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Week of January 6, 2004

Program 0401


Congo War | Transcript | MP3

Uganda War | Transcript | MP3

Rwanda Gacaca | Transcript | MP3

Zimbabwe Postcard | Transcript | MP3

South Africa/UK Connection | Transcript | MP3

Arab Stereotypes | Transcript | MP3

Political Islam | Transcript | MP3

Tunisian Immigrant Artist | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

NICOLA REINDORP: The illicit and illegal exploitation of resources is a major factor in sustaining conflict.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, ending the plunder of the Congo’s natural resources.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, northern Uganda’s cry for help.

JESSICA: [via a translator] I was abducted for the war and trained as a solider. If you refused to be trained as a soldier you’d be beaten. You have to do everything they tell you to do or you’ll be beaten. If one of your friends escapes or tries to escape then you’ll also be beaten.

PORTER: And celebrating an important anniversary in South Africa.

ADITI SHARMA: The South African people, while they are free, the economic miracle has still to happen and they need our support here in Britain and Europe.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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Congo War

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. The post-conflict crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the spotlight at the United Nations. Diplomats in New York are now investigating the plunder of the war-torn African country’s rich natural resources. A recent report to the Security Council says US, Belgian, and South African companies have illegally profited from the DRC’s vast mineral wealth, or have at least turned a blind eye. The UN study also names politicians and soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and the speaker of Zimbabwe’s parliament as among those involved in the illicit trade in Congo’s natural wealth. Steve Mort reports from the United Nations.

[The sound of a noisy street celebration]

STEVE MORT: Many people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are celebrating the recent end to the country’s civil war. But with the end of the fighting, a whole host of other problems facing the troubled nation have come into the spotlight. A recent UN report on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC, compiled by a panel of experts appointed by the Security Council, says many underlying difficulties remain. The study points in particular to the continued plunder of Congo’s natural resources—some of the richest natural wealth in the world.

NICOLA REINDORP: The illicit and illegal exploitation of resources is a major factor in sustaining conflict.

MORT: Nicola Reindorp is head of the New York headquarters of the British aid organization, Oxfam International. She says the release of the findings shows the extent to which some foreign corporations and governments have been benefiting from Congo’s natural resources to the detriment of the country’s population.

REINDORP: More than three million people have died in the last five years of Congo’s conflict. That’s the largest single number since the Second World War. And certainly what the panel is showing and the challenge to the Security Council is to deal with governments and to deal with companies—that they need to be showing that business or companies are serious about changing the way they do business, to ensure that they are really bringing peace and prosperity to a country and not trading in loss of life and livelihoods.

[The sound of gunfire]

MORT: The sound of fighting between rival factions in the DRC which has left devastation throughout much of the country. Guns, says the report, are funded largely by the illicit sale of minerals like diamonds, coltan, a metallic ore used to create electronic components such as cell phones and laptop computers, and other precious resources. But the findings are controversial—125 companies and individuals are listed in the report. It recommends financial sanctions against several Belgian mining companies and Rwandan and Ugandan business conglomerates. Even when companies haven’t broken the law many have been found to broken ethical guidelines. Nicola Reindorp from Oxfam International says it’s up to countries around the world to help ease the crisis in the DRC.

REINDORP: What Oxfam is saying, and I think the report highlights, is this is not just an African problem. That the nexus, the link between Western companies, European companies, and local companies is something that the panel’s reports—all four reports—highlight. And so I think it exposes the challenge to all member states on the Security Council and UN member states. This is not one country’s problem—this is something that we all need to work on to tackle together.

MORT: The UN is also considering how to handle the ongoing violence in the troubled northern Ituri province, where reports of rape, cannibalism, and torture among rival factions are rife. UN officials point to the success of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, known at MONUC. Angola’s ambassador to the UN, Ismael Gaspar Martins, says the Security Council urgently wants both the plunder of resources and the abuse of human rights to be tackled.

ANGOLAN UN AMBASSADOR ISMAEL GASPAR MARTINS: The Council has expressed full apprehension as to what is going on there. And a condemnation of these acts again in the Congo, which we don’t, we would like to see stopped. I may also add that MONUC has responded very effectively to this. The forces which have perpetrated this, they have been met with a robust response on the part of MONUC, so we are pleased about that.

MORT: Campaigners say that although companies allegedly involved in the plunder of natural resources may be investigated further, past experience shows prosecutions and sanctions may be difficult. But they acknowledge that the UN is at least focusing now on the plight of the people of the DRC—who are still impoverished despite having some of the richest natural resources on the planet. Aid organizations warn that unless the Security Council acts, the misery of the people in the DRC WILL continue. For Common Ground, I’m Steve Mort at the United Nations, New York.

