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The Observers

Brave teachers reopen schools in Central African Republic, AIDS sufferers face stigma in Iran, 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.

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Story 1: Central African Republic

We begin today in the Central African Republic, a small country right in the heart of the continent that is descending into chaos, according to the UN. Rebels who took power earlier this year are still terrorizing civilians around the country, and violence is on the rise between Muslims and Christians. But in the town of Bozoum, in the west, residents are determined to keep things running as normal - especially the schools. Here's our Observer, Father Aurelio Gazzera.

 

Story 2: Iran

Now to Iran, whose Islamic authorities often complain about the proliferation of AIDS in the country. There are no reliable figures on the number of Iranians who are HIV-positive, but those who are too often face ignorance and rejection, often from their own family. Activists say that's because there's little public education about the disease.

 

Story 3: World

Now for our weekly roundup of other images and stories sent in by our Observers.

First stop Saudi Arabia. These photos were taken at a center for the mentally handicapped in the south of the country, Douasser. They provoked a storm of indignation in a country where there are frequent complaints about the treatment of the mentally ill, says our Observer Ghazi. He was impressed, though, with the authorities' quick response. They're conducting an investigation and promise to discipline anyone involved in mistreatment.

Now to Russia, where attacks targeting gay people are on the rise. Here we see students in the city of Belgorod humiliating an exchange student from Swaziland. After luring him to their room, they accused him of being a pedophile - an accusation often used by Russian homophobes to target gay people. When the young man contacted university authorities to complain, their reaction was to expel him, not the students who were tormenting him.

And finally today, pink panties - in the sky above Pyongyang, capital of the world's most closed state, North Korea. Panties in a hotel lobby, panties in hallways... It's the work of Swedish underwear maker Bjorn Borg. The company asked Web users what country in the world most needed a dose of glamour. 60 percent said North Korea, so an emissary went and quietly deposited 150 pairs of pink panties around the country.

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