Return to Transcripts main page


"This Place Is Not for Humans"; Kindertransport Survivor Horrified; Piercing the Heart of Evil with Laughter; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 17, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: "This place is not for humans." The agony of a refugee in our special report on one

squalid camp in Dunkirk.

Also ahead, from Kindertransport to multi-billionaire entrepreneur, Dame Stephanie Shirley, a World War II refugee, is horrified.



enormous migrant movement to Europe. They talk very little about the benefits of the young people coming into England.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And piercing the heart of evil with laughter. Comedian Shazia Mirza on what teens today find so attractive about ISIS.


SHAZIA MIRZA, COMEDIAN: You're tired of studying for your GSATs. You dream of lovely warm weather. You find 21st century life too much. Don't

worry, they can take you back to the 15th century quicker than you can say, "Allahu Akbar!"



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

And the fallout from the Syria war gets more dangerous by the day. Another major explosion in the Turkish capital, Ankara, this evening.

Officials say a terrorist bomb struck a military vehicle, killing and injuring dozens, while hopes of a cease-fire inside Syria remain just that:


There was some relief, though, for those besieged towns and villages across this country. The U.N. has struck a deal with the Syrian government

to get high-energy food, medical supplies and more into seven areas, including Madaya. And our Fred Pleitgen rode with one of the convoys.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): So things like beans, they accept chickpeas, things like that, that will feed a family, they say, one of these aid packets, a family of five,

for about a month.

And judging by this convoy, by the many trucks that are in this convoy, they're trying to get as much aid into Madaya as quickly as

possible because while they hope and they believe and they say it is necessarily to bring a convoy into that town at least every month, they're

not sure whether or not this agreement can hold. And so therefore, they want to do this as fast as possible.


AMANPOUR: But with this kind of humanitarian need and chances of a cease-fire fading, the relentless tide of refugees grows. So many in the

region are forced to leave their homes and make the long, dangerous trek to an increasingly hostile Europe.

Many, who want to come here to Britain, are waiting in Northern France right now, where life is a muddy uncertainty.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): For the men, the women and the children who dreamed of a better life in Europe, this is it. This is where their

journey has stalled. Thousands of people are stuck between two of the continents' richest nations, France and Britain.

The Grande-Synthe Refugee Camp is in Dunkirk, not far from the better- known Jungle camp in Calais. Seven-year-old Mani is playing in the mud near his family's tent. His father, Abbas, invites CNN in for tea to meet

everyone else. His wife, Suad, is five months pregnant. His daughter, Meli, is 4 and this is Manah; she's 2.

The family have lived in this camp for nine months and, like so many here, they fled Iraq. They left after Abbas' parents were killed in a bomb

attack at the market in Kirkuk and now they dream of starting a new life.

Mani talks about going to school in Britain. He's even been practicing his English.

MANI, IRAQI REFUGEE: One, two, three, four, five.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The family doesn't know how or when they'll make it. These are the conditions they endure: 24 showers for 3,000

people and just 44 toilets. Some people here can afford to stay in hotels but, because they don't have their passports, they can't.

Instead, they rely on the kindness of strangers, volunteers compelled by conscience to help, to bring tents, food, blankets, clothes and boots.

On this morning, French doctors and workers from --


AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- Medecins sans Frontieres provide medical help, as they do four times a week. The cases they treat indicate the

harshest of conditions they endure.

ANGELIQUE: Mainly it's a link to the weather. So we have some upper and lower respiratory tract infection, mainly for the children as well. So

we have, as well, some scabies and it is quite difficult to completely eradicate, because of the living conditions.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The refugees here claim 15 to 20 people succeed at illegally crossing the border into Britain every night. And if

you've got the money, you can pay smugglers $10,000 to take you that short distance, they say.

But for those who have neither the strength nor the money, there's no option but to wait and to hope and to try to tell the world that they

deserve better, as one man puts it.


AMANPOUR: And with this humanitarian crisis, this refugee crisis threatening to tear Europe apart, we decided to get a unique perspective,

as we speak now to a Kindertransport survivor, Stephanie Shirley, who escaped Nazi persecution aboard a special train that brought children like

her here to the U.K. on the eve of World War II.

She went from 5-year-old refugee to multibillion-dollar tech entrepreneur. Now a dame and in her 80s, Shirley is a philanthropist. And

her autobiography, "Let It Go," is to be made into a film.

So if anyone can dispel the notion that refugees are just a drain on society, it is Dame Stephanie Shirley.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Dame Shirley, welcome to the program.

You came to London, to England as a refugee yourself in 1939.

Do you remember -- what can you remember about stepping off that whatever it was -- train, boat?

