Unreported World TX: 31 May 2013, Week 22
Channel 4’s critically acclaimed, award winning foreign affairs strand returns for a new series with two new reporters joining the team: Ade Adepitan, a former Paralympic wheelchair basketball medalist and key member of the Channel 4 presenting team during the London 2012 Paralympic Games; and Clemency Burton-Hill, a journalist, novelist and television and radio presenter.
Hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the new series sees Ade Adepitan travel to Cuba to investigate why some of the country’s top sports stars are still defecting to the US despite being lauded at home as heroes. Also included in the new run, Seyi Rhodes reveals the extraordinary property boom currently taking place in Gaza City, with estate agents marketing multi-million dollar apartments amongst the war-torn ruins. Aidan Hartley reports from his home country of Kenya on a unique school choir set up to help the child victims of election violence and Marcel Theroux is in Hong Kong to reveal the eye-opening world of the millionaire, Ferrari-driving super-tutors catering to parents insatiable desire to get their children into the best schools and universities.
Prod co: Quicksilver
8/8: Making Brazil Beautiful, 31/05/13, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Seyi Rhodes and producer Suemay Oram travel to Rio de Janeiro to report on the huge growth in cosmetic plastic surgery. Unreported World reveals that even poor women living in favelas are able achieve the Brazilian body beautiful through subsidised or free cosmetic surgery provided by plastic surgeons who feel all Brazilians have a right to be beautiful - even on the country's Public Health Service.
In Brazil, plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons is not frowned on like it can be in the UK. In fact, having a surgically enhanced body is sometimes seen as a status symbol. As a result, plastic surgery procedures have gone up by 40% in two years and there are now ten times more plastic surgeons in Brazil than the UK. Brazil is second only to the USA in the number of plastic surgery operations carried out each year.
Reasons for surgery vary: from wanting to have a body they feel comfortable with on the beach, to one that they feel will enhance their ability to get a job. Many women that Rhodes talks to say that in body conscious Brazil, if you don’t fit the perception of the perfect body, your chances of career advancement aren’t as great.
As well as private operations, plastic surgery is also available in Brazilian public hospitals. As in most countries, reconstructive surgery takes precedence, but surgeons also carry out aesthetic procedures. They also have a very wide definition of what is reconstructive. For example, women who’ve had children can apply for a 'reconstructive' tummy tuck. Or a woman whose small breasts are causing her 'psychological distress' could have a breast augmentation for free. Rhodes and Oram meet 26-year-old Karen Da Silva Chaves, a hospital administrator who is being given a tummy tuck following the birth of her son, so that she can wear a bikini again. The operation is free on the Brazilian health service.
The Unreported World team also meets 87-year-old professor and former surgeon Dr Ivo Pitanguy. He pioneered the increase in plastic surgery treatment for poorer Brazilians and his organization runs Santa Casa hospital's plastic surgery ward. Patients make a 'donation' to the hospital, the amount of which depends on their chosen surgery and their earnings. Those who can’t afford to pay but are deemed 'in need' of surgery can get it for free.
Dr Pitanguy tells Rhodes that plastic surgery has a very important role in society and that he sees himself as a psychologist with a knife in his hand. He says that every Brazilian has the right to health but also the same right to take care of themselves by improving their looks, which is why he founded his hospital.
Thirty-six-year-old seamstress Raquel Andrade tells Rhodes that she is paying around £1200 for a subsidised tummy tuck at Santa Casa hospital, to increase her chances of getting a better job (and stop people asking if she's pregnant).
Some of those the Unreported World team meets say that “black” features are seen as less desirable – and a large number of nose operations are carried out each year. Rhodes and Oram meet 23-year-old mixed-race social worker Daiana Araujo, who has saved up since she was 16 to have a nose job because she feels hers is too wide.
As the team prepares to leave Brazil, they revisit Daiana, who has had surgery in what she calls her “pursuit of beauty”. The pursuit of beauty has always been a huge part of Brazilian culture, but as the public health service subsidises plastic surgery for more and more people, Rhodes wonders whether Brazil risks losing what’s so special about its own people.
