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Women's Rights in the Muslim World; End of Joint Training in Afghanistan

Aired September 20, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. On this program, we've often discussed women's rights across the Muslim world. Today a rare opportunity to speak to a true insider, a woman's who's on the front lines of this issue and as an activist actually comes from an unlikely place.

Ameerah al-Taweel is not only a privileged princess, she is from Saudi Arabia. Her husband is one of the richest men in the world, Prince al- Waleed bin Talal, and he is also the nephew of Saudi King Abdullah.

In a country that is, unfortunately, among the most oppressive for women anywhere in the world, where women can't travel alone, can't drive a car, can't even take a job without the approval of their male guardian, the princess is saying things that the clerics and conservatives in painfully conservative Saudi Arabia don't really want to hear.

Princess Ameerah is here in New York to announce a global project, millions of dollars from her foundation to improve economic and job opportunities and also help resolve conflicting religious views.

These, of course, are the very problem that gave rise to the Arab Spring of last year and have played into the hands of militant agitators, who have been whipping up the violent protects in the Muslim world over the last week. I'll speak with the princess in just a moment. But first, here's a look at what's coming up later in the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Insider attacks in Afghanistan, record numbers of international troops are the target. But who exactly are the killers?

And imagine a world where conflicts are peacefully resolved. Roger Fisher did just that.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first, Princess Ameerah of Saudi Arabia joins me now, welcome to the program.

AMEERAH AL-TAWEEL, SAUDI PRINCESS: Thank you so much, Christiane, it's an honor to be on your program.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's great to have you, particularly right now, because of course, we want to get to the issues that you're passionate about -- women. But you're bringing this bridge-building mission here to New York at a time when the world has been convulsed -- your part of the world -- with these anti-American protests.

You know, we've talked about it a lot over the last week. What do you say to people who are using these excuses, these films, these cartoons to act in an inexcusable way?

AL-TAWEEL: Well, it's been very unfortunate that we're witnessing these violent acts among Arab youth towards American representation. And the film, yes, it was offensive. It was wrong. And at the same time, the reaction of violence, killing innocent people who had nothing to do with the film is wrong as well.

And two wrongs don't make a right.

AMANPOUR: What can you do in terms of the missions that you are trying to start, I mean, this immense amount of money that you and your husband are pouring in and announcing at the Clinton Global Initiative, do you think that that's actually something very timely and can lead to resolving some of this tension?

AL-TAWEEL: Yes. Arabs are frustrated and very specifically young Arabs are frustrated because they have been oppressed for five decades.

AMANPOUR: By their own leaders.

AL-TAWEEL: By their own leaders. And now they have the chance to express themselves; they have freedom of speech, and at the same time, there isn't any channels whereby they express their opinions in appropriate manners, like civil society, NGOs, even their own governments, their new governments are not well structured yet.

And that's why we're seeing all of these violent acts that are not right, but it's our job to create such channels whereby they can express themselves. Up for Unity is an initiative where it's an uncommon table of world leaders, gathering to create those channels for these young people, not only in the Arab world, but also across all regions.

And the mission, Up for Unity, is actually to bridge the gap of hope, faith, opportunity and financial device. And our goal is to reach 100 million people among -- within five years and we're hoping to do so with our partners.

AMANPOUR: It's very ambitious goal, but obviously something that's really needed right now.

And as I said at the beginning, what we also want to do is focus on something that you're passionate about and right in the middle of, and that is women's rights, not just around the Islamic world, but in your own home country of Saudi Arabia, where, you know, things change at the speed of molasses, which means very, very slowly.

What do you say to the perennial question of why can't women drive?

AL-TAWEEL: It's definitely a question that I've been asked a lot. I don't know why. It's -- I think it's a very easy decision. And it is for the government. A lot of people are saying this is a social issue. Not many political issues are right of, you know, 40 percent of the Saudi society are females. And you're taking their right to drive, saying it's a social issue.

