The World Watches 2020 U.S. Elections : Rough Translation Just because you can't vote, doesn't mean you're not watching. We crisscross the globe to understand how people see their fates and fortunes in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. election.
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All Eyes On US

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All Eyes On US

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This is ROUGH TRANSLATION from NPR. I'm Gregory Warner.

Jihad Abu Alia (ph) is a horticultural therapist in Jerusalem. She is Palestinian. And I asked her about her first name.

JIHAD ABU ALIA: It's Jihad like Islamic jihad.

WARNER: She was born in 1967 after the Six-Day War, when Arab military suffered a massive defeat by Israel.

ABU ALIA: And everyone who was born that year, they named them, like, Jihad or Nidal.

WARNER: The two Arabic words both meaning struggle.

ABU ALIA: A boy or a girl. In the first grade, there was, like, 15 girls named Jihad.

WARNER: I called up Jihad not to talk about a war, but about a wager, one she made with her daughter about the outcome of the U.S. election, a race with enormous impact on her region, but one she finds frustrating to watch.

ABU ALIA: Because I just can't watch. I can't - you know, I can't even express my feelings - not my feelings - express my opinion. I don't have the right, even.

WARNER: If she couldn't vote, at least she could bet. She says the first and only bet she's ever made in her life - 100 bucks that the former casino owner, President Trump, would win.


WARNER: Most Palestinians support Biden. The Trump administration has consistently favored Israel. And in helping normalize relations between Israel and some Arab countries, that's left Palestinians feeling further ignored. So why bet on Trump's victory?


WARNER: Well, she says, there's an Arabic expression.

ABU ALIA: (Speaking Arabic). If it doesn't get worse, it will never get better.

WARNER: By snubbing Palestinian leaders, leaving them out in the cold, she says Trump forced those leaders to unite instead of infighting.

ABU ALIA: If Biden is in the office now, they will start negotiating with the Israelis, and they will go back to fight with each other. That's the way we see it.


WARNER: Her friends made fun of her for the bet, but she says it made her feel good. It made her feel part of things.

ABU ALIA: Yes. I felt like I had some kind of authority.


ABU ALIA: Like, you know, when I bet on Trump and everybody else on Biden, and everybody is looking at me in the house, I'm the center of attention.


WARNER: This is ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner.

At least 160 million Americans voted in this election. Many, many more people around the world feel affected by the outcome. And the way they read their fates and their fortunes under a Biden presidency versus four more years of Trump - it's not always obvious.

And so today on the show, we are tossing aside our usual format. Instead of diving into one story in one place, we are crisscrossing the globe to understand how this election is resonating right now and how people see their future, from a soccer pitch in Afghanistan to a migrant camp in Mexico to a diner in Beijing. And to keep this on track, we are going to set a little goal for ourselves - 25 countries in 25 minutes. Can we do it? We shall see. The clock begins right after this break.


WARNER: We are back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. And we're not going to waste any time because we are on the clock - 25 countries in 25 minutes, beginning in Matamoros, Mexico, just south of Brownsville, Texas, at a makeshift camp for asylum-seekers trying to get into the United States. Picture blue tarps and tents arranged in the communal compound. At one time, there were thousands of families here, now about 400, illuminated by the light of their cellphones, tuned to the news of the election...


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing, unintelligible).

WARNER: ...When the networks call it for Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing, unintelligible).

WARNER: Joining me to talk about this are two NPR correspondents, Carrie Kahn and Deb Amos. Hey, guys.



WARNER: So, Carrie, let's start with you. Why are people in these camps, and what countries are they from?

KAHN: People are from all over. There are Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Peruvians, Bolivians, people from Haiti, Cuba. There are even people in the camp from Mexico. They have come to apply for asylum.

And what happened was the Trump administration instituted a policy where if you did apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, that you would have to remain in Mexico during your whole asylum process because the Trump administration says it was just a de facto way to get into the United States illegally.

So the program has been suspended since the pandemic, and all hearings have been put on hold. And so they've just been sitting in these camps.

