a death in tehran


A Death in Tehran

Monica Garnsey

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, in the aftermath of Iran's disputed election-

NEWSCASTER: Who was Neda? Why was she killed?

ANNOUNCER: -a young woman's brutal murder-

ARASH HEJAZI, M.D.: Look at this girl. She's vomiting blood.

ANNOUNCER: -was uploaded to the world.

FARANAK, Reporter, Iran's Press TV: You think to yourself, "I could be her."

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the inside story of Neda Agha Soltan's life-

HODA, Neda's Sister: [email translation] Neda always said she would leave Iran if she had only one day left of her life.

ANNOUNCER: -and the tragic events that led to her death.

FARANAK: He basically said that, "I'm giving you the green light to kill them. Just get rid of these people who are on the streets."

ANNOUNCER: And later, a story from FRONTLINE/World. In Uganda, new dangerous viruses that can jump back and forth between humans and the great apes.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA, Wildlife Veterinarian: It made me realize that you can't protect gorillas if you don't think about the people living around the park who have very little health care.

NARRATOR: This is the street in central Tehran where Neda Agha Soltan was shot this summer. Three months later, our cameraman risked arrest to film the place where she died. He looks for a splotch of green paint on the road, a sign of the protest movement that filled these streets in June. To keep her name alive, protesters graffiti the walls, but the authorities keep whitewashing it out. From the beginning, it's been a story the regime could not suppress.

NEWSCASTER: I'm going to show you a clip now. This is disturbing, I want everyone to know that, but- and we have blurred out her face out of respect. But this is possibly the most seen piece of video out of Iran in the world.

NARRATOR: A 90-second camera phone video had set off the firestorm.

NEWSCASTER: We cannot confirm the situation, nor her name.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI, Friend: [through interpreter] That look still challenges me. It's with me all the time. I can't forget it. The blood that gushed out of her mouth and chest- that's always with me.

FARANAK, Reporter, Iran's Press TV: I mean, seeing that, outside of Iran, it's scary. But when you were actually there, and you think to yourself, "I could be her."

NEWSCASTER: -a story that she had been a bystander at a protest-

LARY KING, CNN: What does that mean? Is there an investigation? What have you learned? What happened to Neda?

Pres. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran: [through interpreter] Now let's see what happened-

NARRATOR: Even months later, the regime was being pressed to explain it.

Pres. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran: [through interpreter] -regrettable. I'm very sorry that one of our fellow citizens were killed, especially a person who wasn't- I mean, she was- not specially, she was not a person- she was not in a protest-

NARRATOR: Ultimately, both sides would try to claim Neda as a martyr for their cause. But how this ordinary Tehrani girl became such a threat to the regime has been a story much harder to tell. It turns out that Neda was deeply dissatisfied with life in the Islamic Republic, and toward the end of her life, she was trying to get away. Her sister, Hoda, wrote to us from Tehran.

HODA, Neda's Sister: [email translation] She used to say, as we all do and know, that there's a dead, depressing air all over Iran. It's everywhere. It's in people's hearts. We are condemned to depression. We are condemned to living without being able to breathe.

NARRATOR: The story of Neda's death starts with the June 2009 presidential election. Among Neda's friends, skepticism ran high that they could unseat President Ahmadinejad. But then came the country's first ever televised debates. Over the course of the night, the president was put on the defensive.

MIR HOSSEIN MOUSAVI, Presidential Candidate: [through interpreter] He says, "Why do you call me a dictator?" Well, I did not say you are a dictator, but your method definitely leads to dictatorship.

NARRATOR: Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi gained massive support, and those who wanted change felt new hope. Among them Neda's friend, Delbar Tavakoli.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] I always thought boycotting the election was like saying no. This time, I had a different feeling. I was encouraging everybody to vote, either for Karroubi or Mousavi, it didn't matter. Neda wasn't a Mousavi supporter, it was a voice of protest, not in support of a particular candidate but everyone's voice of protest.

NARRATOR: As a new opposition movement surged around Mousavi, this was no longer the election foreign journalists like Scott Peterson had been let in to cover.

SCOTT PETERSON, Christian Science Monitor: Tens of thousands of people on the streets for their candidate, and for both candidates, in fact. It was an extraordinary build-up to the election.

NARRATOR: For the reformists, thoughts of victory gave way to new fears.