7/8: Yemen. Death Row Teenagers, 24/05/13, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and director Daniel Bogado travel to Yemen to reveal the scores of young men locked up in prisons and awaiting execution for crimes they are accused of committing while they were children. And they meet the lawyer who, in a miscarriage of justice, was sentenced to death himself at the age of 16 and who is now on a mission to save others who should never have been given the death penalty.
The Unreported World team accompanies Hafedh Ibrahim as he enters Taiz prison to meet a new young client. It’s the same prison where Hafedh was once held on death row and where he was marched, handcuffed, from the cells to the execution spot and told to lie down on the sand ready to be executed. Hafedh tells Guru-Murthy how, according to Yemeni law, as a juvenile he should never have faced the death penalty. His campaigning from inside prison paid off. He describes hearing the phone call coming in to cancel his execution three minutes before he was due to be shot.
Yemen has one of the world’s highest rates of gun ownership. In this tribal society boys are given guns and expected to become men. The prisons are full of young prisoners convicted of murder. According to Yemeni law, offenders under 18 cannot be sentenced to death. But most people here don’t have documents proving their age so juveniles are often mistaken as adults. That problem is intensified by the fact Yemeni culture has tended to treat boys as adults at the age of 15.
Hafedh is in the prison to meet Abdul Rahman, a boy accused of murder. Abdul hasn’t been tried, but has already been in prison for nearly two years. His sister claims that he killed her husband. Abdul says that he’s being framed and in any case, he was 16 when the death took place.
Hafedh has Abdul’s birth certificate, which he says should prove that he’s telling the truth. However, he tells Guru-Murthy that many judges don’t accept ID documents as proof of age and believe that any murders should be punished by death, whether or not the killer was under 18. The courts also rely on bone x-ray testing to determine age, a controversial process with a margin of error of up to three years according to some studies. In Abdul’s case, this age test has led to doctors claiming he was 19 at the time the crime was committed.
The team moves on with Hafedh to another prison in Ibb, to meet a man called Faisal. He’s been told he’s due to be executed within days and claims he too was a child at the time of his conviction. The guards at the prison aren’t keen to let Hafedh or the Unreported World team meet his client, confirming he is going to be executed within days. It becomes clear to Hafedh why the guards want him dead: he’s a prisoner who has been standing up to them and campaigning against his treatment. As the team is chased out, Faisal is thrown back into solitary confinement.
Returning to the prison, Hafedh meets another boy, who says he’s 16 and has been convicted of murder for an accidental shooting. He’s been sentenced to death after being assessed by a doctor as an adult, despite his documents saying otherwise. Hafedh listens to his story and takes his case on the spot. The team also meets Salah Shamsadeen, the prison executioner for almost two decades. He tells how he has executed around 700 prisoners, and jokes about only retiring when he’s finished off all the prisoners in the jail.
Hafedh is left still working on his cases, spending all of his spare time on his one-man mission to save young men from execution. Having escaped his own incarceration, he is now compelled to fight for others. But he’s struggling, working unpaid, and with the number of juveniles in Yemen’s jails growing all the time, his work is getting more critical every day.
6/8: Bangladesh Women's Driving School, 17/05/13, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Clemency Burton-Hill and director Elizabeth C Jones take to the roads of Dhaka with a group of young women who are learning to be professional drivers against extraordinary odds. Bangladesh is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive a car, and on top of the other dreadful drivers, teeming traffic and huge potholes, these learners are battling entrenched social taboos as they try to enter a profession almost entirely dominated by men.
Inside the residential driving school, the young women – many of whom have come from difficult circumstances – live, sleep, eat and study together, swapping life stories and forging friendships. Their driving tuition, both in the classrooms and on the roads, is intense: 8am-6pm every day except Fridays.
Dhaka has appalling traffic and Bangladesh grievous road safety statistics: more than 20,000 die on the roads every year. Before the women get anywhere near the wheel, however, one of the first issues they are taught about is ‘gender sensitivity’. As female drivers, prejudice, discrimination and abuse are as likely to await them as potholes, traffic jams and exhaust fumes.
The Unreported World team meets Mafuza, 20, who was forced aged 14 to leave school and marry a man she’d never met. Having divorced her husband after he allegedly mistreated her, she has retreated back to her village with her two-year-old daughter. Nobody else in her village drives a car, but she dreams of becoming a professional driver to provide her parents with much more income. She also hopes to be an inspiration to other women in the village by proving that women – even young, divorced women – can be equal to men, and can forge an independent livelihood despite the prevailing social taboos.
