Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai


BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter


Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.


Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


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An 'Uneasy Calm' in Rakhine State: LinkAsia Follows Burmese Ethnic Violence


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Documenting Life and Death in Nigeria in "The Edge of Joy"

(Guest blog from the director of "The Edge of Joy", originally posted on the PBS NewsHour website)

The Edge of JoyIn the time it takes to read this post, somewhere in the world a pregnant woman will have started hemorrhaging and her baby might soon be motherless. One thousand women die every day trying to bring new life into the world, and this toll is what drew me to shoot my documentary film, The Edge of Joy.


I encountered many of the heartbreaking and hopeful stories that underpin this global tragedy, but it was only through the people, the doctors and nurses of Nigeria that I was able to tell them. The roughly one dozen Nigerian doctors and midwives I worked with closely over the course of making the film, didn't push agendas, or act as obstructionists when I asked tough questions or wanted to follow story lines to their natural conclusions.


Nigeria is better known for corruption and oil production than as the vanguard of fighting maternal mortality, but this small close-knit group of men and a handful of women trusted me not to create an indicting portrait of pregnancy and childbirth in their West African country.


Documentary filmmaking is an art, not a science, and at times during the making of this film, the process was challenging. I always kept my questions dignified and did my reproductive health homework so I could ask informed questions in hospitals and in the communities.


Getting permission to film in such sensitive settings requires government approval, a process that Habib Sadauki, the second obstetrician/gynecologist to be trained in the Nigerian state of Kano, helped me through.


After many meetings with the Ministry of Health and a mutual understanding that I would have a "minder" assigned to me while filming in the north, I was given permission to film in tertiary hospitals and primary health centers.


What I didn't know at the time is that the then Minister of Health Babatunde Osotimehin, recently appointed executive director of the UN Population Fund, had approved the access himself. During his tenure as minister, his office approved some ground breaking research about postpartum hemorrhaging.


I caught up with Osotimehin in May of 2009 at a health conference in Los Angeles. Our scheduled time to sit down and talk on camera kept being pushed back, so I made the bold move of taking over the role of the waitress at the café where he was enjoying a coffee.


Handing him a glass of water, I introduced myself as the filmmaker who had been documenting maternal health initiatives in Nigeria. I kept going on and on and he stopped me and said something to the effect of "you are persistent and persuasive just like they say" and with that got up, and came to sit with me for more than an hour.


We discussed safe motherhood, community leadership for better healthcare and, at the conclusion of our interview he shook my hand and said "your access is continued, enjoy your next trip to Nigeria." My field director and I began breaking down the equipment and she asked why I looked dazed. I said I was not even aware our access had to be renewed.


The freedom to shoot in medical settings was crucial to documenting the harsh realities of giving birth in Nigeria. In the film, blood became a ubiquitous character: women were losing too much of it, there wasn't enough of it when you needed it and midwives were always trying to keep it from flowing.


"Hemorrhage requires that you stop the bleeding and you repair the blood loss. If you don't repair (replace) the blood loss the woman will die," Sadauki told me.


We documented a case of severe bleeding where the midwives were able to manage a patient's hemorrhage with a drug and saline until her husband found a pint of blood and she received the transfusion in time to save her life.


And there are new tools on the horizon. A low-tech first aid device, known as the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, shunts blood out of the extremities and back to the vital organs in cases of hemorrhage. No magic bullet, but a potential game changer for women giving birth in the developing world and new hope for the health care providers.


After I showed this film recently, I was embraced by a woman in the audience who thanked me for saving the world. Locked in a bear hug with a complete stranger, I thought to myself: "Thank you, but no, I'm not saving the world, I just make films about people who are saving the world."