SCOTT PETERSON: Just a few days before the vote, there was a rumor that swept the text messaging system, and that was that Ahmadinejad's people had imported two million pens with disappearing ink. And of course, the point was, is that all the people who would turn out to vote for Mousavi, the votes would be nullified because within an hour or two, that mark would disappear and therefore it wouldn't matter. So just something like that, a rumor which is fed by text messages, meant that almost every single voter that I saw on voting day was carrying their own pen.

NARRATOR: Election day, June 12th. Both sides turned out in force, even those who'd stayed away before.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] I took my ID card with full enthusiasm and went and voted. By the evening, when I found out one of my friends hadn't voted, I took her to the ballot box myself and made her vote.

NARRATOR: But government interference at the polls discouraged opposition voters. Neda's sister told us Neda was among them.

HODA: [email translation] Neda went to a couple of polling stations and was told that neither Mousavi or Karoubi's representatives were present. She tried to vote but wasn't able to.

NARRATOR: Opposition supporters said they couldn't trust the officials manning the polling stations. More alarming were the government paramilitaries, called Basijis, who now had been mobilized.

POLICE OFFICER: [subtitles] Get out!

NARRATOR: Late afternoon of election day, the Basiji militia struck, entering Mousavi headquarters. An eyewitness filmed on a cameraphone as police tried to remove the Basiji. But they announced they had orders to shut down the office.

POLICE OFFICER: [subtitles] Sir, you, and you, get out!

NARRATOR: Then a few hours later, another blow to the opposition, state media's surprisingly early announcement of a winner.

SCOTT PETERSON: The first reports, in fact, came from Fars News, which put up an initial story saying what actual results were, and it was well ahead of its time. Obviously, it had been prepared in advance. And it wasn't long before it disappeared, but we had this initial statement that Ahmadinejad was doing very, very well.

[www.pbs.org: Peterson's extended interview]

NARRATOR: But across Tehran, the opposition was projecting its own victory.

RADIO VOICE: [subtitles] In any event, based on the information available, we are the definite winners.

NARRATOR: In the confusion, focus fell on the Interior Ministry, where the votes were supposed to be counted.

SCOTT PETERSON: It was probably around 10:00 o'clock, and still some of the polling stations were not yet closed. But we were surprised to see that right there, where the Ministry of Interior building is, which is, of course, where they were going to do all the voting and tabulations for this election- they sealed it off with concrete. There were three layers of police cars that were also lined up, and then riot police had been marshaled behind that.

NARRATOR: What went on inside the Interior Ministry that night and whether the votes were fully counted remains unclear. But outside, for supporters of President Ahmadinejad, the election seemed to be over. The next morning, the official results were broadcast to the world.

NEWSCASTER: The Iranian interior minister said the election procedures are very clear and the government's abided by law in all voting stages.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] Somehow, that day felt like the end of everything. And the worst feeling was that I had unwittingly helped them gain that legitimacy.

NEWSCASTER: [subtitles] The results of Friday's vote show that Ahmadinejad broke Khatami's record.

NARRATOR: Much was made of Ahmadinejad's margin of victory.

NEWSCASTER: Ahmadinejad broke the 1997 record of former president Mohammad Khatami.

NARRATOR: Sixty-three percent was exactly the figure leaked the previous night, before the polls had closed.

NEWSCASTER: Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi has strongly protested the vote, calling it a charade.

NARRATOR: One reporter from Press TV, Iran's state English-language station, was shocked at her channel's reports.

FARANAK: So my colleague calls and he said, like, "Why aren't you at work?" And I just said, "I'm not coming to work." And he said, "Wow. Well, maybe you can come tomorrow. Maybe we can get someone else to do the show today." I'm, like, "No, I'm really not coming to work anymore because I'm not happy with the coverage of this network. And I don't- I cannot do this."

NARRATOR: Faranak quit state TV in protest and took to the streets.

FARANAK: The crowd was getting bigger and bigger. People from the shops, they just shut down their stores, joined the crowd. And there were people on the buildings going like this, behind the windows and stuff and- or they would come down. And there were, like, all these old ladies. We were crying. We were, like, "Yeah, go, go girl!"

And then all of a sudden, this caravan of motorbikes just got into the crowd and started beating people.

