Japan Honors Citizens Killed in Algeria Hostage Crisis
(LinkAsia: January 25, 2012)
Thuy Vu:
Japan was shocked to learn that at least nine of its nationals were killed in Algeria last week. They died during a battle between the Algerian army and Islamist militants at a gas factory in the Sahara desert. Thirty-nine foreigners and dozens of Algerians died after the militants took over the gas plant and the army stormed it. With a tribute to two of the Japanese victims here's NHK.


Airdate: January 23, 2013

Rokuro Fuchida ran building sites around the world. He was 64 years old and retired. Then his former bosses asked him to lead one more project in Algeria. He wrote about it on Facebook before he left: "I am working all over the world to see the twinkling star-lit sky. Next I will see the stars from the desert in Algeria." His brother, Mitsunobu, heard about the hostage taking, then waited, day after day for a call from Rokuro. It never came.

Mitsunobu Fuchida, Brother:
Rokuro was kind, and a good brother. I just want to hug him. That's the only thing I want
to do.

Fumihiro Ito worked near Fuchida in Algeria. He had spent years developing energy resources. He led a project to develop gas fields in Sahara desert. Ito came from Minamisanriku, a town devastated in the tsunami two years ago. Now, his 82-year-old mother lives alone in temporary housing. She says, she has no mementos to remember her son. He and his former classmates were planning to get together next month to celebrate their 60th birthdays.

Takaaki Yokuyama, Former Classmate:
Ito said he would join the party, but would not stay overnight, because he wanted to visit his mother and stay with her. I want the news to be a mistake. I still think Ito will show up at the party.

Yokoyama was looking forward to seeing his old friend. Instead, he and the others will take a moment to remember.

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From Arab Spring to Sudanese Summer: It Takes Oil (or a Lack Thereof)

After over 20 years, Sudanese citizens are finally rising up against Omar al-Bashir and his one-party rule. Even a month ago, some Sudanese activists were skeptical that an "Arab Spring"-style revolution could blossom in their country. After all, the Sudanese government has shown that it is willing and able to commit human rights abuses to stay in power; dissenters have kept silent for decades in fear of retribution. So what happened, and why now?


People wait to get fuel for their cars at a petrol station in Khartoum June 21, 2012: REUTERS/Stringer

To put it simply: Oil. The secession of the South left Sudan with only 30 percent of its oil production capacity, and the drop in government oil export revenues has resulted in a staggering budget deficit of over USD 2 billion and growing. In mid-June, the Sudanese government announced a new set of austerity measures that included increasing taxes and removing fuel subsidies, which doubled gasoline prices and thus transportation costs. This sharp rise in basic living expenditures was the final straw for an already impoverished nation.

However, it has been Sudan's educated youth who have led the charge. Students from the University of Khartoum were the first to hold protests against the austerity measures, and students from other universities have followed suit. Going back even further, in 2009 a group of students in Khartoum started the peaceful Girifna ("We are fed up") movement, in protest of the National Congress Party's monopoly over the Sudanese government. This group, along with other youth opposition groups, has risen to prominence during the recent protests, thanks to their multilingualism and their savvy use of the Internet to mobilize demonstrators both at home and abroad.

These young people know that Sudan does not have to resort to such drastic measures in order to meet its USD 2 billion deficit. In fact, the government can save five times that amount by cutting military spending. But the Sudanese are beginning to understand that the current regime may not be willing to solve this crisis by giving up the military might that has kept them in power for so long. For example, Friday's Dubai TV report on the arrests of Sudanese protestors in the name of "maintaining security" and fighting terrorists" draws some worrisome parallels to other regimes. This oppressive might, wielded by a man who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has also alienated Sudan from countries that would otherwise be willing to help. And so, faced with a choice between starving slowly and risking their lives for change, the Sudanese people have begun to rise up.

Whether this budding uprising will take root and achieve its goals remains to be seen. The international community has remained quiet for now. But drawing worldwide attention to this crisis, whether it be through the media, business, or politics, will be crucial in pressuring Khartoum to serve the interests of its people. If that pressure is not enough, one can only hope that the world will not stand idly by and watch another Syria take place.


