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Archives for April 2012

Returning to Somalia - Samira Hashi

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Growing up in a city like London and working as a model, I've almost never seen extreme poverty. So returning to Somalia for this documentary (Monday 9pm) after 18 years was one of the hardest and most shocking experiences I have ever been through. The media had played a small role in keeping me up-to-date with what was going on in the country, but all I really knew of was the malnutrition, famine, drought, terrorists, pirates and bloodshed. 

My journey began with a reunion with my dad who I hadn’t seen in 18 years. He wasn’t there when my family and I spent time in the refugee camps nor was he around when we moved to London. I had mixed thoughts when it came to meeting him. Thousands of questions were going through my head. Why did he leave? Why didn’t he come back? What had he been doing for the past 18 years? It was a very awkward and weird situation and I hardly recognised him.

Samira Hashi at 'Dolo Ado' refugee camp in Ethiopia.

I then travelled to the overcrowded 'Dolo Ado' refugee camp in Ethiopia which is home to more than 120,000 people. I remember crying as I couldn't bear to sleep in the tents. I was so embarrassed when I realised Somali refugees have no choice but to share the same tent with 20 other people. The conditions were devastating to see. Uprooted Somali's wait weeks - sometimes months - just for basic equipment. Millions of lives have already been lost and millions more are in danger because of poor healthcare, insufficient distribution of food and lack of clean water.

I was appalled to discover that the level of sexual abuse taking place in the refugee camp was extraordinarily high in comparison to the number of rapes recorded. Women approached me personally to tell me about their endless battle against sexual abuse. I interviewed two young Somali women who had been gang raped by a group of men who lived locally in the area when they’d gone to collect firewood. Both women were released on the condition that they didn’t return to the area or their lives would be at risk.

With a daily battle for survival, they have no chance to complain; they have no choice but to deal with it. It’s spurred me to create an online petition to help protect Somali refugees from rape. I’m humbled by how amazingly the refugees cope with unbearable situations.

Samira   Hashi

I also visited one of the most dangerous places in the world, the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, where I was born. The minute we stepped off the plane I could hear gun fire in the background; it’s so common they call it 'the music' of Mogadishu. We couldn’t go anywhere without extreme security, and the severity of the situation hit home when I was introduced to a Somali girl the same age as me called Shukri.  

Unfortunately Shukri wasn’t given the opportunity to escape like us so she spent all her life knowing nothing but war, violence, destruction and bloodshed. Three of her children – aged just 2, 3 and 7 months -  died in 2010 after a bomb attack by terrorist group Al’Shabab. I could see she was heartbroken and the trauma of the war was written all over her face. 

My trip ended in Hargeysa in Somaliland, an area that is seen as safer than the rest of the country but where Female Genital Mutilation remains so common that 98% of women have had the procedure done to them. I can’t accept the procedure and what it stands for; it’s one thing that’s part of my Somali culture that I refuse to accept.

My journey back to Somalia was mind blowing – I now feel a connection with my motherland as well as having a better understanding of what’s really going on there.

Escape from the World's Most Dangerous Place is on Monday at 9pm and is narrated by Scarlett Johansson.

Lip Service

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Harriet Braun Harriet Braun | 21:30 UK time, Friday, 27 April 2012


This post contains spoilers if you’ve not watched episode two of Lip Service (Fridays, 9pm). If you’ve missed it, catch up on iPlayer now.





















Cat (played by Laura Fraser)

I'm writing this knowing that some people will be shocked as they've just watched the episode where Cat dies. You're probably wondering why.

During the writing process, I learned that Laura Fraser had acting commitments elsewhere, and would only be available to be in series two for a very short space of time. Obviously, initially I was sad and disappointed, but I had to pick myself up and dust myself off – I had a series to write. I very quickly realised what it made the most sense to do. 

I'd always known that Cat was faced with an impossible choice to make between Sam and Frankie. If anyone feels cheated of a happily ever after, I'll confess that even if she'd stayed in the series, there wasn't going to be one.

My intention was always that in playing with fire, and continuing to see both of them, Cat would end up with neither of them. In a way her death allowed for that to happen in an extremely dramatic and truthful way. 

Of course I could have, for example, had Cat move to London for a job in episode two, but given her relationship with both women, I don't think anyone would have believed in such a sudden departure. I also don't think it would have satisfied viewers, or been a fitting ending to a very dramatic love triangle.

Once I knew what was going to happen, the pieces of the jigsaw just fell into place. I know these characters so well that I could feel their pain and knew exactly what they would do in that situation. Occasionally writers talk about feeling like a script has come from somewhere outside of themselves, and they're just transcribing what they hear. Well, it's the first time I've ever experienced that for a full sixty pages.