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Uganda War

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MCHUGH: For the past 18 years the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army—or LRA—has been battling government forces in northern Uganda. But in the last year there has been an upsurge of violence. For the first time Ugandan troops have been attacking LRA strongholds in neighboring Sudan. Dubbed operation Iron Fist, this action has driven many rebels back into Uganda. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Ugandans have had to flee to camps. The United Nations recently filmed the desperate situation there. Nathan King reports from the UN in New York on the Ugandan people’s plea for help.

[Sounds of daily life from a refugee camp]

NATHAN KING: On the surface Olwal may seem like a typical Ugandan village, but it’s not a village at all. It’s a camp for internally displaced people, Ugandans who have been forced to flee their villages due to the mayhem wrought by the Lord’s Resistance Army. These camps rely on food deliveries from the United Nations but there are often shortages and children scramble for maize that falls from the sacks of aid.

[The sound of children fighting for sacks of food aid]

KING: But in many ways these youngsters are lucky. The LRA is known for kidnapping children. Under it’s leader Joseph Kony, 20,000 are thought to have been abducted, used as child soldiers and sex slaves.

[The sound of children singing]

KING: At a near by rehabilitation camp the scars—both physical and psychological—are plain to see. Jessica, who only wants to use her first name, was forcibly recruited into the LRA as a teenager. She relates her story through a translator.

JESSICA: [via a translator] I was abducted for the war and trained as a solider. If you refused to be trained as a soldier you’d be beaten. You have to do everything they tell you to do or you’ll be beaten. If one of your friends escapes or tries to escape then you’ll also be beaten. One day two girls who were in my group tried to escape but they were caught. And as the punishment for escaping these girls were killed and the rebels forced us to watch as they were killed. Then they brought the two girls and their head was full of blood. They were told to lie down and then they were killed with clubs.

KING: The Lord’s Resistance Army says it wants rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments. However, their actions belie their Christian message. They often mutilate their victims, by cutting off their lips, noses, or ears. Many are forced to fight and women are turned into sex slaves.

[The sounds from a bustling Ugandan village]

KING: The fear in northern Uganda is palpable. Many villages like Gulu are active during the day only to become ghost towns at night, as locals herd into larger communities and sleep in town halls, schools, and other buildings to avoid being kidnapped. Walter Otim and his brothers do so every night. Again, Walter’s words are spoken through a translator.

WALTER OTIM: [via a translator] Recently the rebels came from this side and entered into that house and this house and abducted some people. Even my father was abducted. They held him for three weeks until he was able to escape during a firefight.

KING: It’s estimated now that 80 percent of northern Uganda’s population are based in camps as internally displaced people. The villages are set up by relief agencies and the government and are in effect guarded camps. And with Ugandan government fully stretched fighting the rebels local leaders believe only international attention will bring any relief. Local Member of Parliament Regan Okumu wants UN peacekeepers for the area like those deployed to nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as the DRC.

UGANDAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT REGAN OKUMU: Our appeal again goes to the UN, that they’ve done it elsewhere before. They’ve done it in the DRC in the name of humanitarian support, in the name of humanitarian crisis, protected under the UN mandate. The British, you know, our former colonial masters, did it very successfully in Sierra Leone. It was the same scenario. You know, they, they went in there, they were able to pressurize the rebels to accept dialogue, and peace is now in Sierra Leone.

KING: UN officials have recently said that the situation on the ground in Northern Uganda is worse than in Iraq but so far the problem ranks low on the international communities priority list. The situation is complicated by Uganda’s tensions with neighboring Sudan and the simmering civil conflict in the east of the Congo. But while there are signs of progress in those conflicts the terror being wrought by the Lord’s Resistance Army goes on unabated For Common Ground I’m Nathan King at the United Nations in New York.

PORTER: Documenting Rwandan justice, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Rwanda Gacaca

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PORTER: In 1994, some 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a brutal ethnic genocide. In the aftermath of that horrific event, tens of thousands of people were thrown in jail, accused of participating in the killing. In an effort to deal with the massive number of cases, Rwanda has turned to a traditional form of community justice called gacaca. The process is the subject of a new film that was recently screened at a Washington, DC film festival. Judith Smelser has the story.

[Music from a movie soundtrack]

JUDITH SMELSER: The film is called simply Gacaca. Director Ann Aghion set out to portray the beginnings of Rwanda’s experiment with grass-roots justice. The idea is that prisoners would be brought back to their home villages and confronted by their accusers. The judges would be chosen from the village itself.

