at the time. “I remember thinking, ‘No, I can’t kill myself. I have my children to raise. I can’t, I can’t do this.

— By Lynsey Chutel, photographs by Alexia Webster

Being the leader of Kherson can feel more like a curse than an honor. But one woman doesn’t give up, even though the Russians sit just across the river and bomb her town almost every hour.

“If I could disappear into thin air and end this war, I would,” said Halyna Luhova, the mayor. “I would easily sacrifice myself to end this hell.”

— By Jeffrey Gettleman, photographs by Ivor Prickett


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