WARNER: So they hope that under a Biden presidency that they'll be able to wait out this period in the States - that while they apply for asylum, they can be in the States working. I mean, an administration may change, but the pandemic is still with us. So what do we know about what a Biden administration would be able to actually do to change that?

KAHN: In the last presidential debate, he talked about the camps specifically in Matamoros. He said these people are living in squalor. There has been no president in the history of the United States that has made people, who have the right to apply for asylum under U.S. law - forcing them to wait out that process in another country. He just said that it's abhorrent, and he said he will change it. The details, of course, we don't know yet.

WARNER: So, Deb - Deb, you've been looking into the details and thinking about what Biden could do or not do. Biden has said that he would issue a slew of executive orders on Day 1. What's going to change?

AMOS: You know, I've been talking to lots of migration policy people, and they say that the situation on the Mexican border is the trickiest one in terms of details and timing. There's a couple of issues to deal with. One is the rule that says because there's a pandemic, people cannot come into the United States. The Biden administration could lift that, could use testing to bring people across. But you don't want to start a new administration by having lots of migrants crossing that border. I think there'll be other immigration policies changes that we'll see that will go a little faster.

WARNER: And one of those changes Biden has already announced. He says he wants to let 125,000 refugees into America in his first year. So where does that 125,000 number even come from?

AMOS: So the traditional number is somewhere around 85,000, 95,000. That's been true for administrations since the 1980 Refugee Act was passed in Congress. It went down for the year of 9/11, but not all that much. President Obama in his final years said 110,000. So 125,000 - not so difficult to imagine. And then it's Congress that sets the budget for that number of people.

What's difficult for this process is there are nine refugee resettlement organizations that work in cooperation with the State Department. So when people arrive, they, you know, set you up in your home, they get your kids in school, they get you into language classes, they find you a job. But over the last four years, almost all of those organizations have been gutted by budget cuts because their budgets are dependent on the number of people that they resettle. And since those numbers have been going down, they have been having to fire, you know, that perfect person that knows where all the cheap apartments are. They got to go find somebody like that again. So it's the bureaucracy of resettlement that has to be rebuilt.

And I spoke to Becca Heller, and she heads something called IRAP, the International Refugee Assistance Project. And she's talking about it's a great thing to say, and whether you reach it or not is not important, but it's the signal that it sends.

BECCA HELLER: The point is not necessarily to hit 125,000. The point is to signal admitting refugees is really important. It's a really important part of who we are. We're going to aim for this really high number. We're going to invest in the infrastructure accordingly, and we're going to get as close as we can.

AMOS: So 125,000 refugees in Joe Biden's first year in office might be more aspirational than real.

WARNER: I want to ask you both finally what the Trump years have meant not only for migration, but for the executive branch.

AMOS: I think what the Trump administration has shown is that you can hijack immigration policy from Congress. There's a very telling story in the early days of the transition, and it has to do with Stephen Miller, who is the czar of migration policy for the Trump administration, and Cecilia Munoz, who worked for Obama. And they're in a transition meeting, and Miller is looking at his phone. And in a break, he says to Cecilia Munoz, how do you get around the bureaucracy to set policy?

And that is pretty much what he did as the point person for immigration for four years. He found ways to find every tap that affects immigration, and he turned it off - things like skilled worker visas, green cards for family members who haven't arrived in the United States, refugee resettlement, asylum policy, international students. I mean, it's an extraordinary list of what has been done over these last four years.

WARNER: But you're saying that it's easier to turn it off without cooperation than it is to turn it back on without cooperation.

AMOS: Correct. This is not just a matter of taking out a piece of paper, signing your name and saying, I will do the opposite. You have to think about treaties that now have been signed with Central American countries over immigration.

KAHN: I think this is going to be very interesting. The Trump administration, throughout its four years in dealing with countries in Central America and dealing with Mexico, has been singularly focused on migration at the expense of other very important issues, especially security, poverty allevement (ph), anti-corruption efforts. So it'll be very interesting to watch how these agreements are renegotiated.

WARNER: That's a fascinating place to end. Thanks, guys.

AMOS: Thank you.

KAHN: Thank you, guys.


EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey. I'm Eyder Peralta in Nairobi, Kenya. And the thing that has made me laugh the hardest during this election season is this video from a shopkeeper with a Nigerian accent. The guy is cracking up. He's saying (imitating Nigerian accent), Donald Trump, how can you be claiming that the opposition is stealing your votes? And his laugh is just - it's great.


UNIDENTIFIED SHOPKEEPER: (Laughter) President Donald Trump (laughter), you will never cease to amuse me. In fact, I love your ways.

PERALTA: He tells Trump that he should just call any African leader, and they can tell him what to do.


UNIDENTIFIED SHOPKEEPER: In fact, just call any African leader. They will teach you what to do. You need to go there and learn (laughter).

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hello. I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens, Greece, and I've reported from Europe for more than a decade. In that time, I've seen this cultural split between Eastern Europe and Western Europe grow. President Trump may have been despised in Western Europe, but he has superfans among nationalists and populists in the East, like Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has been called Trump before Trump. So if you look at Europe through an American lens, the western half of Europe would be blue, and the East might have quite a bit of red.


WARNER: So you remember the, well, pre-COVID election tradition where presidential candidates would visit a small-town diner for a photo-op in the American heartland. And then there was an even weirder tradition where journalists would go back to those same diners, sometimes years later, long after the candidate had settled into the White House, to hear how those voters felt about their choice.

Today, we are offering a kind of spin on that tradition. We are going to a diner in Beijing where, in 2011, then-Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit and where NPR's Emily Feng visited this weekend. Hello, Emily.


WARNER: So tell me about the restaurant. Am I wrong to make this Rust Belt diner comparison?

FENG: Not at all. This is a super-local, uber-Beijing place. It's right in the shadow of the Drum Tower, which is sort of in the middle of the city. It's near the Forbidden City. And the only people, as far as I can tell, who normally go to this restaurant are 50- to 60-year-old Beijingers after their groceries.

But Joe Biden decides to go here in 2011, and he is surrounded by admirers. He talks to the owner of the restaurant, and he orders a package of food, which is now called the Biden.

WARNER: Oh, there's a Biden special. What is it?

FENG: It's Coca-Cola...


FENG: ...Buns with pork and onion, noodles tossed with bean paste and some cold cucumber salad. I should note that he did not order the signature dish.

WARNER: Which is?

FENG: The restaurant is called Yaoji Chaogan. Chaogan is the signature dish. And as I found out the hard way, Chaogan is essentially a liver stew made of offal from sheep, pig liver, and then it's thickened with starch, so it becomes this, like, brown curry. It is not my favorite dish.

WARNER: And tell me about some of the people you met in the diner. What was - what did they say?

FENG: I met mostly local Beijingers who live in the alleyways around the restaurant. And for them, it was a day like normal. They were sort of baffled because there were super long lines outside the restaurant from people who were happy that Biden had won and were trying to get a meal, even though they weren't regulars.

WARNER: Oh, people had come to order the Biden.

FENG: The people had come to order the Biden, I think just out of curiosity, but also some trying to understand who the next American president was going to be. Some people had also come because they saw lines and thought, oh, I wonder what's going on, and just stepped into line, which is a very Chinese thing.

ZHAO JISHENG: (Speaking Mandarin).

FENG: One of the people I ended up chatting longest to, who encapsulated a lot of the conversations I've had over the last few months leading up to the election, was a retired train conductor named Zhao Jisheng (ph). He was relieved. He felt like U.S.-China relations would return to a state of normalcy under Biden and that foreign policy, although there might be tensions, would be more predictable.

ZHAO: (Speaking Mandarin).

FENG: At the same time, he commends Trump for being brash and outspoken, which is what Mr. Zhao associates with the American democratic system - that people are able to advocate for their own civil liberties. He says, for example, the American system doesn't just give away your rights, but China is different.

WARNER: I'm curious about this - his praise of Trump's outspokenness - because some of that outspokenness has been very much against China.

FENG: You know, he didn't speak to that specifically, but I've had many other conversations with people inside China, people outside China who see themselves as not aligned with political values of the Communist Party and might describe themselves as pro-democracy. And they were secretly cheering on Trump from within China because they felt like at least he was putting pressure on China's Communist Party in a way that no other American president had in recent memory.

