Witness

Witness

Australia

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

Episodes

Dadaab: The World's Largest Refugee Camp  

In the early 1990s, Somalia was consumed by civil war and famine. Millions fled their homes. Many tried to reach neighbouring Kenya in search of survival. In response, the UN set up a refugee camp complex at Dadaab, in a remote part of Eastern Kenya. It became the largest refugee camp in the world. At its height Dadaab was home to 500,000 refugees, most of them Somalis. But the Kenyan government has now announced that it will close down the camp and return the refugees to Somalia. We hear the story of Zamzam Abdi Gelle, a young woman who arrived in Dadaab 25 years ago, after her family was attacked in war torn Somalia. Photo: Dadaab refugee camp in 2011 (BBC)

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The Murder of Journalist Hrant Dink  

On 19 January 2007, Hrant Dink, Turkey's most prominent Armenian journalist was shot dead by an ultra-nationalist teenager in front of his office in Istanbul. Dink had founded Turkey's only bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos. The murderer confessed to the crime saying he'd killed Dink 'for insulting Turks'. Turkish writer Ece Temelkuran spoke to Cagil Kasapoglu about the day she lost her friend. Photo: Hrant Dink is pictured on May 19, 2005. (Credit: Burak Kara / Getty Images)

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The End of El Salvador's Civil War  

In January 1992 a peace treaty was signed by El Salvador's Marxist FMLN rebels and the US-backed government to end one of the most bitterly fought Cold War conflicts in Latin America. It took two years of UN-brokered negotiations to reach a deal, which saw the FMLN lay down its weapons and become a legal political party. In return, the government agreed to radical reforms of the military and the creation of a new civilian police force. Mike Lanchin hears from a former female guerrilla about her experience of war and peace. Photo: Two women launch doves during celebrations in San Salvador of the peace accords signed by the government and the guerrillas (FRANCISCO CAMPOS/AFP/Getty Images)

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US Presidential Transitions  

What exactly goes on during the months between the election of a President and their inauguration? Witness looks at past 'transition' periods and hears from Senator Ted Kaufman the man who re-wrote the rules about how the US government handover should take place. Photo: President Obama with President-elect Trump in the White House. Credit: Getty Images.

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Princess Diana's Minefield Walk  

In January 1997 the world's most famous woman, Diana Princess of Wales, called for an international ban on landmines. She was visiting Angola where she caught global attention by walking through a live minefield. Paul Heslop from the Halo Trust helped organise the Princess' visit and was with her during her iconic walk. He spoke to Farhana Haider about the impact of Princess Diana's campaign. Photo: Princess Diana with Paul Heslop in a landmine field in Angola, 15th January 1997. (Credit: Alamy)

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Chicago's Police Torture  

In January 2003, the city's governor announced that four men living on death row were to be pardoned. They had given false confessions after being tortured by police. Darrell Cannon, another of the victims, and his lawyer Flint Taylor spoke to Rachael Gillman for Witness. Photo credit: Tim Boyle

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The Zimmermann Telegram  

In 1917, British code-breakers exposed a German plot against the United States which helped alter the course of World War One . The US had remained neutral during the first three years of war. But by 1917, Germany was planning to restart unrestricted submarine warfare, which it feared would trigger America's entry into the war on the Allied side. So the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann, proposed a Mexican attack on the United States. Photo: (L) The Zimmermann telegram in code as sent from Washington to Mexico (R) A portion of the telegram as decrypted by British intelligence.(US National Archives and Record Administration)

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Turkey's Headscarf Row  

In May 1999, a newly elected woman MP for the pro-Islamic Virtue Party in Turkey, Merve Kavakci, appeared in parliament wearing a headscarf. She faced a strong reaction from secular MPs and the Prime Minister at the time. She was booed, shouted at and prevented from taking her oath of office. Merve Kavakci spoke to Cagil Kasapoglu about that day. Photo: Merve Kavakci in the Turkish parliament. (Credit: Turkish Assembly TV)

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Death in the Amazon  

In January 1956, members of the Auca tribe in Ecuador attacked and killed five American missionaries. They had made contact with the isolated tribe to try to convert them to Christianity. Mike Lanchin speaks to Steve Saint and Valerie Shepard, children of two of the victims, who later met their fathers' killers. Photo: Nate Saint and Wao, a member of the Auca tribe, January 1956 (courtesy of Saint family)

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Albania's Economic Chaos  

Albania was hit by a wave of violent unrest in January 1997 after the collapse of 'pyramid' investment schemes. At least two-thirds of the population had invested in the get-rich-quick schemes. Demonstrators took to the streets calling for the resignation of the Albanian President Sali Berisha. Soon protesters were clashing with armed police. Monica Whitlock speaks to Lorina Naci who was a schoolgirl in Tirana at the time. (Photo: The Albanian capital Tirana in January 1997. Credit: Associated Press)

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Charter 77  

In January 1977 an opposition movement began in Czechoslovakia with a call for human rights. More than 200 writers and intellectuals signed the original Charter - many of them were then arrested. One of the leaders of the movement was Vaclav Havel, the playwright who went on to become President after the fall of communism. Louise Hidalgo has spoken to Martin Palouš who was one of the original signatories. Photo: Vaclav Havel talking about Charter 77 in 1978. Credit: Getty Images.

