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Thousands of Displaced Syrians on the Move in Aleppo; Syria's Forgotten Crisis, the Internally Displaced; British Red Carpet for the Red Leader; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 20, 2015 - 14:00   ET




FRED PLEITGEN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: no home and no hope.

What now for the desperate Syrians of Aleppo as pro-Assad forces continue a major offensive?

I speak to an aid official and to the U.N. Representative for Internally Displaced People.



psychological trauma.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Plus, parades and protests: China's president visits the U.K. amidst criticism over human rights.

Should Britain seek deeper ties?

We meet a lawmaker who says absolutely yes.


PLEITGEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane for all of this week.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): An emboldened Syrian army is fighting for control of the northern province of Aleppo amidst reports they're not only getting

help from Russian warplanes but also from Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces and even from Shia militias from Iraq.

Seems like an all-out assault to win back Syria's an largest city. And it's just the latest offensive the Assad government has undertaken since

Russia and Iran have drastically stepped up their support.

Russian defense ministry says its air force hit 60 targets inside Syria in the past 24 hours. But the fighting is forcing tens of thousands of people

out of their homes, many seeking refuge in open fields and anywhere they can find some sort of safety in Aleppo's countryside.

Our first guest has seen this exodus firsthand. Zaidoun al-Zoabi is with the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations. He's just come out of

Aleppo and he joins me now, live from Gaziantep in Turkey.

Zaidoun, thank you for joining the program. And first of all, tell me what you've seen as you were in Aleppo and in the countryside.

ZAIDOUN AL-ZOABI, UNION OF SYRIAN MEDICAL RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS: I spent the last three or four days in Aleppo, in Idlib, trying just to assess what

we can do for people who are being displaced right now. And I could see one thing only, that this is a new stage in this war. I guess this is the

worst ever.

We had people who are just in the field, in the open, everywhere, walking, carrying whatever they can carry, small mattresses, something you would

have thrown away just like 10 years ago, anything to cover themselves or to sleep on.

Villages were empty, empty. No one is there. Villages were empty. And whatever you see is just scared faces. People are scared to death. Anger,

people not -- do not know what to do, where to go. It's just like walking.

When I asked people, where are you going to? They said, we don't know.

PLEITGEN: How intense --

AL-ZOABI: It is just full of despair.

PLEITGEN: How intense are the airstrikes that are going on?

How many planes are in the air?

How much is being bombed.

And also how precise are these airstrikes that are going on?

AL-ZOABI: Well, first of all, in the last three or four days, I know that three hospitals were targeted. One is in al-Hader, one of the villages I

visited, and the other is el-Eis. Al-Hader Hospital was hit directly at the building, I mean very precise, very accurate targeting.

And the sky was full of jetfighters, helicopters. And this is making people exactly, exactly with no hope.

When you talk to people, what are you afraid of, they said, we are just afraid of jetfighters and helicopters. So scared. So scared. I don't

think I've ever seen this in Syria before.

PLEITGEN: When you're saying you haven't seen this --


AL-ZOABI: Really, worst moments in Syria.

PLEITGEN: You're saying you have seen this before. But I mean, we know that Aleppo was already in the past one of the main centers for urban


What is the situation in Aleppo City like right now?

And also where are these people trying to flee to?

AL-ZOABI: Well, there is nowhere to flee to. I mean, as it is usually the case, I mean, people just go on the streets. Now we couldn't, until now,

even --


AL-ZOABI: -- into one single tent, to give them a shelter, by the way. And as it is usually the case, they will just try to find a place for some

time and then they will take the sea, take the boat to Europe if they can do so, if they can just really cross the border to Turkey.

And why is it so bad? I think at least the psychological effect of a superpower intervening in Syria is alone enough for people to lose hope.

And I think if Europe was suffering the flux of refugees in the past three or four months, then what they will see in the next 2-3 months is even more

than that.

Where to go, what to do?

How can you blame people for just, I mean, taking the boat?