NARRATOR: A special unit of riot police had been dispatched, trying to take back the streets. Protesters now tried to film everything on their cameraphones, a sophisticated new form of resistance.

Neda's sister tells us Neda was part of the protest.

HODA: [email translation] Neda went to every single demo, all of them. It was during one of those protests that a woman in black chador came up to her and said, "My girl, why don't you dress a little bit more conservatively for these demos because I know these animals. They have real psychological issues and usually go after the beautiful ones, and you are a really pretty girl."

FARANAK: We were a few girls, and we thought that if we stand on the front line and start throwing stones, you know, the police would be more hesitant to shoot at a girl or beat a girl. Little did we know that we would be the first people to get actually attacked.

All of a sudden, I just felt something in my knee. It was so painful, I blacked out. I passed out.

NARRATOR: Faranak had been shot in the leg with a plastic bullet.

FARANAK: The hospital was packed with injured. I saw things. It was so disturbing, I couldn't stop crying. And then I thought that all these people were going to die in front of me, it was so bad. And then my uncle's friend just left me. And then some Basijis attacked the ER of the hospital. And these people are, like, screaming and running away! It was so bad! They were with sticks! They actually wanted to hit people who were laying down on the ground, on the floor, because there wasn't even enough space.

SCOTT PETERSON: I think the regime has been preparing for this for several years, in fact. And I think that we saw the first sign of it back in September 2007, when the new Revolutionary Guard commander announced, to the surprise of many Iranians, in fact, that their biggest threat now was no longer the "Great Satan," the United States, it was no longer external threats, but that the biggest threat to the regime really was coming from inside Iran.

NARRATOR: Its legitimacy now in question, the regime brought out its loyalists. It was an impressive show of strength for a president who claimed overwhelming support and dismissed the protesters as "dirt and dust."

NADER MOKHTARI, Columnist, Kayhan Newspaper: Ahmadinejad is a blacksmith's son. And he is, at heart, a socialist. He wanted to be able to help the people. And so an awful lot of people, you know, voted for him. It's perfectly natural.

NARRATOR: Nader Mokhtari is a columnist for a hard-line newspaper who blames the violence on opposition leader Mousavi.

NADER MOKHTARI: If he had not said the election had been rigged without any evidence, substantial evidence, none of this would have happened. That's rabble rousing. We're not going to give up Iran because Mr. Mousavi has lied. We will not give up Iran because we paid such a heavy price to have it, and this is the voice of the majority of Iranians.

NARRATOR: It was turning into a war of numbers. The opposition fought back with a massive demonstration through the heart of Tehran, the largest since the 1979 revolution, a fact not lost on a former revolutionary elite who's turned against the regime.

MOHSEN SAZEGARA, Fmr. Deputy Prime Minister: What they don't want to accept, they don't want to understand, this is the people of Iran. Like the Islamic revolution, that was the people of Iran, as well, like the constitution revolution. This is the majority of the people who wants freedom, who wants democracy, wants human rights.

NARRATOR: Mohsen Sazegara was watching events unfold on the Internet, along with millions of other Iranians abroad, and posting his own messages of support.

MOHSEN SAZEGARA: This is the generation of Internet. This is the generation of globalization era. This is the generation which doesn't believe in, you know, revolutionary ideology anymore. They want to live like the other young people in other countries. They prefer to be international, to have no, you know, conflict with any country. Maybe they want secularism. They don't like the Islamic regime anymore, religious regime anymore.

NARRATOR: Somewhere in the crowd was Neda, along with her new boyfriend, Caspian Makan.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] There were seven or eight of us in the crowd. We were a bit tired. We sat down to have a rest. And there, for a second, I saw them together. I was really struck to see them there. I realized then this had engulfed all the population because I knew Caspian was not political.

NARRATOR: So far that day, the protests had been largely peaceful. But outside a Basiji militia station, a clash with protesters was becoming violent.

NADER MOKHTARI, Columnist, Kayhan Newspaper: A bunch of people just broke away from the main demonstration of people who were asking for reform and started attacking this station, the 117th Basij station, a volunteer force station, with Molotov cocktails and tried to set it alight. You imagine someone trying to set fire to a military base in the middle of London, you know, you can imagine the reaction from the security forces.

