Unreported World TX: 21 Dec 2012, Week 51
8/8: Burma: The Village That Took On The Generals, Fri 21 Dec, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Evan Williams and Director Wael Dabbous travel to Burma to meet the villagers fighting for their ancestral lands as foreign investors flood in to a nation rich in undeveloped resources. After fifty years of military dictatorship, the country is finally re-emerging from isolation as a pariah state. The release of political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi and the moves towards a more open society in Burma are the end of the story for some. However, as Unreported World reveals, economic development is leading to new social unrest as tensions build between big business and local people.
The Unreported World team travels to the north of Burma, closed to the country's famed second city Mandalay. It's the centre of a farmers' resistance movement against some of the most powerful forces in the region and the stakes couldn't be higher. On one side is what is believed to be one of the biggest undeveloped copper mines in the world; on the other, villagers who refuse to leave the land their families have farmed for generations. Plans show that the mine will entirely demolish a mountain range of some 33 small peaks and displace thousands of farmers.
In the village of Wet Hmay - which is right in the middle of this contested land - Williams meets cousins Aye Net and Thwe Thwe, the two women who are leading the campaign against the mine. Their trenchant resistance has made them unlikely leaders for farmers who say they are being tricked into signing over their land and forced out by intimidation.
"I will not accept any amount of money to leave this land," says an impassioned Aye Net in the shadow of an encroaching pile of earth from the mine, "It is the land our ancestors lived on and we have to pass on to our grandchildren."
Williams and Dabbous stay with them for two weeks as the women try to repair a community being torn apart by the pressure, try to organize protests and seek the support of Burma's politically powerful Buddhist clergy.
The monks - who rose against military rule in 2007's "saffron revolution" - tell Williams the land belongs to the people and the mine must respect their rights. Battle lines are drawn for a national campaign centered on the women's efforts to stop the mine completely
But they are up against some of the region's most powerful interests. The mine is operated by a joint venture between a subsidiary of a Chinese weapons manufacturer and a Burmese company owned and operated by some of the country's senior military figures.
While the military has stepped back from complete political control and allowed Burma to start on the path towards democracy, the battle over Wet Hmay village highlights the way some of the country's top brass are allegedly using repressive measures to retain vast wealth.
And, as Unreported World reveals, it doesn't appear to be an isolated case. Activists claim that there are thousands of land grab conflicts throughout the country as powerful interests try to cash in foreign investor interest in the new Burma.
Reporter: Evan Williams
Director: Wael Dabbous
Series Editor: Monica Garnsey
A Quicksilver Media production
7/8: Russia's Radical Chic, Fri 14 Dec, 7.30pm, C4
Reporter Marcel Theroux and director David Fuller meet the glamorous young socialite and former host of Russia's Big Brother programme, who has swapped her high profile TV stardom for a life leading political protests against President Putin - who also happens to be a close family friend. Unreported World reveals how far Ksenia Sobchak is risking her livelihood and privileged lifestyle to confront the strongman of the Kremlin who has dealt ruthlessly with other political opponents.
Ksenia Sobchak is one of the most famous people in Russia, known by millions as a TV star and member of the elite which made fortunes following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her father was the mayor of St Petersburg and mentor to Vladimir Putin, a family friend. A quick search of her career highlights on YouTube turns up clips of her dancing lasciviously, fighting with a boyfriend, and being carried home to her apartment in a drunken stupor.
So, when Muscovites took to the streets last December in a series of unprecedented mass protests against electoral fraud and the Putin regime they were amazed when she joined them - telling them she had a lot to lose in fighting their cause.
Since then, she's changed her image and started going out with Ilya Yashin, a political organizer. She's still using her celebrity - but now to oppose the regime of a man she's known since she was a child. And, she's suffering the consequences. By opposing the government, Sobchak has swapped a life of privilege for one of uncertainty.
She's been banished from mainstream television to a tiny cable station, where she hosts a political discussion programme. In June this year, armed police raided her apartment.
The Unreported World team follows Sobchak as she records an hour-long interview with Katya Samutsevich, one of the Pussy Riot protestors. It's Sobchak's idea to film the interview outside with the cathedral the protestors invaded as a backdrop. At Sobchak's suggestion, she and her interviewee wear prison jackets. It's a well-calculated tease, but the Kremlin is showing signs of losing patience with her.
Sobchak tells Theroux that she's just had word that her mother, a career politician, has lost her job. She attributes this, like her banishment to cable television, and the police raid, to a government that is trying to squeeze the life out of the opposition.
To a certain extent, it's succeeding. With Putin in office for another six years, and the most recent elections marked by low turn-outs and widespread apathy, it appears that a certain Russian fatalism is returning.
As the Unreported World team leaves Moscow, Theroux concludes that high-wattage stars like Sobchak, who can galvanize Russia's younger and least cynical voters could be an answer to this fatalism.
