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2020 by FRANCE 24’s Observers


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Though the the year 2020 has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, other events have also marked the lives of our Observers throughout the world. From Beirut to the United States to Nagorno-Karabakh, they have given us their testimony.

In Beirut, a giant explosion destroys everything in its path

On August 4, the world discovered these shocking images that began to spread on social networks. 

A huge explosion struck the heart of Beirut, the Lebanese capital. A few days later, the authorities counted 204 dead, more than 6,500 injured and billions of dollars worth of damage.

In the hours and days following the disaster, medical services were overwhelmed by having to treat both the injured from the blast and those infected with Covid-19. Our Observers, the Lebanese healthcare workers, told us about their experience.

Read more on the Observers >> Explosion in Beirut: hospitals overwhelmed in the distressed capital

 

In Northern Mozambique, a conflict and its forgotten IDPs

The situation in Mozambique also caught our attention. We were able to talk with the victims of the conflict between the authorities and an Islamic terrorist group in the country’s far north.

Our observers provided us with numerous images documenting the consequences of the conflict on the local populations, who were forced to flee.

The image on the left shows a scorched home in Cabo Delgado. The image on the right shows people fleeing Mocimboa da Praia, which was attacked by insurgents on June 27. © Pinnacle News

​​​​​​Read more on the Observers >> Thousands flee Islamist insurgents in northern Mozambique

 

Locusts invade Kenya and jeopardising the country’s food security

At the beginning of the year, an invasion of locusts caused great concern to Kenyan farmers and herders, who saw these insects devour everything in their path, thus jeopardising the country’s food security. 

Read more on the Observers >> Kenyan farmers suffer as swarms of locusts devastate their land

 

A Cameroonian traveler wrapped in plastic film during his expulsion from Turkey

In February, several internet users sent us images showing a particularly violent repatriation on board a Turkish Airlines plane. A deported man had been tied up with plastic film and had to be taken back to his home country.

We investigated these images and found the victim, a Cameroonian shoe merchant who had stopped in Istanbul on his way to Dubai.

Read more on the Observers >> ‘They wrapped me up like a package’: A Cameroonian’s harrowing deportation from Turkey

 

Amateur videos confirm the presence of Syrian mercenaries in Nagorno- Karabakh

In October, the Caucasus region erupted when Azerbaijan declared war on Armenia over a territorial dispute. Both countries claim sovereignty over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Amateur videos, often taken by soldiers at the front and shared in private messaging channels, confirmed the presence of controversial mercenaries in the Azerbaijani ranks.

Syrian mercenaries exchange fire with Armenian soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh at the beginning of October. In the centre, a young Syrian films himself on the frontline during a bombardment near Horadiz.
Syrian mercenaries exchange fire with Armenian soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh at the beginning of October. In the centre, a young Syrian films himself on the frontline during a bombardment near Horadiz. © Observers

Similarly, several videos have documented cases of vandalism of Armenian cultural heritage in the areas taken over by Azerbaijan.

On November 10, Azerbaijan finally declared victory in the more than month-long war.

Read more on the Observers >> Videos shared on social media show Syrians sent to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh

 

Guinean policemen use a woman as a human shield on the sidelines of a demonstration

On the African continent, there were numerous cases of police and military violence against civilians. In a 3-minute video filmed in January, Guinean police officers used a woman as a human shield as they confronted young people at a demonstration.

Screengrab from a video from Guinea showing police officers apparently using a woman as a human shield.
Screengrab from a video from Guinea showing police officers apparently using a woman as a human shield. © Guinée Morale

We tried to find out more by geolocating the video and collecting testimony from several witnesses. The images embody “a tradition of impunity for violations committed by the security forces” according to an Amnesty International researcher.

Read more on the Observers >> Video shows police in Guinea using a woman as a human shield   

 

Dolphins victims of the oil spill on the beaches of Mauritius

On July 25, a Japanese bulk carrier, the MV Wakashio, ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, spilling nearly 1,000 tons of fuel oil. According to several of our Observers on the island, this pollution had a direct impact on the marine fauna.