The team also follows Konika, 21, who claims she was so badly beaten by her husband that she lost her baby during the ninth month of her pregnancy. Now divorced, Konika is making good progress, but worries that she cannot stop her legs from shaking whenever she drives.
Competition for jobs at the end of the driving course is fierce. The director of the driving school tells Burton-Hill that of the 60 women who have already passed through the driving course and been awarded professional licenses, only 16 have since found employment as drivers.
During the time the Unreported World team is there, political parties call strikes almost non-stop, bringing the country to a virtual standstill. Vehicles are targeted during strikes, which means the apprentice drivers cannot practice driving on the open road. The female students also face the wrath of religious extremists who are marching on Dhaka with a list of demands including keeping women at home and banning free mixing of men and women.
Inside the gates of the driving school, the girls are relatively sheltered from the political turmoil taking place on the streets – at least for now. Mafuza triumphantly passes the tests and is allowed to drive the Unreported World team for a short distance in her village. Before entering the village she suffers a minor mishap, crashing into a rickshaw driver and drawing extra attention from a fascinated, bemused local crowd. Finally making it home in one piece, her family is astonished to see their daughter, mother and sister driving a car. Her father, looking a little shell shocked, tells the team he is very proud of his daughter.
As the Unreported World team leaves Bangladesh, it’s clear that while some progress is being made by these young female pioneers, women still face many challenges, both on the roads and beyond.
5/8: Hong Kongs Tiger Tutors, 10/05/13, 7:30pm, C4
As Education Secretary Michael Gove expresses his admiration for education systems in the Far East, Unreported World travels to Hong Kong to meet the students aiming for success in one of the most competitive exam environments in the world. And they meet one of its surprising beneficiaries: the millionaire Lamborghini-driving ‘super tutor’ who has made his fortune from parents desperate to get their kids into university.
Reporter Marcel Theroux and producer Lottie Gammon meet ‘Tutor King’ Richard Eng, who’s made his fortune coaching school students to get through the final year Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). The team films him in action at Beacon College – whose 40,000 students come from schools all over Hong Kong – where they’ve signed up for long evening classes on top of a full day at school.
There is no coursework in Hong Kong; everyone’s fate is decided by the exam. Three quarters of Hong Kong’s students have extra tuition to prepare them for these final year exams. Richard’s success is built on his perceived ability to give his students a competitive edge.
One of Richard’s students is 17-year-old JJ. Theroux visits his small apartment, on the 19th floor of a public housing estate. JJ’s dream is to be a PE teacher and he needs to pass his exams to get into university and teacher training. Neither of his parents had been to university and they’ve scraped together the money to send him to Beacon College as his school had a low success rate in getting students into university. But JJ is competing with students at elite schools, with pushier parents, and who have been tutored since kindergarten. The pressure is getting to him. He’s running a temperature but says he can’t afford to skip class. JJ tells Theroux: ‘I was talking to my English teacher about exam pressure. Tears welled up and I started crying.’
The great promise of education in Hong Kong is that a public exam sat by all allows children from any background to excel. But in a city as unequal as this one, with large disparities of wealth, Marcel Theroux wonders whether this is true, as rich parents can afford to buy their children more help.
Tutor King Richard Eng himself grew up in poverty, and excelled at exams, a passport to future success. Amongst the cars Richard now owns is a Lamborghini Murcielago worth half million dollars. He invites the Unreported World team to his penthouse to meet his wife and daughter and tells Theroux that he grew up in small apartment on a public housing estate.
Despite making his fortune educating students to pass the HKDSE, Richard is critical of the way the education system works. ‘We call it a loser-making factory,’ he tells Theroux. ‘One in four of the students end up sighing outside the university gates.’ Most tellingly, he's chosen to educate his daughter at an international school where she won't ever have to face taking the same exams which have made him a millionaire. There’s evidence the explosion in tutoring just makes things worse for poor students, and that a rags-to-riches story like Richard Eng’s is becoming increasingly unlikely in today’s Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's students regularly top international league tables for achievement. And in the UK, Michael Gove is moving to a system which places a much greater emphasis on highly pressured final exams. But what’s clear to Theroux is that in Hong Kong, children like JJ, from poorer families, are simply being outgunned in the academic arms race.
