The New Genghis Khan

   •    February 15, 2006

This article was originally published by Scripps Howard News Service.

One way to get to know a country is through an extraordinary person. And in a remote land whose best known figure lived more than 700 years ago, it takes a real star to draw you into the intricacies of the place. In 2004, an articulate and energetic woman came into my office to tell me about her work in Mongolia. Her name is Nora Manjaa, and our meeting that afternoon led to my visit to Ulan Bator last November.

Manjaa grew up in a windswept village in western Mongolia. At 18, she left to study law in Russia. For the next five years she often traveled by train between home and school. It was in those long journeys that Manjaa first became aware of human-rights abuses by the state. She often watched as guards or customs officers harassed passengers; then one day she was a victim. The experience had a profound impact on Manjaa and led to her career in human rights and the rule of law.

She thought, “If I, an educated person, can be abused, how will ordinary people know their rights and defend themselves?”

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