The violence that has become increasingly common in Egypt

18 February, 2013

From VOA Learning English, welcome to AS IT IS!
Hello, I’m Steve Ember.  

Today Christopher Cruise reports on the violence that has become increasingly common in Egypt.  

Next - to the continuing fighting in Somalia, where United Nations observers say the al-Shabab militia is receiving weapons from organizations with ties to Yemen and Iran. 

And, Kelly Jean Kelly looks at a film about eight young Rwandan patients with rheumatic heart disease and their travels for surgery.  

To many people, the violence that has seized Egypt since late last month has become a common event: Angry young men incited police officers, and the police reacted with extreme force. When the dead and wounded were counted, they included police officers, protesters and people not even involved in the violence.  VOA’s Christopher Cruise reports.

 One image in particular caught the attention of Egyptians. It was a video of a single protester, with his clothes pulled off, kicked and beaten by police. Forty-eight-year-old Hamada Saber had been protesting outside the presidential palace. 

 “At first, after being taken into custody… “

Hamada Saber said it was protesters who hurt him. The police, he said, had helped him. He spoke from a hospital bed.   

But after his release, he blamed police for the beating. His hospital statement brought to mind countless cases of police coercion, part of a larger system of injustice that helped set off Egypt’s rebellion two years ago. Wael Khalil is a political activist and blogger.

WAEL KHALIL: “This oppressive apparatus has not changed a bit, at all.  I mean, it is working with the same rule book. It is still untouchable. No one is accountable.”

Egypt’s interior minister has warned that without the police, the country could become a militia-state. The office of President Mohamed Morsi has promised an investigation. But how much influence Mr. Morsi has or is willing to use is unclear. 

Interior Ministry reform has been slow -- even to make a change as simple as expressing support for riot control over violent suppression.   For many Egyptians, what is clear after seven months of Mr. Morsi’s presidency, is that they want him to do more. 

I’m Christopher Cruise.

You are listening to “As It IS in VOA Special English.  I’m Steve Ember.

The military offensive against the al-Shabab militia in Somalia has been making progress over the past year. But al-Shabab fighters have not been defeated.  

United Nations observers told Reuters that the militia is receiving weapons from organizations with ties to Yemen and Iran. The observers say the arms are entering Somalia through Puntland and Somaliland in the north. The news agency says the weapons are then transported to southern Somalia. That is where al-Shabab is fighting African Union, Somali and Kenyan forces. 

Reuters says the weapons include machine guns and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. It says the weapons were made in Iran and North Korea. 

Jonah Leff is with an independent research project called the Small Arms Survey.  

“Most of the new weapons that are entering the Horn (of Africa) are in fact coming into Somalia.”  

Jonah Leff says many of the weapons are coming from Yemen. He says the arms flow is not the work of the Yemeni government. But he accuses security officials in both Yemen and Somalia of working together.  

He says most of the arms activity is in northern Puntland, where ships bring weapons to small ports along the coast. He also says he cannot confirm that some weapons arriving in Somalia were made in Iran. 

“But we do know that there’s a close link between Iran and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It’s been documented that Iran has supplied those rebels with weapons and also financial support.” 

Jonah Leff says it is likely that some of the weapons could have been diverted or sold outside of Yemen and into Somalia. 

He says Iran may be supplying weapons to al-Shabab. But he says this does not necessarily mean that the Iranians are providing Iranian-made weapons. 

The United Nations Security Council is expected to talk about the situation in Somalia over the next several weeks.

You are listening to AS IT IS in VOA Special English.

Next, an inspiring story about help for African children with a life-threatening medical condition.

“Open Heart tells the story of eight Rwandan children who are all suffering from rheumatic heart disease.”

That’s American film maker Kief Davidson.

“We follow the journey of these eight children as they leave their families behind and fly to Sudan, where they are operated on by an Italian war surgeon named Gino Strada.”

SOUND from “Open Heart”

Kief Davidson’s short documentary “Open Heart” is nominated for an Academy Award – that’s the top honor of America’s film industry.

As Kelly Jean Kelly tells us, Kief Davidson hopes his film will spread knowledge of a widespread health problem in Africa.

The film follows a heart specialist from Rwanda, Emmanuel Rusingiza, as he struggles to save young heart patients.  Some of the patients have just months to live.

“You know, sometimes when I go back home, I spend many hours and think about patients who are not doing well.”
But a trip to a hospital in Sudan offers hope to eight of those children. The valves of their hearts were damaged by acute rheumatic fever. An Italian group operates the hospital. Filmmaker Kief Davidson tells the story through the eyes of the children and their families.  

“I think anyone, especially anyone who has kids, could only imagine what it must be life for those families.      

The parents of the eight children had to stay in Rwanda. They did not know if their children would survive or if they would ever see them again. The doctor led the children on the trip to Sudan. In the film, he says the trip will seem long for the children because the country is not their home. 

Rheumatic heart disease can result from strep throat. Left untreated, it can cause damage valves in the heart. Kief Davidson says the problem was once common in the United States, but is now rare. He notes that antibiotic drugs can easily treat the disease.

He says the children’s story is getting attention now that the film has been nominated for an Academy Award.  

Rheumatic heart disease affects more than 15 million people worldwide. Health officials say that making antibiotics and diagnostic tests more widely available could help save children in Africa and the developing world.   

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

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