Witness

Witness

Australia

The story of our times told by the people who were there.

Episodes

The Death of King Faisal  

On March 25th 1975, the King of Saudi Arabia was assassinated, shot at point-blank range by one of his nephews. King Faisal's oil minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani was standing beside the king when the shots were fired. His daughter, the academic and author Dr Mai Yamani, talks to Louise Hidalgo about the impact of his death on her father and on Saudi Arabia. Picture: King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, 1967 (Credit: Pierre Manevy/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Ayn Rand  

In 1957, the Russian-born American philosopher, Ayn Rand, published Atlas Shrugged, one of the most politically influential American novels of the 20th Century. The best-seller imagines a dystopia in which all wealth-creators go on strike causing the global economy to collapse. Atlas Shrugged made Ayn Rand a hero for free-market economists and political libertarians. Simon Watts talks to Leonard Peikoff, one of Ayn Rand's earliest followers. (Photo: Ayn Rand in New York in 1962. Credit: AP)

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Mass Deportations From Soviet Estonia  

In 1949, Soviet authorities deported tens of thousands of Estonians to Siberia. They included rich peasants and "nationalists" and their families, as well as other social groups who were viewed as a threat to communist rule. Rita Metsis was one of the child deportees. She shares her story with Dina Newman. Photo: Rita (r) and her twin sister Tiia (l) with their parents in 1940. Courtesy of the family.

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Submarine Warfare in WW1  

During World War One, submarines began to be used widely for the first time. German submarines called U-boats tried to cut off Britain’s sea routes to starve it into submission. Alex Last presents archive recordings of the German and British submariners who risked their lives fighting in the new undersea weapon 100 years ago. Photo: Two German submarines, the U35 and U42, surface off the Mediterranean coast. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

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An Assassination in Colombia  

In March 1990 the left-wing politician and presidential candidate, Bernardo Jaramillo, was shot dead at Bogota's international airport. He was leader of the Patriotic Union, a party formed by members of the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian communist party. Jaramillo was among several thousand of its members killed by right-wing paramilitaries with close links to the country's drug cartels. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to the murdered politician's widow, Mariela Barragán, who was with him the day he died. Photo: Mariela Barragán and Bernardo Jaramillo (courtesy of the family)

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Kolkata Sex Workers.  

In March 2001 thousands of sex workers gathered in the Indian city of Kolkata for a festival organised to improve their rights and counter the stigma they faced. Sex worker groups across the world now celebrate this day in March as an annual event. Farhana Haider has been speaking to a former prostitute, Bharati Dey, who took part in the gathering. Photo: Sex workers from around the world relax during the Sex Workers' Freedom Festival in Kolkata 2012. Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

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The Germans Occupy Prague  

On March 15th 1939, the German army occupied Czechoslovakia. Witness hears the story of one young boy who watched the German troops march into Prague and who later escaped on the Kindertransport. These were trains that brought thousands of mostly Jewish children out of Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, without their parents, to safety in Britain. That young boy went on to become a British MP and today sits in Britain's House of Lords; Alf Dubs tells Louise Hidalgo his story. Picture: German troops enter the centre of Prague on 15th March 1939; the German leader Adolf Hitler visited the city the next day. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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The Russian Empire in Colour  

A hundred years ago, photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii travelled around the Russian Empire taking the first colour photographs of a world that was about to be swept away by the Bolshevik Revolution. Using a unique method of colour photography, which he had developed, he managed to capture images previously never seen. Dina Newman speaks to Michel Soussaline, Prokudin-Gorskii's grandson. Photo: Peasant Girls, 1909. Credit: Library of Congress; Famille Procoudine-Gorsky

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The First Russian Revolution of 1917  

In March 1917 Tsar Nicholas II abdicated ending centuries of autocratic royal rule in Russia. The revolution started with demonstrations in the capital Petrograd (St. Petersburg) against the First World War and shortages of food. Troops joined the protestors in the streets, A Provisional Government was set up to replace Tsarist rule but it had to share power with a new Council of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, called the Petrograd Soviet. Hear eyewitness accounts of the revolution from the BBC radio archive. Photo: 12th March 1917: Barricades across a street in St Petersburg, as a red flag floats above the cannons, during the Russian Revolution. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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The Aids Patient Zero Myth  

In the early days of Aids, a misunderstanding made one man the face of the epidemic. French-Canadian air steward Gaetan Dugas developed the symptoms of HIV/Aids in the early 1980s, but a misreading of scientific data led to him being identified as "Patient Zero", giving the mistaken impression he was responsible for the spread of the disease. Lucy Burns speaks to researcher William Darrow, who worked on the epidemic, and to Gaetan Dugas' friend Rand Gaynor. Photo: Gaetan Dugas. Credit: Rand Gaynor)

