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Replay of Fawzia Koofi Interview; Replay of Avraham Burg Interview

Aired October 26, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program, where we bring you two of the main stories we covered.

In a moment, we'll speak with a former Israeli politician who's taking on what he calls a crisis of democracy at home.

But first, imagine if the next president of Afghanistan were a woman. By now the world knows how terribly hard life is for women in that country. Just to give you one gruesome example -- and it is difficult to watch -- here a group of Taliban gather for the assassination of a woman earlier this year. She was summarily executed simply because she was suspected of consorting with a man who was not her husband.

It's horrifying and Afghan women must fight for even the most basic of rights, like health care and education. Consider this: only about one in 10 Afghan women can read today. But that's triple what it was in 2001.

And despite the hardships, Fawzia Koofi, who's just 37 years old, believes that she can become the country's next president.

And she has a remarkable story. When she was just a newborn baby, her parents left her outside in the baking sun. They were torn about whether to keep her because she was a girl. They had a change of heart and she has grown up to become a member of parliament. For that, the Taliban has tried to assassinate her more than once.

Earlier this week, I spoke to Fawzia Koofi. She joined me from Kabul.


AMANPOUR: Fawzia Koofi, thank you so much for joining me. I want to start by asking you, as an Afghan woman, do you believe that you have any chance to run for the presidency of your country?

FAWZIA KOOFI, AFGHAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: There are countries who have had similar situations, very close society, our neighboring countries, Pakistan, for instance. There was a woman who lead the country. I think it might not be impossible for a woman to become the president in Afghanistan. And this is our mindset. We need to start thinking about changing our mindset.

But perhaps it will be very difficult for a woman to run a country which still there are weapons, still there are guns, still there is a strong understanding of culture and tradition. But that's a fight. One has to take all the risks and go for it.

AMANPOUR: First of all, let me ask you, do you believe that President Karzai will step down? Let me play you a portion of an interview that I conducted with him several months ago.


AMANPOUR: You're saying that no matter what, no ifs, ands or buts, you will not stand for reelection, whether it's in 2013 or 2014?


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Definitely not. I -- and I'm surprised when there is this question asked.


AMANPOUR: So I see you smiling as well, Fawzia.

Do you think that he will, as he promises, not run for reelection or not select some kind of successor?

KOOFI: Constitutional wise, he has no right to run for a third time office. But there are all kinds of assumptions.

The first thing is that he might support somebody very close to him, and the same team remain in power because they have all the means of power in their control. They have the governor -- province governors, chief of police, security, all the potentials for -- to help a candidate become successful, even in the palace, control basically.

So the first assumption is that he might support somebody close to him. And the same team remain in power.

The second assumption is that the security might get worse as we get closer to the election and to the withdrawal of international troops in 2014 and that the possibilities for having election become lesser and lesser.

These are in the worst-case scenario. I hope that that doesn't happen, and I hope that the -- we have a political transition before the military transition happen. And then we have an elected strong, powerful government in place so that the legitimacy of democracy continues in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about the transition, the fact that the United States and the international forces are going to be exiting Afghanistan. It's obviously a big part of the presidential debates; it's a big part of the presidential election here in the United States.

What are your biggest fears for this transition?

KOOFI: The biggest fear for any Afghan right now in Afghanistan is that the fear for going back to the dark period of our history, where we experience several war and Taliban.

The fear is that if we go back to the dark period and then security gets worse.

And the big fear is that the neighboring countries of Afghanistan start to reshape themselves and influence Afghanistan politics after withdrawal and try to reshape the politics in a way that they have a bigger voice rather than the people of Afghanistan, and then they try to pursue their own agenda in Afghanistan and their own networks and groups in Afghanistan, namely Taliban. I hope that that doesn't -- that doesn't come.

As a woman, my big fear is that we -- the rights that we sacrificed and we invested blood and treasure for it -- might be limited, as the withdrawal happen without a political transition.

AMANPOUR: Well, you have been very brave in taking on the Taliban and not putting up with any of their considerable violence, their threats and, frankly, their nonsense.