# # #


Dawn Sinclair Shapiro's documentary film, The Edge of Joy, which was featured on PBS NewsHour in April 2011 as a selection of the PBS NewsHour partnership project with The Economist magazine -- the Economist Film Project -- will premiere on independent Link TV on Friday, October 28, at 5 pm ET and Tuesday, November 1, at 8 pm ET, and will stream on Link TV's beginning on Tuesday, October 25. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, an international journalism organization, has created an online curriculum that accompanies the film to be distributed to high school educators around the country; educators and others can download the film for free to accompany the curriculum at


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Bahrain Jails Medics for Treating Injured Protestors

BBC Arabic reported that a Bahraini military court sentenced one protestor to death for killing a policeman during an anti-regime protest in March. The court also issued harsh prison sentences to 20 medical professionals working at al-Salmaniya Hospital in Manama during the protest movement. Thirteen medics were sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to the Bahrain News Agency, the medics are being charged with "forcefully occupying Salmaniya Medical Centre…possessing unlicensed arms and knives, incitement to overthrow the regime, seizing medical equipment, detaining policemen, and spreading false news." Several written testimonies of the sentenced doctors indicate that they were physically and psychologically abused, tortured, beaten, sexually harassed, and humiliated while in custody.  

Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital fearing an attack by riot police in Manama


On June 14, after Bahrain started the trial of 48 medics, journalist Robert Fisk dispatched an eyewitness account from the hospital to The Independent. He wrote that he saw doctors desperately trying to save the lives of injured protestors shot by Bahraini forces, describing the charges as "a pack of lies."


One of the sentenced doctors, Dr. Fatma Haji, told the BBC that the medics' only crime "was that we helped innocent, helpless people who were just protesting and got injured." In a video to her three-year-old son, she maintained her innocence and expressed hope that when he is old enough to understand, he will be proud of her.


Amnesty International condemned the Bahraini regime for its harsh sentences against the health practitioners. Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme described the charges against the medics as "ludicrous." The Dublin-based human rights organization Front Line also condemned the sentencing after a "deeply flawed and unfair trial." It declared that medical care has been "criminalized" in Bahrain.


In July, Human Rights Watch issued a 54-page report documenting the government's abuses against citizens since February, and called on the Bahraini regime to immediately end its systematic policy of arresting and abusing medical personnel and patients.


(Photo: Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital fearing an attack by riot police in Manama, on March 15/ Reuters)


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Tonight on Mosaic: Bahrain accused of systematic torture inside hospitals

Bahrain: Doctors Without Borders released a report today alleging that Bahraini government forces have tortured injured demonstrators in hospitals around the country. The report focused on Manama’s Sulaimaniya hospital, where Doctors Without Borders volunteers documented several methods of torture used against patients. The head of the organization’s mission in Bahrain, Jonathan Whittall, said that all patients suspected of participating in peaceful protests were taken to the hospital's sixth floor, where they were severely beaten on a daily basis. Twenty Bahraini doctors are being prosecuted for “disrupting public order” for treating injured demonstrators.


Libya: The humanitarian situation in Libya is deteriorating as clashes continue between the revolutionaries and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists. Thousands of people have been killed or injured, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, since fighting began five months ago. Sources say fierce battles against Gaddafi’s forces continue, especially in western Libya, as the revolutionaries make their way to Gaddafi-controlled Tripoli. The International Committee of the Red Cross expects 850,000 people to be affected by the war by the end of the year. 


Syria: In his third speech since unrest broke out three months ago, President Bashar al-Assad said his country is the victim of a conspiracy and that anti-regime protestors are working for a foreign agenda. He added that the people’s demands for reform are legitimate but that they must be differentiated from the demands of the “vandals.” Assad called for a comprehensive national dialogue to end the current crisis. Protestors and activists were quick to reject the president’s statements and immediately took to the streets vowing that the revolution would continue. 



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Bahrain Targets Shia Religious Sites

(Al Jazeera English: 0405 PT, May 13, 2011) This exclusive report reveals the Bahraini government destroyed Shia mosques and religious institutions as part of its crackdown on dissent.



'The Mosques That Have Been Demolished, Most of Them Are Not Mosques'

(Al Jazeera English: 0609 PT, May 13, 2011) Adel Al-Moawda, deputy Chairman of the Bahraini Parliament, reponds to allegations of attacks on mosques and medical staff by Bahraini authorities.




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Bahraini Security Forces Target Medics

(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) Al Jazeera's exclusive report on Bahrain looks at the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.



'Bahrain Has Placed Healthcare at the Center of a System of Oppression'

(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) AJE interviews Christopher Stokes of Doctors Without Borders on the subject of the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.