Reporter: Marcel Theroux
Director: David Fuller
Series Editor: Monica Garnsey
A Quicksilver Media production
6/8: Egypt. Sex Mobs and Revolution, Fri 7 Dec, 7.30pm, C4
Reporter Ramita Navai and director Dimitri Collingridge travel to Egypt to investigate the increase in shocking sexual assaults and harassment of women. Unreported World reveals claims that young men are being paid to carry out horrendous mob attacks on women. It is claimed that this started under the Mubarak regime and it is suspected by some to still continue. Women have been at the forefront of the Egyptian revolution - but are now often fearful of taking part in the regular public demonstrations.
Sexual harassment is not a new problem in Egypt. In a 2010 United Nations survey, more than 80 per cent of women surveyed said they'd been sexually harassed. But there are signs the problem has got worse with the breakdown of public order since the revolution. Reports of mob sex attacks are on the increase.
The Unreported World team meets a young woman who has recently survived such an attack. Nihal was out at a protest in Tahrir Square with four other women. She managed to escape but her friend suffered an ordeal that is typical of these attacks. She was stripped naked and dozens of men raped her with their hands. Nihal's friend sustained internal injuries and couldn't walk for a week. She has since fled Egypt. Nihal too was severely traumatised.
Nihal has become involved in Harassmap, an anti-sexual harassment movement which charts mob attacks and allows women to log sexual harassment. In the last two years the team has received more than 900 reports from women across the country. Despite the publicity on the issue, the women themselves are worried about speaking about their personal experiences. It's a taboo subject and many of them are even afraid to tell their parents what they've suffered.
Even when women decide to go to the police, they say they rarely receive help. Navai meets 21-year-old student, Dina, who has been the victim of several assaults. She claims that on one occasion she managed to alert a nearby police officer, but he refused to help, telling her the attack was her fault because she was wearing the wrong clothes.
The team witnesses at first hand the everyday harassment women face. As they film, a woman is chased by a group of teenagers. And as Navai and Dina walk down a busy main street, they are constantly verbally abused.
Many of the women Unreported World meets say that age, dress and looks have very little to do with becoming a target. In one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Cairo, Stable Anta, all the women are veiled and they suffer harassment similar to their more westernised counterparts downtown.
To understand the male mentality which might be behind the attacks, the team interviews three young men from a conservative neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo. They tell Navai that by dressing in a particular way, women are trying to get attention and their harassment is a form of punishment. They also say that men who cannot afford to get married turn to harassment to fulfil their desires.
But one Egypt's most influential bloggers, Wael Abbas, says there is another reason behind the attacks. He claims that sexual harassment was used by the previous president Mubarak as a weapon against female protestors; some people Unreported World interview believe that the current authorities are continuing this policy. The team travels to the south of Cairo and talks to several men who claim that they have been paid since the days of Mubarak's regime to attack women activists, although they say they don't know who is actually paying them. The current government says that it is not behind the violence perpetrated by the mobs on women and has set up an inquiry to look into sexual harassment and violence.
The reasons behind sexual harassment and assault in Egypt are complex but what's clear is that society's attitude to women is at the heart of it and this has allowed political groups to use it as a tool of intimidation. Now the revolution may not have changed much for women's rights, but there's a new generation that are fighting back.
Reporter: Ramita Navai
Director: Dimitri Collingridge
Series Editor: Monica Garnsey
A Quicksilver Media production
5/8: Mumbai's Party Police, Fri 30 Nov, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Jenny Kleeman and director Alex Nott travel to Mumbai where young clubbers are being arrested, assaulted and accused of being prostitutes in a police crackdown on the city's nightlife. Unreported World investigates why a policeman dubbed ‘Inspector Killjoy' is suddenly enforcing long-forgotten laws - and how being caught up in the raids can change young women's lives forever. The film looks at the fault lines where East meets West and where generations clash as India changes.
The team is taken to one of the city's best known clubs - the Blue Frog - by Nisha Harale Bedi, a former Miss Mumbai. It's a place where models and Bollywood stars come to party - but it's also one of over 200 venues the police have raided this year, under 60 year old licensing laws that many feel are out of step with modern Mumbai. The policeman leading the crackdown, Assistant Police Commissioner Vasant Dhoble, has detained at least 1,000 clubbers on suspicion of anything from taking drugs to selling sex. Nisha tells Kleeman how during one raid she was forced into a bathroom and strip searched.
Female clubbers have also been humiliated when the police have accused them of being prostitutes in front of local TV cameras. Karishma Ramesh Kadam was born in a slum and is now a shop assistant who aspires to the glamorous lifestyle that Nisha and her friends enjoy. The first time she ever went clubbing she was caught in a raid - Dhoble told reporters he'd been tipped off that prostitutes were soliciting from the club, and he arrested all the female customers. They were imprisoned for three weeks and then released without charge. She tells Kleeman she was strip searched and beaten - but the worst thing was that the raid had been filmed and photographed by journalists who publically branded her a prostitute. Her family say she's brought shame on them. They won't let her come home and refuse to speak to her. Karishma says she has tried to kill herself twice since they rejected her.