The United States has talked about negotiating with the Taliban, has talked about the current Afghan government negotiating with the Taliban.

Do you agree with that? Should the Taliban be a political player for the future?

KOOFI: I guess in the 21st century we all believe in negotiations and we all believe that issues could only be solved through discussions and talks and not through means of violence. I don't actually support the fact that Taliban are asking for their rights through violence, through killing of people. That is not going to work in anywhere, any part of the world at 21st century.

In the meantime, I think that if Taliban would like to become political players, they need to put weapons away. They need to respect Afghan constitution. There needs to be somehow a transparency and clarity on the so-called peace process.

And I believe this -- it should be a process rather than a project because people of Afghanistan certainly -- but basically women of this country deserve peace more than anybody else. But that peace has to be inclusive, so that there is no fear of losing the gains we have had in the past 10 years.

AMANPOUR: Human rights organizations have said that the United States needs to make it very clear and have very clear benchmarks about the future.

For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needs to commit the U.S. to having women's issues be a benchmark for aid and for future interaction with Afghanistan.

What do you think the United States should do as it exits Afghanistan to protect the investments that you've just talked about, to protect even the minimal rights women have been able to achieve?

KOOFI: I think the international community has a bigger role in terms of helping Afghan people to safeguard the gains they have had, particularly the women rights, because this is an achievement of the Afghan government, after Taliban fall and the achievement of international community. I believe if there is no women in the streets of Kabul, that is the day that there will be Taliban.

So when we witness that day, that there is no women going to school or there is no women in the streets of Kabul and we experience a 1996 and 1997 years during Taliban regime, that -- the consequences of that situation is not only risky and dangerous for Afghan people, but I'm sure it's much more dangerous for the world nation as well.

And we have experienced a 2001 Assad. We know that the security in Afghanistan is the security of the world. And I think that it's a time for us to revise two strategies in Afghanistan: first of all, to revise the strategy of peace process and to make it more comprehensive, inclusive, especially the inclusiveness of women and the fact that their rights should be safeguarded.

AMANPOUR: Fawzia, you talked about Afghanistan being a very traditional -- culturally and religiously very traditional. You yourself, in your book, "The Favored Daughter," speak about what happened to you the very day you were born. You were essentially left by your mother to perish. She was not happy to have had a daughter.

Why not? Tell me about that.

KOOFI: Perhaps my mother suffered as a woman a lot, and she didn't want yet another girl to suffer as much as she suffered in this world. This is perhaps one of the reasons.

But I'm not the only daughter in this -- or the only girl in this country and in this part of the world who doesn't receive a very warm welcome during born. I think most of what happens in Afghanistan and in these parts of the country goes to the tradition, to wrong understanding of -- sometimes wrong understanding of religion and, you know, wrong definition of religion, basically.

And it goes to the issue of property; when you have a girl, the girl receive only 50 percent of property, et cetera. But in the meantime, I think, women of Afghanistan, by delivering another girl, they don't receive a good also welcome in the family. So there is a kind of structured violence in the families, although it's changing now in the big cities, which is, you know, a good step.

In the big cities, the fact that women are working, they can bring income to the family. The perspective towards having a child girl is now changing. But that takes a long time. And I was one of those girls that didn't receive a warm welcome when I was born.

AMANPOUR: Fawzia Koofi, thank you so much for joining me and good luck to you.

KOOFI: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Unfortunately, political upheaval, even dysfunction is still all too familiar in Afghanistan. But it also exists in the state of Israel. And when we come back, we'll talk to an insider who's now an outsider.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Earlier this week, I brought you the first part of my interview with Avraham Burg, the former Israeli political leader, now a dissident, activist and author, who's challenging the system from the outside.

Burg is one of a number of current and former Israeli officials criticizing the Israeli government for what they call saber rattling on Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for early elections next year just as the situation in his own back yard becomes more complex, specifically with the Palestinians.

For years, Israel has succeeded in isolating Gaza. But that may be changing. Earlier this week, the emir of Qatar paid a surprise visit to Gaza, a de facto endorsement, many say, of the Hamas regime that controls it. That infuriated not just Israel but the Palestinian Authority and many other secular Palestinians.