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Doctors Treating Protesters Face Prison and Death

(Democracy Now!: May 4, 2011) The Gulf nation of Bahrain has announced that 47 medical workers who treated pro-democracy protesters during the nation's popular uprising will be tried before a military court on charges of acting against the state. Democracy Now! speaks with Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights. He recently traveled to Bahrain to document the situation there, and is the co-author of a new report, "Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients."




(Al Jazeera English: 0100 PT, May 5, 2011) Communities in the western Nafusa Mountain range of Libya are under siege by Muammar Gadaffi's forces. The town of Nalut was reportedly bombarded with grad rockets on Thursday. A team of medical professionals from all over the world had the chance to leave before the siege, but they chose to stay. Learn more in this report.




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For Haiti Earthquake Coverage, Would Less Have Been More?

In the latest Global Pulse Episode, host Erin Coker looks at media coverage of the Haiti earthquake. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!


Does the excessive coverage of Haiti’s earthquake – not to mention the questionable journalistic and medical ethics involved when doctor/reporters can’t decide whether to operate or do interviews — give the viewer a better understanding of the disaster? Or is it little more than the casting of journalists as action heroes? 

The New Republic’s Chief Editor, Noam Scheiber, in his recent article taking the news establishment to task, wrote that “in Haiti the dozens of redundant dispatches are stressing an already perilously fragile situation.”

In a follow-up interview with Global Pulse featured in this week’s episode, Scheiber says, “More information is great. But if an airport is being taxed with a volume way above its normal capacity and as a result aid workers, doctors and nurses can’t get in, then I think we have gotten to the point where one good—information—is trumping another good—relief workers…to the detriment of the people we are trying to help.”

The solution, Scheiber thinks, is a so-called “disaster pool.” Comprising a limited number of reporters in country, the disaster pool would share information with news outlets in a similar manner that White House correspondents share “pool reports” with the dozens of journalists unable to attend a briefing. You can download an MP3 of the complete Scheiber interview here.

This might preclude scenes like those we used in this episode, of Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric aiding wounded children, but it may give networks more time for in-depth stories that discuss Haiti’s tumultuous history, the roots of its abject poverty and what day-to-day life was like for the average Haitian pre-earthquake.

Journalist Marc Cooper, characterizing the coverage as “myopic” and “disaster porn”, on his blog, wrote, “It's a totally legit news story for CNN or anyone else [to] zoom in on this or that dramatic and heart-rending rescue of one or another victim trapped in rubble. But every one of those stories is also a stark and rather sickening reminder of how the daily pre-earthquake deaths, starvation and deprivation were considered SO non-newsworthy.”

This reminds me of my own trip to Haiti in the fall of 2008, as part of a disaster response team after a series of hurricanes killed hundreds of people and badly damaged the city of Gonaïves. While the storms made headlines, the fallout apparently wasn’t on a large enough scale to warrant widespread news coverage. 

Looking back, what I remember most is the darkness. There is little electricity in Haiti, and the nighttime’s dim storefronts and weak candlelight gave the impression of a city that was a relic of another age.

Will Port-au-Prince once again become a forgotten city? As this article from the Columbia Journalism Review reminds me, there was once, and is likely to be again, only one full-time American journalist in Haiti.



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A Mortal Threat? Where History Fails Us in Pakistan

How should we view the recent resurgence of Taliban activity in Pakistan?

Be afraid, very afraid.

That’s a common message voiced by media and political observers in recent weeks. Pakistan’s government could go the way of the Shah of Iran in 1979, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Taliban threats to Pakistan’s leadership represent the worst global crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a RAND Corporation official tells the Financial Times.


And it’s hard not to be moved by the devastation occurring in Pakistani regions like the Swat Valley. Doctors Without Borders announced today that it was halting medical services to refugees in Swat due to escalating warfare.


But could all this fear of a Taliban takeover in Pakistan be blinding the U.S. to local realities? An Economist report notes that for all the Taliban’s repellent acts in Swat, the Pakistani military has engendered deep local hostility by its brutal strikes on civilian targets. Rather than pushing for further billions of dollars in military aid for Pakistan to stave off an unlikely Taliban takeover, U.S. leaders would do well to pay more attention to the shaping of local hearts and minds. Central Asia Institute, the education non-profit co-founded by Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, is one example of a worthy U.S. effort to build rather than break human capital in Pakistan.


Watch the Global Pulse episode on Pakistan here.


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