NARRATOR: The regime now felt justified using live rounds, and the country was thrown into even greater uncertainty and chaos. This is when, on June 19th, at nationally televised Friday prayers, the nation looked to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to declare himself about the disputed election.

FARANAK: I think that was the first Friday prayers that I actually sat down and watched, all my life. I think everybody in Iran watched that Friday prayer.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader: [subtitles] They want to reject the election and even democracy!

MOHSEN SAZEGARA: He had a good opportunity on that Friday to solve the problem, to say, "OK, I heard whatever you want," but he missed that opportunity.

NARRATOR: Instead, he delivered an ultimatum to the protesters.

AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI: [subtitles] I'm asking everyone to end it. This is not the correct way. If they don't put an end to this method, they will be responsible for the consequences.

FARANAK: He basically- he basically said that, "I'm giving you the green light to shoot people, to kill them. Just get rid of these people who are on the streets." And we all knew that if we didn't go out on Saturday and protest, this movement would just die out, all right? And it was amazing how everybody came out on Saturday again. I mean, I was one of them. And I was scared. I mean, I had never been this scared in my life.

HODA: [email translation] Neda didn't sleep at all the night before the horrific day. My mom pleaded with her not to go out. My mom was really worried. But Neda said, `If I don't go and others like me don't go, then who's going to go?' She told Mom that she'd try and keep in contact as much as possible to let us know she's OK.

NARRATOR: That morning, the Basijis were out in force.

ARASH HEJAZI, M.D.: The day was a really determining day because we knew that something was going to happen, as after Khamenei's remarks, we knew that he had allowed his guards to open fire on the crowd.

NARRATOR: Arash Hejazi had trained as a doctor but given up medicine to start a publishing company. He and his colleagues had all come into work that day.

ARASH HEJAZI: And I explicitly forced my colleagues that today nobody is going out. Nobody will go out today because it's extremely dangerous. So all of a sudden, everybody stood up and said, "We don't care." So they decided to go out. And I said, "OK, so if you're going out, I'll come with you because I want to make sure that you do nothing stupid." By phone, we heard that there were things going on, people were in the streets shouting, "Death to dictator." It was- I mean, the shouts were very high.

NARRATOR: Basijis had begun to open fire on protesters. Protesters were attempting to fight back near Lolagar Mosque. Remarkably, Neda was caught on camera approaching the protests. She is seen beside her music teacher, a gray-haired man in a blue striped shirt.

ARASH HEJAZI: Neda was among the crowd, was standing there among the crowd in front of the riot police. She was there with an older man, and she was very close to us, so I noticed her. Sometimes she shouted, "Death to dictator" or something. And her music teacher was trying to convince her that she should stay back, while she didn't really, she was very curious.

HODA: [email translation] She called twice to say everywhere was full of the special forces. She said there were many of them. She said it was very dangerous. My mom begged her to come back. She said that she would come back and started heading back towards the car.

ARASH HEJAZI: And when we moved back into the alley, she and her music teacher started walking with us towards the end of the alley, 10 to 15 minutes before she was shot.

HODA: [email translation] Her uncle was the last person who spoke to Neda. She told him that she was close to her car and would get back soon, but she never got to her car.

NARRATOR: This video taken on the street where Neda died shows Basijis passing by on motorbikes and protesters throwing rocks late in the day.

ARASH HEJAZI: That was when we hear the blast and from in front of us. And I- everybody was just a bit shocked. I asked, "What was that? Was it a gunshot?" Another friend all of a sudden told me that, "Look at this girl. She's vomiting blood." And I saw that she wasn't vomiting blood, it was blood gushing out of her chest.

NARRATOR: Dr. Hejazi tried to stop the bleeding, but it was too late.

ARASH HEJAZI: The extent of the blood- the bleeding and the pressure of the bleeding indicated instantly to me that her aorta was shot, and her lung, as well, because the blood had been flowing through her nose and mouth, as well. So her lung was shot, as well, and she died very quickly.

Then I realized that a crowd was pulling someone towards us and that person was shouting that, "I didn't want to kill her." And the shouts were- and the people were starting to beat him, and they took off his clothes and his shirt.

And they started discussing what to do with him. They searched his body. They took out his wallet. They took out his ID cards and started shouting, "He is a Basij member. He's one of them"

They couldn't give him to the police, they believed, because first of all, they would expose themselves, which was extremely dangerous that day. And also, they didn't believe that the police wouldn't do anything to him because the Basij is very powerful and he would have easily have gone away. So all of a sudden, in the chaos, they decided to release him.