To those who are upset that Cat has gone for good, I'd say this. Cat may not be there in body, but her death impacts on all of them in very dramatic ways. Cat dies with her emotional affairs unresolved, and it is those who are left behind who have to deal with that and pick up the pieces.

Sam, who is used to being in control of her life and emotions, suddenly finds herself hit with something she never imagined. A grief stricken Frankie has to live with knowing that she can't publicly acknowledge what she meant to Cat. And Tess carries Cat's secret with her.

They will all do things they didn't think they would, and forge new connections they didn't anticipate. A whole wealth of rich storylines lie ahead, which are well worth sticking around for.

For anyone who is worried that things are just getting too miserable all round, I would assure them of two things. Firstly, Lip Service has always had a lot of comedy thrown in with the tragedy, and that won't change. There are characters who never knew or were close to Cat, who lead the way on the funny front and keep the laughs coming.

And secondly, before we get too maudlin, Laura Fraser is very much alive and well, and now living in the United States.  I am hugely grateful to her for the fantastic work she has done on the show and wish her well in all her new ventures.

Harriet Braun is the writer and creator of Lip Service which continues every Friday at 9pm.

I Woke Up Gay

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Chris Birch Chris Birch | 16:44 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

Chris Birch

I had a stroke when I was 20. I know it sounds crazy but it caused me to stop liking girls and start liking boys. The stroke turned me gay (I Woke Up Gay, Tuesday 9pm). 

My life changing stroke happened because I did a forward roll down a hill. Don’t worry, I'd laugh too if someone told me that.

It was a really scary time; everything I knew about myself had been pulled from under me and I needed to start all over again. I turned into a totally different person.

Before the stroke, the 'old me' loved girls. I'd had a few girlfriends, been out on single nights, speed dating, even the odd 'grab a granny night' in the local clubs. At one point, I was even engaged to a girl.

Then this massive change happened.

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I had physical problems after the stroke and still have some of them today - like one nipple is oddly lower than the other - but thankfully for the most part, the changes are only noticeable to me.

After all the physical stuff had sorted itself out, I started to notice I was different to the person I was before. It wasn't an overnight change though; it took me a few years to completely realise that the person I am wasn't the person I was.

There were loads of differences in my personality - mostly little things, but still - things I noticed. I found myself staring at my DVD collection and considered throwing out the horror flicks that seemed to dominate it. I didn't feel the need to fill the gaps with Disney flicks or Dirty Dancing, but I definitely had a realisation that I wasn’t the same person I used to be.

I found myself going from liking girls to liking guys. I'd always been able to say a guy was attractive without being attracted to them, but this was different.

The feelings I had worried me. I kept thinking that these weren't my thoughts, then I wondered if I'd always felt this way. I was afraid to talk to anyone around me in case this was just temporary or they'd take the mick.

This whole process was like going through puberty all over again, only this time I was alone, it was unexpected and nobody understood what I was going through. I was a typical teenager but at 23 years old!

Eventually, after I realised that these changes were here to stay I started to tell people that I wasn't straight anymore, beginning with my family and closest friends. This was the most awkward set of conversations I've ever had to have. As it’d taken me nearly 2 years to deal with these feelings myself, I knew that the people around me would probably need time to deal with what I'd told them too.

The majority of people I told were really accepting and understanding. There were the odd few who weren’t so accepting, but I do live in the Valleys and like it or not, there are some people whose opinions are firmly planted back in the 1950s!

Even though the majority were accepting, I started to feel like I no longer connected with the people I used to spend my time with. The conversations no longer interested me (sorry!) and I started to wonder why I was even friends with them in the first place. I guess that was when I realised that the 'New Me' was making a stand here. I was left with a choice; either live a life I didn't enjoy and that didn't belong to me anymore or make a change. So I made the change.

Chris and his friends

Chris and his friends

I decided to make this documentary to let people know that this kind of thing can happen after any sort of brain injury. Even though my case is towards the extreme end, it's important to me that the psychological effects of a brain injury aren't given nearly enough attention as they should be.

Personally, it also gave me the chance to learn more about what happened to me and to find out if what happened was unique to just me. I guess you'll have to watch it to find out!

I'm happier than I ever have been. Meeting new people was way easier than I expected - I went out one night, and chatted to - rather than chatted up – girls. I have now found myself with a group of friends I love, who I might not have had without having had a stroke. Weird!

I Woke Up Gay is on Tuesday 17 april at 9pm.

Free Speech - Episode Two Round-Up

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James Emtage James Emtage | 17:58 UK time, Thursday, 5 April 2012

On set at Free Speech


Well well well… Free Speech was KICK-ING OFF last night.

In the red corner, Owen Jones, who spoke up for mercy.

