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Nawal Al Maghafi

Nawal Al Maghafi Nawal Al-Maghafi, a 28 year old London based Yemeni has been reporting on the Middle East since 2012 - she is a middle east Special Correspondent for the BBC

Over the past three years, she has been one of the few journalists conducting firsthand reporting of the ongoing conflict in Yemen; travelling extensively throughout the country, both in areas under Houthi rebel and government control.

Her reporting has documented the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, including the bombing, starvation and spread of disease across Yemen. Her investigation into a 2015 attack on a Yemeni funeral — the deadliest of the conflict so far — provided key evidence in the case against weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by the US and UK.

She has travelled across the Middle East to investigate how Mass Surveillance technology sold by BAE systems was being used by repressive Gulf states to monitor and stifle dissent by local human rights activists.

Weapons of Mass Surveillance Video Trailer (watch at link below)
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Her reporting has also uncovered the complicity of the Egyptian army in the booming trade in organ trafficking across North Africa.

Nawal's impressive journalism career started when she travelled back home to Yemen after completing a degree in Economics with Politics at the University of Nottingham.

Nawal Al MaghafiOnce back in Yemen, she began to make her own videos about the Arab Spring. Her reports on the revolution were noticed by the BBC and she has continued to report on the ongoing conflict in Yemen since for BBC News at Ten, BBC Our World and BBC Arabic.

In December 2016, Nawal's coverage led to the DEC Yemen appeal raising over £25 million for those affected in the first two weeks of her coverage.

During the investigation of the deadliest bomb attack of the conflict by the Saudi-led coalition, Nawal revealed the use of "double tap attacks", which are against international humanitarian law, and was the only journalist to speak to the main commanders on both sides.

As well as her reports on Yemen's war and the country's cholera outbreak, the 27-year-old journalist has investigated high-tech mass surveillance technology and worked undercover to expose organ trafficking in Egypt.

Nawal's outstanding journalism career started when she travelled back home to Yemen after completing a degree in Economics with Politics at the University of Nottingham. Back in Yemen, she began to make her own videos about the Arab Spring.

She reported and directed Starving Yemen, she was one of the first journalists to enter Sadah and gain an exclusive interview with one of the key leaders of the Houthi movement.

She has reported across the border in Saudi Arabia on the conditions facing the Shi’a population there.

She reported a BBC World film on Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family, interviewing the former President and his close associates.

Nawal Al MaghafiShe has also documented the journey of Ethiopian migrants traveling to Saudi Arabia for work and the stories of those who were kidnapped and tortured in Yemen, including at the hands of members of the Yemeni military.

Most recently she worked on two films with BBC Newsnight investigating the UK and US role in the war in Yemen and has contributed is a frequent writer on The Telegraph, Middle East Eye amongst other publications like UOL, The Guardian, Época, The Telegraph, The Times, The New Yorker and Middle East Eye.

She was a UN Leo Navas Award recipient, RTS and Amnesty Young Journo 2018.

Over the past three years, Nawal al-Maghafi has been one of the few journalists conducting first-hand reporting of the ongoing conflict in Yemen; travelling extensively throughout the country, both in areas under Houthi rebel and government control.

Her reporting has documented the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, including the bombing, starvation and spread of disease across Yemen.

Her investigation into a 2015 attack on a Yemeni funeral - the deadliest of the conflict so far has provided key evidence in the case against weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by the US and UK.

She has travelled across the Middle East to investigate how Mass Surveillance technology sold by BAE systems was being used by repressive Gulf states to monitor and stifle dissent by local human rights activists.

Her reporting has also uncovered the complicity of the Egyptian army in the booming trade in organ trafficking across North Africa. She is a regular expert and consultant on Yemen political affairs for NGO’s, think tanks such as Chatham House, RUSI, ODI, US Peace Institute amongst others.

Nawal Al MaghafiPart of a group of 101 runners based in 11 different countries, Nawal Al-Maghafi ran an hour time slot to try and reach their combined goal of 1001km.

Some of the runners ran through the night to try and to reach this target. The event was all in aid of the Save The Children’s Yemen Appeal.