NARRATOR: This ID card, confirmed by Dr. Hejazi as the Basiji at the scene, was later released onto the Internet. It identifies him as a Basiji with a three-day license to operate in Tehran from the Republican Guard. His name and phone number were published, too. The number has since been disconnected.

ARASH HEJAZI: When my father opened the door and saw me full of blood, he thought something that had happened to me, and he was scared. I answered with very short sentences, without explaining much. Then they turned on the TV and then it was CNN, and we saw that the film was being- showing there, with me in it.

NEWSCASTER: This is disturbing. I want everyone to know that, but- and we have blurred out her face out of respect. But this is possibly the most seen piece of video out of Iran in the world today.

ARASH HEJAZI: At the same time, I realized that, "OK, I'm there. My face is evident. This gives me some leverage that I can testify for this incident some day."

NARRATOR: It would take just a few hours for Neda's video to spread across the world and a few days more before it helped transform world opinion.

REPORTER: You've seen this video. What's your reaction?

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something fundamentally unjust about that.

NARRATOR: The Iranian government admits 11 protesters were killed on June 20th, but doctors from three Tehran hospitals confirmed at least 34. Other bodies were buried by security forces before they could be identified.

Neda was buried without ceremony. When they tried to hold a memorial, Neda's sister told us that the authorities prevented them.

HODA: [email translation] We were not allowed to hold a wake in her memory. We weren't allowed to put up a notice on a local board to announce her death. None of the mosques would take us. None of the halls or restaurants would give us a place to hold a ceremony in Neda's memory. They wouldn't let us.

NARRATOR: Neda's boyfriend, Caspian Makan, was distraught and angry. He decided to speak out to satellite TV stations overseas.

NEWSCASTER: [through interpreter] How did you find out about the death of Neda?

CASPIAN MAKAN: [through interpreter] My phone rang and the screen said "Neda." I was expecting to hear her voice, but it was her sister saying she'd left us. She was targeted deliberately, even though you can clearly see she didn't have a stone in her hand. I don't know what the Iranian authorities have to say about this. Do they have anything to say about this?

NARRATOR: Not long after, Caspian called his friend Delbar.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] I saw his number and answered it. He sounded very hushed. It was obvious he had his hand next to the speaker so the others wouldn't hear. He told me in a whisper, "They are by my house. They have come to get me."

NARRATOR: Caspian was taken to Evin Prison, although the authorities didn't confirm his arrest for six weeks.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] I have not heard what precisely they have stated as the reason for his arrest. But from what I have read myself in the news, they are accusing him of somehow being involved in the murder, and this is just not the case.

NARRATOR: The regime tried to repair the damage done to its reputation and contain the sympathy for Neda and the protesters.

MULLAH: [through interpreter] About this woman who was killed, and Obama, who sheds crocodile tears for her and the West makes a star out of her- any wise person who sees this film would understand this was done by rioters and protesters.

NARRATOR: Fars News blamed a BBC correspondent, saying he'd staged the death for a documentary. Then they said Neda was still alive and living in Greece.

NEWSCASTER: [through interpreter] In this report we are trying to study Neda Agha Soltan's death from a different angle.

NARRATOR: In this state television documentary, witnesses were identified and marched back to the scene of the murder. Here, Neda's music teacher was made to conform his story to the official version.

MUSIC TEACHER: [subtitles] There were only about 20 people here. I didn't see any Basiji.

NARRATOR: It was now up to the other key witness who had seen the Basiji at the scene to speak.

ARASH HEJAZI: Every life, a moment comes that the integrity of some person would be tested, and I realized on that day this was the moment in my life that I had to choose whether to keep myself safe or prove my integrity.

NEWSCASTER: Pictures of the death of Neda Soltan have appalled people around the world. The man who tried to save her has been talking about what happened.

NARRATOR: Dr. Hejazi flew to the UK and went public.

ARASH HEJAZI: Her blood was draining out of her body, and I was just putting pressure on the wounds to try to stop the bleeding.

NARRATOR: He remains the key eyewitness on the record, for which he's paid a high price.