However, there is one group of people who are guaranteed success whatever happens: Richard and the tutor kings are already taking bookings for next year’s classes.
4/8: Syria's Rebel Doctor, 03/05/13, 7:30pm, C4
Reporter Evan Williams and director James Brabazon meet the NHS doctor who is risking his life by providing frontline medical care to the victims of the worsening conflict in Syria. Dr Rami Habib is a paediatrician who was previously based in Leicester. He’s now living in the northern Syrian town of Salma, which is bombed and shelled by government forces almost every day. But he’s determined to stay and keep the hospital going.
Salma used to be a holiday destination. Dr Habib had bought his parents a flat in the town and was visiting two years ago when war erupted. He took the difficult decision not to return to his wife in the UK and instead to stay in Syria to ensure that Salma had a doctor.
The town is just 20 miles from the ancestral home of President Al-Assad, but is in the control of the anti-government rebels. It’s now a strategically important target and the front line is just over a mile away. As a result of the daily bombardment, the town’s population of 70,000 has shrunk to 5000. Those who remain are mostly rebel fighters and a few civilians determined to stay despite the terrible danger.
The Unreported World team travel with Dr Habib as he crosses the border from Turkey, bringing life-saving medical supplies for the hospital. Travelling by road is extremely dangerous as vehicles are targeted by government troops; and the last 500 yards into Salma are the most dangerous. To avoid detection, they’re forced to switch off their headlights and drive in the dark.
Dr Habib’s first hospital was hit by a barrel bomb – a massive improvised bomb made out of a cylinder packed with explosives and shrapnel – dropped from a government helicopter while he was inside. The building was badly damaged and his new field hospital is now in the basement of an apartment block. Facilities are basic and the town’s water supply has been cut off for months. Dr Habib’s staff have been forced to find an alternative source of water, which is now pumped in from a spring two miles away through a one-inch pipe.
Williams and Brabazon film Dr Habib throughout his long days treating civilians with normal medical conditions, which – because of the lack of medical supplies and access to proper treatment – can quickly escalate. In Salma, simple childhood illnesses such as a chest infection can be killers without intervention. Dr Habib tells the team that no child in the region has received their vaccinations since the crisis started in Syria.
Suddenly, guards outside spot a helicopter flying towards the hospital. Dr Habib is afraid it’s going to drop another barrel bomb and everyone is forced to run down to the basement. He was right; three bombs are dropped very close to the hospital and another, packed with shrapnel and a tank shell, explodes just 100 metres away, leaving a huge crater.
Just after dark, an ambulance brings three men in to the makeshift emergency room. Shells are landing near the hospital and Dr Habib thinks it’s because government soldiers have seen the lights of the ambulance they arrived in. He finally finishes his shift at 3am. Exhausted, he tries, unsuccessfully this time, to get though to his wife by Skype but the hospital guards hear a helicopter and are forced to cut the power to make sure the hospital can’t be seen.
Dr Habib has been warned the government wants to kill him for helping the rebels, but he says he has no other option but to help save lives. He says he is committed to the overthrow of President Al-Assad, and remaining in Syria to treat the wounded and the sick is his way supporting the rebels in their struggle.
3/8: Gaza's Property Ladder, 26/04/13, 7.30pm, C4
Reporter Seyi Rhodes and producer Daniel Bogado travel to Gaza to reveal what must be one of the world's most unlikely property booms. And in this war-torn territory, ‘Location, Location, Location’ means finding an apartment in one of the highly sought after areas which are usually not shelled or hit by missiles – as well as close to a good school and shops.
The Unreported World team meets Essam Mortja, an estate agent and property developer who says his property business is booming. He shows them some of the glitzy properties he's helped sell at prices of up to US $3 million. Property prices for luxury villas and apartments in elite areas like El Remal are on par with London and New York. The area is right by the sea and has stunning views, but there's one other reason why the prices are so high. It's where the UN building is located, which means Israeli planes are less likely to bomb the area. Israel did bomb the UN HQ in 2009 but it caused an outcry – and property prices show that Gazans think it is unlikely to happen again.