[The sound of people talking and applauding at a Rwandan town meeting]

SMELSER: In this scene, a representative of the Justice Ministry explains the gacaca process to a crowd of Rwandans.

[The Justice Ministry official speaking on the film’s soundtrack]

SMELSER: He tells the assembly that everyone involved in the process will be their neighbors. The idea for resurrecting the gacaca system was born out of necessity. Years after the genocide, more than 100,000 prisoners were still in jail. Only a fraction of those accused had been tried in the country’s court system. Gacaca was envisioned as a way to expedite the cases of those charged with participating in the genocide. The alleged masterminds of the atrocities are being tried in formal courts or at the International Criminal Tribunal.

[Sounds from a gacaca hearing]

SMELSER: The film recorded one of the first pre-gacaca hearings. Those gatherings were aimed at exonerating prisoners who’d been wrongly accused and further explaining the gacaca process.

[Sound from a gacaca hearing]

SMELSER: In this scene, the leader of the meeting brings forward a prisoner and asks if anyone knows him. One woman says he killed her husband. Another accuses him of stealing cows. It’s hoped that this kind of face-to-face interaction between perpetrator and victim will help heal the country’s wounds. But it’s not a perfect system. The actual gacaca proceedings have started in a few areas on a trial basis. And after the viewing, Sara Rakita with Human Rights Watch pointed out one major problem with some of the early trials.

SARA RAKITA: The most shocking thing I think that we’ve found is that a lot of people are just not attending. A lot of gacaca sessions haven’t taken place because they’ve lacked a quorum because people, you know—Gacaca is very time consuming. It turns out that it takes months and months before you even get to the stage of trials, and people have to farm their fields, they have to feed their families.

SMELSER: Rwanda’s Ambassador to the United States, Zac Nsenga, also attended the film screening, and he denies any problem with participation.

RWANDAN AMBASSADOR ZAC NSENGA: Actually people are coming. That’s why we are able to know the truth. You also on the film, we saw that people came and said the truth. It is not one hundred percent that you will come. Some they may not come because of different reasons. But generally the whole picture is that people come and they give witness.

SMELSER: Another possible problem with gacaca is the fact that the system often hands down relatively short jail terms. In many cases, a convict would serve half of his sentence in prison and the other half back in his village doing community service. In theory the perpetrators would be helping to rebuild what they destroyed. But these Rwandans speaking in the film aren’t convinced.

[The sound of Rwandans complaining about short gacaca sentences]

SMELSER: They complain that the sentences are too short and that a prisoner could simply confess and walk away with no more than a three-year term. Ambassador Nsenga understands that frustration. But he reiterates his country’s estimate that it would take several hundred years for all the pending cases to go through the regular court system.

AMBASSADOR NSENGA: Visibly, people still are pained by the fact that the people who killed their relatives are going to go with the short sentences. But what should we do? Two hundred, three hundred years to wait for justice? No way.

SMELSER: The film gives a snapshot of the problems and possibilities of gacaca. Its essence was summed up by another audience member, Ambassador David Shinn, who has served as US Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso and as Director for East African Affairs at the State Department.

AMBASSADOR DAVID SHINN: There is a reluctance nine years after the fact to come forward and dredge up an awful lot of horrible background that people are, I think in many cases, reluctant to dredge up. They want to get on with their lives. But at the same time, it’s their responsibility to do that if they want to see justice done. So this is probably as good a solution as any under the circumstances.

[Music from the movie’s soundtrack]

SMELSER: That’s just what the Rwandan government is betting on. For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.

PORTER: Gacaca was screened as part of the Common Ground Film Festival, sponsored by the Search for Common Ground, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the promotion conflict resolution strategies around the world. Search for Common Ground is not affiliated with this radio program or with Common Ground Radio. The film series will be shown at colleges and universities in the US and abroad throughout the next year.

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Zimbabwe Postcard

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MCHUGH: In Zimbabwe, an economic and political crisis is sending the country into a downward spiral. Millions of people are at risk of starvation. The AIDS crisis is dramatically lowering the life expectancy. Inflation is out of control, and basic commodities are in short supply. Common Ground‘s Chris Lehman recently visited Zimbabwe and brought back his observations in this audio postcard.

CHRIS LEHMAN: Everywhere you go in Zimbabwe, there are lines. There are lines at the supermarkets—if you’re lucky enough to find one stocked with food. There are lines at the gas stations. And, there are lines at the banks—if you’re lucky enough to find one with any money. These are no ordinary lines. They are lines that would test the patience of any good soul. I asked a Zimbabwean man named Wellington how people can wait so patiently. He told me that people here are good at waiting. He said people here have been waiting for 23 years.