ARASH HEJAZI: I cannot go back to Iran. I know- I have received threats here, even here, anonymous threats, which concern me a little bit about my personal security and safety. And that's just because I talked. I never knew- I've worked in literature all of my life, and I always talked about and preached about the power of words, but I never realized how powerful words can be.

[www.pbs.org: More of Dr. Hejazi's interview]

NARRATOR: Since the summer, Iran's authorities have restored an appearance of normality with the strictest controls. Through the fall, they televised show trials, where reformist supporters were made to recant.

PROTESTER ON TRIAL: [subtitles] People like me, who trusted them, and voted for them, flooded into the streets and disturbed public order and security and made our Dear Leader unhappy.

NARRATOR: Then in October, the regime tried to script the end of Neda's story. But instead, Neda's mother made a very public stand. The government offered her financial help if she would blame Neda's death on opponents of the regime. All she had to do was to agree to call Neda a martyr for the Islamic Republic. But she refused.

MOTHER: [through interpreter] Neda died for her country, not so I could get a monthly income from the Martyr Foundation. If these officials say Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word "martyr" which people write in red on her gravestone?

NARRATOR: Like others in this film, Delbar Tavakoli now lives in exile. She landed in Turkey, the place where Neda and boyfriend Caspian Makan had met for the first time.

DELBAR TAVAKOLI: [through interpreter] That was where they had gotten emotionally involved. But less than a year on, with all the dreams they'd had, one of them is dead, another is in prison, and I'm here for my part in trying to get the real story out.

HODA: [email translation] Neda loved traveling. And she travelled a lot, as much as she could anyway. But most of all, she loved Turkey. She loved Istanbul and she wanted to live there at some point. Neda always said she would leave Iran if she had only one day left of her life.

NARRATOR: Caspian was kept in Evin prison for 65 days, then put under house arrest through the fall, until just recently, when he escaped and fled over the Turkish border. He spoke to us from hiding.

CASPIAN MAKAN: [through interpreter] When I was leaving, I was taking in everything in Tehran. It was full of people who are so weighed down. It was hard to leave the place where I have lived all my life. I am 38 years old. I love Iran. I always will love Iran. It was worse because I was about to leave Neda's resting place. I couldn't accept Neda's death. I can't accept it now. I'm waiting until I see her again.

ANNOUNCER: And now a FRONTLINE/World special report. In an era of global fears about pandemics like HIV and H1N1, we go to the hot zone in Uganda and bring you a story of dangerous viruses that can jump back and forth between humans and the great apes.

Uganda: Out of the Wild

Reported by
Serene Fang

SERENE FANG, Reporter: [voice-over] In the lush mountains of western Uganda, tourists come to these dense forests in search of rare and exotic animals. What they don't anticipate is to come in contact with some of the world's rarest diseases. That's what happened to an American tourist recently who came down with a mysterious and deadly disease after visiting this cave known for its bats.

Dr. STUART NICHOL, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: We're still not exactly sure how she acquired the infection. So we know that she did enter into the mouth of the cave but didn't go very deep into the cave.

SERENE FANG: A team from the Centers for Disease Control found that she'd contracted Marburg virus, a hemorrhagic fever that causes extensive internal bleeding. Hers was the first case to reach the U.S.

Dr. STUART NICHOL: She would have had to put her hands down. You can imagine it's hot and sweaty. You know, you brush your face to, you know, push your hair back or something, and there's ways that you could get the virus onto your mucous membranes and get very efficient virus infection.

We've slowly pieced together that Marburg, this nasty hemorrhagic disease, they're getting it from the bat reservoir.

NARRATOR: During the same period, another outbreak of hemorrhagic fever was devastating a remote village in the same region. It was discovered to be a new strain of the Ebola virus which scientists believe was transmitted to humans who ate infected bush meat.

NURSE: The blood is very, very contagious. I've cleaned it with chlorine, and someone from the CDC will come for the sample.

NARRATOR: For public health experts, the Ebola and Marburg cases in Uganda were chilling examples of just how dangerous animal diseases could be to humans.

Dr. ALI KHAN, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: One of the common factors that links these emerging and new infectious diseases is that all of them actually started with an animal somewhere. So what we call these diseases is zoonotic diseases, diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans.