Left: four dead dolphins found at Petit Sable beach. Centre: locals assess the damage, a dead dolphin in the background. Right: a local resident rolls over a dead dolphin at Petit Sable.
Left: four dead dolphins found at Petit Sable beach. Centre: locals assess the damage, a dead dolphin in the background. Right: a local resident rolls over a dead dolphin at Petit Sable. © Observers

“When I arrived [on the beaches] yesterday morning, there was a sense of sadness and anger among the residents. In Petit Sable, the oil spill was still very much present. A little further on, volunteers were fishing for a carcass. The animal had traces of fuel oil in its mouth,” one of our Observers told us.

Read more on the Observers >> Dozens of dead dolphins wash ashore after oil spill near ‘idyllic’ Mauritius

 

In the United States, a civilian shoots at the crowd during a Black Lives Matter demonstration

Following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis when he was arrested by police, the issues of police violence and racial discrimination returned to the forefront and sparked a wave of protests in the United States.

When Jacob Blake was paralysed after a police shooting in the town of Kenosha, demonstrations were organised in the ongoing “Black Lives Matter” movement. During one of them, a teenager, allegedly a member of a self-defence militia, fired into the crowd. Two people were killed and one seriously injured.

Left: Kyle Rittenhouse has been arrested for shootings during a Kenosha, Wisconsin protest on August 25. Right: Armed civilians protect a petrol station from looting during the third night of protests August 25.
Left: Kyle Rittenhouse has been arrested for shootings during a Kenosha, Wisconsin protest on August 25. Right: Armed civilians protect a petrol station from looting during the third night of protests August 25. © Twitter

Our Observer participated in the demonstrations regularly and witnessed the scene. He told us what he saw.

Read more on the Observers >> Eyewitness to Wisconsin shootings: ‘He came with a gun and was picking fights’

 

In Mauritania, police officers imitate Derek Chauvin’s gesture, reviving the debate on racism and slavery

The wave of outrage over the death of George Floyd quickly crossed the American borders and gave weight to many anti-racist struggles. In Mauritania, the brutal arrest of a black man in June showed the same “technique” used by the Minneapolis police officer.

Two Mauritanian police officers hold a Black man on the ground, facedown. One of the officers has his knee pressed into the man’s neck, drawing comparisons to the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Two Mauritanian police officers hold a Black man on the ground, facedown. One of the officers has his knee pressed into the man’s neck, drawing comparisons to the police killing of George Floyd in the United States. © Facebook

These shocking images, a Mauritanian echo of the international news, raised awareness of the discrimination suffered by the black community in this country, and on the systems of slavery sometimes still affecting them.  

Read more on the Observers >> Photo of a police officer pressing a knee into the neck of the “Mauritanian George Floyd” sparks anger

 

On the border between Iran and Afghanistan, dozens of migrants drowned by border guards

In May, our team investigated a case of human rights violations by law enforcement officials. In a series of amateur videos broadcast in Afghanistan, we see several bodies washed up on a river bed.

Amateur videos circulating on social media in Afghanistan show bodies of Afghan migrants drowned in the Harirud river on the border with Iran on May 1, 2020. Survivors say they were forced into the river by Iranian border guards.
Amateur videos circulating on social media in Afghanistan show bodies of Afghan migrants drowned in the Harirud river on the border with Iran on May 1, 2020. Survivors say they were forced into the river by Iranian border guards. © Observers

These images show an incident that occurred on April 30 on the border between Iran and Afghanistan. Several Afghan workers who wanted to return to Iran during a lull in the Covid-19 pandemic were ordered to return to Afghanistan by border guards.

According to the survivors, these Iranian officers threatened to kill them if they did not swim across the river. At least 17 of the 57 migrants died from drowning and 20 were reported missing.

Read more on the Observers >> Investigation: videos reveal location of mass drowning on Iran-Afghan border

 

 



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