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Wide Angle Blog
June 20th, 2008

The newly formed Arab Coalition for Darfur condemned the Muslim world for its silence on the atrocities in Darfur during the 35th Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a meeting of the foreign ministers of 57 Muslim nations, which took place in Kampala, Uganda, from June 18-20.

“The Islamic world’s response to the daily killings and suffering of millions of Muslims in Darfur has been largely silent, from both civil society as well as the institutions and majority of Islamic governments,” the coalition said in a statement. “The Islamic world must decide to end its wall of silence, before it is too late.”

Formed in May 2008, the Arab Coalition for Darfur is made up of human rights groups from Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Mauritania, Kuwait, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also chided the OIC for its inaction on Darfur. “It is hypocritical to concentrate on the Palestine crisis and pay little attention on the African conflicts involving OIC member states,” he said.

Despite the criticisms from the new coalition and President Museveni, the final report issued at the OIC bears no mention of Darfur, and calls for “solidarity with the Republic of Sudan.” The United Nations has accused the government of Sudan of war crimes, and the U.S. holds it responsible for genocide in Darfur.

The lengthier Kampala Declaration, also issued at the OIC, includes expressions of solidarity with “our Muslim brothers and sisters in Northern Cyprus” and “the Kosovar people,” and calls for “respect of the human rights of the Kashmiri people,” but does not express solidarity with the people of Darfur, who are also Muslim.

The declaration does call upon OIC member states to contribute to efforts to stabilize Darfur within the framework agreed upon by the government of Sudan, the United Nations, and the African Union.

June 19th, 2008

In May, the United States accepted 1,141 Iraqi refugees–the most the U.S. has accepted in a given month. The Bush administration projected it could admit almost 8,000 more refugees by the end of September, closing in on (but not guaranteeing) its goal of 12,000 refugees by fiscal year-end.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 4.7 million Iraqis have left their homes, including 2.7 million displaced internally and 2 million exiled in neighboring countries, primarily in Syria and Jordan. While many Iraqis were displaced prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the largest number has fled in the last five years.

Advocacy groups and lawmakers have criticized the U.S. government for doing little to admit Iraqi refugees in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. In response, the government opened its first permanent office in Baghdad for Iraqi refugees seeking to settle in the U.S.

Previously, Iraqis had to travel to resettlement offices in Syria, Jordan and Egypt, but the Baghdad refugee processing office, located in the Green Zone, will give Iraqis greater access to file for resettlement in the U.S.

On Tuesday, President Bush also signed a law that would admit 5,000 Iraqis each year for the next five years.

This summer, WIDE ANGLE takes us to Jordan and Syria and into the daily lives of Iraqis caught in the refugee crisis–the biggest in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

WIDE ANGLE’s film about the Iraqi refugee crisis in Syria and Jordan premieres on August 19. Check your local listings for airtimes, and check back here for updates.

June 19th, 2008

Four opposition activists were found dead on Thursday, according to Zimbabwe’s opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

One of the victims was Abigail Chiroto, the wife of Harare’s mayor, whose body was found badly beaten. On Tuesday, Chiroto was kidnapped along with her four-year old son, Nelson, who was released unscathed. Her husband, Emmanuel Chiroto, is an MDC member and was recently elected as mayor.

The violence comes in the lead-up to a runoff election between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, scheduled for June 27. Seventy MDC members have been killed since the March 29 elections. With just nine days to go before the runoff election, a reported 25,000 have been forced from their homes.

The BBC reported that Zimbabwe’s military has played an active role in Mugabe’s re-election campaign. Zimbabwe’s public broadcaster also said it would no longer broadcast MDC campaign advertisements.

MDC charges Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party with the state-sponsored violence, arrests and the impending food crisis.

South African president, Thabo Mbeki, who was chosen by regional leaders to mediate the political crisis in Zimbabwe, met with Mugabe yesterday and urged him to cancel the runoff vote and work toward a national unity government. Mbeki joins the United Nations, Southern African Development Community and other international leaders stating that fair and free election are impossible. U.S. ambassador to Harare James McGee said today that a “negotiated government” is not the answer to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

This summer, WIDE ANGLE reports from inside Zimbabwe as part of its new web-exclusive documentary series, FOCAL POINT.