WARNER: So let me ask you big-picture for a second because as we're talking, there has been no official congratulations from China either to President-elect Biden or to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. What's going on with that? Why is that?

FENG: Most of it is caution because Trump has not officially conceded. And they know Trump still has more than two months left in the White House, and if they anger him in any way, he has ample time to mess with China and to put out all of these policies that could be harmful and hard to undo under a Biden presidency.

And their hope is that Joe Biden has been to China before. He knows many of the senior party leaders who are still in power. And when Biden is officially inaugurated, then China will extend its congratulations. Xi Jinping likely will make a phone call to Joe Biden, and that's where we might see a detente in the relationship.

WARNER: Emily Feng in Beijing, thanks so much.

FENG: Thanks so much for having me.


LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: This is Lauren Frayer. I'm NPR's India correspondent. Kamala Harris' maternal grandfather's village in India has exploded with firecrackers and Hindu prayers of thanks for her victory. Joe Biden's family connection to India is a little bit less well-known.

In 1972, when Biden was first elected to the U.S. Senate, he says he got a letter postmarked Mumbai from a distant relative. Turns out Biden's great-great-great-great- - four greats, maybe five greats - grandfather worked for the East India Company, married an Indian woman and settled down in the state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is capital. And so this has sent the Mumbai press onto this caper, trying to find the long-lost Bidens of Maharashtra.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hey. This is Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. So I have a friend who's a journalist for Israeli public radio, and he was being sent to the U.S. to report on the elections. And I asked him how he was preparing. And he said, I am memorizing the number of Electoral College votes every state has. And he did. He memorized almost every single state. And he'd also text me on WhatsApp out of the blue, and he'd say, what does toss-up mean? And what does turnout mean? And what's the best way to say in English, who are you voting for?

Well, he just got back to Israel, and I asked him how it went. And he said for all the preparation that he did, he was not prepared for the things that he saw, like the sign on the window of a gun store that said, absolutely no masks to be worn on these premises, you know, during a pandemic. He was floored by the deep polarization he saw in America, which is really something to hear from someone coming from Israel, of all places - I mean, one of the most polarizing places there is. He said, you know, memorizing the Electoral College map - that was the easy part.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hey. I'm Ruth Sherlock in Beirut in Lebanon. And this past election season, I've loved following the observations of my favorite Iraqi-Lebanese commentator called Karl Sharro, or @KarlreMarks on Twitter. He comments on the U.S. in the way that some Western media outlets speak about countries over here, sometimes in sectarian terms, for example. So when Biden won, he tweeted, experts are uncertain how a president from the Catholic minority will fare in this largely Protestant nation. These two groups have been at war for long periods of history, and those scars are still alive in this deeply religious country. And he's also just plain funny. On Election Day, he wrote, vote for the old white guy.


For those of you who are keeping count, we are at 15 countries in 16 1/2 minutes. Yes, we didn't actually go to those 15 countries, but we mentioned them. I'm feeling good. We're going to do this. In fact, I think we deserve a break. ROUGH TRANSLATION - back after these messages.


WARNER: We are back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner.

Next up, Europe. With so many countries, we've invited three correspondents - Rob Schmitz in Berlin, Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, and Frank Langfitt in London. Hey, guys.



WARNER: So let's start with a tweet from the mayor of Paris, who sent her congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with just three words - welcome back, America. Eleanor, you're in Paris. Is that a sentiment you're hearing?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, absolutely. That just sort of summed up the sentiment from Western Europe. And quite literally, she meant welcome back, America, because Joe Biden has said the day he's sworn in, he will rejoin the Paris climate accord. But she also meant welcome back, America, to this community of nations, to this transatlantic relationship. We've missed you so much. You've been gone for four years.

WARNER: And, Rob, what about you? Is this being seen as a reset for the U.S.-European relationship, going back to how it was?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think it's going to be hard for Western Europe to forget (laughter) what's happened under Trump. I mean, this is sort of like the end of a dysfunctional relationship, but it's one of those relationships where even though it was really horrible and sometimes abusive, it sort of taught you something about yourself.

