24 episodes

An inspiring documentary series that brings world issues into focus through compelling human stories.

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An inspiring documentary series that brings world issues into focus through compelling human stories.

    • video
    In Enemy Territory: A Colombian Social Leader's Act of Defiance | Witness

    In Enemy Territory: A Colombian Social Leader's Act of Defiance | Witness

    In Colombia's northwest mountains of Uraba lies a farming community that calls itself the "Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado".

    Led by German Graciano, the community has lived in the midst of conflict for nearly 20 years.

    Since it was founded in 1997, more than 300 members of the peace community have been killed either by the FARC, the Colombian army or right-wing paramilitary groups.

    In memory of the fallen, Graciano leads his people, including the elderly, women and children, through the mountainous region to pay their respects to slain community members.

    It is a risky journey that community members have chosen to embark on as an act of defiance against a hostile right-wing paramilitary group. The Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, also known as the AGC and Clan del Golfo, is a threat to the Peace Community, having tried and failed to assassinate Graciano.

    But Graciano is not the only community leader facing death threats. Others have not been so fortunate. Since the landmark peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels in 2016, more than 700 social leaders have been reported killed across the country.

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    • 25 min
    • video
    Escaping Korea's Pacific Cult | 101 East

    Escaping Korea's Pacific Cult | 101 East

    A man sits on a chair, surrounded by a group of men. One by one, they take turns to hit him.

    This is how the Grace Road Church drives the evil from the bodies of its followers, according to former cult members.

    101 East investigates this secretive Korean doomsday cult that has lured hundreds of followers to the Pacific island of Fiji.

    Followers like Lee Yunzae and his wife and children.

    He says cult members were beaten and worked for no pay in the church's businesses.

    After a year, he escaped with all of his family except for his eldest son, who remains in Fiji.

    "Because I took my kids to church, the fact that he's still in Fiji really hurts me. That's why I want my son to wake up to reality and get out of there," he says, as he embarks on a desperate mission to rescue his son.

    This investigation shows how the group continues to operate, despite its founder being convicted of fraud, child abuse and assault.

    In Fiji, Grace Road has fostered close ties with local politicians and won lucrative government contracts.

    Fijians who worked for the church say they were treated like slaves and are fearful of Grace Road's powerful connections.

    In a leaked video, its founder, Shin Ok-ju, has been filmed preaching about the country, saying: "We will rule, govern and conquer."

    101 East reveals the inner workings of the South Korean cult that is tearing families apart.

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    • 25 min
    • video
    Letters from Death Row: Life after Prison in Pakistan | Witness

    Letters from Death Row: Life after Prison in Pakistan | Witness

    Mazhar Farooq remembers being freed after two decades behind bars.

    "After living 21 years in an eight-by-eight foot cell the world seems very strange. I could not even walk properly and would bump into things. Even a caged lion can't walk when set free," says the former inmate from Kasur, Pakistan.

    He was just 22 years old and a university student when he was imprisoned. His father had been murdered and he was in line to inherit his family's land. But before he could, he was implicated in the murder of a local man. There was no supporting evidence; he says his name replaced a suspect's and the medical report was false. The murder weapon was also not his.

    "In Pakistan, whoever is politically strong can exert influence. In jails, in court, everywhere. An ordinary person can't do anything," he says.

    He was given the death penalty, and spent his adulthood on one of the largest death rows in the world, among an estimated 5,000 prisoners in line to be executed in Pakistan.

    Farooq describes living in a small cell, crammed with up to 15 people. All activities - eating, praying, going to the toilet - happened inside the cell. The inmates were allowed outside for one hour each day, still handcuffed. They were beaten and tortured. And all the while, their sentences loomed.

    "Two days before an execution, they isolate the condemned man. He meets other prisoners and asks them to pray for him. It's terrifying. You realise we are all passengers on the same train. Some are boarding and others departing. When you can see your own death, only a few can actually walk up to the gallows."

    As years passed he wrote letters to his family and leaned into his faith to find patience and strength. The Lahore High Court rejected his appeal after 11 years on death row, and he appealed to the Supreme Court. He would eventually send a letter to the chief justice in a last bid for appeal, which was finally granted.

    But gaining his freedom was just the first step. Now Farooq must build a new life for himself, find a new career, and reckon with a past that still guides his every step.