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Vietnam War: The Cu Chi Tunnels  

Vietnamese veteran, Le Van Lang, remembers the war in the Viet Cong's underground tunnel network in South Vietnam. A resident of Cu Chi district, 20 km north of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) he helped construct the tunnels and joined the insurgency against the South Vietnamese government and their American allies. The vast tunnel network became a key base and shelter for Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese units during the war, Photo: A Vietnamese soldier in a preserved section of tunnel in the Cu Chi district, 1979 (BBC)

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Russia's 'Dog Man'  

In November 1994, the Russian conceptual artist Oleg Kulik posed in front of an art gallery in central Moscow, naked, pretending to be a guard dog and attacking passers by. It was his way of highlighting the fact since the collapse of the USSR three years earlier, Russians had lost their ability to relate to each other, and were reduced to living like animals. Dina Newman speaks to Kulik about his protest performance, which made him famous around the world. Photo: Oleg Kulik impersonating a Mad Dog, 25th Nov 1994, Moscow. Credit: private archive

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The Launch of Vogue Russia  

After the collapse of the USSR, Vogue Magazine launched in Russia in 1998. But it was a difficult beginning for the glossy fashion publication as the country was in the middle of an economic crisis at the time. Aliona Doletskaya was the first Editor in Chief, and she told Rebecca Kesby how she wanted to represent the best of Russian design as well as bring the West to Russians. (Photo: Russian top model Natalia Vodianova holds up a T-shirt decorated with her portrait in front of a poster of her at the Vogue Fashion's Night Out in Moscow. Credit: EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV)

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The Nuclear Legacy  

One of the most potentially dangerous legacies of the collapse of the Soviet Union was its huge nuclear arsenal and nuclear weapons industry. There were particular concerns about the Soviets' former nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, a vast swathe of contaminated land where there were tunnels with spent plutonium. When the Soviet Union ended, the site was left open to scavengers. Louise Hidalgo has been hearing from the former head of America's nuclear weapons laboratory, Dr Siegfried Hecker, about the long secret operation by Russian and American scientists to make the site safe in what's been called the greatest nuclear non-proliferation story never told. Photo: the first historic visit by American nuclear scientists to the secret Soviet city of Sarov where Moscow developed nuclear weapons, February 1992. First on the left is the great Russian physicist, Alexander Pavlovsky. Next, looking down, is Yuli Khariton, the father of the Soviet atomic bomb. Opposite, with a white turtle-neck jumper, is Dr Siegfreid Hecker, then director of Los Alamos Laboratory where America developed the world's first nuclear bomb (Credit: Dr Siegfreid Hecker)

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Georgia In Crisis  

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, freedom came at a price for some of the newly independent Soviet states. Georgia found itself on the verge of civil war, while President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was forced into hiding and gunmen took to the streets. In 2010 Tom Esslemont spoke to a survivor of Georgia's crisis. Photo: Former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia (L) with bodyguards in the bunker underneath the parliament in Tbilisi during Georgia's brief civil war. (Photo IGOR ZAREMBO/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Break-Up of the Soviet Union  

In December 1991 the leaders of three Soviet Republics - Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia - signed a treaty dissolving the USSR. They did it without asking the other republics, and against the wishes of the USSR's overall President Mikhail Gorbachev. By the end of the year Gorbachev had resigned and the Soviet Union was no more. Dina Newman has spoken to the former President of Belorussia, Stanislav Shushkevich, and the former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, who signed that historic document alongside Boris Yeltsin. Photo: the leader of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, the leader of Belorussia, Stanislav Shushkevich and the leader of Russia, Boris Yeltsin at the signing ceremony. Credit: AP

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Apollo 8  

The biggest audience in TV history watch NASA's Apollo 8 mission beam back the first pictures from an orbit around the moon at Christmas 1968. The broadcast captured the world's imagination and put the Americans ahead of the Soviet Union in the Cold War battle to put the first men on the moon. Simon Watts talks to Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman. Picture: The Earth as seen from the Moon, photographed by the Apollo 8 crew (NASA)

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Samuel Beckett  

On December 22nd 1989, the great Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett died. Beckett, whose play Waiting for Godot had revolutionised post-war theatre, was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to fellow playwright and film director Israel Horovitz who was Samuel Beckett's friend. Photograph: Writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) (Credit: Reg Lancaster/Getty Images)

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Turkey-Greece Island Dispute  

A Turkish cargo ship ran aground on a tiny rocky island in the Aegean Sea in December 1995. But a dispute between Turkey and Greece over who owned the island sovereignty almost brought the two nations to war. Agreement still hasn't been reached over the territory called Kardak by the Turks and Imia by the Greeks. Cagil Kasapoglu spoke to the former Turkish diplomat Onur Oymen and the former Greek foreign minister, Theodoros Pangalos, about the crisis. Photo: Turkish journalists prepare a Turkish flag to replace the Greek flag on Kardak/Imia island, January 27, 1996 (AP Photo/Hurriyet)

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