The comment was a bold one. Twenty-three years happens to be the length of time that President Robert Mugabe has been in office. People in Zimbabwe are ready for a change. But many international observers say challengers to the ruling ZANU-PF party face intimidation, harassment and worse. Even so, the opposition party—Movement for a Democratic Change—has gained ground in nearly every election in the past four years. But progress comes with a price. The presence of an active opposition has led to deep division in villages, families, and even in churches. Danisa Ndlovu is Bishop of the 29,000 strong Brethren in Christ Church of Zimbabwe.

BISHOP DANISA NDLOVU: I think our, our people have been polarized, divided in many ways through political lines and so forth. There have been instances where violence has been experienced, where people actually fight over divergent views and things like that. So, you, you have a situation sometimes where maybe parents are supporting one party and children are supporting another. You can actually see and sense the tensions that are created, not only in the families but then in society, communities as a whole. So I think yeah, there has been a lot of heartaches in my view, and psychological pain in, in our people.

LEHMAN: The deep political divisions have done little to ease the suffering of Zimbabwe’s 11 million people. The United Nations estimates some five million Zimbabweans will need food aid this year. The country’s food shortages are compounded by the ongoing battle against the AIDS epidemic. The World Health Organization says about one-third of all Zimbabwean adults are infected with the HIV virus. And hundreds of thousands of AIDS orphans populate the country. In Zimbabwe it is said the government is so broke it can’t even print more money. Whether this is true or simply a rumor is almost beside the point. When I got to Zimbabwe my hotel offered me an exchange rate of 800 Zimbabwe dollars for one US dollar. By the time I left two weeks later, young men on the street would gladly give me 3,000 Zimbabwe dollars for a US dollar.

[The sound of Zimbabweans singing]

LEHMAN: If there’s one thing that can still bring Zimbabweans together, it’s probably music. On street corners, in nightclubs, in Sunday morning church services, music fills the air.

[The sound of Zimbabweans singing]

CHRIS LEHMAN: Bishop Danisa Ndlovu.

BISHOP DANISA NDLOVU: One would say that music is our life. We sing when we are sad. We sing when we are happy. It’s an expression of our inner feelings. And so music really is what we are. And when you want to listen to our heartbeat then I think you want to listen to our music.

LEHMAN: On my last day in Zimbabwe, I needed a cab for a three-mile trip to my hotel. I found a beaten-up looking car parked at a taxi stand and a driver willing and eager to take me anywhere I needed to go. The problem was I didn’t have enough Zimbabwean currency left in my pocket to pay the fare. So I offered the driver 7,000 Zimbabwe dollars and one US dollar. He quickly accepted my proposal and touched two wires together under his dashboard. The car started up and off we went. But a mile or so later I realized the engine was off and we were coasting down a hill at an alarming rate of speed. The driver turned to me and flashed a broad smile.

“This saves gas,” he said. He popped the clutch at the bottom of the hill and the engine cooperatively came back to life. The 10-minute journey was a microcosm of the country’s failing economic system—cash flow problems, fuel shortages and a taxi driver who swore the only reason he had to hotwire his car was because he had lost the key.

It’s hard to know when Zimbabwe will reach the bottom of its freefall. Some say there’s no hope for recovery as long as Robert Mugabe remains in office. Others say the solution is not that simple. But with international attention focused elsewhere, many Zimbabweans think the worst thing that could happen to them is that the world forgets about their plight.

[The sound of Zimbabwean music]

LEHMAN: For Common Ground, I’m Chris Lehman in Zimbabwe.

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South Africa/UK Connection

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PORTER: The South African Government is planning a series of celebrations this year, to mark the ten year anniversary of the first free elections, following the end of the white apartheid government’s regime. While the country says it wishes to celebrate this event, it is also planning to use this year to try to highlight South Africa’s continuing problems and challenges, in a bid to reinvigorate the sort of western interest that helped the country throw off the shackles of apartheid. As Catherine Drew reports from London, South Africa is looking to its old friend Britain, to lead the way.

[The sound of singing]

CATHERINE DREW: South African dignitaries visiting Britain are often treated to a rendition of the country’s national anthem. Here it is sung by the Manhattan Brothers, a well-known South African group, and accompanying choir.

[The sound of singing]

DREW: They made an appearance at a recent conference which brought together British and South African politicians, business leaders, and civil society groups. The conference was in part a celebration—as indicated by the opening remarks of the South African Foreign Minister, Nkozana Dulamini Zuma.