I spoke to people, they said, fine, OK, we might get drowned in the sea but if we stay here, we will surely die. I mean, people -- alas, forget it.

There is no single hope for them. Everyone will now think just how to -- how to save -- rescue our children. For then, staying in Syria is just

crazy. And I understand that fully.

PLEITGEN: Are people more afraid of -- are people more afraid of chaos, the chaos that could ensue?

Are people more afraid of the advancing forces, of the -- obviously the government forces but also backed up by Iranians, backed up possibly by

Hezbollah as well?

What worries them the most?

AL-ZOABI: The most?

Two things that worry them in fact: helicopters and jetfighters, airplanes; second, if they see the troops coming to them.

People, I mean, these people, Frederik, these people lived with war for the -- for four years. This means, first of all, they never thought of leaving

the country because most probably because they are very much fools or they don't even have money, enough money to pay for the smugglers.

Second, they are used to war.

Still, these people now, who are used to war, can't, can't now stand this.

PLEITGEN: And what is your organization able to do?

What can you guys still do on the ground there?

I know you guys are trying to set up medical facilities; you say two medical facilities have been bombed.

What is it like to work there right now?

Is it still possible to provide help?

AL-ZOABI: See, Frederik, for -- in the first seven months of this year, we recorded 151 attacks on hospitals. From now on, we will not build any

hospital. This is nonsense. We will not build any hospital.

We will do only one thing. We will try to move mobile clinics to move with the displaced people themselves. We're trying to provide them with


We cannot protect ourselves. We cannot protect our hospitals. And although we have sent these reports many times to you and but nothing is

going on, we're just -- we're just asking to protect only hospitals from airstrikes, only hospitals.

Is this too much?

Only hospitals. We will try to move with them with task forces to provide them now with food, water, with whatever scarce resources we have.

Until now, I didn't see real action from the international community. I have now, you have guys in the world, for God's sake, you have hundreds of

thousands of people being displaced.

I mean, whose duty is this?

We can't do it alone. We are about to collapse. We were just talking yesterday, shall we just seize operations? Because this is beyond our

capacity. You know, just let us go on.

Of course we will have to go on. But we can't do this alone. We can't provide enough food. We can't provide enough medicine. We can't provide

shelter. Even if we do so for a small portion, we can't, we can't take it alone.

You just see our faces. We haven't slept in days now. It's beyond our capacity. For God's sake, we can't take it anymore. No one of us slept

for the past four days. We don't know what to do. Helpless, we are helpless, hopeless.

I don't want to lose hope. I still have to live with hope.

But how can I do so?

Enough for us. Please end this war. Do something to end this war.

I mean, what wrong have we done to endure such a bloody stupid war?

It is enough for us for God's sake. I mean, we can't take it anymore. We can't. We can't. So tired, so helpless, I'm sorry but I can't -- I can't

stop. We don't know what to do --


AL-ZOABI: -- for God's sake. Swear to God, we are just about to collapse, all of us.

PLEITGEN: Zaidoun.

AL-ZOABI: I'm sorry for --

PLEITGEN: It's all right. It's all right. I understand. I fully understand the frustration --


PLEITGEN: I fully understand the frustration of what's been going on, especially for the aid groups. You guys are doing amazing work. We know

that. We know so many people are putting themselves at risk to help people. And it is a -- really a frustrating situation.

I want to thank you for coming on the program today. Thank you very much. Zaidoun there in Gaziantep, in Southern Turkey.

Well, as you can see there, a lot of frustration. And of course the situation inside Syria is really one that is dire. Nine million Syrians

are displaced inside their own country, 9 million, a staggering crisis and one that is often overlooked.

For my next guest, it's what he focuses on every single day. Chaloka Beyani is the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Internally

Displaced Persons. He joined me earlier on set.


PLEITGEN: Chaloka Beyani, thank you for joining the program.

BEYANI: It's my pleasure. Thank you very much.