Avraham Burg has been warning for some time that the stagnant status quo in the occupied territories is untenable. I asked him about what lies ahead for Israel during his recent visit to New York.


AMANPOUR: Avrum Burg, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You've written that so much of modern-day Israel, its politics, its society is still within the frame of the Holocaust. And I would say yes, of course. But you say, well, actually, that's not the healthiest thing.

BURG: Yes, of course, it's very healthy, because if you are traumatized, go through it. Don't deny it; don't silence it. Open it up and talk about it. So we talk about it. And parts of our strategies are trauma-driven.

When you listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks about Iran as the new Hitler, or Iran is '38 again. So you understand how the Holocaust plays the role. And it's too much. It's not just a society which go through a therapy or a community that tries to heal itself. It is sometimes being overexploited by many political leaders.

I see a day already in which the last Holocaust survivor will pass away. It will be in our lifetime. And we shall wake up one day, one morning, and the Holocaust will not be any more a personal experience, but it will be a kind of a collective memory. And I write about a different strategy for the future memory, a strategy of trust between us and the world rather than a one of permanent trauma.

AMANPOUR: One of the things that makes up the trauma for the world watching is the relationship and the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And you are very strong about that. You have very strong views that this is kind of eating up Israel from within.

BURG: There are two layers to what you describe here. The first one is we did an amazing transformation. We have a good total absolute reconciliation with the Germans. We drive German cars. And we have Braun shavers and Berlin is full of Israelis and Jews. And I even ran the Berlin marathon and enjoyed it tremendously. So with them, it's OK.

We did all -- we took all the hatred and the animosity and the fears and the phobias and moved it with it to the Middle East. And all of a sudden, the Arab represent for us, especially the Palestinians, the current archenemy, so much so when Menachem Begin, the late prime minister, called the PLO as a Nazi organization and described as some of its leaders as active Nazis. So it is there.

I believe it is a mistake to go for generalizations because when you look -- when I look 30 years ago, when I look today at the Muslim world, at the Arab world and, in particular, the Palestinian world, I will say some are bad news. But some of them are amazing people, educated, free spirits, liberties lovers, egalitarian people. They're like me.

So for me, all of a sudden, it's not just the coalition of all the Jews versus all the Palestinians, but some of us and some of them versus some extremists and zealots of theirs and ours together. So it's a different coalition.

AMANPOUR: You describe individuals on the other side, and you talk about individuals on your side.

But what about in the macro world? What happens to this idea that we've all been clinging to, especially in Israel, of a two-state solution? Is that still viable?

BURG: Rhetorically speaking, it is there. I mean, people are still paying lip service to the concept of the formula of the two-state solution. I'm not at all sure that it is there to stay forever. I mean, the days of the formula are numbered because there is a new generation in Israel and there is a new generation in Palestine who actually tells itself, listen.

If the Israelis do not want to grant us the kinds of rights we're entitled to have through a political arrangement, which is two political entities, an Israeli one and a Palestinian one, living in peace with each other -- and mistakes were done by both sides, of course.

And if Israel doesn't have the power to call back all these settlements, which are hundreds of thousands of people, so what about our rights as then the free Jews and as citizens? We want to vote. Just tell us where to vote. You want us to vote our own parliament? So be it. You want us to vote for the Knesset? Let us do it.

The minute this demand -- and you hear it more and more in the intelligentsia and you hear it more and more with activists and the new generation, they say we want to vote.

AMANPOUR: Palestinians, you're talking about.

BURG: Palestinians. So just tell us where to vote. The minute you heard, it's about -- you'll hear it's about voting, the minute it is about civil rights, it's about constitutional rights. If every individual is entitled to the same rights between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, that's the end of the two-state solution. It's a one-state formula. And these voices are being heard louder and louder recently.

AMANPOUR: So do you see any hope for a settlement, a peace settlement that will enshrine the two states?

