Look behind the headlines in the Middle East

This week, The I Files is featuring a roundup of investigations from across the Middle East, with videos highlighting the stories behind the headlines from Egypt, the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Iran.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi caused shockwaves last month with a sweeping decree that his decisions were above any judicial review or oversight, sparking widespread protests and allegations that Egypt’s first freely elected president was looking to establish himself as another autocratic despot or self-styled pharaoh. While Morsi has issued a follow-up explanation to seemingly limit the scope and timetable of these powers, the opposition has taken to the streets to call for his removal.

For more context on the history and fallout of the Egyptian revolution to date, watch Al-Jazeera’s People & Power documentary “Egypt: The Future Awaits.” Al-Jazeera followed a group of young activists over a two-year period – from the historic protests that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak through their rocky aftermath. Al-Jazeera examines how the activists have been faring since Morsi’s election and documents their quest to safeguard the ideals of their nascent revolution.

We’ve also reposted an earlier story on Egypt, an excerpt from the documentary “1/2 Revolution.” In this clip, director Karim El Hakim details the genesis of his film and explains why Egypt’s revolution is still unfinished, despite Mubarak’s historic ouster.

 

Meanwhile, talks are beginning in Cairo to hammer out details of the tenuous cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. The cease-fire ended eight days of hostilities that recalled some of the worst fighting from the last outbreak of violence four years ago.

A small crew from Vice gained access to Gaza last year after Egypt’s post-Mubarak regime started allowing limited border crossings. Their report, “Crime and Punishment in the Gaza Strip,” details what life in Gaza is really like under the rule of the Hamas government.

Gaza Doctor,” a 2009 documentary by ABC Australia, tells the extraordinary story of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish and the devastating effect of the conflict in Gaza on his family. Abuelaish was well known and highly respected as one of the few Palestinians able to bridge the gap between Israelis and Arabs, working as a doctor in Israel and living in the Gaza Strip. His role as a peaceful intermediary was sorely tested when, in the final days of the Gaza conflict four years ago, Israeli shells hit his home in Gaza, killing three of his daughters.

We’re also featuring “What Killed Arafat,” Al-Jazeera’s nine-month investigation that prompted the Palestinian Authority to exhume the body of former President Yasser Arafat last week in order to examine claims that he was assassinated. The film details how Swiss doctors discovered high levels of a rare and deadly radioactive substance in Arafat’s belongings and raises questions about who might have been responsible.

For background on last week’s historic United Nations vote to effectively recognize Palestine as its own state, watch "Shattered Hopes." The documentary portrays the Palestinian view on the need for official statehood and independence, though suggests that little might change in the near future for those living under occupation in the West Bank.

Events in the Palestinian territories and Egypt seemed to briefly overshadow the ongoing civil war in Syria, though violence there continues to escalate. In a gritty first-person account, Vice profiles a field hospital in Aleppo that recently was destroyed by rocket fire from Syrian government troops. Videographer Robert King captured vivid and disturbing video of the immediate aftermath of the bombing.

As one of the last places to treat civilians caught in the crossfire of the civil war, this makeshift hospital had been featured in previous reports by Vice and the BBC. Warning: Both videos contain graphic and distressing images of war casualties and very young victims. The I Files team had a long debate about whether to post these stories, but in the end, we believe that the need to convey the scope of the conflict outweighed concerns about the offending images.

In “Syria’s Forgotten,” The New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof profiles a group of displaced Syrians at a refugee camp along the border with Turkey. He delves into the personal stories that often are buried behind the geopolitical headlines and urges the international community to do more to stave off a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

The I Files is also highlighting a courageous piece of reporting from Iran. In a joint investigation by PBS NewsHour and the Center for Investigative Reporting, an Iranian journalist went undercover to investigate the Iranian government’s crackdown not only on human rights activists, but also on the people who try to defend them and tell their stories.

Given all of this, have you ever wondered why someone would dare to become a human rights lawyer in Iran? This innovative piece by The Guardian attempts to answer that question. Mixing animation and reporting, this short film tells the story of Mohammad Mostafaei, a lawyer who has saved 20 of the 40 juveniles he has defended from execution in Iran.

Finally, for those who are new to The I Files, we’ve just added a fun new introduction to our channel, narrated by actor Peter Coyote. Take a look and let us know what you think.

 

We’re always on the lookout for the latest and greatest investigations from around the world. Have you seen a worthy story that we’ve overlooked? Tweet us: @ifiles.

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