SHIRLEY: What I can really remember are all the childish things because I was very lucky. I was only 5 years old and so I'd been protected

from some of the problems.

That was obviously my sister, who was older, remembered much more, children throwing stones or things. It didn't happen to me.


SHIRLEY: As Jews. You know, my father lost his job and everything went wrong really.

So what I remember of that period is of the just general family unsettlement and moving around very frequently, trying to find a safe place

and for my father to get some work. The lost dolls seemed to be much more important than the lost home.

I remember the long, interminable 2.5-day journey from Vienna to London.

AMANPOUR: We know that quite a lot of kids are coming to England right now, refugee children, many of them unaccompanied and not really

having a whole lot of support when they get here.

What should this government be doing?

SHIRLEY: Well, in '39, when things were dreadful in a different place -- and there always seems to be dreadful things going on in the world --

there were these Kindertransport trains.

And they were organized by the religious organizations, the Christian and Jewish activists, who set up them up; Quaker Society of Friends kept it

going when it ran out of money. A lot of volunteers helped to sheered minister what was then the largest-ever migration of unaccompanied


So something like that -- there's a bit more structure that families know that there is -- they will be put into hospitals; they will be able to

settle with their families.

AMANPOUR: So you mentioned the biggest migration of children during the Second World War. Now we have the biggest refugee crisis in the world

since the Second World War. And there have been only very few leaders who've been distinguished by their compassion.

One of them, Angela Merkel of Germany. And we're going to play something that Prime Minister Cameron said about refugees and migrants in

the summer. And I just want to get your reaction on it.

He basically said, "You have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because

Britain has got jobs. It's got a growing economy. It's an incredible place to live."

SHIRLEY: Britain also has an aging population. So we need young, educated people coming in.

AMANPOUR: You took exception to the word "swarm," as did many people.

SHIRLEY: I think it is -- well, I suppose it's indicative of his rather sheltered upbringing that he has no idea as to what refugees, what's

going on; to refer to a group of people in dire problems as a "swarm," is really denigratory.

AMANPOUR: And you were going to say that actually our societies are aging and they need refugees and migrants and people who can boost our


You are a prime example of somebody who came over here and gave back in spades. And you went on to be a phenomenal business woman. And now

you're a philanthropist.

How did you get to the --


AMANPOUR: -- business from being a refugee child?

SHIRLEY: I think when you go through some trauma in childhood like that, it drives your life for a long time; forever, really.

And as far as I'm concerned, my Kindertransport experience left me with -- having dealt with that change and the trauma of that, I can deal

with any change that life throws at me. And in my high-tech career, that was quite useful. I've learned to actually love change.

And I was so -- realized that the life that was saved had to be made worth saving. And so I really try not to fritter my life away. And

basically I have done what is in me to do.

And finally, of course, I am deeply patriotic and love this, my adopted country. I love England with a passion that perhaps only someone

who had lost their human rights can feel.

And so I studied, worked hard, studied at evening classes to get my degree, worked in the early computer industry and then set up my own

software house as a sort of crusade.

And it wasn't a crusade to make money, which Americans, I know, will expect me to say. But it was a crusade for women and for women who were

then second class citizens really.

And I've had enough of being patronized, as a Jew, and patronized as a woman and I really wanted to provide opportunities, first for myself and

for the many educated women.

AMANPOUR: So how did you launch this crusade?

What did you do for the women?

SHIRLEY: I set up this software house and sold tailor-made software, which, at that time, was given away free with the hardware.

So everybody laughed; "you can't sell software; it's free" -- and structured the company so that all we women -- we all worked from home,

including me. I still work from home. I've learnt to really enjoy that, the flexibility.

AMANPOUR: So flexi-schedule, flexi-work before anybody knew that term.


SHIRLEY: Before anybody knew it. And the idea of telecommuting or working from home, using -- not high-tech in those days; it was the simple

telephone. That's all we had. And so we wrote the software for the flight box recorder for supersonic Concorde. We wrote --



SHIRLEY: -- weapons -- you know, this was good, heavyweight stuff.

AMANPOUR: That's amazing.

Well, lest anybody think it was a small boutique operation, you were eventually worth 150 million-plus pounds personally --


SHIRLEY: -- valued at $3 billion.

AMANPOUR: -- $3 billion, good for you.

Yes. And in fact, if I'm not mistaken, you called yourself Steve in order to be taken seriously rather than Stephanie.

SHIRLEY: Nobody answered my letters, which I was sending out by the dozen to introduce my company's services.

And my dear husband, now over 50 years, he suggested that I used the family nickname of Steve. So I wrote Steve Shirley instead of that double

feminine. And people began to want to see me and I was through that door, shaking hands before anyone realized that he was a she.

