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Palestinians Commemorate Land Day on ...
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
01 Apr 2015

Palestinians from across the West Bank and Israel gathered in confiscated Palestinian villages, on both side of the 1967 Greenline, to commemorate Land Day. Land Day is seen as a day of resistance action in defense of Palestinian land. Annual Land Day events are held by Palestinian communities within the State of Israel, in the occupied territories, and in the Palestinian diaspora.

 

Land Day events in 2015 included a 'return march' by the community-in-exile of Lifta, many of whom today remain only a kilometer or two from their original homes. Today there remains a small but very active community-in-exile of Lifta's refugees in East Jerusalem, and it was this group, under the banner of their community grassroots organisation 'Sons of Lifta' who spent Land Day inside their home village. Although many of the village's houses remain intact and the refugees live only a ten minute journey away, they are denied their rights to return to live in the vilage by the State of Israel.

 

Land day first started on March 30,1976, when mass demonstrations broke out among Palestinian communities in the State of Israel in protest at an Israeli state plan to confiscate 20,000 dunums (2,000 hectares) of land around the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin and Arraba in the Galilee. This was one of the first examples of mass coordinated action being carried out by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Protests were held from the Galilee in the north all the way to the Negev (known as the 'Naqab' to Palestinians) in the south. Over the course of the day 6 Palestinians were shot dead and more than 100 were injured. Ever since these events, Palestinians have commemorated March 30th as 'Land Day', or 'Yom al-Ard' in Arabic.

 

In Another Land Day event, activists in the village of Wadi Fukin in the West Bank attempted to plant 350 olive tree saplings on land that is threatened with expropriation by the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Sur Hadassah. All Israeli settlements within the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are illegal under international law. Before more than a handful of trees could be planted in Wadi Fukin, Israeli soldiers rained clouds or tear gas on to the activists bringing the Land Day event to an abrupt halt. For Palestinians, Land Day is an important annual event which brings together many thousands of Palestinians across historic Palestine in the defence of Palestinian land.

 

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Land Day R
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
30 Mar 2015

As the Land Day action is brought to an abrupt halt in Wadi Fukin, the majority of the 350 olive tree saplings remain unplanted outside a house in the village after activists were forced to escape from clouds of tear gas that was fired by Israeli soldiers.
Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
30 Mar 2015

A Palestinian child watches from a rooftop in Wadi Fukin as Israeli soldiers fire rounds of tear gas at fleeing activists during a tree planting event to mark Land Day. In the background stands the huge Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit which is built partly on the land of Wadi Fukin.
Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 19
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
30 Mar 2015

Two elderly Palestinian women attempt to make their way down the hill in Wadi Fukin to escape from the tear gas that is being fired by Israeli forces.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 20
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
30 Mar 2015

An Israeli security helicopter circles above Wadi Fukin during the olive tree planting event to commemorate Palestinian Land Day on March 30th 2015.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 21
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
30 Mar 2015

Israeli soldiers line up on a hill top in Wadi Fukin as Palestinian activists watch from a distance during an olive tree planting event to commemorate Land Day in the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 4
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

350 olive trees were brought to Wadi Fukin to be planted on the lands threatened by settlement expansion.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine, March 30 2105.

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Land Day 5
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

Activists make their way up a hill toward land that is threatened by the expansion of the Sur Haddasah settlement. In the background, the huge Beitar Illit settlement is also built on the land of Wadi Fukin.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine, March 30 2015.

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Land Day 6
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

In the West Bank village of Wadi Fukin, an olive tree planting event is underway with local activists and refugees from Bethlehem's refugee camps to commemorate Land Day on March 30th 2015.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 18
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

Activists flee as Israeli forces rain tear gas down on them. The tear gas stopped the olive tree planting event being held to commemorate Land Day in the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin.
Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 1
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

A Palestinian youth raises a Palestinian flag from the top of settlement construction machinery within the construction site that is expanding the Israeli settlement of Sur Hadassah. Sur Hadassah is located on the land of the West Bank Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin and the land of the pre-Nakba Palestinian village of Ras Abu Ammar.

Wadi Fukin/Ras Abu Ammar, West Bank/Green Line, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 2
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

A small group of activists reach the construction site on the top of the hill in which Sur Hadassah settlement is being further expanded.

