WRITING

 

MARKED MEN | BRAZILIAN POLICE ARE PREPARING FOR ARGENTINA'S FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS AT THE WORLD CUP | CLIENT: THE ECONOMIST | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Buenos Aires, Argentina - Like all fans going to the football World Cup in Brazil in June, Argentina’s barras bravas—“tough gangs” of supporters, often likened to European “ultra” groups—are looking for a bit of fun. The question the Brazilian authorities have is, what kind of fun? Argentina’s fans have a fearsome reputation: Let’s Save Football, an Argentine non-governmental organisation, says that on average more than five people have died in football violence in Argentina every year since 1983, for which it blames the barras. 

Brazil has requested that Argentina share information on its football hooligans’ criminal records, ahead of the tournament. But 650 members of a group of barras called the United Argentine Fans (HUA) have brought a case to court to stop the government handing over the information. Their lawyer, Debora Hambo, says that passing on the information would be illegal, and adds that her clients face unjust attention and mistreatment by police if the information is shared. The HUA’s members, who come from rival teams, are a peaceful bunch, Ms Hambo says: “That’s their objective. No violence in football”. Opponents argue that the HUA’s case against Argentina is an attempt to ensure that its members can travel to (and within) Brazil unopposed. 

 


 

ORCHESTRA HELPS CREATE HARMONY FOR ROMA CHILDREN IN EAST LONDON | YOUTH ENSEMBLE EMULATES ETHOS OF WEST-EASTERN DIVAN ORCHESTRA BY TACKLING POSITIVE ATTITUDES TOWARDS ROMA PEOPLE AND PROMOTING TOLERANCE | CLIENT: THE GUARDIAN | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

London, UK - About 30 young musicians are blowing and plucking, making music in a school hall in Newham, east London. But this orchestra is playing nothing but Roma music from Romania, Slovakia and Poland. The Roma Bridging Sounds Youth Orchestra was set up in 2014 with Arts Council money by the Roma Support Group and Newham Music charities. The orchestra aims to break down cultural barriers and combat the prejudice affecting Roma people. Tania Gessi, arts and culture coordinator at the Roma Support Group, says that, alongside teaching music, the aim is to take the players (Roma and non-Roma alike) out of their comfort zone, “because they have to mix with other kids and other professional musicians”. 

As with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that unites Palestinians and Israelis and the interfaith youth choir at Trinity church near New York’s Ground Zero, the Bridging Sounds orchestra promotes familiarity and tolerance. Roma children make up just under a third of the orchestra and the remainder are children from the Newham area and come from multiple backgrounds. 

 


 

ESCAPING VIOLENCE VENEZUELANS STRUGGLE WITH NEW LIFE IN SPAIN | "YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DON'T BELONG" | CLIENT: THOMSON REUTERS | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Madrid, Spain - The third time Stefania Pace was attacked, she knew it was time to leave Venezuela. 

In the first assault, three men with a gun robbed her outside her Caracas home, the second she was mugged at 10 a.m. In the latest, in January, a man crashed into her car and pulled a gun on her when she demanded he take responsibility, she said. 

"I called my mum, after I calmed down, and I told her, 'Now is my time to go, I can't stand it'," the 28-year-old said. 

 


 

STAB AT DIPLOMACY IN BID TO ANSWER THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE QUESTION | WHILE THE ARAB SPRING HAS GARNERED ACRES OF NEWS COVERAGE SINCE THE START OF THE YEAR, EVENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST'S MOST VOLATILE AND SEEMINGLY INTRACTABLE CONFLICT HAVE GONE ALL BUT UNNOTICED | CLIENT: MONOCLE | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Doha, Qatar - Yesterday’s attacks in southern Israel have brought the Israel-Palestine story back into the headlines – but behind the scenes the biggest battle has been diplomatic rather than military. 

At next month’s UN General Assembly, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will seek recognition for an independent Palestinian state – something that Israel is steadfastly opposed to, unless it is part of a broader peace process. 

