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THE OBSERVERS

A show produced with photos, videos and personal accounts from our Observers around the world - all checked by our staff here in Paris. Saturday at 10.15 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2012-01-31

Free Syrian army gains ground, Nairobi slumdwellers are left homeless, and more...

This show is made up entirely of amateur images. We've seen time and time again how images captured by ordinary citizens then uploaded onto the Web can change history, or at least shift the balance of power. This week, we take a look back at some of those moments.

STORY 1: SYRIA

We begin this week with the Free Syrian Army. They’re a group of soldiers who’ve deserted from the Syrian army because they don’t want to turn their guns on their own people. Some have fled the country, but others have stayed to defend the protesters – and fight against their former comrades, who’ve remained loyal to President Bashar al Assad.

It’s impossible to say for sure how many soldiers have deserted – or how many might have joined the Free Syrian Army. But the group appears to be more and more active. Residents of the town of Zabadani say the deserter army managed to force Assad’s troops to withdraw from the town. One of the group’s officers spoke to us from exile in Turkey about what happened.

Captain al Kordi says the Free Syrian Army does not mistreat its prisoners. But a video that surfaced in Homs – another center of deserter activity - raises some questions…

The video was posted in October. It shows a soldier from regular Syrian army who’s been captured by the Free Syrian Army. The video was posted online by a Syrian dissident who’s close to the deserter army. He told us the soldier was not tortured. But when we asked what happened after the interrogation, he told us the Free Syrian Army does not have prisons, so when a prisoner is suspected of firing on protesters, he’s executed. The Free Syrian Army says it had nothing to do with the soldier in the video.

 

 

STORY 2: WORLD

Now it’s time for our weekly best of – the best videos and stories sent in by our Observers.

We begin in one of the biggest slums in Africa, Kibera, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. It’s home to an estimated 170,000 people. The government has pledged to tear down the shacks and build better housing for them. That sounds great, but there’s a catch… the residents would have to pay rent in the new housing – something many of them can’t afford. It's a hard sell for people who built their shanties with their own hands, and considered themselves homeowners.

 

Now to the Maldives, with our Observer Ibrahim Didi. The islands are home to beautiful views, tropical waters … and protests. The Maldivians voted out their longtime ruler four years ago, and replaced him with human rights campaigner and former political prisoner Mohammed Nasheed. There are questions now about the new president, and his government’s commitment to democracy. Our Observer Ibrahim also spent time in prison under the old regime, and he says he’s ready to do the same again to defend the country’s newfound democracy.

 

Bogota, Colombia, is our last stop. Martin Rios drives a horse-drawn cart. He says business is tough at the moment… The city has decided to ban the carts from its streets, saying they’re unhygienic and bad for traffic. The drivers are known as zorreros. They’ve fought back, saying they perform a vital function. Now the authorities say they can stay in business but have to replace their horses with tricycles. No way, says Martin. His horse can pull more than any tricycle, so he’s going to continue to fight.

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