Al Bawaba Insights: Our Top Research from 2018

Published December 19th, 2018 - 01:24 GMT
(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba)
(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba)


With the dizzying amount of developments in 2018, Al Bawaba has kept pace, producing timely analysis pieces that gives readers the analytical tools necessary to dissect what they're reading about in mainstream news outlets.

But there are always stories that don't break through or are submerged under the torrent of breaking news developments. For these, Al Bawaba has explored them in-depth, producing stories that are part history, part analysis and part breaking news. From strange U.S.-funded cults to corruption and torture, Al Bawaba has sought to deepen conversations regarding international relations and human rights in 2018.

With that, here are our top 5 most impactful and interesting research. 


1. Long-Form: China's Global Surveillance-Industrial Complex

(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba)

China is surveilling its Muslim minority with state-of-the-art technology and sending them by the thousands to concentration camps. As unbelievable as it may be, the story has become one of the most urgent in 2018, and Al Bawaba was one of the first outlets to begin reporting on it. Our investigation goes in-detail about China’s surveillance and detention system, the corporations being contracted to make China’s concentration camp dystopia a reality and which countries China is exporting the tech to.

In an age of increasing surveillance, this story exposes the terrifying lengths it can reach to harm lives and form new paradigms of oppression. Unquestionably, this development is the most important in 2018 and relates to global trends.

Al Bawaba’s investigation points out specific corporations that have been perfecting their surveillance and facial recognition software in Xinjiang, China only to sell them to authoritarian regimes with horrific records of human rights abuses.


2. Palestine's Petty Fiefdoms: How the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are Destroying the Dream of a Free Palestine with Torture, Corruption and a Parallel Police State


2018 is a year that will go down in the conflict between Israel and Palestine not because anything has radically changed, but because it clarified the power disparity between both sides; one initially hidden by the Oslo Accords but exposed fully by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Al Bawaba provides a detailed account of the disempowerment of the Palestinian people, and focuses on how the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have jointly squandered the dream of guaranteeing the rights of Palestinians. After speaking with Palestinian journalists, academics, activists and analysts, the piece reveals the extent to which both rely on corruption and brutal security tactics to crush Palestinian dissent.

This uncompromising investigation concludes with an inspirational quotation from Palestinian activist Fadi Quran, whose commitment to securing Palestinian rights struck our editorial team:

“The situation today seems bleak,” Fadi Quran, a prominent activist in the West Bank, said to Al Bawaba, “but I have deep faith, and my understanding of history proves, that if we manage to organize strategically, inspire people to action, make the truth visible, and build power—we will not only free Palestine but transform the whole region.”

“But doing that will take all of use who believe in freedom and basic human dignity. And we have to be ready for the hard work, and avoid sitting in despair.”


3. Inside the MEK: The Secluded Group Scheduled to Overthrow the Iranian Regime

Tirana, Albania

(Tirana, Albania)

The Mujahideen al-Khalq is one of the strangest groups operating in the world today. They started off as Marxist Islamists in revolutionary Iran, before waging a guerilla war against the Ayatollah’s regime, getting expelled to Iraq, becoming a militia for Saddam Hussein, killing Americans and being listed as a terror group, convincing America to de-list it and paying millions upon millions in lobbying to become an asset of the U.S. Oh, and they’re a cult too, holed up in a massive military compound in Tirana, Albania.

Al Bawaba explored the group’s history with former members and historians, unearthing new details about its failed invasion of Iran and cult-like tactics to control its rank-and-file membership. Al Bawaba also discovered evidence verifying the widely held belief that the MEK was secretly being funded by Saudi Arabia to destabilize Iran. Our story breaks that the group accepted truckloads of gold bars, suitcases of custom golden watches, and a piece of the fabric draped over the Kaaba in Mecca—all worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

For anyone interested in the minutiae of international relations and how non-state actors have been utilized as proxy groups, this is a must-read.


4. The New York Times' 'Caliphate' Podcast Endangers Iraqi Lives

(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba)

The New York Times is famous for its investigative journalism. Its exploration of ISIS’ inner-workings in the podcast ‘Caliphate’ was a must-listen for many interested in the terrorist group and the Middle East in general. But it was a profoundly unethical piece of predatory journalism, committing cardinal sins of journalism in the quest to make the story exciting and personable.

Al Bawaba’s investigation shows how the creator of the podcast, Rukmini Callimachi, endangered an Iraqi  family, whose patriarch was a leading ISIS bureaucracy, by providing their details on-air, exposing them to a broken Iraqi society hunting for those who rampaged through their communities.

This piece also explores the general trend of Western journalists rummaging through disaster and conflict zones, confiscating victim narratives and peddling them to hungry audience without any care for those victims, who share their stories to benefit of the journalist’s career but don’t actually help the victims.


5. 'Famine' or Not, 36000 Children have Died in Yemen This Year

Yemeni men dig graves dug for children (AFP/FILE)

Al Bawaba was the first outlet in 2018 to estimate that over 100,000 have died so far in the war in Yemen. Our uncompromising coverage of of the war investigates the lengths the Saudi-led coalition have gone to in order to stifle the country and starve it out. Many other outlets still insist on using the outdated 2016 estimate of 10,000 deaths from the U.N., which was even too conservative at the time it was released.

Aid agencies have been assessing whether Yemen’s systemic deprivation and malnourishment, which has affected half a million children, constitutes a famine. But whether or not a famine is ever declared, tens of thousands have children have died in 2018 thanks to the consequences of a medieval-siege being imposed on the country by the Saudi-led coalition and the inhumane tactics of Houthis.

Yemen’s people are trapped inside the siege, and thousands more will likely die in 2019.

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