Image: People wait to get fuel for their cars at a petrol station in Khartoum June 21, 2012: REUTERS/Stringer


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This Week's Headlines 4/27/12

Jordanian protestors demand a change in policies instead of governments

BBC Arabic -
Demonstrations were held in several Jordanian governorates with a variety of slogans and chants, and diverse affiliations and demands. But they were united in their call for accelerating the reform process and combating corruption. The protestors also sharply criticized the council of ministers, and the way in which governments are formed in Jordan. In the capital Amman, the Islamic Action Front had a prominent presence in the protests and participated alongside different popular and youth movements. The protests come one day after the Awn al-Khasawneh's government resigned, and after the Jordanian king, Abdullah II, appointed Fayez al-Tarawneh to form a new government.


Deadly bombing rocks Syrian capital

New TV - A suicide bombing shook the neighborhood of al-Midan in the center of the Syrian capital Damascus. At least nine people were killed as a result, and dozens were injured with body parts seen scattered across two medical centers. The same site had witnessed a similar explosion in January that led to the killing of 27 people. The official news agency SANA described the blast as a terrorist operation carried out by a suicide bomber. Syrian TV raised the death toll to 11, adding that 28 civilians and members of the security forces were injured, broadcasting videos of the explosion site under al-Midan's bridge, near Zein al-Abidin Mosque.

Humanitarian crises in Sudan and Yemen

Dubai TV - The war between Khartoum and the northern command of the People's Movement, the armed confrontations between rebel movements in Darfur, and the Heglig battles are all factors that have contributed to the humanitarian crisis raging in the regions witnessing an armed conflict. According to a new UN report, nearly four million displaced people are at risk of starvation, due to a sharp shortage of food supplies and the difficulty of delivering aid to the famine-stricken because of the violence. The humanitarian situation is far worse in the region of Darfur, especially at the refugee camps scattered along both sides of the Sudanese-Chadian border.

Al Jazeera - Many Yemenis are facing a food crisis due to the high prices and food shortages, especially since the spark of the revolution more than a year ago. Yemeni children are suffering from a number of diseases due to a sharp shortage in food and poor medical care. When a child gets sick and requires hospitalization in the city, transportation is a real challenge due to the shortage of fuel. The bumpy roads and the high cost of medical care pose another challenge.


Egypt announces list of presidential candidates

BBC Arabic - The Presidential Electoral Committee in Egypt announced a list of candidates running in the presidential elections, which are expected to be held next month. There are now 13 candidates, the most prominent of which are Amr Moussa, the former secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The committee's surprise decision was allowing Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister during Mubarak's era, back into the presidential race after accepting his appeal. He was initially disqualified by the disenfranchisement law.


Today, Press TV reported that thousands of Islamists rallied in Tahrir Square against an attempt to revive the Mubarak era. They also demanded that the remnants of the former regime be banned from running for president.

Palestinians rally in solidarity with hunger strikers, clash with Israeli troops

Al Jazeera - The area near Ofer Prison, located west of Ramallah, witnessed clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli occupation forces. Israeli soldiers fired large amounts of tear gas at the protestors who organized a sit-in in solidarity with the prisoners waging a hunger strike in the occupation's prisons. Meanwhile, over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are continuing their open-ended hunger strike for the 10th consecutive day.


Image: BBC Arabic


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The Latest From the Middle East

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Bahraini activists demand a 'stop to bloody Formula One'

BBC Arabic - The Bahraini opposition escalated its protests, in a number of Shiite villages in and around al-Manama, on the eve of the opening of the Formula One car race. The demonstrations that started Wednesday night continued until Thursday morning. The authorities are heightening the security measures ahead of the event, but denying they expect the protests to impact the sporting event. Eyewitnesses say security forces were forced to use teargas and stun grenades to disperse protesters who threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the police in confrontations that left dozens injured.
Egypt rises against military rule on the 'Friday of self-determination'

Press TV reports that earlier this week, Egypt's electoral body rejected appeals filed by candidates disqualified from running for the May presidential election. Three main disqualified candidates are Egypt's former main intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Khairat al-Shater from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail.

