Prisons and borders

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Think of the once-proud Shkodra in Albania, now forgotten at the edge of Montenegro, where electricity is still intermittent and the potholes are deep enough to conceal a small child. The population was transformed after the flight of many of the ambitious to Tirana, tempted by its glitz and apparent opportunities. The mountain villagers, who in turn are tempted by Shkodra, have replaced them. Clannish attitudes linger in the city and family blood feuds persist. For instance, in December 2000 the nephew of Ndoc Cefa, a famous Albanian theatre director, assassinated another Albanian in London. While the assassin is locked up in a psychiatric hospital in Albania, the blood feud must continue and all males of the Cefa family in the Shkodra area are targets. Their houses are their prisons.

Consider the wall separating Israel from the West Bank and partly running through Palestinian territory. It was built to prevent Palestinian would-be suicide bombers from entering Israel. It is part wall, part fence, and most of its 670km length has a concrete base and a 5m-high wire-and-mesh superstructure. Rolls of razor wire and a 4m-deep ditch are placed on one side. In addition, the structure is fitted with electronic sensors and it has an earth-covered 'trace road' beside it where footprints of anyone crossing can be seen. Parts of the structure consist of an 8m-high solid concrete wall, complete with massive watchtowers. Many towns are cut off or cut up by the wall. Imagine living in Qalqilya, where the wall surrounds the town almost completely. Residents are imprisoned, cut off from neighbouring Palestinian villages and the rest of the West Bank. Palestinian property within 35m of the wall, including homes, farms, agricultural land, greenhouses and water wells, has been destroyed by the Israeli army. Four entrances to the town have been blocked, while the only remaining entrance is a military roadblock. It denies locals the means to livelihood and access to natural resources. Qalqilya was once known as the West Bank's bread basket, but nearly 50 per cent of the city's agricultural land has been confiscated, as have 19 wells, representing 30 per cent of the city's water supply, forcing residents to migrate to sustain a liveli-


Border towns, especially between countries where wealth differentials are great, can also be problematic. Cuidad Juarez in Mexico and El Paso, Texas effectively constitute one city but they are separated by the Rio Grande River and the border. More than 320 women have been murdered in Juarez since 1993. Of these deaths, approximately 100 have been sexual-torture killings of young women aged between 12 and 19. Several hundred women are missing and unaccounted for. Nobody takes responsibility for solving the cases and corrupt police are in cahoots with the public prosecutor's office. The powerful drug cartels and outdated laws have allowed the perpetrators to go free. Since 1995 police have jailed more than a dozen killers but the murder spree continues and has now attracted global attention, with Amnesty International at the campaigning forefront.

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