Return to Transcripts main page
Reformists Win Key Seats in Iran Elections; Syria's Fragile Cease- Fire; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired February 29, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: a new chapter for Iran?
Reformists and moderates win big in parliamentary elections. A vote of confidence for Rouhani's deal with the West. I speak live and exclusively
to prominent Iranian official, Javad Larijani.
Also ahead: "outrage" says the head of UNICEF about what he's seen in Syria. He joins me from there as he uses the truce for humanitarian
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Moderates and reformists in Iran have charged to an early lead in this weekend's parliamentary elections, sweeping all seats, which were up for
grabs in the capital, Tehran.
Meantime, the Majlis votes are still being counted in the rest of the country but it, so far, is a big nod of approval to President Hassan
Rouhani. He, of course, is the president who signed last year's landmark nuclear deal, which brought sanctions relief to Iran and paved the way for
ending the nation's isolation, especially from the West. So far, voters seem pleased with the results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A lot of people voted and they gained a lot of votes to get into parliament. So we expect them to work
hard and to fulfill their promises. And they should work hard, so that that can be an answer to the conservatives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were not satisfied with the last parliament and I hope that both parliament and the assembly of experts
think and do something, especially for the young people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think 100 percent there's going to be lots of changes. I got together with my friends and we all believe
that this is the best parliament that has ever been elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And moderates have also defeated the most hardline candidates in that other election, which was for the so-called assembly of experts, which
will choose the country's next supreme leader.
Now Mohammad Javad Larijani is the head of Iran's high council for human rights. A prominent conservative, one brother is speaker of the parliament
and another heads the judiciary. He now joins me for an exclusive interview from Geneva, where he's attending a U.N. session on human rights.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, Mr. Larijani. You agree presumably that this is a big popular nod of support and approval for President
Rouhani and his policies, especially the nuclear deal.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD LARIJANI, IRAN'S HIGH COUNCIL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: (Speaking foreign language).
First of all, it is a great victory for the current experience of our nation to build a democratic society and polity based on Islamic
nationality. Definitely, President Rouhani will feel much more stronger.
In fact, in the previous parliament, his nuclear deal just won a carte blanche approval from the previous parliament as well. So the whole nation
is united in supporting the president on his negotiations with -- for the nuclear deal.
Plus, I think this -- there are other important issues in this election. All factors, all factions of political sides from different spectrum
participated in the year, in the election enthusiastically, so I think it is great victory for the democratic process.
LARIJANI: In each election, there is a winner and loser, that is obvious.
AMANPOUR: Well, we talk about democracy. And of course, there was a lot of complaint and criticism before the election, because an overwhelming
proportion of the moderate and reformist candidates were barred from running and from standing.
Nonetheless, this result has happened.
So can I just ask you to comment on this?
President Rouhani said, the day after, you know, when the votes were being counted, "The competition is over. It is time to open a new chapter in
Iran's economic development. The people showed their power again and gave more strength and credibility to their elected government."
Do you --
LARIJANI: Well, I think quite sure, the majority of people who voted, they demand change and the major area of change they expect is in the economical
area. So I think if the sanctions are going away --
LARIJANI: -- and the Western powers are abiding by the contracts, which they made by President Rouhani, we should envisage, at least in different
phases, better stages for economical development. But after all, our economy should get its strength from within. And should get boost from a
revision of our doctrine of economical development.
AMANPOUR: Now you heard some of those people in Tehran, who were interviewed by CNN, expressing, you know, satisfaction and hope for the
I know we've talked a lot about the nuclear deal and about the economic picture here. But so many people want more personal freedoms. So many
people want more free speech. So many people want to see political prisoners released.
Do you think that this popular vote, for that -- for those kind of policies, will finally be met?
LARIJANI: Well, I think the progress in the civil life, in all aspects of civil life, definitely is -- it is a request and something that all nations
and all citizens of the country demand. It is not confined to Iran. People in the United States, as well, they demand better in upgrading, a
promotion of the citizens' side in different sectors.