PLEITGEN: Now, of course, right now, by far, the biggest displacement crisis in the world is the civil war in Syria. And it's getting worse as

we speak. There's a new offensive going on around the Aleppo area.

How concerned are you about the situation there?

BEYANI: I'm very gravely concerned about it. I think after I left Syria, in my statement I say that this was the gravest crisis that the world has

ever seen in recent times.

PLEITGEN: There's about 4.5 million refugees coming out of Syria, 9 million people displaced inside the country. That's more than a third of

the original population before the civil war started.

BEYANI: Yes. And there's also a lot of spontaneous movement. So the lesson there is that unless people are actually protected internally

effectively, then they'll spill out.

PLEITGEN: Are most of the people who are displaced within Syria within the regime-held areas or are they in the rebel-held areas?

BEYANI: Most of them are in rebel-held areas. I went to most of the areas that are hosted by the government. There are about 618 centers hosting

350,000 internally displaced persons roughly in government-held areas. But that, obviously, again, is the tip of the iceberg.

PLEITGEN: In many cases, these people here are still in harm's way. And you have to deal with the Syrian government. You have to deal with rebel

groups. You have to work, obviously, with local NGOs; in part you have to cross enemy lines to help these people.

How hard is that in a place like Syria?

BEYANI: Well, it's very, very hard because different areas are under the effective control of different groups. But the primary responsibility for

protecting and for carrying out measures of protection obviously lie with the Syrian government. So they have to give far more authority in order to

visit those areas.

However, areas that are held by rebel groups, often access is difficult.

PLEITGEN: How important is it to deal with the psychological wounds, to keep kids, for instance, getting an education, to get them back to school,

to help people deal with trauma?

How can you do that and how important is it?

BEYANI: That's one of the most important aspects of protection and assistance that is actually neglected because displacement is disorienting.

It causes psychological trauma. It causes huge problems for men who lose authority, for women who are also subjected to sexual violence.

And yet, in most of the places that I actually visited, those services were absent.

PLEITGEN: How big an issue is winter going to be?

BEYANI: Winter's going to be one of the biggest problems in humanitarian terms. We speak of winterization, which is the supply of food and blankets

to make populations comfortable during the winter.

And it's quite clear that, for those who are hosted by communities and those who are just beyond the scope of access by humanitarian actors at

this point in time, winter is going to be a problem for them.

But without adequate preparations, I think it's quite clear that some people lose their lives in IDP situations.

PLEITGEN: You've visited Syria.

How was your experience?

How well is that working?

How much help are people getting there?

BEYANI: In the government-run centers, the Syrian Red Crescent is doing a very good job. There are certainly --

PLEITGEN: They work on both sides. They work -- the rebels allow them, the government allows them.

How well does it work?

BEYANI: I think they do cross lines. The government were quite clear that even those civilians that are in rebel-held areas are treated equally as

their citizens. And if they come over to government-held areas, they will give then the basic necessities.

PLEITGEN: How much of a problem do you have with funding?

Because one of the things that leads people to go from being displaced to being refugees is the fact they don't get enough help because there isn't

enough money available to help them.


BEYANI: That's a huge problem and one of the most driving aspect of the Syrian humanitarian crisis, because there are about 12 million people who

are food insecure. And yet only 17 percent of the pledges made by the international community so far have been given to the U.N.

PLEITGEN: Syria is, of course, as we've said, the biggest internally displaced crisis in the world. But it's by far not the only one. And one

of the things that many internally displaced people face is distrust when they go into different areas of their country.

You have it in Syria, when you, for instance, have Sunnis, who go into majority Alawite or Shia areas. But you also, for instance, have it in

places like Nigeria, where you have people who come from Boko Haram- affected areas, not really accepted in the other areas of Nigeria.

How big a problem is this internally?

BEYANI: Well, one of the requirements of a country is that it has to have a stable population. And it follows that, if the population's not stable,

the country is also not stable.