AMANPOUR: And if I'm not mistaken -- he was a she --


AMANPOUR: -- all or most of your employees were women.

SHIRLEY: Oh, yes. In the first 300 staff, I think we had three men.

AMANPOUR: Until --


AMANPOUR: -- a little bit of legislation that was designed to help women, the equal employment act, right, equal opportunity --

SHIRLEY: In 1975, pro-female employment policies like ours became illegal. And so the lovely example of unintended consequences to me, a

woman's company, we had to let them in, men. And since then, I mean, we've finished up 8,500 people, men and women, which it's balanced and basically

is as it should be.

AMANPOUR: You lived the nightmare and the dream.

When you think of all the refugees who've been turned back today or who are not getting a chance to come in or even those who are getting a

chance to come in, there may be Dame ShIrleys. There may be Einsteins.

What should people know about the refugees who are trying to come in now?

SHIRLEY: I think all one has to think about is the humanitarian issue, not whether they're going to be of immediate benefit to the country,

though many of them will need educating; many of them will need to learn to speak English.

But how can you not reach out to people in such difficulty?

And obviously I have empathy for them. But religious and spiritual people really should be feeling for them as well.

AMANPOUR: Dame Shirley, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

SHIRLEY: Great to be here.


AMANPOUR: And you can hear more about her personal difficulties and the causes she set up in regards to those online later during --


AMANPOUR: -- this week.

And from the CEO letting it go to the comedian letting it all out. Taboo-busting, British Muslim woman Shazia Mirza joins me after a break,

fighting ISIS with a sense of humor. Imagine that -- next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now a year ago today, three schoolgirls left their homes in East London to join ISIS. It stunned this country and it certainly stunned

their families.

One of their sisters said, quote, "She watched 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians.' There was nothing that indicated she was being radicalized."

Now there are no official figures but it's believed that around 600 Western women have joined ISIS.


That is the question addressed by the British Muslim comedian, Shazia Mirza, in her new show, "The Kardashians Made Me Do It."


AMANPOUR: Shazia Mirza, welcome to the program.

MIRZA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So we've been saying it was a year ago that these three girls stunned Britain and left to go to Syria and to join ISIS.

You are doing a comedy show that touches on this kind of stuff.

Why did you decide to do that?

MIRZA: Well, when these three girls first went, I was with a friend of mine in New York, in her living room, and we saw this image come up.

And we were horrified.

First thing my friend said, "We would never have done that."

My god, we would -- we were too scared to sit on the top deck of a bus by ourselves at 15, never mind get on a plane to Syria, to join a terrorist

organization. We were so shocked.

And my friend said, "God, I'd be more scared of my parents than I am of ISIS," you know.

We just wouldn't have done that. We started laughing about it, talking about it and I immediately had an opinion and a feeling and an

affinity to these girls. And I just thought, I know exactly what I think about this.

AMANPOUR: Well, and we're going to play exactly what you think about it.


MIRZA: To them, ISIS are the One Direction of Islam.


MIRZA: They are pop stars, pinups and sex symbols. They are the latest celebrity terrorist organization. It has nothing to do with

religion. If they knew anything about religion, they would never have stolen their mother's jewelry, sold it and bought one-way tickets to Syria.

"Thou shalt not steal" is a commandment in even Richard Dawkins' handbook.



AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, there you are. You've laid it on the line. And pretty much out there, saying these girls are not religious; they are

horny, basically.

MIRZA: Yes, they are horny, rebellious, hormonal teenage girls, who see these men; they are -- they are hot, a lot of the men, these ISIS men,

as barbaric as they are, they are hot.

I mean, even my 68-year-old mother looks at them on TV and goes, "(INAUDIBLE), they are so handsome. Why are they doing this?"

Every woman I know has said they are hot, they are handsome.

Why are they doing this?

Three hormonal teenage girls, what are they doing?

They're seeing these men as pinups and they're going over there.

AMANPOUR: How do you know this?

MIRZA: I know this from my own upbringing. I used to teach in Tower Hamlets, just down the road from the Bethnal Green jihademy, as I like to

call it.

These girls --


AMANPOUR: You're being tongue-in-cheek -- we need to tell our viewers because there has been a whole load of bad publicity about various parts of

England being Jihadistan.

MIRZA: Right. But there's a lot of girls from that school that have gone to join ISIS. And I grew up -- I grew up with backgrounds like --


MIRZA: -- these girls. I taught girls like this. I used to teach a lot of Bangladeshi girls. They never spoke about religion. They never

spoke about politics. They always spoke about boys.