Essam explains to the team how the conflict with Israel has been a driving force behind this incredible real estate boom. Israel’s blockade against Hamas means that movement of people and goods are restricted. Two million Palestinians are trapped in this 25-mile strip of land, making it one of the world’s most crowded places. Prices go up in any place with low supply and high demand. But also, every time there’s conflict, Israel destroys some homes, which worsens the housing shortage and drives prices up even further. In the last few years, Gaza’s property boom has made many real estate agents and property speculators like Essam extremely wealthy.
Rising property prices have sparked a building frenzy in Gaza. The Israeli blockade restricts building materials as Israel says Hamas uses them to build military bunkers. But Gaza’s entrepreneurs have found a way round this; they’re smuggling building materials through tunnels from Egypt. According to some estimates, 90% of all buildings being built in Gaza are constructed with materials brought through tunnels.
The Unreported Team travels to the area of Gaza where most of the tunnels are found. It’s estimated that around half a billion US dollars-worth of goods pass through them every year. The Hamas government benefits by taxing the tunnel trade, but the tunnels have also created around 1000 dollar-millionaires in the last five years. This new wealth is also helping fuel the property boom. Rhodes meets Nahder Gishna, who comes from a family of farmers who own land on the border. He’s been digging and running tunnels for the past eight years, and tells Rhodes he’s made a fortune. He’s put it all into property, building a glitzy mansion.
But while the wealthiest benefit, the majority of Gaza's residents have been hit hard by the property boom and the rise in prices. The Unreported World team visits a neighborhood, Shijaia, which has some of the lowest house prices in Gaza City. Not just because of how run down it is, but also because it's a border area with Israel, which means it's vulnerable to shelling and rockets during conflict. Shijaia is home to Ahmad El Rabai, a police officer who lives in a one-bedroom flat with his wife and family. He's looking for a bigger apartment, but the property boom has caused rents to quadruple in the last few years. And Ahmad also faces an additional complication. He works as a Hamas policeman and some landlords are afraid the Israelis might bomb them as a consequence of allowing Ahmad to live in their apartment block.
As the Unreported World team leaves Gaza the two sides of the property boom are clearly visible. On the one side, ordinary families such as Ahmed’s have been priced out by the dramatic rise in rental costs. Meanwhile, people like Essam have profited hugely.
Essam manages to find a buyer for his latest property development, and closes a two million dollar deal. But doing so has been a struggle, and this month the number of clients is significantly down. Many believe this is the first sign of a slump. But Essam remains optimistic. He envisions one day in the not too distant future when Israel and Gaza are at peace when beach-front property prices, he believes, would double.
Reporter: Seyi Rhodes
Dir: Daniel Bogado
Series Editor: Monica Garnsey
Prod Co: Quicksilver Media
2/8: Saving Kenya's Street Kids, 19/04/13, 7:30pm, C4
Aidan Hartley reports from his home town in Kenya on an extraordinary project to rescue the children who live on its streets. Together with director Wael Dabbous, Hartley highlights the inspiring work of the Restart Centre in Gilgil, which is providing a safe shelter for children at risk.
The Restart Centre is run on a shoestring budget raised from private donations. Conditions are basic, but crucially, it represents safety for the 70 children who live there. Many of the them ended up living rough as result of the bloody chaos which engulfed Kenya following disputed elections five years ago. More than a thousand people were killed, many families were broken up and thousands were made homeless.
Hartley and Dabbous follow Restart worker Dan Nderitu, who spends his nights seeking out Gilgil’s street children. The first time they meet him, he's in a race against time to rescue two small boys: Ken, seven, and his ten-year-old brother Julius. Ken and Julius’ family have sunk into extreme poverty. Their mother abandoned them and a year ago they began sleeping rough.
They both want to move off the streets and into the Restart shelter, but in order to take them in, Dan needs the government's permission. He’s trying to reach the government Children’s Officer who needs to sign the paperwork for Ken and Julius – but her office is chronically underfunded and the process painfully slow.
Dan's work is urgent because, during Unreported World's time in Kenya, the country is about to hold general elections, and if there’s violence, he fears the children could be even more at risk.