To find out what's behind Dhoble's crusade, the Unreported World team arranges a meeting in his office. Dhoble clearly enjoys his high profile, but refuses to explain himself on the record. He does tell Kleeman that he's just implementing the law and carrying out the orders of his boss, the Commissioner of the Mumbai police. But the Commissioner says neither he nor Dhoble are giving interviews.
The team discovers that while Dhoble's raids may not be popular with the clubbers, they have made him a hero to many in the city. Kleeman talks to Manuela Saldhana, chair of her local residents association, in the upmarket suburb of Bandra. She tells Kleeman that her formerly quiet residential area has become a nightmare on club nights, when young party-goers fill the street. She finds their drinking - and the girls' short skirts - disgusting. She's turned detective, gathering information so she can catch venues out on any technicality and inform the police in order to get clubs and bars closed down. And it's not just middle class people supporting Dhoble's crackdown on nightlife: in Daravi, the largest slum in Mumbai, residents tell Kleeman Dhoble is simply defending Indian culture against corrupting Western influences.
But opposition politicians begin mocking the raids, saying the police are ignoring serious issues because they are distracted by clubbers and parties. As Kleeman and Nott prepare to leave Mumbai, both Dhoble and the Commissioner are no longer in their jobs. Their fall gives Nisha has her friends the boost they need. They've started a campaign called ‘Mumbai Unite' to oppose the crackdown. Politicians begin to listen to Nisha arguments for getting the outdated laws repealed and start to sign up to her campaign.
For the moment, Mumbai's nightlife looks safe again. But as a growing number of Indians are able to spend their earnings enjoying themselves in the city, the battle between new freedoms and traditional values isn't over.
4/8: The Head Chef of Mogadishu, Fri 23 Nov, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Aidan Hartley and director John Conroy travel to Mogadishu to meet the remarkable British Somali man who has mortgaged his life in London and left his family behind to set up a chain of restaurants in one of the most dangerous cities on earth. Cooking is his contribution to the peace process in this war-torn country.
Ahmed Jama fled Somalia when he was a boy and settled in Britain. He trained as a chef and set up a successful restaurant in West London before returning to Somalia. But Ahmed’s success running restaurants has made him a target of jihadi organisation Al Shabaab. One of his restaurants has been hit by a double-suicide attack, leaving 20 dead. Ahmed is determined to carry on. The stakes could not be higher: his business, his marriage, even his survival.
After 21 years of civil war a new government in Somalia is hoping for peace, but still battling Al Shabaab, a militant army loyal to Al Qaeda. The new government has no power, depending for its survival on a 17,000-strong African Union army that has pushed back Al Shabaab insurgents since last year. But the militants are still able to stage guerrilla attacks, bombings and assassinations.
There’s no gunfire in Mogadishu on the day the Unreported World team meet Ahmed at his beachfront café - cooking for a clientele which includes other Somalis returning home from exile in the UK. But just a few days beforehand, two suicide bombers had blown themselves up in his city centre restaurant, called the Village. The attackers shot customers and then exploded their bombs, murdering 20 people. Al Shabaab gloated over the deaths – and has promised to strike again.
Ahmed takes the team to see his bombed cafe. It’s a gruesome sight. Where one of the bombers detonated himself, fragments of his body and blood have been blasted all over the walls and ceiling, together with the remains of several other people. But Ahmed tells Hartley that he’s staying put: “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to rebuild it again and show them I can encourage my fellow countrymen.”
Ahmed hasn’t only risked his life to be here – he’s also invested all his profits from his London restaurant and mortgaged his family’s future to support the country’s development. At another of Ahmed’s restaurants he shows Hartley how he’s been trying to support the peace process by feeding scores of clan elders who have been given the task of appointing the new government’s politicians.
For Ahmed, reopening his bombed café has become an obsession. Every day his doors are closed he is haemorrhaging profits. And he has another reason to reopen quickly. One hundred workers are depending on him for a job, in a city where very few people earn any kind of wage. The bombing has killed five of Ahmed’s employees – but his surviving staff reported for work the very next day.
As the day of the café’s reopening approaches, reports come in of the beheading of a local journalist and suicide bombers attempt to assassinate the new president. Ahmed has a nervous wait to see if his business has a future. Will his customers stay away, or will they risk their lives to have a coffee?
Ahmed has a death threat hanging over him – but he passionately wants this to work. It’s clear how much his success means to other British returnees, like Mogadishu’s mayor, who has come back from his life in Islington, London. Through his restaurants Ahmed has given the confidence to ordinary Somalis to dare to think and act more freely. Ahmed is making a great sacrifice. The stakes are so high he might end up bankrupt or a dead man. But it may only be brave individuals like Ahmed - ordinary dreamers – who have the power to rebuild Somalia.
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