BURG: If I say yes and I tell you yes, I hope you tell me you are an idealist; you are a utopian. You're a no-good pinko, whatever you are. So I'll tell you as a realist, I think that's the best formula for both nations --

AMANPOUR: Well, sure, but this has been going on for more than 20 years now, the Oslo (inaudible).

BURG: It goes -- let's give the numbers, OK? Sixty-four years for the independence, the independence of the state of Israel, which was the first round between us and the Palestinians. Eventually it is our independence and their Nakba. Then it is 45 years to '67. Whoever believed that this temporary situation will be 45 years old? And 20 years to Oslo.

If we will not do a thing, if our leadership will not take a position, eventually it will happen by itself. Now today we have a one-state formula, but it's a one state and not very equal one, because one nation is very happy -- that's the Jewish Israeli one -- and one is very unhappy -- that's the Palestinian discriminated one.

And you cannot, nowhere around the world, especially in the current Middle East, keep freedom in the bottle without letting it out. And people love to have freedoms. And without answering the Middle East call nowadays -- give us freedom; let us vote -- Israel will face a serious challenge.

And if you ask me what is today the watershed between right and left within progressive and conservative, between all the camps in Israel, it's exactly this question. Do we go back to the agreed-upon international mind? Or do we stay in the West Bank and continue the ongoing annexation with the built-in discrimination?

AMANPOUR: And yet the Israeli people right now don't seem to be that focused on that. They don't seem to care so much. Life is fairly good. The wall, whatever you want to call it, has cut down on the -- of this terrorism. And it seems to be out of sight, out of mind. Gaza is over there; the West Bank is over there and Israel in the middle.

How do the people feel? Are they energized? Are they just keep it -- keep it -- keep it like it is right now?

BURG: All of the above.


BURG: In -- we just made a survey about positions, not just political positions but deep (ph) positions. And we find something very interesting, something like 70 percent of the Israelis think that the country is going the wrong direction. And the -- 70 percent of the people are very happy with their personal status. So something is not working here.

This corresponds with a different finding of an international survey done recently that the Israelis are 14th in the world in the measure of happiness.

But the 14th happiest nation in the state, but the next question is how many of you think that Israel would be there within 50 years?

But I know it goes the wrong direction. And the role of a leader is not just to satisfy the people here and now; it's to give a long-term strategic vision and tell the people, listen, difficult it will be. But once we take this road, we shall achieve and accomplish in so A, B and C. And my feeling is that today's patriotism in Israel is defined wrongly.

You define a patriot as one who has -- who feel -- who introduce more fear to the people, who uses more weapons, who uses more language of power and language of violence and language of rhetoric that you just heard recently from all over the place.

I think that a real patriot should be one who promises and guarantees the long-term sustainability of the state of Israel 50 years, 100 years down the road. This cannot be done -- cannot be done without resolving the issues of the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: Avrum Burg, thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Next, we'll return to Afghanistan and the struggle of young women not merely to be heard, but to survive.

A roadside bomb that turned out to be a baby named Happiness -- when we come back.




AMANPOUR: A final thought, we heard the incredible story of how our guest, Fawzia Koofi, was abandoned by her parents when she was just a baby, an Afghan girl child with no future in a male-dominated society. Fortunately, of course, her parents had a change of heart.

But it's all too easy to imagine a world where the birth of a girl is still considered a family tragedy. Perhaps that's why this newborn was dumped on the side of the road south of Kabul recently. She, like Fawzia, was fortunate. Some Polish troops, part of the dwindling NATO force, came upon her when they were on a patrol. At first, they thought she was a bomb. They brought her back to a local hospital and named her Pola, for Poland, but she still needed a home.

And she found one when an Afghan couple Fatima and Zahir Rahimi, adopted her and gave her a new name. They call her Aria (ph), which means happiness. Said her father, "She has brought a lot of happiness to us. I want my baby to grow up, go to school and have a very good future."

Most of us take that for granted -- growing up, going to school, having a future. But for the girls of Afghanistan, as the Taliban tries to reassert itself, these are precious and increasingly perilous things.

And that's it for the weekend edition of our program. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from New York.