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04
DEC

How Scarborough saved the world

The work of GCHQ started just after the end of World War One as telegraph became a vital means of military communications. We hear from people who worked at the listening station in the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough during World War Two and the Cold War. BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera reveals how Government Communications Headquarters – GCHQ - has been listening in for 100 years.
28
NOV

The man who laughed at al-Qaeda

Raed Fares, founder of Syria's legendary Radio Fresh FM, was mowed down by unknown gunmen as he left his studios in rebel-held Idlib in November 2018. The death of the man who fought hatred with humour and laughed in the faces of President Assad, ISIS and al-Qaeda, sent shockwaves way beyond his troubled homeland. When ordered by Islamist extremists to stop broadcasting music he had replied with bird song and clucking chickens. On being told to take his female presenters off air, he put their voices through software to make them sound like men. In tribute to its founder, Raed Fares's radio station has refused to die with him. One year on from his killing it continues to broadcast the comedy programmes he loved, as Assad's troops close in and bombs fall around it.

Presenter: Mike Thomson
Producer: Joe Kent

(Image: Raed Fares standing outside Radio Fresh. Credit: Radio Fresh)
26
NOV

Emperor Complex

In the span of five years, Chairman Huang turned farmland in China’s Sichuan province into Seaside City. The ocean-themed town, which Huang says was inspired by Dubai and Disneyland, is now home to more than 400,000 people. In the city centre, numerous maritime spectacles attract visitors from afar. The crown jewel is the world’s largest aquarium with several whale sharks and a community of sea turtles. But is Seaside City a forward-thinking economic experiment or the personal fiefdom of a megalomaniac? What do former peasants in the area think of the city?
21
NOV

Russian women fight back

Domestic abuse in Russia is endemic with thousands of women dying at the hands of their partners every year. Despite this a controversial law was passed in 2017, which scrapped prison sentences for first-time abusers. Beatings that do not cause broken bones or concussion are now treated as administrative offences rather than crimes. As one activist puts it: “the punishment for beating your wife now feels like paying a parking ticket.”

But Russian society is waking up to the crisis. The case of three girls - the Khachaturyan sisters - who face long prison sentences for murdering their tyrannical father, has sparked mass protests. More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition urging prosecutors to drop the murder charges. The girls’ mother tells reporter Lucy Ash that her daughters were acting in self-defence against a man who had abused them physically, emotionally and sexually for years.

Lucy also meets the mother of a woman stabbed to death by her husband who was discovered in her blood soaked bed by her seven year old son. In all three cases, the frightened women had appealed to the police but to no avail. These tragedies might have been averted if only the authorities had taken earlier warnings seriously.

In Moscow, Lucy talks to activists who are fighting back by supporting victims, pushing for legal reforms and drawing attention to the cause through art, video games and social media. And she meets a lone feminist MP in the Russian Duma who is trying to bring in restraining orders for violent husbands, boyfriends and family members. Today Russia has no such laws and domestic violence is not a standalone offence in either the criminal or the civil code.

(Image: Woman holding sign saying “What is it for? Stop violence!” at a rally in support of the Khachaturyan sisters. Credit: Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images)
14
NOV

Sierra Leone: The price of going home

Fatmata, Jamilatu and Alimamy all see themselves as failures. They’re young Sierra Leoneans who risked everything for the sake of a better life in Europe. Along the way, they were imprisoned and enslaved. They saw friends die. Eventually, they gave up. Now, they’re home again - facing the devastating consequences of what they did to their families before they left, actions that have left them ostracised by their nearest and dearest. Who will help them to survive back home? Can they rebuild their lives, and achieve any reconciliation with their parents? And if they can’t, will they be tempted to set off again, to seek their fortunes abroad?

Reporter: Tim Whewell

(Photo: An awkward embrace - Jamilatu Sheriff is reunited with her mother Maryatu after two years absence. Credit: Sayoh Kamara/BBC)
12
NOV

Hong Kong: Love in a divided city

Unprecedented mass protests have caused chaos in Hong Kong’s public sphere – but what has it meant for private life? How have they affected the increasing number of couples who have married across the divide, with one partner from Hong Kong and another from the Chinese mainland? BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Adams hears from one such couple, for whom the political has become personal.
09
NOV

Comrade Africa

How Communist East Germany tried to influence Africa via radio, during the Cold War. The West often saw the GDR as a grim and grey place, so it’s something of a surprise to find a radio station based in East Berlin playing swinging African tunes. Yet Radio Berlin International (RBI), the ‘voice of the German Democratic Republic’, made it all happen over the many years it broadcast to Africa. It built on the little known strong bonds between East Germany and several large states in Africa such as Tanzania and Angola during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s
07
NOV

Albania’s Iranian guests

Who are Albania’s Iranian guests? In July, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani visited an Albanian village just outside Tirana. At a tightly-guarded encampment, he addressed the Iranian group who live there - the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). MEK has been a leading opposition voice against the Islamic Republic of Iran for decades.

Following the revolution of 1979, MEK fell out with the Iranian government – members were persecuted, and the organisation moved to Iraq for around three decades. Migration to Albania was facilitated by the United States, and more than 3,000 members have arrived.

But in Albania – a fragile democracy - there’s disquiet. Critics claim MEK’s presence compromises Albania’s security, and is fuelling a crack-down on the press. Meanwhile, dozens of Iranian MEK members have defected but find themselves living a precarious existence in Tirana because they are stateless, without passports.

Assignment investigates the improbable relationship between Albania and MEK.

Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer: Albana Kasapi

(Photo: Gholam Mirzai has left the MEK. He would like to return to Iran. Credit: BBC Credit)
06
NOV

Moondog: Sound of New York

New Yorker Huey Morgan examines the life, work and enduring appeal of the musician known as Moondog, who lived and worked on the city's streets in the 1950s and '60s. Born Louis Thomas Hardin in Kansas in May 1916, he played musical instruments from an early age and lost his sight in an accident when he was 16. He went on to teach himself music and composition by ear, as well as music theory through books in braille. His music would take inspiration from street sounds like the subway and foghorns, and his compositions were a combination of classical, traditional jazz and American vernacular. He became a pioneer with a unique attitude to composition and melody, and also invented instruments.
05
NOV

Cameroon's MMA champion

By the age of 10 Francis Ngannou was working in a sand quarry, where he dreamed of becoming a world class boxer. As a young man he traversed the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea to find himself homeless in Paris. From there, within an extraordinarily short amount of time, he exploded through the ranks to the highest echelons of the fastest growing sport in the world, mixed martial arts.

He is now a leading contender for heavyweight champion of the world and a global star. He returns to his village in western Cameroon, where he is investing in the next generation. Zak Brophy travels to Cameroon to hear the story of his incredible life, and his dreams of becoming a role model within his community.
31
OCT

The Zogos of Liberia

When Miatta was 14 years old, armed rebels stormed into her classroom and forcibly recruited her and her classmates. They were trained to use machine guns and then sent to the front line to fight in Liberia’s devastating civil war.

Nineteen years later, Miatta is what many Liberians would call a Zogo. The Zogos are Liberia’s underclass: jobless, homeless and addicted to drugs. They’re a menace on the streets of the capital, Monrovia, where many make their living by snatching purses and phones from passers-by.

In this Assignment, Lucy Ash follows a projects aiming to rehabilitate hundreds of Liberia’s Zogos – including Miatta.

Producer: Josephine Casserly

(Image: A mural in the Liberian capital called Female Zogos of Monrovia. They are sitting on gravestones because many are homeless and seek refuge in cemeteries. Credit: James Giahyue)

108 episodes

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