Well, education was a social issue. And a lot of people in Saudi Arabia were against women getting educated. Yet the decision was made. And among five years, we see a lot of Saudi women are --were in the `70s, of course, were into -- plugged into education and now you're talking about 57 percent of university graduates are women.

AMANPOUR: They are --

AL-TAWEEL: And it's very impressive and it does need leadership and it needs a decision taken by the officials in my country.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that they should take that decision?

AL-TAWEEL: Of course.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's time for reform? Can reform happen in Saudi Arabia, because what we're told is everything has to move so slowly because you know, the clerics are so powerful and the waves (ph) of conservatism is so powerful.

AL-TAWEEL: Conservatives have an amazing lobby. They know how to voice out their opinions. Us women, not yet. As they are against something, they (inaudible) at the same time, they use social media at the same time.

They walk into official offices of the government at the same time. And they state their opinions. Now for us women, yes, we are very educated. We know exactly what we want, but we're not organized.

AMANPOUR: Why not? Why don't people write op-eds? I mean, the few, you just said 57 percent of college graduates are women. Only 15 percent, though, of the workforce is women. So they haven't got in there. But there are some very powerful women in Saudi Arabia. Why are people shy to write the op-eds and to organize, even that 15 percent?

AL-TAWEEL: There are a lot of women who are doing so. But the problem is it's not uniting together. And doing it at the same time.

And we're trying to do so with the foundation we're creating, the First Women Leaders Network, in Saudi Arabia, where you have women leaders from different sectors. And they get together; they set priorities and they set how to tackle these priorities and reach their voices to the right people. And this is a step that I think would create a positive change.

AMANPOUR: You're being very open. You're a member of the royal family. Is that a risk for you? Do you get pushback, blowback?

AL-TAWEEL: I received some criticisms and I do get some of those negative feedbacks. But at the same time, I don't represent all Saudi women. There are Saudi women who are against such a movement. I represent maybe a sector of young Saudi women and the population of Saudis, 60 percent are under the age of 30.

AMANPOUR: So that's the majority.

AL-TAWEEL: Yes. And when you're saying, you know, in a slow speed, that's not their speed. They're used to --


AL-TAWEEL: -- globalized and they want things to happen quickly and they want them to happen now.

AMANPOUR: But that, you see, of course, I understand the aspiration, but that rubs right against the ruling authorities and the clerics. And what I think is so interesting is that the clerics are fundamental in people's civic life, in people's home life. And the idea of this conservatism starts right at home.

I want to play you something from a young Saudi activist in that age group that you talk about, Manal al-Sharif, who was, you know, posted the driving demonstration then was in trouble for it, and talked about how in Saudi Arabia women, from the minute they're born to the minute they die, have to have a male guardian. Listen to what she told me.


MANAL AL-SHARIF, SAUDI ACTIVIST: So I'm treated as a minor in every single aspect of my life. I need to get a male permission to study, to work, to get my papers, to leave the country.

AMANPOUR: And who -- which males' permission?

AL-SHARIF: If I'm not married, it's my father.

AMANPOUR: And what if you have no father and no husband?

AL-SHARIF: It moves to my kids, for example.

AMANPOUR: Your kid is your guardian?

AL-SHARIF: Yes. So it's -- can you imagine, you give birth to your own guardian?


AMANPOUR: It's pretty dramatic, Princess.

AL-TAWEEL: It is. But --


AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) fight that?

Or how to make it change?

AL-TAWEEL: Well, it's all --

AMANPOUR: In modern Saudi Arabia?

AL-TAWEEL: -- it all starts with civil rights. So far there isn't any written civil rights for Saudi women as citizens of Saudi Arabia. And the Ministry of Justice said that they're working on it. However, it's -- you know, rights are not given; they're taken. And it's up to us women to gather, state what we want to happen with our civil rights.

She's talking about male guardian. That's not our only problem. Some kind --

AMANPOUR: That's one of the problems.