SOUTH AFRICAN FOREIGN MINISTER, NKOZANA DULAMINI ZUMA: It is indeed a great pleasure of us to be among so many friends and allies who have struggled together in the long walk to African freedom.

DREW: The ties between South Africa and Britain, forged in the past two decades after centuries of sometimes bloody relations, are particularly strong. In its heyday, the anti-apartheid movement in Briton had tens of thousands of members across a wide range of society. They worked hard to secure the release of Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress, despite the fact that the British Government of the time refused to impose sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime, for many years. Aditi Sharma works for the activist organization, Action for Southern Africa.

ADITI SHARMA: Globally Britain was one of the key players in the anti-apartheid movement that supported South Africans in their struggle for freedom. So many British people, when Mandela walked out of the prison in ’94, it was a very personal as well as a historical moment for those who stood outside in Trafalgar Square in the rain and the cold for many years.

DREW: But both activists in Britain and many people in South Africa admit that the level of interest in South Africa has faded dramatically. Aditi Sharma again.

SHARMA: It is very easy for people to think that because apartheid is over the campaign is finished. And I think it’s a combination of there being so many other issues to campaign on and to work on in today’s world. In some ways you could say the issue was simpler or at least could be seen to be simpler because there was a very clear enemy. Whereas here we’re talking about trade issues, we’re talking about HIV/AIDS which seems to be a hopeless case but is not. It almost seems that these issues are hard to grapple with.

DREW: This is where this year’s celebrations come in, according to activists, who will be using the anniversary to try to remind Britons they can continue to support South Africa in many ways—from buying produce in their local supermarkets to pressuring the British government to follow policies beneficial to Africa in terms of trade, health crises such as AIDS, debt relief, and humanitarian aid. South Africa also wants to look in detail at how the two countries can cooperate on a whole range of issues, which is why 12 government ministers attended the conference in London, to talk in person with their British counterparts. For example, South Africa’s Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, reached agreement with her British counterpart on a deal which the South Africans hope will reduce the number of their health professionals being recruited to work in Britain. In fact, they want to see more British medical professionals heading out to Africa.

SOUTH AFRICAN HEALTH MINISTER MANTO TSHABALALA-MSIMANG: We can’t stop people from being recruited. But it must be a transparent recruitment of our health professionals so that it does not disrupt our healthcare services. But also for us it means we are going to gain from the UK because we have also agreed that we can also recruit from the United Kingdom in a partnership kind of arrangement. But we’re going to be focusing on those health workers who will be prepared to go to our rural areas.

DREW: Continued solidarity with South Africa and it’s neighbors is something activist groups in Britain will be trying hard to promote. Aditi Sharma of the Action for Southern Africa campaign says 2004 is an important milestone for South Africa, but a clear reminder that the West can do more to help.

SHARMA: When we celebrate and remember the achievements of the past 10 years, and indeed the struggle that went to achieve that freedom for South Africa, it’s a moment to move beyond a historical solidarity and to a very current, very fresh, enthusiastic solidarity in dealing with problems of today’s South Africa. The South African people, while they are free, the economic miracle has still to happen and they need our support here in Britain and Europe.

DREW: For Common Ground Radio, I’m Catherine Drew in London.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the rebirth of Arab cinema.

NIZAR HASSAN: It was very dangerous. Actually, the day I started shooting, it was forbidden for anyone to go there. Yet we could sneak into Jenin Camp and that took us maybe two hours.

PORTER: Plus, anti-terrorism efforts in Southeast Asia. And, the music of Tunisia by way of Chicago.

NAJIB BARHRI: Actually, music is peace. [laughing] I’m trying my best to effect this to people.

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Arab Stereotypes

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MCHUGH: Arab films had their heyday in the 1950s with popular dramas and musicals, mainly from Egypt. Today, parts of the Arab world are seeing a rebirth of local cinema. The best independent productions focus on political conflicts in the region, but also the struggle for national identity in the era of globalization. Reese Erlich screened some of these films at the San Francisco Arab Film Festival.

NIZAR HASSAN: It was very dangerous. Actually, the day I started shooting, it was forbidden for anyone to go there. Yet we could sneak into Jenin Camp and that took us maybe two hours.

REESE ERLICH: Nizar Hassan, a Palestinian director who has made 16 films, set out in late 2002 to shoot a documentary about the siege of Jenin. Israeli troops had tried to occupy that Palestinian refugee camp, but met fierce resistance for two weeks. The Palestinian Authority claimed thousands had been massacred.