Arab League representatives met in Doha last week to outline the application. The UN vote will be a further test of Qatar’s growing diplomatic prowess – the gas-rich nation is chairing the General Assembly when the vote takes place. 

 


 

THE PHOTO CONTROVERSY OVER INDIGENOUS PEOPLE | CRITICS ASSAIL BRITISH PHOTOGRAPHER'S PORTRAYAL OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, BUT HE SAYS HE'S HIGHLIGHTING THEIR PLIGHT | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

London, UK - British photographer Jimmy Nelson travelled for three years from 2009 to fulfil his objective of photographing 35 of the world's most secluded and visually unique tribes. 

Nelson's images show, for example, men from the Huli community of Papua New Guinea with faces painted bright yellow and feathered headdresses, and Yali members in Papua and Indonesia, a horizontal half of whose bodies are daubed in grey mud with only a penis gourd, bones, and pig or dog teeth for attire. 

Yet, Nelson says of interacting with the tribes, "Nothing surprised me." 

 


 

NORTHERN IRAQ'S BUDDING CHINATOWN | AS FOREIGN INVESTMENT INCREASES IN IRAQI KURDIAN, CULTURAL BOUNDARIES ARE BEING BROKEN | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Sulaimaniyah, Iraq - While Ling Ling stacks hot and spicy prawn crackers and dried black beans with ginger onto the shelves of, to her, a familiar looking Chinese market, her wider surroundings of northern Iraq are more foreign. 

Ling, from Anhui province in eastern China, has been managing the shop there for about six months after responding to a newspaper advertisement by a Chinese firm. 

She plans to stay for a few more years to take a share of what she sees as the nascent economic potential of the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. 

 


 

PALESTINIAN OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM GIVES VOICE TO DOUBT | DIRECTOR BASIL KHALIL CHALLENGES THE RIGID BELIEFS OF THE REGION WITH A SENSE OF SARCASM AND REBELLION IN AVE MARIA | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

London, UK - Palestinian film Ave Maria is a fable about doubting one's assumptions. But what cannot be doubted is the film's success. 

After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in May, it has played, so far, at 75 festivals in about 30 countries over nine months, and picked up 16 awards. Now, its Palestinian British director, Basil Khalil, is in Los Angeles, hoping to win an Oscar, having been nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. It is the first time an Arab film has been nominated in the category. 

Ave Maria is a black comedy about five nuns whose vow of silence is disturbed when an Israeli settler family crashes its car outside a West Bank convent just as the Sabbath, the day of rest on which religious Jews refrain from certain activities, comes into effect. The nuns and the settlers must confront the strict rules of silence and the Sabbath respectively in order to be rid of each other. 

 


 

TARGETING THE MEDIA IN MEXICO | RIGHTS GROUPS CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT TO INSTITUTIONALISE PROTETION OF JOURNALISTS | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Mexico City, Mexico - Yeny Yuliana Marchan Arroyo, 23, had been working as a cub crime reporter at the Mexican newspaper Diario 21 for eight months when she was shot three times by an unknown assailant. 

The attack occurred as she was riding passenger on a motorbike on her way to cover a deadly car accident in the southern state of Guerrero. 

Jean Paul Ibarra Ramírez, the 33-year-old photographer who was driving the motorbike, was also hit twice by the gunman who then got out of his SUV and fatally shot him in the head. 

 


 

PITTANCE PAID FOR PLATINUM PROFITS | THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE SUFFER AS A RESULT OF PLATINUM MINING IN SOUTH AFRICA | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Mokopane, South Africa - The villages near the town of Mokopane, located in the province of Limpopo in the northernmost tip of South Africa, contain abundant wealth, but many of their residents reside in homes without foundations and have no access to water. 

The sleepy settlements live in the shadow of one of South Africa's most successful enterprises - platinum mining. 

About 90 per cent of the world's platinum reserves are in southern Africa. Anglo Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer, made a record $1.75bn in profits last year alone, primarily selling the metal to car firms making catalytic converters. 