Wadi Fukin/Ras Abu Ammar, West Bank/Green Line, Palestinel. March 30 2015.

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Land Day 3
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
29 Mar 2015

An elderly Palestinian women plants an olive tree sapling on land of the village of Wadi Fukin, which is threatened with confiscation by the expansion of the Sur Hadassah Jewish settlement.

Wadi Fukin, West Bank, Palestine. March 30 2015.

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Land Day
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
27 Mar 2015

Yakoub Odeh is one of Lifta's Nakba survivors and also the head of 'Sons of Lifta' - a community group that was established by the refugees in defense of their village and their right to return to live in the village: "We are here to remember, we are here to learn and we are here to say we will never give up (our struggle for return)." Yakoub Odeh and Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 7
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

The refugees ended their Land Day action with Friday prayers at the edge of Lifta's spring under the watchful eyes of Israeli security forces and Jewish orthodox youth from the nearby settlements.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 8
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

A Jewish youth from a nearby settlement talks to Palestinians commemorating land day in the village of Lifta.

Although the village centre of Lifta and its houses remain unoccupied, large areas of the village's wider lands were expropriated for settlement expansion. Orthodox youth from these settlements regularly visit Lifta to bath in its spring

Palestinian refugees and Jewish orthodox youth, Lifta, West Jerusalem, March 27 2015.

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Land Day 9
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta's mosque is also still standing today and offers sweeping views across the western slopes of the village from its arched windows.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel, March 27 2015.

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Land Day 10
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Cleaning and restoration work in the village cemetery has become a focal point for many events held by the community-in-exile when they visit Lifta. The refugees' ancestors remain buried at the site to this day. There are now estimated to be more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and displaced people.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 11
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Nader Liftawi was born a refugee in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem in 1970 and was brought to the village regularly by his father from an early age.

"I have brought my children here since they were young. I come at least once every month to check the houses, clean the graves and smell the air. This is everything to us," explained Nader.

Nader Liftawi, Palestinian refugee form Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 13
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta was forcibly depopulated in early 1948 by Zionist militias, well before the official establishment of the State of Israel. Some Nakba survivors say that they were told to leave temporarily and would later be allowed to return.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 14
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Yakoub Odeh is one of Lifta's Nakba survivors and also the head of 'Sons of Lifta' - a community group that was established by the refugees in defense of their village and their right to return to live in the village: "We are here to remember, we are here to learn and we are here to say we will never give up (our struggle for return)."

Yakoub Odeh and Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 15
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta is unique amongst the Palestinian villages that were depopulated during the Nakba in that the majority of its houses remain structurally intact and are not occupied by Israelis today.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 22
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

The refugees hung signs in various locations around Lifta reaffirming the history and Palestinian identity of the village.
Palestinian refugees from Lifta, Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 16
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

After a journet of only 10 minutes the refugees arrived back in the village from which they were forcibly displaced in early 1948 by Zionist militias.
Palestinian refugees from Lifta, Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 17
East Jerusalem
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Palestinian refugees boarded buses in the East Jerusaelm neighbourhood of French Hill to make the short journey across the Green Line to their home village of Lifta to commemorate Land Day.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta, March 27 2015, French Hill, East Jerusalem, Palestine.

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Forty Years in Exile: The Western Sah...
Bir Lehlu, Morocco
By tclava
03 Mar 2015

A forgotten crisis, a conflict about to break out again, 2015 for the Saharawi people and Western Sahara can be a crucial year

A never-ending exile

When like all his fellow soldiers in the Saharawi People's Liberation Army (SPLA) 23 years ago, Bechir agreed to put away his weapons and bring to an end a twenty-year war waged against Morocco for the liberation of Western Sahara, he still had some doubts as to the wisdom of this decision.

He knew that the diplomatic route would be full of obstacles and pitfalls, but he hoped that the commitment of the international community could lead to concrete results, without more bloodshed.

But since 1991, the year of the UN-brokered ceasefire that should have paved the way to a referendum for the independence of this part of the desert, nothing, literally nothing has changed for the Saharawi people.

