Must-Reads from Around the World: February 27, 2012

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Syrian President Bashar Assad speaking during a Ramadan Iftar banquet in honor of Muslim clergymen, in Damascus, Syria, 24 August 2011. (Photo: SANA / EPA)

Syrian Support – After Sunday’s draft constitution vote in Syria, President Bashar Assad’s international allies seem emboldened. On Monday, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times said in an editorial: “What the West wants from Syria is not democracy but the overthrow of the regime so as to eliminate Iran’s influence over Syria. China should stand by Russia and support the vote.”

Russian Revolt – Writing for the Guardian from his prison cell in Russia’s far north, jailed dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky argues the Arab spring has inspired people to stand up to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and sweeping political change in Russia is possible. “Nobody expects this to happen overnight – but next Sunday’s vote holds out the chance to end the would-be president’s monopoly of power,” Khodorkovsky writes about the upcoming presidential vote, which Putin is favored to win.

Muzzling the Web – The Christian Science Monitor reports on the increasing curbs that Chinese authorities are placing on Twitter-like services in the country, which ban users from a range of vaguely defined activities. “Sina Weibo, which boasted 20 million new users every month last year, signed up only 3 million new users in January, according to Chinese press reports,” says the article.

Last of the Rebels – Latin America’s last major rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), announced that it will cease all kidnapping on Sunday, the Washington Post reports. This policy reversal marks a step towards a peaceful resolution between the group and the Colombian government. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos noted the shift, but went on to say that it was “not sufficient.”

Mandela’s Health – Concerns over the health of 93-year-old Nelson Mandela eased as the former South African president was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, a day after being admitted for an “abdominal complaint,” according to South African newspaper The Mail and Globe. President Jacob Zuma released a statement that Mandela was “surrounded by his family and is relaxed and comfortable,” the Guardian writes 

Libyan Feminism – French newspaper Le Temps explores the world of the “strange women” who lived on the fringes of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and defied the common image of the traditional Libyan woman. Unmarried, educated and independent, these women are now struggling to carve a place for themselves in the “new” Libya.