Trump constantly badgered Germany and many other EU member states to spend more on their own security, to fulfill obligations to NATO. And while it was difficult for German politicians to be lectured by someone like Trump, many of them sort of quietly agreed that this was, indeed, a problem, that Germany does need to spend more on its defense, especially because, as Trump so blatantly showed, Europe should no longer expect to depend on the United States, with its "America First" president, for any protection. In a way, it's empowered Germany to act more independently of the United States on security matters, both within the EU and also globally.

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the French foreign minister said the good old days of the transatlantic relationship are gone forever.

WARNER: Yeah, but why gone forever? I mean, if Trump is gone, I mean, why...

BEARDSLEY: Well, I think they've seen what can happen. They know that Trumpism hasn't gone away, even if Trump has. You know, just today, the minister of European affairs, he said, we'll never go back to the days like naive children looking for American protection. Europeans will never again wait on their future to be decided by the United States.

WARNER: Frank, you want to jump in here?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yeah. One of the interesting things, listening to what Rob said, and I agree, and that is to some degree on some of these points, while Trump did it in often offensive and insulting ways, Trump wasn't wrong. You know, other presidents had complained about NATO funding for many, many years. But Trump sort of used this verbal shock therapy to get the message across. And people in Brussels that I would interview would sort of nod and say, yeah, what he's saying is true. This does have to change. It was just the style in which he did it.

BEARDSLEY: And I think people here also agreed with China - the way Trump did China because Europeans realized...

LANGFITT: Absolutely.

BEARDSLEY: ...They were just getting run over by China, and China was not opening its markets. And even people who were critical of Trump here, they say, but he was right about China.

SCHMITZ: But it's interesting. I think - Eleanor, I think they were also reacting to Trump's abrasive manner about it and almost like a knee-jerk reaction of, oh, you know, we're not going to do this because we don't like Trump. And so they finally, I think, and it's only happened in the last year, year and a half or so, have come around to this and realized we actually need to start protecting ourselves here.

WARNER: So I'd like to turn to the impact of Trump's departure. And, Frank, let's start with you in the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been really, I guess, Trump's closest ally in the region. They are similar kinds of politicians.

LANGFITT: Absolutely.

WARNER: You've written that they are both populists with memorable haircuts. So what impact does a Biden victory have on Boris Johnson and on the Brexit?

LANGFITT: A pretty big impact and, probably for Johnson, not a really good one.

Let's just remind everybody where we are right now. The United Kingdom has left the European Union, but it's still in a transition period and trying to cut a new free trade deal. Boris Johnson needs to see if he can get some kind of free trade agreement before the end of this year.

Now, one of the things he was hoping to do was even if he didn't get a deal here, he was hoping that Donald Trump would come to his rescue and give him a free trade deal, which was kind of his whole argument for Brexit. Like, we'll leave the shackles of all the bureaucracy in Brussels, and we'll get a great free trade deal with the U.S.

Well, the problem is Biden is against Brexit, is not happy with some of the things that Boris Johnson has been doing, particularly concerning Northern Ireland. And so if Johnson doesn't get some good deal with the EU, good luck getting a deal from Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi. He's going to have to probably wait a really long time. And unlike this whole talk of this - you know, the idea of a more independent Europe, you're going to have the United Kingdom kind of alone after Brexit, which would be a very bad place to be right now.

WARNER: What about politicians who have basically bet on President Trump? I'm thinking about right-wing movements and politicians in Europe and Eastern Europe, often who not only have very similar platforms to the Trump presidency, but look to President Trump to say, well, this is the way history is moving. History's moving toward more populism or more anti-immigrant sentiments. Given that these movements have been bolstered over the last few years, sort of what is their next step for them?

SCHMITZ: That's a really good question. I think the values of these nationalist governments, especially when you look at Poland, Hungary, it's basically inward-facing pride and outward-facing fear, right? And Trump really encapsulated that and maybe in some ways validated many of these movements in Europe.

But I think that these movements, in some way, lose their validation because...

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely.