Bechir’s children were born in the camps to which his generation was forced to flee. They live in tents, brick houses of sand, in one of the most inhospitable areas of the whole Maghreb, in southern Algeria, between Tindouf and the border with Mauritania. A place that is a flat and stony desert, cold in winter and stifling in summer, often buffeted by strong winds that fill eyes, mouths and houses with sand. Here, among goats forced to eat plastic because they have nothing else available,  an unemployment rate that grows from year to year, the Saharawi population, made up of about 170 ,000 people, is still forced to live without a future, without prospects.

The failure of the international community is visible to all. Although a mission, MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) was created especially to give life to a referendum, in 23 years it has failed to produce one. Forty years on from the beginning of their exile in Southern Algeria, even the Saharawi wonder if it is still worthwhile to wait or whether it is appropriate to take up arms again to recover what, according to what they say, belongs to them. And so the military maneuvers in the desert began, with inspections of various bases of the Saharawi People's Liberation Army by the leadership of the government of the Polisario Front.

Mohammed Lamin Elbouhali, Defense Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), does not mince words to explain the thought of the Polisario Front, the political arm of the Saharawi people, on the issue: "We can not, and do not want, to wait any longer, our patience is over. We accepted the conditions imposed by the international community, we have agreed to dialogue, but it did not do anything. Morocco continues to provoke and not to accept even to discuss the electoral base for this referendum in which now no one believes. We are ready to take up arms to regain our land”.

You can breathe  the impatience going around among the refugee camps. You can breathe it in Smara, in Rabouni, in Auserd, you can breathe it talking with seniors who participated in the bloody war against Rabat, but also exchanging views with those young people that have never seen their homeland but who are aware that in these fields, for them, there are no prospects.

The collapse of humanitarian aid

For decades the Saharawi population has depended solely on humanitarian aid. Food, medicine, clothes, everything comes to the refugee camps in containers from the four corners of the world. But due to the economic crisis that has hit Western countries in recent years, to the explosion of war emergencies in other regions, and to the fact that this crisis, the crisis of Western Sahara and the Saharawi people, has continued for four decades,  latterly humanitarian aid has collapsed.

"In the last four years the donations and the commitment of the international community have been reduced significantly,” - says Brahim Mojtar, Minister of Cooperation. “ We can even say they have plummeted dramatically. This is hugely damaging for a population like the Saharawis that depends for all aspects on humanitarian aid. Eight million euro per year would be enough to feed everyone, a pittance, but we find it hard to scrape it together. But the real danger for us is not to die of hunger, the real risk for us is falling by the wayside. Such a long crisis, a conflict that has continued for so many years, inevitably leads to lower interest from the international community towards our cause and our sufferings and this is just what Morocco wants. And that's why we, as Polisario Front’s members, as Saharawis, can not risk waiting any longer in vain, unable to see our friends and our relatives who live in the occupied territories beyond the Moroccan Wall”.

The wall of shame

Two thousand seven hundred kilometers of mud, sand and barbed wire stretch, from the Algerian border to the Mauritanian one. On one side are the “liberated” territories controlled by the Polisario Front, on the other the "occupied" territories under the reign of Mohammed VI. On one side lies the desert, occasional villages, nomad tents, and nothing more, on the other there are rich deposits of phosphate, some of the most fish-rich waters of the planet and oil, so much oil that the US oil company Kosmos will shortly begin drilling offshore. In the middle is, a strip of land that is one of the most heavily mined in the world, which has already claimed 2,500 victims, both military and civilian.

By s ome estimates the number of land mines and anti-tank devices placed near the wall, on the side controlled by the Polisario Front, could be around 7 and 10 million. Among these, thousands of unexploded ordnance and cluster bombs that every year injure, and kill, dozens of people, mostly nomads that in those areas graze their flocks, and children who mistake the ordnance for toys.

"I was grazing the goats in the area close to the wall, not far from Mehaires, it had rained so I had to move a bit forward because in that area there was more water. I placed my foot on the ground, I realized I’d stepped on something but I couldn’t do anything. And so I lost a leg" says Embarel Mohamed, in his grocery store in the February 27 refugees camp. The conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, albeit muted by a shaky cease-fire, continues to claim victims then, in the silence of the media that seem to have forgotten about a crisis for which the entire international community has a huge responsibility.