HASSAN: When I came there it was really horrible. The first thing that you notice is that smell of death. It was unbearable. It was something, you know, indescribable. Everyone was talking about it, mainly all the people who came from the outside, journalists.

ERLICH: Hassan and others quickly discovered, however, that there had been no massacre. Fifty-six Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers had been killed in Jenin camp, which has a total population of 14,000. But whole sections of the camp were leveled by Israeli military bulldozers. In fascinating footage in his documentary, Invasion, Hassan brought an Israeli bulldozer driver into a studio to show him footage of the destruction. The Israeli spoke without emotion.

[The sound of an Israeli bulldozer driver, being interviewed in the film]

UNIDENTIFIED BULLDOZER DRIVER: [via a translator] You enter a street like this and open it up, more or less, to reach a house. The Palestinians are shooting from deep inside. It’s not going in one side and then out the other. You give the house a nudge, and then back up. There’s a minute before you do it again. So there’s enough time for people to get out. There were some cases when people came out of the ruins. It’s a fact. So you stop everything and let them get out.

ERLICH: The film clearly shows that, from the point of view of the bulldozer driver, Israel is carrying out a tough job in as humanitarian a way as possible. But in the process of describing his work, the soldier shows the occupation isn’t so humanitarian.

UNIDENTIFIED BULLDOZER DRIVER: [via a translator] All the work we carried out was at night. All the destruction. There were four vehicles working at the same time. Every 48-50 hours there was a shift change. Everyone did a little. So you’re sitting in a giant vehicle. Visibility isn’t so good. You receive orders on the radio. “Third house on the left,” or whatever. To reach it, you have to destroy the first, second and third houses.

[Arabic music from the film’s soundtrack]

ERLICH: According to Jenin camp leaders, the Israeli military completely or partially destroyed 700 homes during the two week occupation.

[Arabic music from the film’s soundtrack]

ERLICH: While some current Arab films focus on Palestine and Iraq, another genre is also emerging. El Katiba, which means the Bookstore, is a recent Tunisian film that at first appears to be a family drama centered around the owners and employees of a middle class bookstore. But the family conflicts are really metaphors for coming to grips with what it means to be Tunisian, and indeed, Arab. Tarek Elyadi is program director of the San Francisco Arab Film Festival.

TAREK ELYADI: The main protagonist in the film is a Tunisian man who goes to France. Sort of like, almost like the farmer or the rural person going to the big city. And he really does not have a good time in France and he comes back a shattered man, to, to his home country, Tunisia.. The film literally centers about him and then the relationships he has with the Tunisian culture as far as how it deals with classism, how it works with sexism.

ERLICH: Leila, the young wife, wants to develop a career as a singer, a job still considered as inferior and perhaps even promiscuous by proper Tunisians. Another character asks Leila about her husband’s reaction to the idea.

[Soundtrack from the film]

LEILA: [via a translator] Are you serious? My wife, singing at weddings? You want to dishonor the family name? But I couldn’t care less. For once I want to do something that makes money. If I had known my voice was the solution, I wouldn’t have waited this long. Only a coward would be afraid to leave this place.

[Leila singing in Arabic from the movie’s soundtrack]

ERLICH: Leila separates from her husband and becomes a successful singer. Ultimately, she reunites with her husband, but on more equal terms. That’s also a metaphor for how underdeveloped Arab countries can relate to wealthy nations in the West. After years of calm in the local film industry, the turmoil shaking the Middle East is now producing a challenging and controversial Arab cinema. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich.

[Leila singing in Arabic from the movie’s soundtrack]

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Political Islam

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PORTER: Little more than a year after the September 11th attacks in the United States, over 200 people died in the bombings of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia. Just as in the US, the attacks shattered a sense of complacency in the Indonesian resort community. Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman talked with Robin Bush of the Asia Foundation and asked her to assess the current terrorist threat in Southeast Asia.

ROBIN BUSH: Well, I think that there is, certainly is one. It’s undeniable, although there’s been a certain level of denial on the part of Indonesian Muslim thinkers and leaders. But it seems that the evidence is incontrovertible that terrorism is certainly a threat. However, I would still argue that it’s a, it’s a philosophy and it’s a practice that practiced is by a tiny, tiny minority of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: What major developments have there been in counterterrorism in Southeast Asia?