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The Hanafi Hostage Siege in Washington DC  

In March 1977 a group of American Muslims took over a hundred people hostage in Washington. The siege ended after ambassadors from three Islamic countries helped with the negotiations. Simon Watts has been speaking to Paul Green, one of the hostages who was held for almost 40 hours. PHOTO: Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the leader of the hostage-takers, arriving for a court hearing in Washington with his wives (AP)

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Georgia O'Keeffe  

Georgia O'Keeffe was one of the world's most influential female artists - in 2014, her painting "Jimson Weed" sold for the highest price ever paid for a work by a woman. Famous for her vivid oil paintings of flowers, landscapes and animal skulls, she lived and worked in the wild dry canyons and deserts of New Mexico in the southern United States. Lucy Burns speaks to her former assistant Agapita Judy Lopez. PICTURE: Journalists view 'Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1' by Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern on July 4, 2016 in London, England. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

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Mexico Slashes Car Use  

In the 1970s and 80s a deadly cocktail of toxic factory fumes and car pollution turned Mexico City into the world’s most polluted city. In response, the authorities came up with an ambitious solution: curb the use of each of the city’s two million cars for one day a week, the first time any country had tried such a bold plan. Ramon Ojeda Mestre is an environmentalist who was behind the initiative, introduced in November 1989. He tells Mike Lanchin about overcoming fierce opposition to the plan, and how some critics even predicted riots from irate motorists. (Photo credit: Alamy)

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Kuwaiti Women Secure The Vote  

On March 7 2005 a group of women held an unprecedented rally outside the Kuwaiti parliament. They were trying to force the all-male body to change the electoral law. Two months later they succeeded. Zeinab Dabaa has been hearing from Rola Dashti, one of the organisers of the protest, who later became one of the first women to be elected to her country's legislature.+ Photo: Kuwaiti candidates for the 2006 parliamentary election, Aisha al-Rshaid (R) and Rola Dashti (C), the first ever women to be allowed to stand for office (YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

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WW1: The Two Women of Pervyse  

During World War One, two British nurses set up a first aid station just a few hundred metres behind the trenches of the Western Front. Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker became known as “the Madonnas of Pervyse”. Mairi Chisholm spoke to the BBC in 1977. (Photo: Mairi Chisholm (left) and Elsie Knocker. courtesy of Dr Diane Atkinson, author of Elsie and Mairi Go To War)

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Eleanor Roosevelt  

On March 4th 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt became America's First Lady, a role she transformed during the 12 years that her husband Franklin D Roosevelt was president. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to her granddaughter and namesake, Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves, who with her young brother lived for a while with her grandparents in the White House. Photograph: Eleanor Roosevelt at a United Nations conference in New York in 1946. She was appointed as a representative to the UN following her husband's death in office in 1945. (Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

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The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks  

In 1951 cells taken from an African American woman suffering from cancer were found to be unique because they carried on reproducing endlessly in the laboratory. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951. Cultures from her cells have since been used to provide medical breakthroughs but as Farhana Haider reports, Henrietta Lacks was never asked if her cells could be used in medical research. (Photo: Henrietta Lacks. Copyright: Lacks Family)

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Mother Teresa - The Nun Who Became A Saint  

In March 1997 Mother Teresa retired from her charity work in India just 6 months before she died. She had devoted her life to working in Kolkata's poorest slums and in 2016, Pope Francis declared her "Saint Teresa of Calcutta". Mari Marcel Thekaekara lived around the corner from Mother Teresa's orphanage and volunteered there as a child, she told Rebecca Kesby about that experience, her own faith, and how she felt conflicted about Mother Teresa’s methods. (PHOTO: AP Mother Teresa holds a child in 1978)

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Obesity  

In 1997 obesity was first recognised as a global problem when the World Health Organisation first agreed to discuss the issue. Researchers had discovered startling information about an increase in the number of overweight people in the developing world. The consultation was led by a group calling itself the International Obesity Task Force which was led by Professor Philip James. He's been telling Claire Bowes how he had to persuade the WHO that areas of the world struggling with malnutrition were now also suffering from obesity. PHOTO: BBC Copyright.

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The Origin of Nollywood  

The story of the 1992 film which launched Nigeria's hugely successful movie industry known as Nollywood. The film was called "Living in Bondage". We speak to one of the stars of the film, Kanayo O. Kanayo. Photo: Kanayo O. Kanayo (Kanayo)

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