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Special Report from Jordan Refugee Camp; The Fight Against Child Marriage; Early Divorce a New Trend in Refugee Population

Aired February 24, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:01:30] AMANPOUR: Tonight, a special report. Syrian refugees and Donald Trump's revised banning order. We visit a family who managed to fly

in before the deadline?


ABU MOHAMMED (through translator): I feel that Donald Trump had a bad picture about Muslims in general, but the American people are much wiser

and know that not all Muslims are the same. And they also know that we can live together in peace and harmony. I don't know where he got this image

about us from.


AMANPOUR: We see the girls trapped in an epidemic of early marriage and now divorce in the refugee camps.

And my 16-year-old son meets Mohammed, a refugee his own age, but surviving a much harsher life.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the weekend edition of our program. I'm Christian Amanpour in London.

And, tonight, we take you to Jordan, which is home to more than a million refugees, more than half of them are from Syria, waiting and wondering what

their fate will be as war still ranges at home.

Europe doesn't want them amidst its turbulent populist election season. America doesn't want them. Donald Trump's draconian immigration policy

promising to roll out a new version of the controversial ban from Muslim nations.

Nearly 5 million Syrians are living in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The UNHCR tells us that refugees make up 10 percent of Jordan's population.

That would be like America having 30 million refugees.

In fact, it's only taken in around 15,000 since the Syria war began. Jordan is a key ally and it is struggling to cope.


PAUL STROMBERG, UNHCR DEPUTY REPRESENTATIVE IN JORDAN: Jordan is doing the best they can. They've taken very courageous decision to allow access to

legal employment, trying to get all the Syrians in the school, which is crucial. I'm sure that we are not losing that much more human capital and

entire generations as the war goes on and on. But it is difficult.


AMANPOUR: And the biggest camp in Jordan is Zaatari, on the border with Southern Syria. To date, about half a million refugees have come through


In the first of our special report, I found the vetting is heavy. A family that boarded a flight to the United States ahead of any new Trump bans and

this intriguing insight. Many of them would much prefer just to go back home to Syria.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Walk into this registration center at the U.N. refugee agency in Amman and suddenly something about this millennium's

desperate refugee story speaks to the last millenniums.

Ellis Island, circa 1900. That was the story gateway to America. Here some 1,000 refugees a day come dressed in their best hoping to find their

own gateway to somewhere.

Mindful of the Trump administration's efforts to ban Syrian refugees, the UNHCR Paul Stromberg tells me vetting here is about as extreme as it gets.

[14:05:06] STROMBERG: It involves many different agencies in the U.S., different security databases, several different interface interviews over a

period that can last up to two years, biometric verification at different stages of the process. It's basically the hardest way to get to the U.S.

Globally, less than one percent of refugees are accepted.

AMANPOUR: That's tiny.


AMANPOUR: A quick walkthrough reveals endless interview rooms, waiting rooms, biometric testing areas creating unprecedented and vast databank.

In this game of human lottery, the weakest often wins.

A father moves his face in close for the mandatory iris scan and he tells us the family fled war and home in Damascus 2013. Mother Um Ali says her

very young children have been traumatized.

UM ALI, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): At first, we were moving from place to place for fear of the bombings. Nowhere was safe for us and the

children suffered. They were in constant fear. And whenever they heard a noise, they hid. They started to have some sort of post-traumatic stress.

AMANPOUR: Civilians started to pour out of Syria six years ago and now more than half a million live here. And a new type of refugee camp has

been born.

This is Zaatari. A sprawling refugee city of 80,000 that has morphed from tents and tough polling to fix abodes with electricity. Most of this

camp's inhabitants fled when the war erupted in Daraa and many don't want to move any further away, just in case.

AMANPOUR (on-camera): Imagine living in this camp and knowing that home is 20 kilometers away across the Syrian border. The last big refugee

resettlement saw one in every four families asked didn't want to go to the West. The truth is these people are not clamoring to come over to our

homelands. All they want to do is go back to their own.

(voice-over): Which may explain why this family looks sad and afraid when we meet them just hours before they are due to take off for America.

(on-camera): Oh, look at all the suitcases.

(voice-over): Um Mohammed shows me the last minute chaos of packing for her first ever flight and a whole new life. All their worldly possessions

carefully picked out and parcelled into eight suitcases, one for each family member.

I ask her husband Abu Mohammed how he feels about traveling all the way from Aleppo to America. It's taken them more than a year of vetting and


(on-camera): Are you excited about going to America?

ABU MOHAMMED, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): For sure.

AMANPOUR: What are you hoping for?

A. MOHAMMED (through translator): Life.

UM MOHAMMED, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): Our house was burned and my in-laws house was also destroyed.

A. AMANPOUR (voice-over): This family got their ticket to the USA because they too were considered vulnerable. Their oldest lost his hearing when

they fled the bombing and now his speaking is impaired, too.

(on-camera): Have you heard the news from America that the president wanted to say no to Syria refugees and that, you know, there's a lot of

problems with immigration?