AL-TAWEEL: Yes, with custody battles and you're a woman, your children get taken away from you. A lot of Saudi women suffer from that. My own mom suffered from that with us. So it touches every woman's life. And I think it's up to us to move and to ask for it. The government is moving and it's making a lot of reforms. But we need to move as well as civil society and as NGOs.

AMANPOUR: The problem is that when you do, you can get arrested or thrown in jail, perhaps not you as a member of the royal family, but some of the activists do. So here, what will create that courage, do you think? Where does the hope lie?

AL-TAWEEL: This is the thing. We're not going to protest in the streets, where we could be against any -- I'll give you an example, with conservatives. With women working in lingerie shops, they didn't like that.

And then the Minister of Labor said, you have -- to all of the companies of lingerie shops -- said there are 12 months to hire women or we'll shut you down. They went, found out what's wrong with that law.

And they filed a lawsuit against the government. They all lobbied together, wrote op-eds at the same time, did research and studies, through politically right means to approve and to showcase their own point of view, that this is not right that women shouldn't be working in lingerie shops.

And you know what, the decision got postponed. Now if us women did the same thing and lobbied in the right way, we would can do it as well.

AMANPOUR: So are you going to work on that, sort of organizational level?

AL-TAWEEL: It's not just me. I'm so happy, because I was just at a women's gathering in Saudi Arabia. You have women doctors gathering. You have women engineers, who are starting the first engineer council for women.

You have a lot of women starting their own lobbies, and it's about time that we get together and we voice out our concerns, just like the conservatives do, through democratic means, where we don't put ourselves in the face of danger, like you said.

AMANPOUR: And just to move again to the sort of bridge-building aspect, your husband, the foundation, has put a huge amount of money into the new Islamic art wing of the Louvre. And just last year a new Islamic art wing was opened here at the Metropolitan museum in New York.

Do you think that, as we see sort of the world kind of in flames, that these art and cultural methods have any benefit towards building bridges?

AL-TAWEEL: Of course. Art is a universal language. Anyone who sees art or an art piece and learns more about it, it could change their own stereotype about a certain religion or a certain culture. And this Islamic arts hall holds more than showcases 3,000 pieces and holds more than 1,000 Islamic arts paintings and sculptures and lots of art pieces.

They have been hidden away from the world at the Louvre storages for more than two decades. And President Jacques Chirac started this idea of having Islamic art hall, and he got a lot of people on the table, including the foundation.

AMANPOUR: Princess Ameerah, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

AL-TAWEEL: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to be on your show.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be watching your efforts, very important ones in this regard.

AL-TAWEEL: Thank you. Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: And after a break, we'll turn to Afghanistan, where insider attacks on international forces are at an all-time high. The who, what, why, when we return.

But first, take a look at this picture. Those are women in Saudi Arabia, watching and taping their countrywoman, Sara Atta, competing in the women's 800 meter heat at the London Olympics back in August. Although she finished last, Atta became the first female athlete to represent Saudi Arabia in Olympic track and field. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. International forces leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Their insurance policy for keeping the peace? Afghan forces, who they've been training to take over.

That whole strategy, however, has been thrown into question after the U.S. and its NATO partners abruptly ended most joint operations and training missions with the Afghan soldiers this week. They did that because of the incredible number of deaths they've been suffering at the hands of those very forces they're meant to be getting ready to take over.

With me now to talk about what this means for the future of Afghanistan is Pulitzer prizewinning journalist, Dexter Filkins. He's covered the war there from the start and now he writes for "The New Yorker."

Thanks for being here.


AMANPOUR: What did you make of that decision to stop joint training missions, joint patrols, you know, between the forces?

FILKINS: Well, I mean, it's hard to imagine anything that could do more damage, you know, at least over the short term. I mean, they may be - - maybe it'll just be in place for a few weeks or a month or whatever. But it's terrible. I mean, as you said, this is -- this is how we get out. We train, we train an army --

AMANPOUR: And if you can't train them --

FILKINS: If you can't train them, then what happens? Then we're stuck. Then we're really stuck.

