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Returning to Cambodia, and women in North Africa

10 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 09 January 2013

It’s been half a century since Nicholas Shakespeare was last in Cambodia, where his father worked as a diplomat. The country has been completely transformed since then – not least because of the Khmer Rouge. The revolutionary movement was only in power from 1975 to 1979 and yet in that time it dismantled the entire education system, moved the capital’s population to camps in the countryside and killed almost two million Cambodians. Nicholas Shakespeare recently returned to the country of his birth to take stock of all that’s changed, and some of the startling things that haven’t.

It’s a common attitude across North Africa that seems particularly acute during times of political conflict – public spaces aren’t suitable for women after dark. Outsiders might be tempted to ascribe these fears to conservative strains of Islam. But Eileen Byrne has found that the fear of the ghoul outside the door has its roots in myths and legends dating from well before the Arab and Islamic influx into the region. She wonders why, across the Maghreb, certain spaces at certain times are seen as unsafe for females.

Presented by Pascale Harter.


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