NARRATOR: Uganda lies at the front lines for diseases that cross the species barrier. Plague, Ebola, anthrax, tuberculosis and HIV are all endemic here. The CDC has made Uganda a special focus for its work.

[www.pbs.org: Pandemics throughout history]

Dr. ALI KHAN: Uganda is also a really good example of a hotspot for where diseases arise. Infections due to animals represent 75 percent of all the emerging infectious diseases, and so if you're really going to tackle these diseases, you can't just focus on people. You need to focus on the animals, you need to focus on the environment, and that interface where those come together to decrease infectious diseases worldwide.

SERENE FANG: The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lies on Uganda's southern border. It's home to half the world's remaining population of mountain gorillas. We're headed into the forest to track a new gorilla family with Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. She's been studying diseases in the gorillas for 15 years and is known as the Dian Fossey of Uganda.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA, Wildlife Veterinarian: This is where they rested, over here.

I think what's so special about the great apes is that they're so similar to us. We share over 98 percent genetic material both with gorillas and chimpanzees, and it means that we can learn a lot about ourselves by studying them.

When you go to visit them in the wild, you actually feel like you're connecting. They look at you, you look at them, and there's some kind of connection. It's actually very therapeutic watching them. And the infant gorillas are very playful, just like humans. Like, when I see them playing, I think of my two children.

SERENE FANG: Gladys became Uganda's chief veterinarian when she was 26.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: I've always loved animals ever since I was little. And then at the age of 12, I really decided I wanted to be a vet.

SERENE FANG: The BBC even made a documentary about her first year on the job.

BBC NARRATOR: This young woman's got a fight on her hands, but she's determined to make her mark in a tough world.

SERENE FANG: Nine months into the job as country's chief vet, Gladys was called to treat a family of gorillas who were suffering from a troubling new disease.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: The gorillas are losing hair and developing white, scaly skin. The baby gorilla had lost almost all its hair and was very thin. And the mother, where she was carrying the baby, had also lost a lot of hair. And the baby was making crying sounds, which is extremely abnormal for gorillas. And I visited a human doctor friend of mine because they could have picked it up from people. And she said it's scabies.

SERENE FANG: Scabies is a minor skin infection for humans, but gorillas were naive to the disease. For Gladys, it was the first time she saw a human disease jump to mountain gorillas with fatal consequences.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: This is a really good area to show that there's no buffer zone and the forest cuts directly onto the hill. So that means gorillas come out often because they think it's still part of their normal range, and that's when they get in touch with contaminated items from people. They could even- like there, there's a field- they could even just find dirty clothing on a scarecrow which is set out to scare wild animals, and then they get sick.

SERENE FANG: Recognizing this link between wildlife health and human health marked a turning point in Gladys's thinking.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: It made me realize that you can't protect gorillas if you don't think about the people living around the park who have very little health care. And because we're so closely genetically related, we can easily get diseases from each other. The only long-term and sustainable method to improve the gorillas' health is by improving the health of the people living around the park. And not just the people, but their livestock as well.

Dr. WILLIAM KARESH, Wildlife Conservation Society: When we say that there's human health or there's livestock health or there's wildlife health, and that- we just made that up. That's not- there's only one health.

SERENE FANG: Dr. William Karesh heads the global health program at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. WILLIAM KARESH: There's just a tiny percentage of diseases that only affect one group. So when we eradicated smallpox around the world, that was a simple one because that's one of the few diseases that only affects humans.

SERENE FANG: He says the most difficult diseases are the ones we share.

Dr. WILLIAM KARESH: We want to work upstream. If animals are the source of a disease, we want to break the chain from people from getting it. If people are the source of disease, we need to break the chain going that direction. And it really does play out at the local level. Until you get it on the ground, like Gladys is doing, it doesn't really mean anything.

SERENE FANG: We've come to a small village near the forest boundary, where Gladys has gathered the community to watch a drama play about tuberculosis, a serious problem in Uganda.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: This is showing a good family and a bad family, so that the bad family, like, threw rubbish next to the garden and defecated. And the gorillas came and was exposed to this. So then the good family, which is a man dressed as a woman, came in and cleared everything up and told them off.

ACTOR: [subtitles] Oh, my God! You've started bringing your waste from your home to my garden! Now what's going to happen? Won't the wild animals catch TB?