But then populations, as you say, have different identities. And it is quite clear in the context of Syria that movement is very well controlled

by checkpoints, as Sunnis who want to go to places like Latakia, for example, may not actually find access to those areas.

I found in Iraq most of the Sunnis were going into the Kurdish-held areas rather than in Baghdad, where they are not welcome.

PLEITGEN: What other internally displaced crises are ones that really weigh on your mind but that might be overlooked by the world?

I'm thinking maybe South Sudan, maybe the Central African Republic.

What are some that you think need more attention?

BEYANI: There's a great deal of attention on South Sudan but it's just that the nature of the conflict, at this point in time, I think, escapes

solutions. The forgotten crisis is that of the Central African Republic.

I went to the Central African Republic in February of this year and saw for myself that you still have the Seleka and anti-balaka groups. They're

still armed. They're still causing havoc. Populations are trapped in some cases. There is no humanitarian leverage; if anything, the humanitarian

support has been scaled down from a level 3 to an ordinary situation.

And the Central African Republic is in real need of attention.

PLEITGEN: Chaloka Beyani, thank you very much for joining us.

BEYANI: Thank you.


PLEITGEN: And we'll be right back after a short break.




PLEITGEN: Welcome back to the program, everyone.

And Britain rolled out the red carpet for the red leader today. President Xi Jinping is getting the full treatment on his British state visit. First

on the agenda: the economy and the $46 billion in trade and investment the U.K. says will result from the visit.

But dissenters are many. The Labour Party says cheap Chinese steel is responsible for 1,200 British job cuts announced by Tata Steel today.


KEVIN BRENNAN, BRITISH LABOUR MP: While the Chinese president is riding down the mount in his gilded state coach, British workers are being laid

off because our government's not standing up for them.


PLEITGEN: But Conservative MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, chair of the group Conservative Friends of the Chinese, tells me there's much to be gained for

both countries.


PLEITGEN: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, thank you very much for joining the program.


PLEITGEN: So it's a big state visit here to Britain by Xi Jinping.

What does Britain hope to get out of this?

CLIFTON-BROWN: It's a really good opportunity on a number of levels. It's important, I think, for our prime minister, David Cameron, to be able to

talk face-to-face to one of the most powerful men in the world because you can do so much more face-to-face than you can through a raft of officials.

So I think on the human rights level, that's important.

PLEITGEN: Do you think he's going to bring it up and to what extent does he have to bring it up?

Because there are people who are saying you have to make clear that there are huge issues as far as --


PLEITGEN: -- civil rights, human rights and minority rights are concerned in China.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Yes, I'm sure he will be raising this. He's already said publicly he's going to. It would be quite wrong for the Chinese premier to

come here and not get some flavor of the disquiet over human rights.

And I think that is one of the great benefits of engaging with a country like China, trading with it, so that we have really good relations, as has

been said. We want to become China's best trading partner in the West and I think that's important.

PLEITGEN: On the one hand that's obviously very admirable but on the other hand there are people who are saying it's sort of kowtowing to the Chinese,

that there are obviously big economic concerns also when you have deeper trade relations with China; for instance, jobs here in this country.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, I understand the concerns. But equally, if you're one of those people in the city through our ruin B bonds (ph) or through

our nuclear industry, investment in our nuclear industry, you're going to get a job because of Chinese investment, Chinese trade here. You would be

absolutely delighted.

PLEITGEN: On the other hand, though, you have people, for instance, in the steel industry, who are losing their jobs at this point in time; many

people say it's because China is ruining the prices on the world market.

CLIFTON-BROWN: What we have to do in conjunction with the European Union is make sure that competition is fair, that we're not having Chinese steel

dumped on this country below the cost of production.

If it's free and fair competition and just that they're able to produce it cheaper because energy, wages costs are cheaper, that's fair enough.

But if they're actually in some way subsidizing that steel, then it's completely unfair.

PLEITGEN: How do you make sure that it's fair, though?