SCHMITZ: ...The most powerful country on the planet - and I think the U.S. is still in that role - does not have someone just like them leading it. Over in Hungary, you know, we saw Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He's rewritten his country's constitution to enable one-party rule. He espouses his own version of ethnonationalism in a fight against Islam. And throughout this, Trump has looked the other way. It's likely a Biden administration will have more to say about that than Trump ever did.

Next door in Poland, the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party is not as far along in its road to authoritarianism as Hungary is, and that might leave the nationalist party vulnerable to attacks from a Biden administration, which will likely criticize these LGBT-free zones that Poland's setting up and its new abortion ban, as well as the dismantling of its own judiciary and its crackdown on press freedoms. You know, suddenly, Law and Justice does not have an ally in the White House for its culture war against European liberalism and for its anti-immigrant platform. And I think that that does have an impact on a lot of these movements and a lot of these governments that are continually trying to survive, because we have to remember that when we look at Poland, we look at Hungary, you know, these leaders look very powerful, but on a day-to-day basis on the ground, oftentimes, they are barely hanging on to that.

WARNER: All right, thank you guys so much for the time.

LANGFITT: Thanks, guys.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

WARNER: Thanks for joining me.


JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: I'm Jane Arraf in Iraq. In the middle of what was a deadly serious election race, one of the things that made me laugh is a satirical Arab website. It's called Al-Hudood (ph), which means The Limits or The Borders. And it says things like, most Arab governments save their citizens from divisive and chaotic democratic processes like elections and civil society, kind of taking a swipe at the concept of democracy in the Arab world. But also one thing that emerges is, you know, the U.S. can no longer lecture other countries about how to run democracy.


WARNER: ROUGH TRANSLATION. Gregory Warner here. As you remember, when we started this episode, we said we were going to do 25 countries in 25 minutes, and we tried our best. We even practically rigged this game. All we had to do is mention those countries. And yet, we blew it. We are 26 minutes in, and only 24 countries. So close. But a loss is a loss.

So we are going to round out this episode with one more story from the country of Afghanistan. And it comes to us from NPR's Diaa Hadid, about someone she met who is absolutely feeling the effects of this election on her life.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: When I'm thinking about the U.S. elections and Afghanistan, I'm thinking about Sabria Nawruzi (ph). She's 20 years old and the captain of the Herat Storm, which is the women's soccer team in her hometown of Herat in western Afghanistan. And she's dynamite. She's got a B.A. in psychology. She's engaged to a guy she likes. And she recently led her team to victory in the Afghan Women's Championship, like their final game, in this, like, 3-2, like, nail-biting win in a penalty shootout.


WARNER: This is Afghanistan, a conservative country, so the players sprint across the field in long-sleeved shirts and leggings under their shorts, and their hair is covered by black hoodie-style hijabs. But despite the modest dress, Sabria, the captain, says people tried to shame her family when she started playing at age 15.

HADID: And the neighbors used to come to her house and shame her mother by saying things like, oh, you know, we saw your daughter on TV. Do you know what your daughter wears when she plays football? And to her parents' credit, they just shrugged it off and they let her keep playing. But then she faced way more serious threats, and that was that militants, including the Taliban, not only threatened to open fire on the federation where she and the other girls were practicing football. They threatened suicide bombings. And she says...

SABRIA NAWRUZI: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: ..."We made a decision that I might not come back, but I was going to go and play football."


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Herat, Herat, Herat.

WARNER: This year, Sabria led her team to the finals in a stadium in Kabul.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Chanting) Herat, Herat.

HADID: And they're segregated stadiums, with the men in one area and the women in another. But in every other way, it's like this really fun football game. And the women are hollering, and they're jumping, and they're laughing. And they're hugging when they score goals. And the stadium - everyone is, like, cheering and clapping and banging on drums. And it's carried live on TV.

But the thing at the time was even as those women were playing, they had that sword hanging over their head. The question was constantly there of, like, are they going to survive the election?

WARNER: So why were Sabria and her teammates worried about the U.S. election?