In the “occupied” territories, so formally in Moroccan territory, the Saharawi community – numbering over 300 thousand people - lives scattered among the cities of Layyoune, Dakhla, Smara, Boujdour, discriminated by the institutions of Rabat and the Moroccan population. Violence against the Saharawi by security forces in Morocco is almost daily. Those Saharawi that demonstrate in the street for the independence of Western Sahara, about the difficult living conditions and against the repression are beaten, arrested, often tortured, and finally sentenced by military courts with up to life imprisonment.

During the war thousands of Saharawis disappeared into thin air from the territories under Moroccan control, and many of them, almost four hundred, are still missing. But the disappearances of activists are not a thing of the past. Associations like Afapredesa (Asociación de Familiares de Desaparecidos y Presos Sahrawis) denounce new and continuing disappearances of activists, protesters, youngsters and the elderly. Many of them try to escape and get over the wall that separates Morocco from the part of Western Sahara controlled by the Polisario Front, but few succeed in doing so because the control of the Moroccan government is rigid and the area is full of dangers, primarily mines. Despite the complaints and appeals of several NGOs and associations that invite the international community to take action against Morocco for human rights violations, the MINURSO mission is one of the few in the world that has no power on human rights issues.

A new challenge

Only sand, rocks, and the dark. And nothing more. And it is in this darkness that envelops the night in Western Sahara that smugglers, drug traffickers and terrorists prowl, in addition to the old cars of the SPLA. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for the uniqueness of the Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Ansar Eddine, are just some of the acronyms that in recent years, have seared this strip of Africa with bombings and kidnappings. They exploit these stretches of sand, these no man's lands. The meeting with the jihadist for the Saharawi community was sudden, shocking. One night in October 2011, a jeep, gunfire, and three volunteers, two Spaniards and an Italian woman, were kidnapped and taken at full speed across the border with Mali. This kidnapping was to have a happy ending (the three were released after nine months of imprisonment) but it represents an important watershed in this arid land already stricken by years of conflict.

"Before the kidnapping of the three aid workers we thought that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism wouldn’t have touched us” said Sidi Augal, the commander of the Fifth Military Region “We have always had only one enemy: Morocco. But now we have to fight on two fronts: to take back our land illegally occupied by Rabat and to stop the threat posed by terrorists".

In this area, where poverty and unemployment go hand in hand with the lack of interest of the international community, terrorists have found an ideal breeding ground to grow and propagate their ideas. The Polisario Front and the People's Liberation Army Saharawi know that this terrorism is a threat not only for the region but also for the stability of a community that has been living in extreme difficulty for four decades.

"The risk is that terrorist groups could be able to infiltrate refugee camps, mosques, and do proselytism, especially among the increasingly young people, who wonder what their future could be, far from their land and away from families and friends living in the territories occupied by Morocco” - explains Brahim Ahmed Mahmoud, Secretary of Security for the Polisario Front – “the Saharawi are in the midst of a whirlwind, in an explosive area, and they are the only victims of this situation. We do our best, with the means at our disposal, to check the area and ensure their safety, but until we get back our country, break down the wall that divides the Moroccan Western Sahara and embrace our brothers who suffer repression by the security forces in Rabat, everything will remain more difficult”.

Patrols day and night in the desert, roadblocks, checkpoints, stocks for the few Westerners who, despite calls by the various governments to abandon the region, have decided to continue working there, these are the means at the disposal of Polisario Front to try to curb the advance of terrorism in a region of porous borders and arid expanses difficult to control. This terrorism has touched the Saharawis deeply, because in the group of kidnappers of the three aid workers there were some (certainly one) of them, which has prompted Morocco to accuse the Polisario Front of backing the jihadists. Allegations  promptly refuted but the episode has made it even harder for the international community to commit  in the region.

Forty years have passed but little or nothing has changed for Saharawis. New challenges are piled on to unresolved conflicts and tensions are never silenced. The impatience of the youth mounts and the threat of a resumption of the armed conflict against Morocco no longer seems to be just a bogeyman used to attract the attention of the international community.