So you know, we can't leave and we can't stay. I mean --

AMANPOUR: Let's show, you know, what has brought us to this level. We've got some statistics; "The Wall Street Journal" had a very, you know, very, very clearly visible statistic on this.

Basically, look at that up there. Look at that graph. The lowest line is 2012. It shows the huge number of people who've been killed, NATO forces by Afghan forces, 51 in 2012 -- 15 percent of those who've been killed have been killed by Afghan forces, a huge spike.

Why is that happening? Why now?

FILKINS: Well, some people, I think, the Afghan government, President Karzai stood up recently and said, well, this is -- this is Pakistan which is doing it, or it's the Taliban. And most of the evidence suggests that that's not the case. It's worse, really. It's just ordinary Afghans who are joining the army and they're doing it on their own. And that's what's so troubling.


FILKINS: Well, there usually a bunch of different reasons. I think this week it's because they suspect it's because of the video that went viral and angered the entire --

AMANPOUR: That anti-Islamic film on YouTube.

FILKINS: -- yes, but it's -- and it's often a lot of things. It's like, well, he insulted me or he's been -- you know, the trainer has been mean to me and so they go and shoot him. I -- it's a lot of -- it's a lot of different factors, but the really big one is that it's happening. And that's really all that matters.

And so imagine the anxiety that you feel if you're one of these American trainers who's trying to train Afghans and lives with them, goes out on patrol with them. It must be terrifying. I mean, they're among each other and they're all armed. And you can see why it's so difficult.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it really does look very, very troubling. And yet, obviously, senior leaders, political and military, have to put the best face on it.

This is what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said about it.


LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We think, frankly, it is -- it is kind of a last-gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces, but to try to create chaos because they've been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost.


AMANPOUR: I mean, I know why he's saying that. But this idea that this shows how desperate the Afghans or the Taliban is seems to be -- do you buy that?

FILKINS: Well, it sounds like something we used to hear in Iraq. I - - but no. I mean, by their -- by their -- by the Defense Department's own investigations, something like 10 percent -- only 10 percent of the attacks on American trainers and soldiers can be attributed to the Taliban or to Pakistan. The rest of them are Afghans. They're just -- they're just angry Afghans. That's why it's so troubling. But that's just -- that's not accurate.

AMANPOUR: You've done a lot of investigating. I mean, you've been covering it for a long time, and you just wrote a very big article in "The New Yorker."

One of the things that obviously I was fascinated by, because I've been troubled by this prospect as well, is even before this disrupting or rather ending of the joint patrols and the joint training mission, it looks to be -- the major question was would the peace hold or would they fall apart into civil war after the U.S. left? And you wrote some troubling things about that.

FILKINS: Right, right.

AMANPOUR: That they're arming, the factions are arming, they're almost on the verge of wanting to fight it out again after the U.S. leaves.

FILKINS: Well, if you remember, I mean, all this, you know, there's a lot of history here. And when the Soviet Union left in 1989, after they themselves had been there for 10 years and lost that war, Afghanistan imploded into a very long and bloody civil war and maybe 200,000 dead. It --

AMANPOUR: You're raising that specter again?

FILKINS: Yes, basically. I mean, that civil war really didn't stop until 9/11, until we went back in. And so it kind of was frozen when we arrived, and it's been frozen ever since. And so the fear is that it's going to start again.

AMANPOUR: What signs are you seeing? What do people tell you?

FILKINS: Well, people are terrified. I mean, I think -- if you look back or if you stand back and look at a map of Afghanistan, it's basically a north-south thing. You have the Pashtuns in the south and that's where the Taliban get most of their recruits. And then in the north you have a bunch of minorities, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks.

And the civil war was kind of a north-south thing, just as ours was, and what's happening is the northerners, the ethnic minorities, are terrified that when the United States leaves, either the Taliban is going to take over again or the government will make a deal with the Taliban, bring them back into the government.