In the blue corner, Douglas Murray, who spoke up for justice.

In the yellow corner, Sway, who spoke up for tolerance.

And in the glowingly gorgeous corner, Nicola McLean, who spoke up for the real women of the land. We're hearin' ya sista!

But Free Speech is not just about hearing what the panel have to say. In each show we hear from a RANTER, which is someone from somewhere saying something about some stuff. Simples. 

Alice Carder


This week's ranter was 23 year old Alice Carder, a Sheffield dweller turned Londoner, who had a good old rant about sex. Well, sex education to be precise. Here's what she had to say after the show…


There was one person who tweeted in saying that condoms should be free in shops. I'd never thought of this as a way to promote safer sex, but it seems like a good idea to me. After all, nobody likes going to the sexual health clinic to wait two hours in a crowded waiting room to tell someone you're having sex, so they'll hand over a bag of mixed size condoms. And much less so when you bump into your neighbour/teacher/mum's friend. 

On crime and prison, I totally agreed with Sway when he said there's a difference between petty crimes, serial murderers and rapists. The latter need to be removed from society to protect us, but petty criminals will probably not be reformed by prison, as the reasons they offended in the first place will still exist when they come out.

82% of prisoners have a lower writing ability than the average 11 year-old, which I think is shocking. It seems poor education is a big factor in why people commit crime, along with boredom and unemployment. I think we need to look at the causes, not the symptoms, and try to prevent people offending in the first place. 

Here's another rant of mine, this time it's about online sentencing and whether or not I think it was right to send Liam Stacey to prison after his racist tweets about Fabrice Muamba. Have a watch and let me know what you think in the comments below. 

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If you've got an issue you want to get off your chest, have a good old rant and tell us about it. 

Leave your comments in space below, or jump on to Facebook or Twitter to see what other topics we're discussing. 

Or if, like Alice, you fancy recording a rant then drop us a line and say hello and we'll say hello back. Promise ;-)  

Free Speech is coming monthly from across the UK.


Free Speech - Meet the panel

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James Emtage James Emtage | 18:45 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Yes, Free Speech is back and broadcasting live from Doncaster this Wednesday night at 10pm on BBC Three.  As part of BBC Three's Criminal Britain Season we're opening with a debate about crime.  

The discussion was kicked off last week with our blog post about whether criminals should be punished or educated, plus our enlightening video about who's actually in prison. Some of the results might surprise you... 

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But that's not the only thing we'll be discussing on the show.  As ever with The Hot Five discussion topics, many are only slotted in at the last minute, giving us a chance to reflect the burning issues you care about.  Remember, you're always shaping the show by providing your opinions on Twitter, Facebook and blogs like this.

A few weeks ago we thought Stop Kony was going to be a huge topic, but it's fallen off the radar in the last fortnight, so we've dropped it from the show.  Is that the right thing to do?  Let us know...


Panellist - Rapper Sway


Rapper Sway has a MOBO award, a Mercury-nominated album and his own record label, all before the age of 30.  He's also outspoken about gangsta imagery and the use of ‘the n- word’ in his industry.  On Wednesday we'll see how his raw opinions 'Sway' our debate... (Yes, that's a pun. Deal with it.)



Panellist Nicola McLean


Nicola McLean is a glamour model, an animal rights campaigner, a mother and now a panellist on Free Speech.  When it comes to crime, Nicola also knows a thing or two about being locked up... she was a contestant on Big Brother last year (poor thing).



Panellist - Owen Jones


In the left-wing corner: writer, political commentator and former Trade Union Lobbyist Owen Jones.  Owen's outspoken about social issues, as demonstrated in his book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class.  We would tell you what it was about, but you can probably guess from the title.



Panellist - Douglas Murray

And in the right-wing corner: Conservative author, journalist and political commentator Douglas Murray.  Douglas has written for high-end publications like The Sunday Times, The Spectator, Standpoint and Nuts Magazine.  Ok, that last one was a lie, but the others are true.



These four will go head-to-head to discuss the issues that matter, and we want YOU to tell us what you think using our live opinion tracker, The Power Bar.  You'll be able to tell us which panellist you agree or disagree with using twitter and the right hashtag, so keep an eye out for this clever tech in the show.


How the Power   Bar works.



We've also got Jake Humphrey's right-hand woman Michelle De Swarte gathering your tweets, Facebook messages and blog comments and putting them to the panel, so make sure you get talking.  We are listening. 

Remember, the debate will continue online after the show and you can even head here to leave us a comment and tell us which topics you think we should feature when we return in May.

Until then, remember to speak up on Twitter and Facebook and join us on BBC Three this Wednesday April 4th at 10pm for the next episode of Free Speech, live from Doncaster.

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