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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Walls of Shame Series (Al Jazeera)

It matters little what they are called – whether walls, barriers or fences - the intention is the same: to redefine human relations into 'us' and 'them'. This series is about division, and about the barriers that men erect, in calculation or desperation, to separate themselves from others, or others from them. When diplomacy and conciliation fail, this is the alternative, and not since medieval times have walls been so in demand around the world. Tens of new walls, barriers and fences are currently being built, while old ones are being renovated. And there are many types: barriers between countries, walls around cities and fences that zig-zag through neighbourhoods.

This series will look at four examples of new and extended walls around the world. It will examine the lives of those who are living next to them and how their lives are impacted. It will also reveal the intention of the walls' designers and builders, and explore the novel and artistic ways walls are used to chronicle the past and imagine the future.

The Walls of Shame series takes its name from John F. Kennedy's reference to the Berlin Wall in his state of the union address in 1963. It will examine four new walls: The one on the American-Mexican border, the West Bank wall, the Spanish fence around Ceuta, and the walls inside the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland.


Episode 1: US/Mexico

A border of more than 3,000 kilometres separates the US from Mexico - but it is defined not only by physical barriers made of concrete and steel but by an immigration policy which is failing to address the issues behind illegal migration.

Despite the US spending billions of dollars on border enforcement, the lure of work sees illegal migrants enter the country at a rate of 850,000 a year.

A series of walls along the Mexican border were designed to stem this flow but based on current estimates it has failed.

Instead, the walls have re-routed human traffic into remote desert areas where people risk their lives in deadly conditions attempting to enter the US.

Episode 2: Morroco/Spain

The city of Ceuta is the southernmost outpost of fortress Europe. Yet it is on mainland Africa – opposite the Straights of Gibraltar. It is one of the last vestiges of Spanish rule in northern Morocco.

Madrid insists it will never relinquish control and has cordoned it off – prompting comparison with other walls of shame.

Now, though, there are growing demands for a more constructive approach to the
problem of illegal immigration. One man has already started a grass-roots initiative that proved much more successful than walls and fences.

But within the town of Ceuta is another divide – a social division that is religious and economic - between the wealthy Christian Spaniards and their poorer Muslim compatriots of Moroccan descent.

Part 3: West Bank

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A look at the most controversial wall in the world today. We look at the plight of Palestinian farmers whose land became inaccessible because of the wall, and the real intention of those who first drew its outlines

Part 4: Belfast

The modern history of Northern Ireland has been dominated by one thing, 'The Troubles' - a violent, bitter conflict, both political and religious, between those claiming to represent the predominantly Catholic nationalists and those claiming to represent the mainly Protestant unionists.

But what Northern Ireland has now is not so much 'peace' as 'an absence of conflict' after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Far from disappearing, the walls have grown. Instead of reconciliation, there is partition – an ill-tempered stalemate of separate identities and separated lives.

Broadly speaking, the nationalists – also called 'Republicans' - want Northern Ireland to be unified with the Republic of Ireland while the unionists want it to remain part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Scotland.

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