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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

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04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more
More from this category

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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23 June 2019  

Strategic implications of the 'deal of the century' and the…

on Palestine-Israel

Aisling Byrne interviews Abdel Bari Atwan Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ (DoC) - whether in its actual or conceptual form - is ushering in a new strategic era, providing cov...

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14 June 2019  

Postponed: Unveiling of Trump's 'deal of the century' frozen as…

on Palestine-Israel

Touted by its architects as the ‘deal of the century’, US president Donald Trump’s plan for Palestine and Israel has had to again be kept hidden as Israel heads back to elections a...

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23 October 2018  

Jamal Khashoggi, small spark for a large fire

on Saudi Arabia

By Hassan Aourid Until last Saturday, I was hopeful that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was not more than a case of c...

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19 October 2018  

Khashoggi murder: Killing dissent even from within

on Saudi Arabia

The gruesome murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was designed to be a clear and firm message for Saudi dissidents, and reflected th...

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08 July 2018  

As Hudaida falls to Saudi-Emirati coalition, peace for Yemen seems…

on Yemen

The recent and ongoing Saudi-Emirati offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida will render UN special envoy Martin Griffiths’s ‘new’ solution to the five-year-long Yemeni crisis...

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18 May 2018  

Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Dilemmas of Transformation in Saudi Arabia

on Saudi Arabia

By Madawi Al-Rasheed Introduction The dominant narrative through which many observers understand Saudi Arabia depicts a progressive and modernist leadership struggling to gra...

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27 April 2018  

Chaotic Yemen: The deconstruction of a failed state and regional…

on Yemen

by Helen Lackner Yemen remains in the grip of its most severe crisis ever: the civil war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh ...

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12 December 2017  

How the Saudis Escalated Yemen Struggle Beyond All Control

on Yemen

By Justin Podur Yemen is a small, poor country in a region empires have plundered for centuries. This civil war is a local struggle that has been escalated out of control by the a...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more

30 July 2019  

The December 2018 revolution and Sudanese professionals in the diaspora

on Sudan

WE LEFT SUDAN In drovesIn the late 80’s and 90’sIndeed, my generation of educated Sudanese professionals are scattered around the globe(Out of 200 medical graduates from Khartoum ...

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29 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

By Zeenat Adam 17 July 2019 Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts per...

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17 April 2019  

Bashir falls but the security apparatus maintains control

on Sudan

Since the military ouster of Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, early on Thursday, 11 April, after three months of protests, different military factions have been jos...

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16 April 2019  

Haftar's march on Tripoli

on Libya

Khalifa Haftar’s 4 April announcement declaring his march on Tripoli, and the subsequent attack on the Libyan capital by his forces, threaten to gravely impact the a...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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26 September 2013  

Kenyan hostage crisis: The desperation of al-Shabab

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the...

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23 January 2013  

French military intervention will add to Mali’s problems

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle east Centre   The north of Africa was plunged into yet another international conflict with France’s invasion of Mali on Friday, 11 January. Without im...

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23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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30 May 2011  

Pakistan-USA relations in the post-Usama era

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmad The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces was supposed to have been a landmark triumph that would bring peace and stability to the r...

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13 December 2010  

Kashmir and Obama's Indian appeasement

on South Asia

By Mohammad Abdullah Gul Obama's recent jive with school children in Delhi symbolises the nature of the new relationship that is emerging between India and the United States of Am...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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Bahrain’s bitter solutions: Pressures from within and challenges from abroad

By Lamees Dhaif

At the beginning of July 2011, more than 300 representatives of Bahrain's political and civil society gathered in the country's capital, Manama, for the launch of a 'national dialogue'. Many questions pervaded the atmosphere on the eve of this dialogue, the most important being whether the national dialogue could pull Bahrain out of the political crisis which started on 14 February?

Questions were also raised about whether the opposition's participation – described as 'reticent and pessimistic' – would lead to a political solution, considering its constant claim that the dialogue was not based on true popular representation, and that it ignored the essence of the problem in favour of less important topics. There was doubt about whether the crisis would be resolved soon. This followed Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah issuing a decree to form an 'independent fact-finding' committee to examine the violent protests witnessed by the country, and in light of news about the release of detainees, the re-employment of those suspended from their jobs, and talk about the 'redeployment' of the Peninsula Shield forces currently stationed in Bahrain. The Peninsula Shield Force is a military unit set up by the Gulf Cooperation Council, and whose troops entered Bahrain in March to quell the protests there.

 

The Bahraini crisis: Dimensions and manifestations

Since February, Bahrain witnessed one of the worst waves of protest since the 1990s. The protests began in mid-February in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the National Action Charter – a document accepted by Bahrainis in a referendum in February 2001 which would see the country returning to constitutional rule. The 2011 protests called for:

  • the resignation of the incumbent government,

  • political reforms,

  • an end to politicised naturalisations, and

  • drafting a new constitution and the establishment of a constituent assembly.

The authorities rejected these demands outright, and violently suppressed the protests, resulting in the killing of dozens of protestors and the wounding of hundreds. With the number of casualties rising, the protestors broadened their demands, with some protest groups calling for 'the toppling of the regime'.

The main opposition groups – those that came together in the coalition of seven that represented liberal, leftist and Islamist opposition groups – expressed strong reservations with the call to topple the regime, preferring to support a constitutional monarchy while demanding an elected government. This disagreement in the opposition drove the Bahrain crisis into a dark tunnel. This was exacerbated by the existence of groups loyal to the regime which rejected reforms, and preferred the persistence of the status quo. This latter group feared, they claimed, that reforms would be the first step in establishing what they called a 'wilayat al-faqih' (rule of the jurist – the form of government in Shi'a-dominated Iran) regime in Bahrain.

