Tales From The Arab Spring [World Service]


01Revolution (egypt) - The Documentary20111220Stories from the year that changed the face of the Middle East with the BBC's Jeremy Bowen

Investigating global developments, issues and affairs.

The BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen looks back over a momentous year in the Middle East and hears from those who witnessed events at first hand.

The protests started in Tunisia after a fruit-seller set himself on fire and quickly spread to Egypt which, once again, became the leader of the Arab world, although not in a way anyone had expected.

Millions of protesters took the streets demanding the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak but why hadn't this happened sooner and what exactly did they want?

Jeremy Bowen recalls his own experiences of the Mubarak regime and meets blogger Wael Abbas in Tahrir Square.

The security police didn't take the internet seriously at first but then Abbas and his fellow bloggers started to organise demonstrations on the streets.

Abbas was detained and questioned many times and the authorities spread rumours designed to discredit him in the eyes of his followers.

Tunisia, however, provided the spark which set Egypt on fire, "It gave people courage to do something similar.

"Because they saw that it was possible.

"Other people did it.

"This small country that beats us in football, in African tournaments has removed its president. Why the hell can't we do that?"

Bowen recounts his own experiences during the 'Day of Rage' graphically recorded as the security forces moved in to Tahrir Square, firing teargas as they went.

He meets Essam el-Erian, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was locked up in jail earlier that day but escaped along with scores of criminals when then
jails were sprung open - either by protestors or amazingly by the security forces who, some say, wanted to show what would happen if the people were left in charge.

A senior figure in the military describes how they were ordered not to fire on protestors although he makes the point that it would have been useless to do so because the protestors kept on coming and they would have run out of ammunition.

And the deputy chief of police in a northern industrial town describes the battles they fought on the streets.

(Image: Egyptian protesters hold a giant Egyptian flag during a mass rally demanding an end to military rule at Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 25, 2011. Credit: Getty Images)

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02Counter Revolution (libya) - The Documentary20111221Stories from the year that changed the face of the Middle East with the BBC's Jeremy Bowen

Investigating global developments, issues and affairs.

The experience of protesters in Libya proved to be the opposite of their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia.

After Egypt's President Mubarak fell, many assumed that all you had to do was organise using social media, occupy, push hard and the hollow regime would fall.

Colonel Gaddafi had other ideas.

He was determined to crush the revolution.

Jeremy Bowen hears from some of those who were caught up in the conflict

Bowen first met Salem al-Faturi at a funeral for someone who had been killed after government forces opened fire on protesters in a suburb of Tripoli.

The regime's use of killings, beatings, arbitrary arrests and torture provoked violent resistance.

Salem, an accountant with Price Waterhouse Coopers, became a gun-runner and describes how he would buy weapons, which were stolen from a military warehouse, and smuggle them through army checkpoints, hidden inside his car door.

He still keeps a Kalashnikov in the boot of his car, together with two home-made pipe bombs.

Everybody in Libya, Salim says, is interested in weapons now.

Jeremy Bowen was among the last journalists to interview Colonel Gaddafi.

He describes how he was rushed to a secret location by one of the Colonel's nephews.

The BBC journalist stopped to ask if he could put on a suit.

"No," said his minder, "It's war. Jeans are fine."

Gaddafi thought that people were prepared to die to protect him.

Some were, but many others were prepared to die to bring him down.

Mohammed al-Ziani was caught attempting to bomb an army checkpoint.

He was taken to Abu Salim, Libya's notorious jail, where he was beaten and tortured along with other opponents of the regime, including lawyers and doctors.

Mohammed goes back to the jail with Jeremy where he says he learnt many things that will help him in life, "How to be patient, how to not lose faith... You know beating Gaddafi was something like impossible. But we was believing it."

The programme ends with celebrations in the centre of Tripoli in Martyrs' Square.

But Gaddafi had his supporters, including a young woman called Noor Saied who helped translate for foreign journalists.

She tells Jeremy Bowen that people still love him but are afraid of saying so.

(Image: A Libyan woman holding a Kingdom of Libya flag walks past a caricature of Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi. Credit: Reuters)

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03Whose Tomorrow? (syria) - The Documentary20111222Stories from the year that changed the face of the Middle East with the BBC's Jeremy Bowen

Investigating global developments, issues and affairs.

The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen hears from some of the people who have witnessed the repression of Bashir al-Assad's regime in Syria.

An activist describes his attempts to make the rest of the world aware of the violence being meted out to protestors.

From the comparatively safe haven of his apartment in Beirut, he describes the efforts made to smuggle out evidence of brutality.

A protestor recalls being subjected to endless torture sessions by the secret police, "The worst thing ever was hearing the young women pleading for their virginity when they were being raped.

"They would say 'Please leave me alone. I'm a virgin'.

The other prisoners would start yelling and beating on the doors, hoping that the guards would give up and start beating them instead, but they just carried on".

A deserter from the Syrian military describes how his unit was ordered to fire on protestors.

He was threatened when he refused and eventually fled across the border into Lebanon where he is being harboured by sympathisers.

(Image: Shadows of Syrians are reflected on a giant poster showing President Bashar Assad, during a supporting rally in Damascus. Credit: Associated Press)

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