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Mexico: The Yaqui Fight Back

Resistance and division among Mexico’s indigenous Yaqui people. Anabela Carlon is a legal advocate for the indigenous Yaqui of Sonora – a fierce defender of her people’s land. She is no stranger to the immense dangers that face her in northern Mexico, a region dominated by organised crime. In 2016, she and her husband were kidnapped at gunpoint by masked men. And now one of her biggest cases is representing the families of ten men from her community who disappeared last year.

In Mexico, the Yaqui of Sonora are known as, ‘the undefeated’. In spite of being hunted, enslaved and exiled, they are the only indigenous group never to have surrendered to Spanish colonial forces or the Mexican government. Somehow, eight communities survived along the River Yaqui. But there are deep divisions. Most of all, over whether a gas pipeline should be allowed on their land. Anabela Carlon is adamant it will not happen.

Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer: Phoebe Keane
Producer in Mexico: Ulises Escamilla

The Accordion Wars of Lesotho

A form of oral poetry accompanied on the accordion is the basis of a wildly popular form of music in Lesotho, southern Africa. But jealousy between Famo artists has triggered warfare that’s killing hundreds. Some of the genre’s best-known stars became gang bosses, and their rivalry has helped make rural, stunningly beautiful Lesotho the murder capital of Africa, with the sixth highest homicide rate in the world. Musicians, their relatives, producers and DJs have all been gunned down. Whole communities live in fear, and are now demanding action from politicians and police who are accused of protecting the Famo gangsters. Tim Whewell tells the story of a style of music that developed among Basotho migrant workers in the tough world of South African mines. He meets some of Famo's greatest artists - now disgusted by the violence - and talks to the families of victims of a cycle of revenge that the authorities appear unable to end.

Presented and produced by Tim Whewell.

Myanmar: fighting the might of the junta

Myanmar is now in a state of civil war. What started in February 2021 as a mass protest movement against the military coup is now a nationwide armed uprising. The junta is under attack across the country from a network of civilian militias called the People’s Defence Forces who are fighting to restore democracy. The BBC gained rare access to the jungle training camps where young protests are being turned into soldiers. We follow a single mother and a student who have sacrificed everything to join the fight. They're up against a well-trained military that’s willing to use brutal tactics to stay in power. As the death toll mounts and the world looks away, can they restore democracy?

Reporter, Rebecca Henschke.
Produced with Kelvin Brown, Ko Ko Aung and Banyar Kong Janoi.

Russia's Unwelcome New Exiles

Hundreds of thousands of Russians – mainly young and well-educated - have fled abroad since their country invaded Ukraine. It’s the biggest brain drain in a short period of time in Russian history. Some fear a political crackdown. They worry they could be arrested for expressing opposition to the war, and young men might be drafted into the army. Others are escaping economic sanctions, trying to keep their businesses afloat now it’s become hard to transfer money into or out of Russia.

Tim Whewell travels to Russia’s southern neighbour, Georgia, to meet some of the 25,000 Russians who’ve fled there. Some are strong opponents of Vladimir Putin, who are now showing their support for Ukraine by volunteering for a new project by Russian exiles, ‘Helping to Leave’, that organizes evacuations of Ukrainian civilians from the war zone. Others are business people – often in IT, who try to steer clear of politics, but hope they can help Georgia’s economy by creating a new ‘silicon valley’ there.

But Georgia, itself invaded by the Kremlin’s forces in 2008, has a tense relationship with Russia. Georgia’s a hospitable country – but the new arrivals are not universally welcome. Georgians worry that the exiles – often wealthier than local people – will force them out of the property market. And they fear the Russian influx may include spies and provocateurs who might provide Putin with a pretext to intervene there again. The new exiles may sympathise with Ukraine – but do they understand Georgia’s long struggle with Russia?

Reporter: Tim Whewell
Produced by Tim Whewell and Rayhan Dmytrie.

(Image: Russian exile, Katya Lapsha Credit: Lago Gogilashvili /BBC)

Dying to hunt in France

Just before Christmas, 2021, Joel Vilard was driving his cousin home on a dual carriageway just south of Rennes in Brittany. Suddenly, a bullet flew through the window and hit the pensioner in the neck. He later died in hospital of injuries accidentally inflicted by a hunter firing a rifle from a few hundred metres away. A year earlier Morgan Keane, was shot dead in his garden, while out chopping wood. The hunter says that he mistook the 25 year old man for a wild boar.

Mila Sanchez was so shocked by her friend Morgan’s death that she collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to change the hunting laws. She gave evidence to the French Senate and put the topic on the political agenda. The Green Party is now calling for a ban on hunting on Sundays and Wednesdays. But the Federation National des Chasseurs, which licenses the 1.3 million active hunters across France, is fighting back. It argues hunting is a vital part of rural life and brings the community together. Its members were delighted when President Macron recently halved the cost of annual hunting permits.

Yet public opinion, concerned about safety and animal rights, is hardening against hunting and the battle for la France Profonde is on. On the eve of presidential elections, Lucy Ash looks at a country riven with divisions and asks if new laws are needed to ensure ramblers, families, residents and hunters can share the countryside in harmony.

Presenter, Lucy Ash. Producer, Phoebe Keane. Editor, Bridget Harney

Hunting Syria's War Criminals

Imagine walking down a street in a European capital and meeting your torturer. For many Syrian refugees fleeing war and human rights abuses, Europe was meant to be a sanctuary. So it was a shock when people began bumping into their torturers out shopping or in a cafe. In fact many of those involved in the Syrian government’s notorious interrogation facilities are hiding in plain sight in European cities having used the refugee wave as a “ratline” out of the country. More and more are now being investigated, arrested and put on trial in European courts. But with President Assad firmly in control in Syria the long arm of the state is reaching those willing to testify. For Crossing Continents, Chloe Hadjimatheou and Michael Ertl look at how the Syrian war is continuing to play out in Europe.