We appreciate that. I mean, democracy, you are not looking for perfection. You are looking for progress. And I think each time that the democratic
elections are going around, we are envisaging a progressing step.
So I think -- but plurality of the nation, when we look to these slogans of all different factions, moderate, the reformists and the conservatives,
they put the top emphasis on economical development. I think so it is definitely the number one issue on their agenda.
AMANPOUR: I know. I know you're staying far away from the personal freedoms that so many young people say they want.
But let me ask you this. We have seen many elections in Iran. And, for instance, the last time reformists or moderates swept the parliament was
during the first reformist president Mohammad Khatami. That was around 2000.
And we all saw and we all reported the backlash from the vested interests, from the hardliners, which pretty much squashed those reforms and those
policies of President Khatami.
Do you think, as President Rouhani says, the time for competition is now over?
Or are we going to continue to see this kind of debilitating power struggle between hardliners and moderates?
LARIJANI: Well, the competition between reformists and conservatives is a healthy issue.
Otherwise, why we should have democratic changes?
And -- but I think the contributions of President Khatami never left the political arena. He contributed heavily in the development of the civil
life and society.
So each president has his own contribution to the development of the country. But after all, the power has changed from one group to another,
through a democratic election.
So I think the world should get used to that. I mean, there is a presumption that if you're not Westernized from tip to toe, then you can't
have a democracy. I think our experience is creating a new possibility, especially for the Islamic world, that they don't have to become
Westernized from tip to toe or to become daish or Salafis.
They can choose another model, which is both democratic and as well it is Islamic. So the election in Iran has plenty of side effects
internationally as well.
AMANPOUR: Indeed, it does. And obviously, one of them is the kind of relations it's going to have with the West. But let me ask you this,
because you are there for a human rights meeting in Geneva.
Iran is criticized heavily for being the country -- the world's second most executing nation, particularly when it comes to executing juveniles.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch are particularly critical of your record.
And so, particularly, we've heard from an Iranian vice president herself, who told local press there that the whole male population of one entire
village in the region of Sistan and Baluchestan have been executed, as she said, on drug charges and offenses. I mean, this is kind of extraordinary
to get to grip with.
Why would that happen?
Why would the whole male --
AMANPOUR: -- population be executed?
LARIJANI: Well, first of all, 90 percent of the execution in Iran, which is very unfortunate and we are trying to change the law on that issue, is
related to the drug trafficking crimes. We try thing -- this present law, which has been passed in the council of expediency, headed by Ayatollah
Rafsanjani, I think this is a long-needed revision. It is -- I don't think -- it is not producing the intended result yet.
But, under the execution of juvenile, definitely, we don't have it right now, especially within the new penal code. This law has totally changed.
What the vice president said, I think, you should be aware that a village which has only five families living in it and the male population of that,
five or six could be involved in a drug trafficking incident.
In fact, I've not -- I'm looking into that, because I heard that on the news, maybe in Iran as well.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this.
LARIJANI: This is not like a population.
AMANPOUR: OK, you're saying it's a very small number. I would be interested and I would like you to give --
LARIJANI: Oh, yes, definitely. Oh, that village, that village is a small community. But the number of execution is high, definitely.
LARIJANI: And the 90 percent of that is coming from drug trafficking.
AMANPOUR: And you're saying that law needs to be reformed, regarding that.
LARIJANI: Yes, it should be reformed.
AMANPOUR: What do you mean?
LARIJANI: I, myself -- no, I myself, like leading that movement. We should change the law. We should not reduce the intended result but the
law should be definitely prudent. And that says we need two things. One, to get international cooperation in fighting the drug trafficking in one
side, because a drug which is produced and cultivated in Afghanistan is finally distributed (ph) to the Western capitals.
LARIJANI: And we are at the middle victim of this passage.