TOMASO CLAVARINO

 

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Iraq: Qaraqosh's Christians in Limbo
Erbil
By Arianna Pagani
24 Jun 2014

After bombings in Qaraqosh, the Iraqi government has decided to evacuate the entire town. About 5,000 families have taken refuge in the city of Erbil, where schools and sports centers have been made available by local volunteers and aid organizations.

A major city for Christians in Iraq, Qaraqosh fell to ISIS shortly after the latter's conquest of Mosul. Residents of Qaraqosh were reportedly terrorized by ISIS, who took Sharia law into their own hands, lashing one man for selling cigarettes, and killing several women found guilty of adultery. The city later suffered heavy bombardment during fighting between ISIS fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

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Musharraf returns to Pakistan from se...
Karachi, Pakistan
By Syed Yasir Iqbal Kazmi
24 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Musharraf returns to Pakistan from se...
Karachi, Pakistan
By Syed Yasir Iqbal Kazmi
24 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Musharraf returns to Pakistan from se...
Karachi, Pakistan
By Syed Yasir Iqbal Kazmi
24 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Musharraf returns to Pakistan from se...
Karachi, Pakistan
By Syed Yasir Iqbal Kazmi
24 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Musharraf returns to Pakistan from se...
Karachi, Pakistan
By Syed Yasir Iqbal Kazmi
24 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Musharraf Returns To Pakistan After E...
Karachi, Pakistan
By U.S. Editor
23 Mar 2013

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home on Sunday after more than four years in self-imposed exile. He addresses workers of his APML party at the airport
Photo by Yasir Kazmi, Karachi, Pakistan

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Syrian Opposition Figures to Form Gov...
Cairo, Egypt
By U.S. Editor
31 Jul 2012

A number of Syrian opposition figures in Cairo announced formation of a new alliance called “The Council of Syrian Revolutionary Trustees” on Tuesday, July 31, and assigned the Council Chairman, Haitham al-Maleh, to form a transitional government in exile.
The new Syrian opposition council challenges the Syrian National Council (SNC), which they say failed to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people.
SOUNDBITE 1 (Arabic) – Mahmoud al-Doghaim, member of the Council of Syrian Revolutionary Trustees:
“The office has assigned Mr. Haitham al-Maleh to form a transitional government and he gratefully accepted. He started his consultations with the different sides of the Syrian opposition outside Syria and with the revolutionaries inside Syria to form the cabinet.”

On the other hand, Al-Maleh told reporters at the conference in Cairo, that his alliance urges a no-fly zone in Syria to protect the civilians and does not call for foreign military interference.
Al-Maleh said earlier that the aim of the council was to form a transitional government to avoid a “political and administrative vacuum” in case the regime of Bashar Assad falls.
For his part, SNC Chief Abdel Basset Sayda described the formation of a government in exile as “a hasty move.”
Al-Maleh, 81, is a lawyer and human rights activist who spent several years in the Syrian jails.

Local News Agency: Middle East Bureau / VCS
Shooting Dateline: July 31, 2012
Shooting Location: Cairo, Egypt
Publishing Time: July 31, 2012
Length: 0:01:13
Video Size: 60.2 MB
Language: Arabic
Column:
Organized by:
Correspondent:
Camera: VCS

SHOTLIST:

  1. Medium, tilt down shot of a banner written on it “Founding Conference of the Council of Syrian Revolutionary Trustees”
  2. Various medium shots of the Council members and attendants in the conference while one of the members is giving a speech.
  3. Medium shot of the speakers at the conference
  4. Medium shot of the members talking and one of the attendants is raising her hand to ask a question.
  5. Medium shot of one of the Council members.
  6. SOUNDBITE 1 (Arabic) – Mahmoud al-Doghaim, member of the Council of Syrian Revolutionary Trustees:
    “The office has assigned Mr. Haitham al-Maleh to form a transitional government and he gratefully accepted. He started his consultations with the different sides of the Syrian opposition outside Syria and with the revolutionaries inside Syria to form the cabinet.”
  7. Medium shot of the Council members and attendants during the conference
  8. Various shots of the conference
  9. Medium shot, Haitham al-Maleh speaking during the conference
  10. Various shots of the conference, speakers and attendees
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Lost Girl
Jordan
By aaron.raskin
21 Feb 2011

A short news piece about a prostitute Iraqi woman living in exile in Jordan.