It seems a vague possibility that Britain will be able to compete with China in something like steel production.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, the European community has already put tariff barriers on steel because they reckon China is importing it into the

European Union too cheaply. We are continuing, as you heard from Savi Jeremy (ph) just now to make representations in that respect. And I would

expect the European Union to take further action.

PLEITGEN: There is also a big issue that people in the security industry and in the government have raised as far as cyber security is concerned.

How big an agenda issue do you think that's going to be?

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, we've done a great deal of trade with a company called Hirawe (ph). I think you have to accept that when you're doing a

trade with a company like that you have to take them at face value. There is obviously, of course, a risk; there's a risk in our nuclear industry.

But I think the risk is pretty small.

But I think --


PLEITGEN: How do you minimize it?

CLIFTON-BROWN: -- you -- by, for example, in the nuclear industry, it's going to be very, very heavily regulated.

And I think only in very extreme circumstances in the world, we went to war with China, for example, would they actually want to turn off those nuclear

vessels because after all, if they do cheat on them, their trading reputation around the world is going to be completely trashed and they're

going to find it difficult to do trade elsewhere in the world.

So I think it's not in their interest to cheat on these contracts.

PLEITGEN: What about British companies' access to the Chinese market?

I mean, that's something that is -- of course, it's a huge market, more than 1 billion people.

What are the terms there?

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, again, in some instances, it can be quite difficult and, for example, you saw GSK getting into trouble over corruption. So

it's a market where you have to obey the rules and where the rules are not fair, of course, we continue to make representations.

But I think it's understanding the Chinese psyche is really important.

PLEITGEN: How do you understand the Chinese psyche?

Because I mean people have been making investments in China for a while now. I mean, the market hasn't opened since yesterday.

What is the secret?

CLIFTON-BROWN: Well, my family were doing business with China in the 1920s before the revolution. But it is a question of getting to know the psyche,

getting to make friends with people, speaking their language. Too few British business people speak Mandarin. That's really important.

And the other thing is to keep going back. They don't respect people who just go once and never come again. The chief executives of these companies

have to keep going back and meeting their counterparts on a regular basis.

PLEITGEN: Are you afraid that a better relations with China -- and the prime minister is already speaking about a golden era in relations -- could

that damage the special relationship that you have with the U.S.?

Because there have already been, in the financial sector, some issues between Britain and the U.S.

CLIFTON-BROWN: Yes, I think it is suddenly that our U.S. partners are having some anxieties about. I think what we have to reassure them is that

there are certain areas which we will not trade with the Chinese in certain military aspects.

We're not going to go and, for example, give the Chinese a lot of our military intelligence, that sort of thing. So those areas in which the

U.S. could be absolutely assured that they have a rock-solid partner, that we're not going to transgress that line.

But I think we've also got to reassure them in terms of trade, in terms of the closeness of relationship with China, we can be good friends with both.

PLEITGEN: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, thank you for joining us.



PLEITGEN: Very positive outlook there. And we will have much more right after this.





PLEITGEN: And finally tonight, imagine a world foretold by Richard Nixon. That's right. It might be a terrifying prospect for some. But for

Canada's new prime minister-elect, Justin Trudeau, it has become a triumphant reality.

Yes, the man often called Tricky Dick may not have been famed for his honesty but he does seem to have had some talent predicting the future. In

a 1972 state visit to Justin Trudeau's revered father, then-Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Nixon said, and I quote, "I'd like to toast the

future prime minister of Canada. here's to Justin Pierre Trudeau."

Now Justin was only about 4 months old at the time. And he has now been elected.

But even Nixon wouldn't have been able to foretell his somewhat bizarre route to the highest office in Canada.

Trudeau was a teacher, an engineer, an actor, a night club bounce, a bungee jumping coach and he took part in a celebrity boxing match. Finally became

a member of parliament in 2008.

And while many politicians aspire to be close to those they represent, very few can genuinely say they've walked in so many of their people's shoes.

Well, that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see all our interviews at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.