AMANPOUR: Yes, but --
LARIJANI: The second one we should make, we should make the issue of -- we should tackle the issue of drug addiction as a global and a very serious
social issue other than just criminal issue.
AMANPOUR: But very finally, yes or no, when we say we should change the law, do you mean stop the executions?
What do you mean?
LARIJANI: Yes, if -- suppose 90 percent of the execution goes away. I mean, this is a huge decrease. So I think this is a great step forward to
rationalize this approach, yes.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's very interesting. We'll obviously watch as that law is reformed. Mr. Javad Larijani, thank you very much. I'm sorry,
we're out of time. Thank you very much for joining us from Geneva.
LARIJANI: OK. Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, Syria's cease-fire is mostly holding but not around Aleppo. The UNICEF chief, Anthony Lake, tells me what
humanitarian aid he can and cannot deliver. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
Now Syria's long-awaited cease-fire is off to a shaky start and there have been violations amidst concern that it has been violated less than three
days by Russia and the Assad regime.
Although the overall number of airstrikes has dropped, France says it wants answers to persistent reports that Russia and the Assad regime are still
bombing moderate rebel positions, despite agreeing not to.
The truce is meant to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies, especially to many besieged areas. When I reached the UNICEF chief,
Anthony Lake, in Homs earlier, he described the desperate need there. But he also told me they cannot get into Aleppo, which is the scene of the
heaviest recent bombardments, because continued fighting has cut off the main road into that city.
First, I started by asking him what he'd seen in government-controlled Homs today.
ANTHONY LAKE, UNICEF CHIEF: In some areas, they're doing much better. And in other areas, they are continuing to struggle. There is -- there's
both havoc and hope.
Many of the areas, including the Old City, which we go through and visited some adolescents and others, who are a part of people going back into the
area and trying to recover their lives there, but it's mostly rubble.
AMANPOUR: What are the needs of the people, Mr. Lake?
What do they need?
What are you hoping to be able to deliver, not just in Homs, but wherever you're able to go in this -- in this respite that you have now?
LAKE: What they mostly need are, I think the most urgent, in a way, is medical supplies and health kits and the other things that we're trying to
deliver as well as water.
Water is being used as, in effect by both sides, as a weapon or turning it off across pipes from one side to the other and I was outraged by what I
saw today in the two hospitals I visited in al-Wair.
AMANPOUR: Well, al-Wair, as we know, is a district or sadi outside downtown Homs and it is encircled, I believe, by government forces. It's
in rebel hands. Government forces have had a tradition throughout this war of encircling, besieging and, indeed, forcing surrenders.
So what did you see in al-Wair? What did you see in those hospitals?
What is the state of the people there?
LAKE: What we saw was some hopeful signs because there's been a truce there for a while; more food on the streets, children, more children being
educated in the schools. I visited with them, although many more still at home.
But also rubble and signs of the artillery almost everywhere. And in the two hospitals I saw -- as I said, I was outraged, first of all, to see that
one of the hospitals had clearly been targeted because a half of it had been knocked down and yet the surrounding houses and area were barely
But inside the hospital --
AMANPOUR: So they were deliberately hit, then, is what you're saying?
LAKE: That's what I'm saying, the one was. And then inside this hospital, we saw -- because we are denied the ability to take in surgical
supplies and mostly medical supplies, I saw them with barely any supplies that had come in over the last two years or so, which means that the
anesthetics and the other medicines that they have are mostly expired and the surgical tools that they need to use are very old.
While I was there, they brought in a victim of a new sniper attack, just within the last couple of hours. I watched them as they removed pieces of
jawbone from the victim, who had been hit in the face by the sniper.
And when we left, it -- you could -- the doctors, the nurses and the father of the victim were expressing deep, deep anger, not just at the government
but at the United Nations, at the United States, at the whole world. And I can't blame them because the world has allowed this to go on for five
long years now.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Lake, you are executive director of UNICEF but you were national security adviser --
AMANPOUR: -- during the Clinton administration, during similar situations in Bosnia and in even worse situations in Rwanda.