That is -- and you know, you're 15, you're 16; what do you know about religion?

It takes years to learn the Quran and the Hadith. There's over 8,000 Hadith. It is impossible at the age of 16 to know the essence of Islam.

It's not about politics. You know, when the war in Afghanistan and the war in Libya was happening, these girls weren't even born. It can't be about


They've seen these men. And they are attracted to them. It's a fantasy.

AMANPOUR: And you don't think it's a sort of religious mission?

I know you say it's not religious.

But if they felt like they wanted to belong, do they feel alienated here in their own communities?

MIRZA: They probably do feel alienated, you know; the upbringing I had, the upbringing they have, you know, you can't have boyfriends, you

can't go out, you can't take drugs, you can't have sex before marriage, you can't even have your own opinions. All the opinions you have have been

inherited from your parents.

It's a very repressive culture. You can't do all the things your white friends do. You don't feel like you fit in. You don't feel like you


Then they see these men. They are offering them a wild and wonderful life, you know, come over here; we'll get married, we'll live a wonderful

Islamic life. You'll have some purpose. You'll be married to me, a hot, hairy, horny guy.

What is there to lose?

AMANPOUR: Well, as we know, that's obviously not the case because they may get married; they may end up widowed. But most of all, they may

be subjected to the kind of oppression that they never even dreamed of.

MIRZA: You are presented a fantasy, a wonderful life. These girls -- it's not radicalization; it's sexualization. They are being sexually

groomed online, promised a life of, you know, a wonderful life where they get to live -- it's all halal. It's all halal.

You can't go out with guys over here, you know. But you come over to Syria, you get a hot guy and it's all halal. No guilt. You don't feel any


AMANPOUR: How does the show go down?

There we have you, at your show; you've performed it over -- you know, in Scotland and you're doing it around Great Britain and I believe you're

going to go to Paris in the wake of what happened on Friday the 13th of November.

MIRZA: It's terrible what happened in Paris; any normal, decent liberal Muslim, you know, like myself, we don't agree with what happened.

We don't endorse this at all.

And I've been going to Paris for years and performing in Paris for years. The French have always been a great audience. And I didn't

actually want to go this time. I thought, I don't know if it's going to be safe. I don't know if it's the right time.

Do people want to hear this?

Do people want to laugh at this?

But they begged me to come over to Paris because they said, look, the French people are carrying on with their life. They're going about their

business as normal. We want you to come over here as though life is normal.

AMANPOUR: And there is a lot of laughter being used as a weapon against ISIS and against these people who go from whatever country to join

them -- online, YouTube, in the Muslim community, a lot of laughter.

Is that working, do you think?

MIRZA: You know, this is how the Jews got through their bad times. This is how the Irish got their bad times. And look how many great Irish

and Jewish comedians there are now because they used that humor to get through the bad times.

The Jews were the first to joke about the Holocaust. And now it's time for Muslims to develop their sense of humor, to joke about this.

You know, you could shoot ISIS. A bullet will kill them. It'll all be over. Nothing will be more humiliating to them than me making a mockery

out of them, joking about them. That is what will really make them feel awful about what they're doing.

AMANPOUR: Let's hope.

Shazia Mirza, thank you very much indeed.

MIRZA: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we stay in the U.K., where we imagine the duchess and the blog. Now that might sound like Disney for Millennials

but it's the future queen of England, pushing something close to her heart.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a country where those at the very top are not allowed to have opinions on serious matters, like

politics. That's the royal deal in Great Britain.

So when second-in-line-to-the-throne Prince William said this, he was accused of wading uninvited into the Brexit debate with, perish the

thought, pro-Europe comments.


PRINCE WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM: In an increasingly turbulent world, our ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential. It

is the bedrock of our security and prosperity.


AMANPOUR: Pretty mild, really, but then there's nothing mild here in Britain when it comes to every royal utterance.

So imagine a world where two do it in one week. Yes, the future queen and William's wife, Kate, is weighing in on another matter of government

funding or lack of it.

Putting down her tiara and picking up her pen, she's become an editor for a day, to highlight mental health issues and what's being done or not

to help. The "Huffington Post" gave her its platform to commission and publish pieces and use her royal spark to lure in some other big hitters,

like the American first lady, Michelle Obama, to talk about this issue.

In her own piece, the duchess called for action, writing that ,"For too long, we've been embarrassed to admit when our children need emotional

or psychiatric help, worried that the stigma associated with these problems would be detrimental to their futures. It is time for this to change."

Wise words, indeed, especially as we've seen this hour, how so many children are so unjustly afflicted with the trauma that this world inflicts

upon them.

And that's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can now listen to our podcast or see us online at and follow me on

Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.