Jeremy Seeks out Those Places Where Even Angels Fear to Tread; CARDIFF-BORN Jeremy Bowen Has Reported for the BBC from Conflicts across the World, Yet the Uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East Have Been Some of the Most Astonishing Events He Has Covered. Julia McWatt Reports
Byline: Julia McWatt
* EREMY Bowen has been reporting from parts of the world most tourists would do their utmost to avoid for most of his career.
His job has taken him to more than 70 countries, conflicts in the Gulf, El Salvador, Lebanon, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia and Rwanda.
But he says the past few months, which have seen major changes in the political landscape of countries including Egypt and Tunisia, alongside uprisings in Libya and Syria, have been some of the most interesting of his career.
Speaking from the Egyptian capital Cairo last week, from where he has been covering the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, Mr Bowen said he had been trying to get into Syria, which has refused to issue visas to journalists.
His stories are legion, covering everything from the Rwandan refugee crisis to the first Gulf War.
He said: "I remember during the first Gulf War in 1991 the BBC correspondents had to wear dog collars with information including our blood group on them.
"We had to go out to a pet shop on Uxbridge Road and instead of buying collars that said Rover or something we had to write our names and blood groups on them. It was very strange.
"On another one of our trips to Gaza we had to sign something to say we knew there was a risk of kidnap but would have no consular support. That was a bit worrying."
He said journalists have been fascinated by the different dynamics in the countries whose leaders had been overthrown, Tunisia and Egypt, and those where rulers are holding on - which include Syria, Libya and Bahrain.
The events began in Tunisia in December, 2010, which resulted in the ousting of long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the Egyptian revolution in January, 2011, which saw President Hosni Mubarak step down after 30 years in power.
Yet in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad yesterday said the country was overcoming the crisis, which has seen security forces take hold of towns and kill protesters.
The authorities have blamed most of the violence on criminal gangs, while those activists able to communicate with the West say they have been targeted as part of a crackdown on the dissent.
Mr Bowen said: "It started off with Tunisia and then Egypt and then moved simultaneously in Yemen and Libya and then after that it was Syria.
"We have already seen some of the political consequences of what's been happening, but this will change the Middle East permanently. It's a whole new era. One senior UN figure said to me that there has been more history in the last three months than we have seen in the last 30 years.
"For some years now the Middle East has been still, so there are all kinds of things that can happen in terms of the way things might move.
"Things have not moved for such a long time and for many people it has been quite frustrating.
" I do not think that anyone could have foreseen what has happened this year. I have spoken to people who were involved in the early demonstrations in Egypt and I spoke to one who was in the first demonstration that kicked it all off.
"They all told me that they thought they would be arrested within 10 minutes. They thought they would be thrown into the back of a police van.
"We thought the protesters would do their best but it was an incredibly strong police state and they would crush them. But for various reasons they did not."
He said that there had been a lot of widespread discussion and analysis as to why the protesters were successful in overthrowing the regime in some of the countries but in others, the ruling leaders have managed to crush dissidents, usually killing or using brute force against them.
He said: "One of the interesting debating points now is why things worked in Tunisia and Egypt in overthrowing the regime but why it is not working in Libya and Syria? …