 


 

COLOMBIAN YOUTH COUNT COST OF COCA | PEASANTS SAY THERE ARE FEW ALTERNATIVES TO THE COCAINE TRADE | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Puerto Asis, Colombia - The Amazon rainforest in the Colombian department of Putumayo hides many of the hardships that exist beneath its canopies. Much of the dense jungle in the south of the country is territory of the now-faltering Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) armed campaign and a centre for drug production. 

The town of Puerto Asis, with its small airport, is a main access point to the sprawling region, about the size of Rwanda. It is here,that 14-year-old Edward Saul Thomas is eking out a living. 

Typically he works to produce coca base, the product which is made into cocaine. But recent times have been harder than usual for the campesinos, or peasants, of the region. 

 


 

STAKES ARE HIGH IN BATTLE FOR UN PRESIDENCY | A RARE BATTLE FOR THE UN PRESIDENCY IS GAINING MOMENTUM BETWEEN TWO ASIAN NATIONS WHOSE SITUATIONS COULDN'T BE FURTHER APART | CLIENT: MONOCLE | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Doha, Qatar - Qatar, a flush and forthright desert dictatorship, and Nepal, a humble Himalayan republic, are the unlikely competitors. It is Asia’s turn to assume the rotating presidency of UN General Assembly, the 66th session of which begins in mid-September. Unusually, a consensus candidate has not been agreed months in advance and neither nation is budging. 

Qatar’s gas wealth gives it an annual GDP per capita of €106,000 – top of the world rankings – while on average Nepalis each earn just €880 a year. Qatar has been playing up its diplomatic clout in recent years, acting as a peacemaker in Lebanon and Sudan. Nepal is undergoing post-monarchy wrangling that has left it without a constitution or lasting government since 2006. 

 


 

BRAVING PERIL TO REACH SOUTH AFRICA | GANGS, CROCODILES, AND DEPORTATION AWAIT ZIMBABWEANS CROSSING THE RIVER BORDER | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Limpopo, South Africa - To escape a life of abject poverty in Zimbabwe, Anton Givasa, 22, made an attempt to cross the 225-kilometre Limpopo River into South Africa. "The situation in Zimbabwe is very tough. You can't even afford to buy food or clothes. It's serious," he told Al Jazeera. "If I stay I will die; I will starve."  

Food shortages and inflation in Zimbabwe have led to a steep rise in staples - a loaf of bread now costs Zim$75bn ($7.50). Food shortages and inflation in Zimbabwe have led to a steep rise in staples - a loaf of bread now costs Zim$75bn ($7.50). 

Givasa left his parents' family home in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, at nine in the evening and travelled for 15 hours, making one stop to buy some peanuts, in the darkness of a truck's trailer with 11 strangers. At the Limpopo River, a natural border where those seeking to sneak into South Africa have to negotiate not just the water but also razor sharp security fences and a criminal gang, Givasa met the maguma guma. 

 


 

IN YEMEN, GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION IS ENEMY NO. 1 | CLIENT: GLOBAL POST | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Sanaa, Yemen - Driving through the dirt-strewn streets on the outskirts of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, Akram Shamhan is reticent about his president. Asked about what he thought of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has held power since 1978, Shamhan said, “You know what I think of our president,” as if his opinion was palpable. When pressed his response is a derisory laugh. 

Touring Sanaa, where ancient architecture cradles medieval scenes of donkeys pulling carts and beggars asking passers-by for baksheesh, or tips, Shamhan appeared subdued. 

This 35-year-old cement company accountant is from a comparatively well-off family. He is not one of the millions of poor one encounters here or part of the ruling regime. 

 


 

US SECRET PRISONS 'BIGGER ISSUE' | LAWYER CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH SAYS GUANTANAMO IS OVERSHADOWING OTHER US ABUSES | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Doha, Qatar - Wearing a pristine white thobe, a dark skinned eight-year-old boy of Sudanese descent looks into a video camera. He says: "Ana bahibak baba" (I love you dad) - part of a message to be sent to his father. 