The uprising paralysed the Bahraini economy, and cast a shadow over Bahrain's regional reputation as a financial, economic and tourist centre. The tourism sector was hard hit, the Bahrain Stock Exchange recorded a retreat, the kingdom came to be regarded by international human rights organisations as a violator of human rights, the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix was cancelled, and the United Kingdom and France cancelled exports of certain military equipment to Bahrain to prevent their use in the suppression of human rights. These factors created a great deal of pressure on the authorities to reach out to the opposition.

Alongside these pressures on the regime, the opposition found itself facing a crisis after the arrests and trials of its senior leaders, the suspension of some 2 180 employees from their jobs, the separation of many members of the opposition from their sources of livelihood, and the arrest of teachers, doctors and bloggers for their involvement in the protests. These pressures forced the opposition to negotiate with the authorities, even though opposition groups had rejected such negotiations in March, demanding that the government must first resign, and all detainees must be released. At the beginning of July, however, the opposition agreed to participate in the dialogue without preconditions because of intense regional and internal pressure.

 

History Repeats Itself

To extrapolate scenarios for Bahrain's future, it is useful to look at the past. Apart from Bahrain's resorting to the external Peninsula Shield forces – which contrasts with its decade-long policy of dealing with such problems internally, and apart from its use of sectarian differences to attack the protests, it does not seem that there is any fundamental difference in the way that either the authorities or the opposition have dealt with the conflict since the 1950s.

The Bahraini opposition has always had much patience in its quest to achieve far-reaching demands, and the regime has always rejected popular demands, only to return and engage with these demands after certain sacrifices had been made. The complexity of the situation today, however, follows the internationalisation of the Bahrain problem. This suggests that the issue will not be resolved quickly, nor will it be resolved through dialogue – such as the one that started this month – given the limited representation (45 out of 300 seats) of the opposition. What will be required is regional and international consensus, not just concessions from domestic parties (which were sufficient in the past).

 

Factors of the latest round

After the internationalisation of the crisis, two key players emerged that cannot be ignored; Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi Arabia put its entire weight behind the Bahraini regime, and Manama will therefore have to adapt its strategy in a manner that will satisfy its benefactor. The US, which considers Bahrain to be an important ally and has deployed its fifth fleet in Bahrain, is pushing for a rapid end to the confrontation in Bahrain with as little loss as possible. The US sense of urgency – especially after the outbreak of protests in Syria – is largely a reaction to criticism from human rights organisations that charge the US administration with hypocrisy in its treatment of the Arab uprisings.

Even though the US harshly criticised Syrian authorities and threatened punishment, it addressed its ally Bahrain with soft language disproportionate to the seriousness of the situation. This limited the credibility of the US position. Amid all this, the Bahraini authorities seem to have positioned themselves between the blades of a pair of scissors. Bahrain can either comply with the Saudi vision that firmly stands against the winds of change and embraces and defends traditional regimes, or it can respond to the wishes of protestors in the street and restore calm and revitalise its economy. If it chooses the latter option, the regime risks losing the support of Saudi Arabia which supports Bahrain financially and militarily, and that will not accept the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in its backyard for fear that this would encourage Saudis to follow. This is especially the case given that the Saudi regime is fully aware that a revolution on its sprawling territory would be much more difficult to control than in a small country like Bahrain, especially since some tribes will call for solidarity with others.

The cost of the continued popular uprising, on the other hand, continues to grow. Public debt has risen to more than 7.2 billion dollars, and several companies and banks operating in Bahrain have been examining the possibility of relocating to other more stable countries in the region. Bahrain also fears that the US will abandon its practice of looking the other way where Bahrain is concerned because of pressure from rights groups – that will only increase with the approaching US presidential election.

 

Map of return: No easy solutions

The Bahraini regime might be able to win some space to manoeuvre by releasing and dropping charges on detainees, and addressing some issues which have aroused the ire of protestors, such as politicised naturalisation, sectarian discrimination, financial corruption, equitable distribution of wealth, unemployment, and improvement of services. It can also replace ministers that the opposition believes are fuelling the crisis.

It is clear, however, that confrontations will re-emerge even after the relative lull that the opposition has attributed to what it calls the regime's 'cosmetic reforms' and which do little to meet the demands emanating from the street. At the same time, there is no reason to think that the regime's acceptance of the demand for an elected government is close at hand; such acceptance would entail the sacking of a government that has been led by the same prime minister for forty years, and that enjoys immense support from Saudi Arabia and Bahraini groups loyal to him.

The regime thus faces a difficult choice in light of the failure of the military option. Either it accepts the option of a modern democratic government that will effectively end the conflict, but will expose the country to a crisis with Saudi Arabia and groups loyal to the government, or it chooses a package of reforms that may provide some relative calm, but will not protect the regime from international criticism, economic losses, and more popular protests.

 

* Lamees Dhaif is a Bahraini journalist active in the Bahraini resistance. She is renowned for political and social criticism, has written in various newspapers in the Persian Gulf region, and has a column in Alyaum, one of Saudi Arabia's most important newspapers. She won several awards, including: Best Investigative Report in 2004, and the Excellence Award in Journalism in 2008 (in the Second Regional Conference on Women), and was honoured as best writer by the Women's Union in the International Women's Day in 2009

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16 September 2019  

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22 July 2019  

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14 June 2019  

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