In addition to the five years of war, famine and cholera epidemics Yemen is now having to face Covid 19. Yemen’s healthcare system has collapsed and 80 percent of the population of 24 million people rely on humanitarian aid.

The BBC's Panorama investigates the use of chemical weapons in the civil war that's torn Syria apart in the last seven years. President Assad and his allies Russia and Iran, have consistently denied the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons.

But Nawal Al-Maghafi's shocking expose reveals the true extent of chemical weapons use by the regime, and shows they are a crucial part of his war winning strategy, terrorizing and driving out civilians from opposition held areas.

Though the Syrian government is now saying it's safe for refugees to return, few dare to go back home. With extraordinary footage from inside the city of Idlib, the one remaining rebel outpost, Panorama reveals the lasting impact of these weapons.

In the series of Panorama programmes in October 2018, Nawal al-Maghafi focused on Syria and its alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians since 2011, reporting that President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Russia and Iran had consistently denied they had used chemical weapons.

Nawal Al MaghafiBut Nawal al-Maghafi's shocking expose was nevertheless said to reveal the true extent of chemical weapons use by Assad, and to show they are a crucial part of his war-winning strategy, terrorising and driving out civilians from opposition held areas:

"Never before have chemical weapons have been used in this way and to this extent - but Panorama shows the White Helmets have been unable to prevent it."

Nawal heard from families who've fled their homes and joined the 13 million displaced people and refugees. Though the Syrian government is now saying it's safe for refugees to return, few Al Qaeda terrorists are prepared to risk going back home.

This Yemeni/ British journalist and filmmaker as had her work featured at Channel 4, BBC Newsnight, BBC World and BBC Arabic, amongst others.

She has reported on and directed 'Starving Yemen'. She was also one of the first journalists to enter Sadah and gain an exclusive interview with one of the key leaders of the Houthi movement.

Aditionally, Al-Magahfi has reported across the border in Saudi Arabia on the conditions facing the Shi’a population there. She reported a BBC World film on Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family, interviewing the former President and his close associates.

She has also documented the journey of Ethiopian migrants traveling to Saudi Arabia for work and the stories of those who were kidnapped and tortured in Yemen, including at the hands of members of the Yemeni military.

More recently, she has worked on two films with BBC Newsnight investigating the UK and US role in the war in Yemen and has contributed is a frequent writer on The Telegraph, Middle East Eye amongst other publications.

With extraordinary footage from inside the city of Idlib, the one remaining rebel outpost, Nawal reveals that the White Helmets and other terrorists are hoping to be resettled in the West, including the UK.

"A Syrian man named Abu Jaffar kindly invited us into his home and into his life. He told us about the terrifying final days in Aleppo and how he and his family survived the siege, bombing and chemical attacks.

He worked as a forensic scientist with the opposition and recieved body after body killed by the all types of weapons, including chemical weapons too. Our BBC panorama documentary Syrias Chemical War can be seen at: BBC.com

Nawal Al MaghafiNawal-Al-Maghafi filmed a BBC investigation that uncovered a secret world of sexual exploitation of children and young women by religious figures. Following is an excerpt:

Clerics are grooming vulnerable girls in Iraq and offering them for sex, using a controversial religious practice known as “pleasure marriage”.

A young girl named Rusul woke to find herself alone. Her new husband had gone. The marriage had lasted just three hours.

It wasn't the teenager's first marriage. It wasn't even her second, third or fourth. In fact she's been married too many times for her to count.

Rusul's harrowing way of life was triggered by an encounter when she was at work.

She would watch as girls not much older than her in tight clothing and bright make-up came in to wait expectantly. Older men would soon come in to pick them up.

“They were such beautiful young girls, I couldn't understand why any girl would sell herself like this,” she says.

She herself was also vulnerable - estranged from her family and supporting her sister Rula.

But despite her hardships, she had made a promise to herself that she wouldn't depend on a man for survival. When men sneaked their number into her hand, she always ignored them.

Nawal Al MaghafiOne day, a man came in to her workplace and started chatting to Rusul. They talked about her past, about why she was working, rather than in school, and where she was from. She felt he actually cared.