ROBIN BUSH: Well, I think that the two post-9/11 terrorist incidents in Indonesia have been watershed moments for the counterterrorism movement in Indonesia. That being the Bali bomb of October 12 and the Marriott bomb. After both of these there was a remarkable increase in acceptance of the fact that militancy did exist in Indonesia amongst the Muslim population. This made it possible for the police to be more effective. This made it possible for there to be political momentum, political will on the part of the elite in government, as well as popular support for a stronger police crackdown on militants. Especially I would say the Marriott bomb really brought it close to home, being in Jakarta. After the Marriott bomb you saw a different response than the response that we saw after the Bali bomb even, in which Muslim leaders were quick to say there’s definitely a problem and we definitely need to do something about it.

BROCKMAN: What are we, the general public that is in the United States, not hearing that you wish we were hearing about Southeast Asia?

ROBIN BUSH: I think there’s a couple of levels of differentiation that, that is not taking place, both in the minds of the general public in the Western world and in US policymakers that is creating a lot of ill will on the part of people in Southeast Asia. One is the clumping together of Muslims in Southeast Asia with Muslims in the Middle East. The characterization of Islam as that which is found in the Middle East and the lack of differentiation of policy for Muslims in Southeast Asia and that in the Middle East. The second level is the clumping together of Muslims and terrorists, even within Southeast Asia. This is something that Indonesian Muslims say time and time again is one of their greatest points of contention and the greatest points of ire towards especially US policy, but towards the West in general, is that there is a lack of differentiation between the general common Muslim majority and terrorists.

BROCKMAN: For our listeners, what, how would you describe the difference between Middle East and Southeast Asian Muslims?

ROBIN BUSH: Well, there’s a lot of difference and it’s, a lot of it is rooted in the history of how Islam came to these regions. Islam came to into Southeast Asia not through violence or fighting but through a gradual integration. It was brought by traders via India and over many hundreds of years it assimilated into society, integrating itself along with pre-Islamic and practices from other religions. So in general what we have in Muslim practice within Southeast Asia is a more flexible pluralist outlook towards ritual and belief of Islam, as compared to the more monolithic, the more—less flexible wahabist oriented doctrines and practice coming out of the Middle East.

BROCKMAN: To what extent has the focus on terrorism re-ordered US relations with Southeast Asia?

ROBIN BUSH: Well, it’s unfortunately been a rather negative, it’s had a rather negative effect on relations, especially on perception of the Western world. As you know this is something of concern. There’s been a lot of research lately, the Drejian (?) Commission has done research, the Pew World Values Survey—all have found dramatic drops in level of favorability towards the West and towards America. I’ve lived in Indonesia for 18 years and I’ve never experienced the levels of anti-American sentiment that we’re experiencing right now in Indonesia. And I think that much of it can be traced directly to, unfortunately, the war on terrorism policy. Both policy and presentation of that policy. Anti-American feeling really has, has been quite visible actually in Indonesia society since the late ’90s when it was the, the economic crisis caused a lot of resentment towards globalization and international capitalism. It was always put at the feet of Americans. However, this was still amongst academics, students, left wing sort of ideologues. But the policies through the war on terrorism policy have really allowed that anti-Americanism to spread pervasively throughout all sectors of Indonesia society.

And part of it is due to what I mentioned earlier—resentment about being characterized as terrorists. Muslim Indonesians are extremely proud of the history of their role in the democratization of Indonesia. They played a very active role in opposing authoritarianism, in the transition to democracy that occurred after Suharto fell from power. And this is given no play at all in either the international media, in US policy statements. And so this is definitely a source of, of anger, that this is completely overlooked and instead this history of democratic involvement and engagement is being characterized as a culture that breeds terrorists, Muslim terrorists. So I would say this is the root of the, the anti-American sentiment.

BROCKMAN: You mentioned anger and a declining view of the US. How do you think the US is viewed overall in Southeast Asia on issues of counterterrorism.

ROBIN BUSH: Well, aside from the general displeasure, I think that, that many Southeast Asians and especially Indonesians perceive or, or feel that the United States has substituted a previous engagement and commitment to democracy initiatives, to human rights support, at the policy level with policies on counterterrorism. And this is seen as having very negative repercussions for Indonesian society and Southeast Asian society generally. When there’s a lack of funding, when there’s a lack of emphasis programmatically and policy-wise on supporting democracy and instead they see for example—this is the example that’s always raised—support for an internal security act on the part of the United States, pushing Indonesians to adopt an internal security act, after having experienced authoritarianism and militarism for 30-plus years and then being very proud of the fact that they are, have moved very dramatically away from that at great cost and great struggle, to then be urged by the source of all democracy to adopt such an act. This is the example that’s being given as to how the US emphasis now on the war on terrorism is undermining the democratic process in Indonesia.