But I think the greatest fear now, frankly, is that there will just be chaos, that the army, the Afghan army won't be strong enough to hold the state together.

AMANPOUR: This idea of bringing the Taliban in, of course, that is, yes, another of the political strategies of the United States, and it's basically -- I don't think -- going anywhere at the moment. But beyond that, I've been told by, you know, Tajik members, people who are in the northern alliance, that even if that was to happen, they would fight it. What do people tell you?

FILKINS: Well, I mean, that's the -- that's the sort of -- that's the paradox, which is you have on one hand the Afghan government trying to make a deal with the Taliban and you have a large part of the country that doesn't want to make a deal. And they say if you make a deal with the Taliban, we fight.

And any number of Afghans told me that, because they're terrified. I mean, they don't -- they don't want -- I mean, the Taliban, when they were in power in the 1990s, they brutalized the ethnic minorities. And so they don't want that again.

And so, really, the only solution to all of this, if we're going to leave -- and everybody wants to leave; we've been there 11 years, the only solution is to build an Afghan army that can hold the state together.

AMANPOUR: Well, even before, they say, this abrupt ending for the moment of these patrols and training missions, when you went out to various outposts, did you see Afghan forces ready to take over?

Did you see, I don't know, headquarters, camps --


AMANPOUR: -- (inaudible) structure?

FILKINS: -- yes, it's a crash effort that we're spending, I think $10 billion a year to kind of build this army and police force of 300,000 Afghans. And they're doing it as fast as they can. And it's a mixed picture. I mean, the guys I went out with, it was mixed. The Afghans wanted to fight. I mean, and they, you know, Afghans fight. They're -- they don't cut and run.

But they didn't have equipment. They didn't have support. They didn't have -- my God, they didn't have electricity. They didn't have running water. They didn't have helmets. So it's like -- it's that stuff, you know?

AMANPOUR: And briefly, obviously, we were all there at the beginning and for many years afterwards, around 2001-2002, it looked as if it would work.

FILKINS: Oh, yes. I mean, it was a different world, you know what I mean? Back then, I mean, I just think back to 2001 and 2002, the Taliban were defeated, they were gone and they were dispersed, everybody was happy that the United States was there. You know, I could get in a car and I could drive all across the country anywhere I wanted to go.

I haven't been able to do that for years.

AMANPOUR: Dexter Filkins, thank you very much for joining me.

FILKINS: Thank you. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: The conflict in Afghanistan has been going on for 11 years with not much end to the fighting in sight. But one remarkable man specialized in resolving such conflicts. How he did it when we come back.


AMANPOUR: And a final thought tonight, with all this conflict we've just been talking about and trying to figure out how to resolve, imagine a world if everyone attended Roger Fisher's class. For more than four decades, he was a professor at Harvard Law School, where he taught negotiating strategy and conflict resolution.

But Roger Fisher's influence extended far beyond the classroom. In his bestselling book, "Getting to Yes," he wrote that the key to negotiating is to put yourself in the other person's shoes and see the problem from his or her point of view.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In 1985, President Ronald Reagan took Fisher's advice and sat down with his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev. Mortal enemies instead of confronting each other, began to talk and listen and eventually became partners to end the Cold War.

Seven years earlier, Fisher's techniques were followed by President Jimmy Carter during the Camp David negotiations and two long-time foes, Israel's Menachem Begin and Egypt's Anwar Sadat went on to sign an historic peace accord.

Fisher even gave workshops in South Africa to the de Klerk government and to the ANC, which helped end apartheid. Growing up one of six children, Fisher learned to negotiate at an early age. And during military service in World War II, he lost his college roommate and several close friends, which fueled a lifelong pursuit of peaceful resolutions.


AMANPOUR: Roger Fisher died last month at the age of 90, but his lessons in listening and seeking common ground should be learned by heart.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, our inbox is always open, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.