June 7th, 2008

china_prep_1As China’s two-day National College Entrance Exam — known as gaokao — begins today, a swirl of activity is planned to ensure the best possible conditions for students to take the test that will determine their professional tracks within Chinese society.

All over China, traffic will be re-routed away from test centers and construction sites will silence their commotion. In Guangxi, the Olympic Torch Relay has abbreviated its relay route and toned down the pomp and circumstance of the event.

Chinese society places careful consideration on these two days. Parents and grandparents scurry to temples to pray for students’ good fortune. The Ministry of Education (MOE) even issued a national health warning on impaired student eyesight.

But there is one activity that will not be tolerated: cheating.

Stories of cheating surface every year: students pay for leaked exams, pay others to take the exams, or sneak cell phones and electronic dictionaries into test centers.

According to the MOE, students caught cheating may be disqualified from next year’s registration. Those students taking the exam for others may be expelled.

More than 11 million students are registered with the MOE to take the exam. However, the exam will qualify only about 6 million students for university. Test results are available online on June 28.

WIDE ANGLE’s film follows four Chinese students through their final, high-pressure year, which culminates with the gaokao. “China Prep” premieres on August 12. Check your local listings for airtimes, and check back here for updates.

June 4th, 2008

The first students returned to school in Wenchuan, China, the epicenter of last month’s devastating earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people.

Many of the dead were schoolchildren who were crushed when poorly constructed school buildings collapsed in the quake. In Wenchuan alone, 347 students and 28 teachers were killed.

The 500 students and teachers from Weizhou Middle School moved into a mobile school on Monday. In China, middle school is the last stage before college or university, so the 300 of those students who are around the age of 18 will be preparing for the national college entrance exam scheduled to take place this weekend.

Known as the gaokao, or “tall test,” the exam is an intensely stressful milestone for any Chinese teenager, and this year, students will have to study with the trauma of last month’s earthquake still fresh in their minds.

The stakes are high — college admission in China is based solely on one’s test score, and last year, nearly 10 million students competed for only 5.7 million university placements. For students from impoverished rural areas like Wenchuan, success at the gaokao is often seen as the only path out of poverty.

This summer, WIDE ANGLE takes us to China, to see how students cope with the pressure of the one exam that determines their fate — and makes the American SAT look like child’s play.

China Prep premieres on August 12. Check your local listings for airtimes, and check back here for updates.

May 30th, 2008

A member of the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur was shot and killed in a refugee camp outside the North Darfur capital El Fasher on Wednesday.

The unarmed Ugandan police officer, John Kennedy Okecha, is the first international peacekeeper to be killed since the joint mission took over from an African Union mission in December.

Last week, Nigerian peacekeepers were ambushed by a group of about 60 men on horseback armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, but no one was killed. The attackers were most likely members of the janjaweed militia, who often conduct raids on horseback.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guéhenno warned of escalating violence in Darfur earlier this month, after Darfur rebels attacked Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.

Speaking on the 60th anniversary of U.N. peacekeeping yesterday, Guéhenno complained about the weak mandate and lack of resources devoted to Darfur.

“It’s not enough to authorize a mission, you have to give that mission the means to do the job,” he said. “We don’t have the firepower that would allow us to do what we’re expected to do. And that’s very dangerous.”

To understand more about the current situation in Darfur, particularly about the difficulties faced by the U.N.-African Union mission, and to hear more from U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guéhenno, tune into the premiere episode of WIDE ANGLE on July 1.

May 23rd, 2008

Japan’s 1969 ban on the military use of space ended on Wednesday. The lifting of the ban is one of several moves in recent years that signal a shift from Japan’s post-war pacifism.

After World War II, Japan enacted a new American-authored constitution that states that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

But concerned about North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missiles, China’s growing military strength, and their own role in international security operations, Japan may be doing an about-face.

The US government is supportive of this change. Thomas Schieffer, the American ambassador to Japan, encouraged the Japanese government to end its self-imposed limit of 1percent of the GDP for military spending, saying Tuesday “Japan needs to spend more on defense.”

WIDE ANGLE will be exploring the evolution of Japan’s military this summer with an unexpected portrait of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Our cameras were given unprecedented access to the National Defense Academy as well as operations of the SDF around the country. Japan’s About-Face premieres on July 8th. Check your local listings for the exact time, and check back here for regular updates about our upcoming season and all of WIDE ANGLE’S programs.

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