Future TV - Under the banner of self-determination, tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square, in the center of Cairo, to demand the protection of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak over a year ago. This Friday's protest also demanded the transfer of power, and the unification of all political and revolutionary factions. Activists called for the protest today to demand that those who worked with the former president be prevented from running in the presidential elections, the first round of which will be held next month.


However, the Islamists joined the demonstration under the banner "protecting the revolution." And, as an indication that protesters are intent on pushing the ruling military council to fulfill the promise of transferring power to an elected president, the stage set up by the Muslim Brotherhood in the square included a banner that read, "power-transfer on June 30th."

Sudan declares 'liberation' of Heglig as Juba pulls out

Dubai TV -  The Sudanese defense minister has announced that Heglig was "liberated" from the grips of Juba's army, confirming the region was recaptured by force, ten days after South Sudan seized control of the area. This announcement was intended to refute a South Sudanese army statement claiming that its forces voluntarily withdrew from Heglig. Meanwhile, demonstrations broke out in a number of northern cities to celebrate the North's victory in the battle. President Omar al-Bashir stressed the victory marks the beginning of a war to liberate the South from the rule of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

UN chief calls for an expanded monitoring mission in Syria

New TV - On the fourth day of the international observers' presence in Syria, Damascus signed an initial agreement with the United Nations on the terms of the team's work. And in a closed-door meeting, the Security Council discussed sending an expanded monitoring mission to Syria, consisting of 300 observers, for three months. The team will monitor and encourage the halt of armed aggression in all its forms and from all parties, and comes as part of the Annan plan. The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed this agreement comes within Syrian efforts aimed at ensuring the success of Annan's plan, and facilitating the observers' mission within the context of Syrian sovereignty and commitment to the concerned parties. The spokesman for UN envoy Kofi Annan announced that his office is holding similar negotiations with representatives from the opposition on the obligations and responsibilities of the armed opposition.


Hunger Striker Khader Adnan's hometown celebrates his release

Palestine TV - It was "a national wedding," "a massive popular festival," "the festival of the dawn of freedom." These were the names given to the celebration in Jenin organized in honor of freed prisoner Khader Adnan, who underwent an open-ended hunger strike that lasted 66 days in protest of his administrative detention in an Israeli jail. Thousands of citizens from all provinces and political factions, both official and popular, attended the festival to honor him.

1,200 Palestinian Prisoners begin an open-ended hunger strike in Israeli jails

Al-Alam - In occupied Palestine, events were held to mark the Prisoners' Day. 1,200 Palestinian detainees in the Israeli prisons began an open-ended hunger strike in protest of their maltreatment and continual detention. Participants in the events demanded to release the prisoners. At the Prisoners' Day festival, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council called for escalating the armed resistance to free the prisoners.


Image: Protesters chant slogans after police used a flashbang stun grenade during an anti-government rally in Manama April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah


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A Guitar for the Sahara


For those of you who love Desert Blues, that loping, hypnotic guitar music that we associate with the Tuareg and the Saharawis, consider this: The electric guitar has reshaped traditional Saharawi music, but the situation in the refugee camps grows more dire every day, with fewer and fewer guitars for young people to play, thus further endangering an already endangered cultural legacy.   
Got an electric guitar that is gathering dust somewhere?  Want to put it to truly good use? Check this out!


Okay, if you've gone to the URL above, you know that this is a great site.
It's maintained by my old friend Angel Romero, and it's a terrific resource for what is going on in world music, and as you can see, what is happening on many tangential levels.


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Desert Music

This week we are airing a short profile of the band Tinariwen, and you can also see it here on our website. Usually we indicate the country that a band originates from, but Tinariwen are Tuareg (no, that's not just a car), a nomadic people who have been living in the Sahara for millennia. When you are watching these tall, swathed men playing their hypnotic rhythms, it is hard not to be carried off to an imagined, desert landscape. You can get some feeling for this in the live performance featured in the middle of the profile. The musicians have incorporated the electric guitar into their own tradition, creating a genre now called "Desert Blues." Since they came to prominence on the world music stage, there have been several others following suit. Oddly, all of them have names that start with a "t!" I invite you to write in and tell me who those bands are.


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