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    • 25 min
    • video
    Women of ISIL: Life Inside the Caliphate | Witness

    Women of ISIL: Life Inside the Caliphate | Witness

    Teachers, nurses, mothers, torturers - under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group's rule, women played crucial roles in the organisation, some as willing participants, others as coerced victims.

    Through a series of rare testimonies, women from Syria and Iraq share what everyday life was like under the armed group.

    Their accounts reveal an organisation that is both brutal and uncompromising.

    Women hired as religious police patrolled the streets, looking for people who broke dress codes or committed other moral offences. Teachers taught schoolchildren Islamic lessons beyond their age. Nurses were forced to work at ISIL-controlled hospitals. Schools were closed and repurposed as training centres. Make-up was forbidden. Movement was restricted.

    And torture was a regular punishment, used for offences as minor as wearing nail polish.

    In Women of ISIL, we speak to the women fully integrated into the organisation, playing active roles in punishment and torture, as well as those who resisted through everyday acts of defiance, including running a salon, or teaching schoolchildren in private.

    They recall a time when even the police were policed, spies were surveilled, and women paid the ultimate price for a violent rule of law.

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    • 47 min
    • video
    The Dancer Thieves: A Second Chance for Prisoners in Burkina Faso | Witness

    The Dancer Thieves: A Second Chance for Prisoners in Burkina Faso | Witness

    Aguibou Bougobali Sanou is on a mission to share his love of dance with an unexpected group of students - the inmates of Bobo-Dioulasso prison in Burkina Faso.

    The Burkinabe choreographer aims to give them something that is in short supply in their overcrowded cells: Hope.

    "Open up as you dance," Sanou says to his students as they practise their moves, their shoes piled outside the rehearsal room door. Drummers play in a corner, and the men move in steady rhythm across the room.

    "Open up and dance big. Now come back, we are all too close to each other," he says.

    Sanou hopes that in his classes, he can help his students work through their emotions and reflect on their pasts. He aims to provide them with skills that will stop them from reoffending once they are free citizens.

    "I don't do anything but dance," he tells his students. "It has given me everything. Now we need to prepare psychologically, mentally and intellectually. So when you leave, you will be prepared no matter what people say."

    But throughout the months of dance practice, Sanou faces his own critics. He hopes to take his students outside the prison walls and perform in public, but those closest to him advise him against it, and prison staff say the inmates cannot be trusted.

    He secures the approvals needed to take them out, but in the weeks leading up to their performance, his plans threaten to unravel.

    Will the authorities let him take the prisoners outside the prison walls? Can Sanou himself make sure he can trust them? And if they do go, will the world beyond their jail cells respond to these dancing prisoners of Bobo-Dioulasso the way Sanou imagines they would?

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    • 47 min
    • video
    Sierra Leone: The Husband School | Witness

    Sierra Leone: The Husband School | Witness

    Pidia Joseph Allieu has made it his life's work to eradicate sexual violence in Sierra Leone.

    Although the precise figures are impossible to confirm, it's estimated that more than 200,000 women were the victims of gender-based violence during the country's devastating 1991-2002 civil war - and this legacy of abuse has endured.

    As a teacher at the Husband School, Pidia attempts to make fundamental changes in the arena where some of the worst crimes are committed - marriage.

    He leads classes for men in a rural area in eastern Sierra Leone, inviting them to share their views on the treatment of women and helping them to build a better understanding of the consequences of their attitudes and actions.

    For many of these men - some past retirement age - this is the first time they have been in a formal classroom situation, but once a week for six months they take a break from their work and voluntarily participate in the training sessions. The idea is to open their minds to the bigger picture and encourage them to embark on a different, more mutually respectful relationship with their wives.

    It is also not unusual for Pidia to be the first point of contact when a family reaches crisis point and acts of violence are committed.

    "People trust me because my family have always lived in this neighbourhood; it's why they call me first rather than the police," he says.

    But, as with many NGO projects in Sierra Leone, funding for the Husband School is inconsistent and Pidia goes months on end without payment. Nevertheless, Pidia is determined to continue his work, knowing that many families in the community rely on his support.

    "I am not doing my job for money," says Pidia. "It's a passion. Because I know it's life-saving."

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    • 25 min

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