Mohammed al-Hajj, the timid boy on Al Jazeera English's studio lawn, is sending the message because he has not seen his father for six years. 

And his father is desperate for any scraps of communication and support from the outside world - he is Sami al-Hajj, an inmate at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Hajj is currently being force fed as he is on hunger strike and, according to Clive Stafford Smith, his British lawyer, he is also being subjected to psychological torture. 

 


 

QATARI WOMEN PREPARE FOR OLYMPIC DEBUT | FEMALE ATHLETES FROM THE GULF STATE WILL COMPETE FOR THE FIRST TIME, BUT MANY STILL FACE HURDLES - IN SPORT AND SOCIETY | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Doha, Qatar - After training, swimmer Nada Arkaji dries off inside the multi-million dollar Aspire aquatics centre. With thousands of coloured spectator seats, it's a big facility for a small nation. And Arkaji has a confidence which matches her surroundings. 

"I always try my best in swimming," she told Al Jazeera. "I always try to get my personal best. So I think that I have all the potential to reach the top." 

Perhaps she has reason to. She has been selected by Qatar to be one of the first three women to represent the country at an Olympic Games. 

 


 

WESTERNISING GEORGIA FACES SNAGS | A GEORGIAN SCHEME TO SUPPLANT RUSSIAN WITH ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE IS FACING THE BARRIERS IT AIMS TO DISMANTLE | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Tiblisi, Georgia - When California-native Jiayi Zhou teaches classes of Georgian pupils the cultural boundaries she is there to dismantle are palpable. "The students are really eager and really excited to see somebody from a Western culture. Even though I am ethnically Chinese," she said. "But it is somebody in their school who has travelled all this way. That creates a keen interest." 

Zhou works in a school on the outskirts of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, where many of the students have no textbooks. 

She gives classes with the aid of a Georgian English teacher in order to avoid difficulties deriving from her limited grasp of the Georgian language and her pupils' minimal knowledge of English. 

 


 

THE CULT OF MARIA LIONZA | VENEZUELAN RELIGION DRAWS THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO MOUNTAINSIDE RITUALS FOR PURIFICATION AND GUIDENCE | CLIENT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

Sorte Mountain, Venezuela - A man with his own blood dripping over his torso makes guttural noises, before placing his hands on a pilgrim to cleanse him. The bloodied entity embodies the spirit of a Viking, and is believed to have healing powers. In a trance, he pushes the pilgrim to the ground, who appears shocked and dulled. 

Thousands of followers of the cult of Maria Lionza enter into such purifications, spiritual acts and rituals every October. It inspires religious devotion in some and has grown in popularity in Venezuela during the last few decades. One of few studies on the number of followers says up to one third of the population from every strata of society have in some way participated in the cult. 

"I have been coming here for 30 years. I come to be with the spirits and to cleanse myself. I come to have a release from normal life," said one woman. 

 


 

SYRIANS SPEAKING | AHEAD OF A NEW REPORT ON THREATS TO SYRIAN MEDIA, RHODRI DAVIES TALKS TO THE SYRIANS WHO CREATED THEIR OWN RADIO STATION | CLIENT: INDEX ON CENSORSHIP | REPORTER | ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

"We bought some very thick cloths to make some sound insulation so our voices wouldn’t be heard outside and so that the sound of bombing wouldn’t go into the apartment,” said journalist Dima Kalaji, describing how a team came together in a small apartment to make programmes for an independent Syrian radio station. 

The apartment in Damascus was the first place where they could bring together many of the staff of the new radio station. 

“We wanted SouriaLi to be an example of how we would like Syria [to be] in the future,” said Caroline Ayoub, one of four co-founders of the station, who helped set it up while in exile. Ayoub said they wished to demonstrate Syria’s diverse identity yet remind people of their common culture, too. They also felt there was too much reliance on international media for information about their own country.