SERENE FANG: High rates of HIV/AIDS and little available health care leave people highly susceptible to infectious diseases like TB. Simple hygiene education can help.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: So this is a family. They're dirty. Some of them don't have shoes-

SERENE FANG: But Gladys also finds volunteers to gather samples from villagers with chronic coughs-

MAN: So he says he has been coughing for about five months.

SERENE FANG: -and makes sure that those that test positive for TB follow through with the full course of treatment. There's a problem with the local cattle, as well. They carry a strain of bovine tuberculosis which can sicken humans who drink infected cow's milk.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: These cows could carry TB infection into the humans, which would be a big shame in this community because are improving the health of the community. So we're going to carry out TB testing with the samples. And if there is any cow that has TB, unfortunately, it has to be euthanized.

SERENE FANG: She's doing all this because she knows how easily this disease could jump to gorillas.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: If the gorillas got TB, it would be a disaster. TB requires daily treatment every day for eight months, and it's impossible to do that in the forest setting. It's easier for people to get that.

I'm just trying to record all the gorillas I've seen so by the end of the visit, I can tell [unintelligible] gorillas in the group.

We're developing an early warning system for disease outbreaks. If we collect fecal samples regularly, then when there's an outbreak, we'll be able to tell what's different and be more informed and give a proper treatment.

SERENE FANG: What began a decade ago for Gladys as an understanding that animal and human health are tethered together has become a new policy for organizations like the CDC.

Dr. ALI KHAN: We think of "one health" as not just about human public health, "one health" is about human and animal public health. And increasingly, what this strategy is telling us is we need to be working more closely in an integrated manner with the animal public health field.

SERENE FANG: In Bwindi, Gladys remains worried. Diseases far worse than TB have caused major die-offs in other primate populations. In the Congo basin, wildlife experts estimate that more 5,000 lowland gorillas have died of Ebola over the last decade.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: In Congo-Brazzaville, they've had people dying of Ebola who ate gorillas that died of Ebola. They were very encouraged by what we're doing in Uganda, and so now they're trying to bring the wildlife authorities together with the public health authorities to address these issues.

SERENE FANG: Health authorities are also concerned about the further spread of these emerging diseases.

Dr. ALI KHAN: Once upon a time, it would have taken days, weeks, months to go from one continent to another continent. Nowadays, within 24 to 48 hours, you can travel from one place to the other place and still be incubating the disease. So its very easy to transmit diseases worldwide.

Dr. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA: Sometimes it gets frustrating when you're trying to promote conservation. There's so many other pressing issues. But what gives me hope is that by promoting conservation, we're improving community public health around a very remote area of Uganda.

That's it. We're done here. We can head back.


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ANNOUNCER: Explore FRONTLINE's Web site for more eyewitness accounts of the protests in Tehran and friends' and family's memories of Neda Agha Soltan, and check out the independent reporting and commentary on Iran in

| A Death In Tehran, our new on-line partnership. And from FRONTLINE/World, view a history of how diseases have spread over the past century and see what health experts are saying about how to prevent the next pandemic and much more. Then join the discussion at PBS.org. <p>Next time on FRONTLINE: For 30 years, Americans have played a game with the banks-</p> <p>- Changing the terms, raising interest rates, changing the rules of the game.</p> <p><b>ANNOUNCER:</b> -with the banks holding all the cards.</p> <p>- The industry gave half a billion dollars to Congress.</p> <p><b>ANNOUNCER:</b> Now the government has shuffled the deck.</p> <p><b>Pres. BARACK OBAMA:</b> -some common-sense reforms- </p> <p><b>ANNOUNCER:</b> But are the cards still stacked?</p> <p>- We keep praying they're going to pass something that’s going to help me, and it never happens.</p> <p><b>ANNOUNCER:</b> The Card Game. Watch FRONTLINE.</p> <p>FRONTLINE's A Death in Tehran is available on DVD. To order, visit Shoppbs.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS. [<i>$24.99 & s/h</i>] </p> <p>FRONTLINE is made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.</p> <p>With additional funding from the Park Foundation. Major funding for FRONTLINE and FRONTLINE/World is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. FRONTLINE/World is made possible by Shell, supporting freedom of the press and the independent journalists who tell the stories of our time. And by the Skoll Foundation. With additional funding from Scott Fearon.</p>

posted november 17, 2009

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