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February 2007





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Baghdad: To Hell and Back

NATO or the Taliban: Who's Winning Afghan Hearts and Minds?

The Philippines: "Stop the Killings"



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Baghdad: To Hell and Back

Filmmaker, Gwynne Roberts.

Filmmaker, Gwynne Roberts.

Editor's Note: When filmmaker Gwynne Roberts sent an email recently telling us that excerpts from his FRONTLINE/World documentary "Saddam's Road to Hell" had been shown at Saddam's trial, we asked him if he would write an update on the film since it first aired on PBS a year ago. In his report below, he shares not only details of Saddam's reaction to the film in the courtroom last December, but the film's impact in the Middle East, where it's now been widely circulated. Roberts' film follows the investigation into the disappearance of thousands of Iraqi-Kurdish men and boys from the Barzani clan during Saddam's regime. The filmmaker also recounts a recent trip to Baghdad where he met up again with Dr. Mohammed Ihsan, the Kurdish human rights minister who finally locates some of the missing men, buried in mass graves in southern Iraq. The discovery of the graves is the sad conclusion to Roberts' film. Against the drone of U.S. helicopter gunships battling insurgents inside the Green Zone, Dr. Ihsan tells Roberts how much more dangerous his life has become since the film found a wider audience. But far from shying away from another tough challenge, Dr. Ihsan is now the Kurdish minister in charge of negotiating the future of Kirkuk, a flashpoint issue, says Roberts, that could soon result in all-out civil war between Arabs and Kurds in the north. -- Jackie Bennion

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NATO or the Taliban: Who's Winning Afghan Hearts and Minds?

Afghan villagers.

Haji Juma Gul and other Pashmul residents abandoned their village more than four months ago because of military operations.

Besieged by suicide bombings, assassinations and a wider war just outside the provincial capital, Kandahar is a place that even war-hardened Afghans warned me about visiting. Kandahar was relatively stable and thriving until last spring. Then the Taliban returned. By summer, it seemed they would capture Kandahar City, a city considered Afghanistan's second capital. Today, fear and frustration still grip many Kandaharis.

"The Taliban rule by night, and the government rules by day," one displaced villager told me on a visit to Kandahar late last year. His statement not only describes the insurgency across the southern province, but how deeply rural residents feel trapped between the two sides.

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The Philippines: "Stop the Killings"

Protesters march with a banner saying, Stop the Kilings.

Activists during a September 20, 2006, demonstration demanding an end to political killings. (Photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan)

It was a Saturday night in Davao City and the open-air bar was filling up with young people. As they streamed in, their eyes fixed on the band playing a song by Coldplay, they seemed dazzled by the bright, colorful light emanating from the stage of Kanto Bar, one of the more popular hang-outs in this city on the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.

"We should switch seats," Omar Bantayan told me as I was about to sit with my back facing the wall. "I want to see the people entering the bar," he explained. "It's always better to be safe."

Bantayan is only 28. In jeans and a white T-shirt, he looked like an ordinary person out to have some fun on the weekend. But Bantayan told me he was a marked man. As the local secretary-general of a leftist labor group called Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement), Bantayan said he's been in the crosshairs of the military for the past three years, with suspected military agents tailing him constantly.

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