Unreported World also films the Restart Centre’s children's choir which campaigns for the elections to be peaceful. Many of those Hartley meets, such as Pilot, the youngest member of the choir, saw their families collapse in the violence following the previous election.
Dan is still caught up in bureaucracy. Ken and his brother are still on the streets and every time he tries to get an official to grant permission to take them into the shelter, the right person isn't available or there's more paperwork to be filled out. He goes to see Ken’s only known relative, his aunt, to find out why she can’t help her nephews. He finds her already looking after four children, only two of them her own. The boys have been in trouble with the police. She can’t cope. She’s delighted they have a chance at a better home somewhere else.
Finally, there's a breakthrough. Although the Children’s Officer is not around, Dan has persuaded her assistant to sign the forms. Ken and Julius move into the Restart Centre and for the first time in many months rather than sleeping in plastic sacks, they're in proper beds. But it's emotionally tough for Dan as their nine-year-old friend Joseph begs to be taken along too. Dan faces the same issue - he can't just take him without official permission or he'll be accused of abduction. Nevertheless, he promises he'll be back for him soon.
It's almost time for the Unreported Team to leave Gilgil. Though Kenya now has a new President, Uhuru Kenyatta, the big news at the Restart Centre is that Ken’s friend Joseph has finally been taken in. He’ll soon be going back to school.
The new President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has promised to give every Kenyan child a laptop, but this seems like an promise which will be hard to keep in a society where most children can’t afford a pencil. Hartley concludes that what brings him hope for the future are people like Dan, while they may have less grandiose aims, are creating better lives for the children of Kenya on a daily basis.
1/8: Cuba, Basketball and Betrayal, 12/04/13, 7.30pm, C4
Channel 4's critically acclaimed foreign affairs strand returns for its 25th series, with Paralympian wheelchair basketball star Ade Adepitan joining the reporting team. Ade is granted access on a rare scale to some of Cuba’s most famous sports stars, to investigate why some of them have defected to the USA just as the country seems to be opening up.
Adepitan and director David Fuller travel to Ciego De Avila, six hours east of Havana, and home to the best basketball team in Cuba. Many of the Ciego Buffalo stars are in the national team, but some of them have made headlines for reasons not to do with performance on the basketball court.
Nine months previously, Cuba’s government allowed the national team to visit the US territory of Puerto Rico. Within hours they defected, along with three players from other clubs. Adepitan talks to some of their fellow team members, who had the chance to defect, but chose to return to Cuba. ‘They went to look for economic improvement,’ one of them tells him. ‘Players here don’t earn very much.’
Some of the Buffalo players are good enough to play in top international leagues, but as they explain to Unreported World, while ordinary Cubans are now allowed to leave the country for up to two years, high-value people like surgeons and sports stars are not given the same right.
The Cuban government says that the players are trained and maintained by the state, so they should stay in Cuba. But that's not what some of the fans tell Adepitan. They say they want their basketball players to travel abroad and play for the best teams, developing their skills and ultimately improving the Cuban national team.
And, while self improvement is also high on the agenda of those players considering defecting, the economic effect of the decades-old US trade embargo on sports stars who could be millionaires in other countries also comes into play. The government provides free state education and health care, but there’s a shortage of housing. Adepitan and Fuller visit the home of William Lewis. He's one of the top basketball players in Cuba, but lives in a small house with his grandmother, mother and girlfriend.
The result is that many decide to leave the country, and, once they've left, they're not allowed back for eight years. Adepitan and Fuller track down the family of one of the Ciego players who defected in Puerto Rico, Yudniel Perez. His mother is in despair at not being able to see him for such a long time. Getting a passport to go and see him would cost her more than three months’ salary.
And for would-be defectors, life is getting harder in the US as well as Cuba. Just as Cuba is opening up, the US is cracking down on immigration. The Unreported World team travels to Puerto Rico to talk to Yudniel. He's now training with one of Puerto Rico’s best professional teams. But he can’t play for them as none of the defectors have been given permission to work. Unable to earn, he's forced to rely on the generosity of Puerto Ricans.
Reporter: Ade Adepitan
Dir: David Fuller
Series Editor: Monica Garnsey
Prod Co: Quicksilver Media