Presented and produced by Chloe Hadjimatheou and Michael Ertl
Editor, Bridget Harney

Montenegro’s Chinese Road

It’s been called the priciest piece of tarmac in the world. In 2014 the government of Montenegro signed a contract with a state-owned Chinese company to build part of a 170 kilometre-long highway – a road that would connect its main port with the Serbian border to the north. The price-tag on the first 42 kilometres of asphalt was a staggering $1 billion - most of which has been borrowed from a Chinese bank. In Montenegro, questions continue to be asked about why the project went ahead when some experts said that it was not viable. The River Tara – a UNESCO protected site – has been impacted by the building works, and allegations of corruption and kickbacks have hung around like a bad smell. Meanwhile, the economy has taken a massive hit as a result of the pandemic, and some Montenegrins worry about the country's ability to repay the loan. Worse still, a clause in the road contract states that Montenegro may relinquish sovereignty over unspecified parts of its territory if there is a default. But is everything as it seems? Crossing Continents investigates.

Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer: Mike Gallagher
Editor: Bridget Harney

Turkey's Crazy Project

A giant new canal for the world’s biggest ships is the most ambitious engineering plan yet proposed by Turkey’s President Erdogan, whose massive infrastructure projects have already changed the face of his country. The proposed waterway would slice through Istanbul, creating in effect a second Bosphorus, the busy shipping lane that is now the only outlet from the Black Sea. The president himself has called the project 'crazy'. But he says it would 'save the future of Istanbul', easing traffic in the Bosphorus and reducing the risk of a terrible accident there. The plan has met a storm of opposition. Istanbul’s mayor says it would “murder” the historic city. Critics claim the canal would be an environmental disaster, cost billions of dollars that Turkey can’t afford – and provoke severe tensions with Russia, which is determined to preserve existing rules on traffic into and out of the Black Sea. Tim Whewell reports from a divided city. He sails down the Bosphorus with a pilot who knows all its twists and turns, joins a marine biologist diving for coral in the Sea of Marmara, meets a woman whose Ottoman-era mansion was wrecked by a ship, has tea with a former admiral who was arrested over his opposition to the project, and visits the tranquil forests around the city, now threatened by development. Will the canal still go ahead? Who would lose – and who would benefit?

Peru's left behind children

Peru has been battered by Covid-19. It has the highest known death toll in the world per capita. But behind the figures there’s another hidden pandemic. By the end of April 2021 around 93,000 children had lost a father, mother, grand-parent, or other primary caregiver to the virus - that’s one in every hundred children. For Crossing Continents, Jane Chambers travels to Lima to meet the families struggling to cope. The immediate urgency of the health crisis is masking a much deeper malaise; that of a generation of children mentally and physically scarred by loss and poverty.

Reported and produced by Jane Chambers.
Editor, Bridget Harney

(Image: Jhoana Olinda Antón Silva and her children in their home at the shrine they built for their father who died of Covid-19. Credit: Paola Ugaz)

The Runaway maids of Oman

Hundreds of young women from Sierra Leone, West Africa, have been trapped in the Arabian sultanate of Oman, desperate to get home. Promised work in shops and restaurants, they say they were tricked into becoming housemaids, working up to 18 hours a day, often without pay, and sometimes abused by their employers. Some ran away, to live a dangerous underground existence at the mercy of the authorities. Now, they are being rescued with the help of charities and diplomats. Back home, some have empowered themselves for the first time, joining a women’s farming collective. But others can’t easily recover from the ill-treatment and isolation they suffered in Arabia.

Reporter: Tim Whewell.

(Photo: Sierra Leonean women hoping for repatriation after leaving their employers in Oman. Credit: Do Bold)

Denmark's Red Van

Every weekend night in Copenhagen's red light district of Vesterbro, a group of volunteers pull up and park a red van. This is no ordinary vehicle. The interior is lit with fairy lights. There is a bed – and a ready supply of condoms. The Red Van constitutes a harm reduction strategy like no other. It is designed for use by women selling sex on the streets – somewhere they can bring their clients. Just as health workers might argue addicts should have a safe place where they can take their drugs to prevent overdoses, the Red Van NGO’s volunteers believe they are creating a more secure environment for Copenhagen’s sex workers or prostitutes.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly reports from Copenhagen.

Series editor: Bridget Harney

Poland’s Fractured Borderlands

Thousands of people – mostly migrants from the Middle East - are camped in freezing weather at the Poland-Belarus border. Many have spent thousands of dollars to fly into Belarus on tourist visas, with the hope of an easy crossing into the EU. They’re pawns, trapped in a battle of wills between Belarus’ autocratic president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, and Poland and the European Union. The Polish government is taking a tough line, imposing an exclusion zone along the border and sealing off the area to journalists and aid workers. Migrants caught in the forest are arrested and sent back to Belarus. Several, including two children, have died from the cold and more deaths are expected as winter sets in. Meanwhile local residents are divided about how to deal with the humanitarian disaster unfolding on their doorstep. For Crossing Continents, Lucy Ash visits towns and villages in the area to see what impact the crisis is having on people’s lives.

Reporter, Lucy Ash
Produced by Lucy Ash and Eva Kyrsiak
Editor, Bridget Harney
Research, Grzegorz Sokol

(Image: Polish volunteers provide relief to injured migrants stranded in the icy forest. Credit: Agnieszka Sadowska / Agencja

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