What is your view of how the U.S. has reacted to this terrible carnage and ongoing war in Syria?
LAKE: Christiane, I don't think it's useful to assign proportions of blame to anybody. This is an international failure by everybody involved,
whether it's the parties themselves, where they've been carrying out clear violations on all sides of humanitarian law.
The great powers until recently have basically pursued their own agendas more than bringing an end to the horror here for the people of Syria.
Certainly the others beyond the great powers could have played more of a role.
And we have to hope now that finally, building around the agreement brokered by Staffan de Mistura between the U.S. and the Russians, that this
can somehow, in the week or two ahead, begin to move into a broader agreement and finally bring peace.
If not, then what happened to the victim I saw today is going to be replicated over and over and over again here throughout Syria.
AMANPOUR: When do you expect to get into Aleppo finally?
LAKE: I think we're probably not going to make it. The road between Homs and Aleppo is not yet passable for us. There have been continuing
incidents between ISIS and the government forces along the road.
Of course, ISIS is not a part of the cessation. So the road doesn't seem to be passable now. We are going to go to Hama, halfway or so to Aleppo
tomorrow. And then back on out again.
If I could simply note -- because it makes me angry to think back on it -- the last time we spoke was two years ago, when I was here in Homs. And I
remember thinking to myself then, as we came to the third anniversary of the war, whether it would last another year or two. And here we are, two
years later. It's got to stop.
AMANPOUR: Anthony Lake, thank you very much for joining us from Homs and the surrounding areas there.
LAKE: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And after a break, we imagine a world where good reporting puts the spotlight on all sorts of injustices and takes Hollywood by storm.
Next, Oscar night 2016. The films that won Best Picture and Best Documentary Short.
But first, Lady Gaga. She was introduced at the Oscars by Vice President Joe Biden, no less. And she belted out an anthem against sexual abuse.
Herself a survivor, she was joined on stage by scores of others like her.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where great journalism is honored by Hollywood greats.
At last night's Oscars, the film "Spotlight" did just that, winning the award for Best Picture. It's about a gritty newsroom at "The Boston Globe"
and its Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the systematic child sex abuse and cover-up by the Catholic church. Its creators used their
platform to call for real change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SUGAR, PRODUCER, "SPOTLIGHT": This film gave a voice to survivors and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that
will resonate all the way to the Vatican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Weeks ago, I asked one of the film's stars, Mark Ruffalo, about the timing of this film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK RUFFALO, ACTOR: It sort of came out of a need for the culture to have this discussion, at this moment in time, with this particular pope. And a
greater illumination that's happening throughout the world on these kinds of issues. It's -- they did a good job of hiding it. But the days of
hiding these kinds of issues are gone now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: He joined me there with the director.
And talk about timing, "Spotlight's" win comes on the very same day that one of the Vatican's most senior cardinals, the Australian Archbishop Pell,
testifies about the church's catastrophic historic failure to address this crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL: The church, in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has made -- let people down. I'm not here to defend
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And we were all over another victory for human rights when, last week, we interviewed Pakistani journalist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy about her
short documentary on the heinous crime of honor killings.
It's called "The Girl in the River," and that won an Oscar last night as well. It also won high-level attention at home. The Pakistani prime
minister screened the film at his official residence and he's already instructed lawmakers to write a new bill to make killing girls for so-
called "love crimes" a crime itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY, FILMMAKER: A law has to be brought into place that acts as a deterrent. We need to start sending people to jail. We need to
start making examples of them.
If we start making examples of them, then, perhaps, the next step is education and bringing people -- making them aware of this issue.
But for as long as people don't go to jail for it, how would people think it's a serious crime?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: We're happy about our Oscars sweepstakes, good for us and good for the victims.
That's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.