BROCKMAN: Robin Bush is the Asia Foundation’s director of Islam and Civil Society in Indonesia. She lives and works in Jakarta. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

[Musical interlude]

MCHUGH: Coming up next, a Tunisian’s musical artistry. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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Tunisian Immigrant Artist

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: During the recent months of US-Arab relations and the War with Iraq, many non-Arab Americans have experienced a variety of emotions with respect to our many citizens who have emigrated here from the Middle-East and North Africa. As the curiosity about music from different parts of the world continues to develop here, it is quite natural that top musicians who have found their way to the States, are now able to continue performing and teaching in their newly-adopted home. Ed Hoke reports on one such Tunisian artist-immigrant, who has established his niche in a major metropolitan area.

[The sound of fast-paced Tunisian music]

ED HOKE: On a blustery night in a recently-gentrified, former German neighborhood on Chicago’s north side, an energetic immigrant from Tunisia, is teaching a class in centuries-old frame drumming. The heat generated from the dancing and drumming belies the whistling wind and sub-freezing temperatures that are attempting to penetrate the space. Shaking his mane of curly dark hair, the teacher encourages his students to feel the rhythms. Najib Barhri, singer, percussionist, dancer, multi-linguist, bandleader, educator, and entrepreneur is doing okay in America, now. Mr. Bahri is used to following the road all over the world bringing his talents and energies as an emissary of Tunisian and Moroccan folk music, which has roots stretching back over 2,000 years.

[The sound of fast-paced Tunisian music]

NAJIB BARHRI: I’m from Tunis. Many people they don’t know Tunis, where Tunis is. I used to like go do outreaches with the Old Town School of Folk Music, tell them about the instruments that I play, play with them, teach them some stuff and tell them, teach them about my country. Where it is actually located geographically there. It’s like between Algeria and Libya, on the Mediterranean Sea. I played there when I was kid and with my uncles and even my father. Like we had like a stage. And those people like from radio—it wasn’t TV at that time, I remember I was like four, five years old. It’s like every night what was going on, something going on. I couldn’t believe. And I even, myself, I said my Mom, “Why they are doing all this noise every night?” She said, “Oh, shh, don’t talk. Your father and your uncles will be upset. They are making music. If you are not happy go to your room and sleep.”

[The sound of fast-paced Tunisian music]

HOKE: Najib walks me to the back of the store to demonstrate some of his unique instruments. There’s a small carpeted stage, replete with beautiful fabrics and wall hangings. Surrounding the stage are the usual keyboards, amps, sound board, and microphones you might find at a club, but stationed around for easy access is his private collection of hand drums and melody makers, each with it’s own secret. He delights in demonstrating some of them for me: such as the bendir, a frame drum approximately 16 inches in diameter, with a taut goatskin head on it and thin animal gut snares underneath. This gives the instrument its distinctive eerie character. In some Middle Eastern cultures, only the women play frame drums, one of the world’s oldest instruments. Mr. Bahri glows as he expertly caresses the instrument, and makes it talk.

[The sound of Mr. Barhri playing the bendir]

NAJIB BARHRI: To make that vibration.

[The sound of Mr. Barhri playing the bendir]

NAJIB BARHRI: And it’s so spiritual.

[The sound of Mr. Barhri playing another instrument, the hajooj]

HOKE: In settling in Chicago—and using the term loosely—Najib believes that he would like to pass on his craft and musical knowledge to students who are the hungriest.

NAJIB BARHRI: I love teaching. I have many students. I love playing music. It gives me, you know, what I have in secret. Some people like they say, like they are musicians, but they don’t want to give secrets. Why? You have, what big secrets you give? I’m not gonna live forever. So if you want to study with me, you know, I give you, I make you, I make you musician.

HOKE: Sharing his knowledge and being a proponent of the healing powers of drumming, allows Najib Bahri the opportunity to reach many people with his music. As such, He has been influential in the lives of at-risk youth by giving them a sense of purpose and discipline and keeping them off the streets.

[The sound of fast-paced Tunisian music, with a rap twist]

NAJIB BARHRI: The students, that they were crooks, they come here, they be straight. They be good. Instead of staying in the streets and staying with gangs and all this crap, excuse my expression. In here I never said bad words to tell you. And even my students, I started with them.—”You said bad words you pay $5.”

[The sound of Mr. Barhri playing the bendir]

NAJIB BARHRI: Actually, music is peace. [laughing] I’m trying my best to effect this to people.

HOKE: For Common Ground Radio, I’m Edward Hoke.

[The sound of Tunisian music]

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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