Life had become increasingly tough for Rusul. Living in Baghdad on her meagre salary was a struggle.

Despite her initial vow to remain independent, she found herself dreaming of a husband - one who would take care of them both.

The man would come to her place of work every day to do what he could to grab her attention. Rusul gradually developed feelings for him.

After just a few weeks, he proposed. He took her to Kadhimiya in Baghdad. As they walked into a religious marriage office, Rusul felt a flutter of excitement.

The ceremony itself was brief - the cleric recited a few words, asked her whether she agreed with the $250 [£200] dowry she would receive and presented her with the contract. Rusul couldn’t read, but even if she could she might not have realised anything was amiss.

Within minutes of the cleric's blessing, her new husband had taken her to a nearby apartment in an apparent rush to consummate their marriage. Although Rusul was nervous, she was looking forward to finally having a proper home for her and her sister.

She followed her husband into the bedroom and, as she closed the door behind her, prayed that this man would treat her well, that their life together would last.

Nawal Al MaghafiAnd indeed the first few days seemed like a fairy tale to Rusul. “I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Finally I didn't have to provide everything,” she says. But after just a few weeks her husband disappeared.

Little did Rusul know that their marriage had an end-date before it had even begun. It was a special type of Islamic marriage - a “zawaj al-mutaa” or “pleasure marriage” - and that it was a way of allowing religiously approved sex. Hers had now expired.

She decided to visit the cleric who married them. She says he seemed to be expecting her.

Mutaa marriages are derived from pre-Islamic tradition in both Iran and Arabia. Today they are sanctioned by Shia clerics in Iraq and neighbouring Iran, where most Shia adhere to what is known as Twelver Shiism.

Experts say that under Shia Islam the object of such marriages is sexual enjoyment and not procreation, and that in previous centuries they took place mostly at pilgrimage sites and trade centres, where lonely men travelling long distances often sought company.

A mutaa marriage is subject to a contract that specifies its length and the amount of compensation given to the temporary wife. But the contract can just be verbal, and a cleric - though often present - is not necessary to validate it.

It can last from an hour to 99 years. The man is not obliged to provide daily maintenance and has the right to end the contract at any time.

Mutaa marriages are not permitted under Sunni Islam. But some Sunni clerics sanction alternative variants of marriage, such as “misyar”, which some experts say performs a similar function to mutaa marriage and has also been criticised as exploitative of women.

Nawal Al MaghafiSupporters of mutaa marriages say they can be a positive move for couples who are aware of what they are doing. But their temporary form means they are also ripe for exploitation.

“This is something that is very widespread. There are many girls like me” - Rusul

In the case of girls like Rusul, they essentially enable child abuse. They are also not recognised under Iraqi civil law. The criminal code states that any person who has sex outside of marriage with a girl or a woman could be punished with up to seven years’ imprisonment if she is between 15 and 18, or up to 10 years if she is under 15.

Rusul says the cleric now suggested she simply continue to enter into more mutaa marriages, arguing that she had no other choice given her difficulties. He took photos of her.

Rusul knew she would struggle to survive for much longer on her salary, and that her lack of education afforded her little prospect of a better job. She also knew that the fact that she wasn't a virgin would make it difficult for her to find a man who wanted a permanent marriage.

“The cleric became a middle man, giving me work, and I had no choice but to follow that road,” she says.

She won't go into details about how much she earns, but says the cleric takes a fee from the client and then pays her the dowry. She says the length of her contracts have varied from a few hours to several weeks.

“When the Sheikh [cleric] calls up and says, 'I've found someone suitable for you,' I can't say no.” Rusul has by now slept with dozens of men - so many that she has lost count - in the course of these mutaa marriages.

She says the cleric provides her with contraceptive injections to ensure she doesn't get pregnant. “This is something that is very widespread. There are many girls like me.”

Nawal Al Maghafi

BBC special research: Iranian religious men sell young girls at 'Museum wedding'
www.bbc.com

BBC Panorama - Syrias Chemical War
www.bbc.com

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