HADID: So we asked two of the girls on the team and really talked to Sabria most of all about how they saw the American presidential elections affecting them. And it really boiled down to how they saw Trump as somebody who is withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan. And they see those boots as protecting them. They see foreign forces, with all their flaws and with the occupation, all the waste and bloodshed, they do see that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan have created these bubbles in which they have been able to fight for their rights.

But since the beginning of this year, Trump has been taking that away because he signed a deal with the Taliban that calls for this conditional drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

WARNER: Now the Taliban are negotiating a peace deal with the Afghan government.

HADID: If foreign forces leave without helping the Afghan government negotiate a good deal, it means that one of the very first groups that are likely to have their rights swept away are women.

The thing that they see about Biden is that he might bring those troops back. Sabria was - you know, we asked her about this a few times, and every time, she said, well, you know, Biden won't remove all the foreign forces from Afghanistan. He'll only remove half of them. And maybe he won't even remove half of them. And she talked about him having a good heart.

WARNER: And so, I mean, fact-check those perceptions for a second in terms of what we know about what Biden would plan to do. Would he be more likely to keep the troops there till there's a peace deal? Would he keep them there even after that to enforce that deal with the Taliban?

HADID: I have been trying to answer this very question for days, and I've been speaking to analysts in Washington and in Kabul. And people just don't know because the Biden team has been really tight-lipped about what their foreign policy will be.

But the first thing they say is Biden won't be chaotic. He's not going to tweet that foreign forces are going to leave Afghanistan by Christmas, which is what President Trump did, which sent just ripples of anxiety and worry across Afghanistan because they thought, oh, my God, this place is going to collapse into chaos without foreign forces, especially without an orderly managed transition.

But the other thing about Biden is that he has consistently said for years he has always wanted a lighter footprint in Afghanistan. And so he is likely, they say, to continue this drawdown, even if it's slower, even if it's more managed. He wants out as well.

WARNER: So where does that leave Sabria? I mean, I can't help but think that she is 20 years old, which means that she has never known an Afghanistan without the presence of U.S. troops, which, as you say, offered some degree - may be flawed, but some degree of protection. And so I'm curious. How does Sabria see herself in an Afghanistan without Biden or without the U.S. stepping in to protect her?

HADID: So I asked Sabria, you know, you grew up under the shadow of, like, these American forces. How do you feel now that they're going? And she said, you know, if the troops leave, there might be war again. But even if the talks happen and the Taliban come, she says, they have to understand that we're different now. Women are free now.

She wasn't just talking about herself as a football player. She talks about how women in her community have become commanders. They've become senior bureaucrats. They've become directors. They've become professors. You know, she always makes a point that, I'm talking about all of us. We can't go back.


WARNER: Today's show was produced by Jess Jiang and Derek Arthur. Lu Olkowski is our editor. The ROUGH TRANSLATION team includes Tina Antolini and Justine Yan. NPR's Daniel Estrin and producer Nuha Musleh brought us the story of Jihad Abu Alia, the Palestinian bettor. And Khwaga Ghani interviewed our Afghan soccer player.

Thanks to the whole NPR International Desk, even folks you didn't hear from who helped us conceive this episode - the correspondents, their producers, but also their editors - Larry Kaplow, Kevin Beesley, Yara Bayoumy and Nishant Dahiya.

The ROUGH TRANSLATION executive team is Didi Schanche, Neal Carruth, Chris Turpin and Anya Grundmann. Nicole Beemsterboer is our supervising producer. Mastering by Isaac Rodrigues (ph). John Ellis (ph) composed music for our show.

If you'd like more stories like this in your podcast feed - I always say it, but, please, it matters - rate us and review us on Apple Podcasts. It helps people find the show. And send us your thoughts at We're on Twitter at @Roughly. I'm @radiogrego.

Next time on ROUGH TRANSLATION, what happens when you start a new life in America on the very same day that Donald Trump is elected president?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: He says to his family, very reassuringly, this isn't a dictatorship. There's a separation of powers in this country. It's not like where we came from. It's going to be OK. Like, Trump's not a dictator. There's a Congress. There's all kinds of checks on this. And we live in a democracy. It's going to be OK.

WARNER: That's coming up in two weeks on ROUGH TRANSLATION.


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