Jacky Rowland

is an Al Jazeera correspondent, based in Jerusalem. Before joining Al Jazeera she was a foreign correspondent for the BBC, during which time she won the Royal Television Society Award in 2001.

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JackyRowlandAJE231 karma

I met a woman who went out of her house wearing her usual clothes. I am talking about a brightly coloured dress and a matching head scarf. She was taken in by the Islamic police who wanted her to wear a head-to-foot abaya. She didn't mention being told to cover her face. Anyway, when they told her that she didn't respect God, she answered back, "It is YOU who do not respect God." Either because of the way she dressed, or because of the way she stood up for herself, or maybe because of both, she was taken to the public market place and given 30 lashes. She was an inspiration to me.

JackyRowlandAJE222 karma

The good news is that most of the ancient manuscripts were saved, despite initial reports that they had all been lost to fire. However a number of Sufi shrines were destroyed.

JackyRowlandAJE219 karma

I followed French and Malian troops as they advanced into Timbuktu. The al-Qaeda linked fighters had heard that the armoured column was coming, so by the time we reached Timbuktu, they had already fled. I did not feel in danger at any stage when I was in the city. The important thing is to deal even-handedly with whomever you meet, whatever community they are from. I find that provided I show good faith, people show good faith to me.

JackyRowlandAJE214 karma

I think we are going to see the current crisis contained in the next few months. The problem is that there's substantial scope for a new rebellion in the future. I remember visiting the region 20 years ago, after an earlier Tuareg rebellion in Mali. The central government in Mali will need to address underlying issues. The Tuareg have grievances - they don't believe there is enough investment in their region, they feel they don't have enough say in running their own affairs. We'll be looking out for negotiations to start...possibly leading to some kind of autonomy. And the future of the conflict will also depend on whether the rebels are able to take refuge over international borders.

JackyRowlandAJE213 karma

I have never been to Iraq but I was in Afghanistan several times ten years ago. In Mali, I have found much wider, grassroots public support for the French-led intervention, in comparison with Afghanistan. That said, a number of the members of the Arab and Tuareg communities have been targeted in indiscriminate revenge attacks by other groups who accuse them of collaborating with the rebels. The other Afghanistan similarity: what we are seeing now in N-E Mali, around Kidal and Tessalit - is like Tora Bora in Afghanistan.

JackyRowlandAJE211 karma

Cats I guess, and I saw a few cute ones in Timbuktu :-)

JackyRowlandAJE210 karma

If you state the obvious, I will state the obvious.

JackyRowlandAJE210 karma

The AQIM is strong across the region and benefits from porous borders. We've seen how easy it is for fighters to move from Mauretania to Mali to Algeria... This is one of their strengths, the fact that they can withdraw, regroup, reappear. We saw this last month in the hostage-taking incident against that gas field in Algeria. I think the key factor here is the extent to which Mali's neighbours are willing and able to patrol and seal their borders. This will be the game changer - and Algeria already says it is doing so.

JackyRowlandAJE29 karma

Hey - this is the Million Central African Franc Question that you are posing. The fact that the rebels were able to take over the north in the first place tells you a lot about the capacity of the Malian armed forces.
The fact that the Malian army is now taking back towns is entirely because of the presence of the French - the presence in the armoured column on the ground and the air power, the air strikes inflicted on rebel positions. The future will depend on a UN-mandated West African force coming in, on the ground, to help the Malian army to hold the territory. But there is a real risk for Mali that there may be a future rebellion in the north. A lot will depend on whether Algeria and Mauretania seal their borders to prevent the rebels from "melting away". Algeria has said today that it is beefing up its border patrols.

JackyRowlandAJE28 karma

You don't know how tall I am :-)