A. MOHAMMED (through translator): I feel that Donald Trump had a bad picture about Muslims in general, but the American people are much wiser

and know that not all Muslims are the same. And they also know that we can live together in peace and harmony. I don't know where he got this image

about us from.

AMANPOUR: Do you know what you're going to -- do you have any idea what will happen when you put your feet on American soil?

U. MOHAMMED (through translator): I have no idea.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Outside, dusk is falling and they must now say their final farewells and board this bus to the airport. As hard as life

has been as a refugee here, they've made friends and they have a sense that they are all in this together.

Now they have no idea what awaits them at the end of their very long journey. This must be the biggest trek of Abu Ishmael's (ph) long life, a

grandfather taking his family clear across the world.

24 hours later, here they are in Chicago, tired and rumpled but together, trying out a new word for their new world.

While back at the camp, an amazing phenomenon, the triumph of hope over reason. Every day Syrians try to voluntarily head back across the border.

If only Bashar al-Assad and his barrel bombs would let them.


AMANPOUR: This week the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was in town. Herself, a Word War II refugee, she lashed out at Trump's



MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do think that it is the responsibility of any leader to make sure that his or her country is

secure, but that is one thing. And another is to decide that there's a group of people without ever having shown that they had any bad ideas about

the United States or were terrorists to all of a sudden decide that they couldn't come in because they were a particular religion. That is totally


So, yes, vetting. It is the appropriate thing, but it has to be done in a fair way. It can't be discriminatory and it can't be really in a way that

undermines the diversity of America, which is what has made America great.


AMANPOUR: Madeline Albright talking to me this week. And in the good news despite the Trump ban department, remember the story of **, a 2-year-old

refugee boy terribly burned by a fire in his camp?

Now after intense wait and a visa delay, his parents were finally reunited with him in Boston, where the whole family will now be able to stay

throughout the rest of his treatment.

And when we come back, young people in a different kind of peril. Defending girls from an epidemic of child marriage in those Syrian refugee

camps. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

At the end of this week, fierce fighting had flared up again in Southern Syria near the Jordanian border, which caused the government to shutter

some of the schools set up in the Syrian refugee camps there.

It's no secret that a girl's right to a full education wherever she might be is the pathway to empowerment and equality. Educated girls are less

likely to marry early, less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to have healthy babies.

In our second report on Syrian refugees in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, we see the alarming rise in early marriage with some girls as young as 15.

And we see the backlash, a rise in early divorce as well.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The scenes and shrieks of girls being, well, just girls, age 8 to 15, they're enjoying their soccer. It is the brainchild of

an unlikely coach, Amal Hoshan, mother of five, who's gotten them into playing soccer as a way to keep them out of marriage.

Some of the worst collateral damage from the Syrian war is an increase in early marriage, poverty-stricken parents offloading one too many mouths to

feed or believing their girls really will be safer with a husband.

In Jordan, you can legally marry at 18 or if Sharia judges approve even at 15. Amal uses her coaching sessions to mentor these girls.

AMAL HOSHAN, SYRIAN GIRLS FOOTBALL COACH (through translator): Marriage is such a big word. It affects them emotionally because when a child at that

age gets married, you no longer feel that she is still the same child.

She got involved with something much bigger than her age. Girls have developed psychological complexes. They experience depression. Some girls

even try to poison themselves. They don't like that life but many get stigmatized if they get divorced.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Yes, with around one in four Syrian refugee girls under 18 married off in this region, according to the UNHCR, early divorce

is a new trend in this refugee population. And it's a stigma that girls like this 16-year old are trying to shake off.

She wouldn't give us her name nor show her face but she has been married and divorced by the ripe old age of 15.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I didn't know what marriage meant. I had no idea what it means.

[14:15:00] AMANPOUR (voice-over): The UNHCR's Nedi Assene (ph) helps her tell me her story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I tried it once. I got engaged. He was not so nice. I wasn't happy with him. I knew that I wasn't happy

with him. I shared it with my -- with my parents and I told them that, no, I have to stop this. So we got separated.

Next time he came, they were really -- another family and they were really persistent.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): War has an especially harsh impact on women and girls. In early marriages, they can enter slave-like conditions, endure

domestic abuse and even rape.

She tells me she is relieved no longer to be trapped in that vicious cycle and especially that her parents welcomed her home with open arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want to focus on my education. I want to continue my education to then be able to decide what I want to be

in the future.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Zaatari camp, most of the 28,000 kids go to school, girls and boys in separate three-hour shifts.

And these are the Taiga (ph) girls, adolescents who are mentored after school by their own community in this UNHCR program.

Adult refugee women teach the math, science and talk to them about issues like early marriage and violence.

Here the teacher asked them what they have learned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We advised the family they should not marry their daughter under the age of 14. It is not necessary for the girl to get

married while she is still young.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And Amal says she's heard horror stories.

HOSHAN (through translator): I know someone who got married for about six months and she rejected her husband. She was frightened by what she saw.

She rejected the very notion that a man can sleep by her side. The husband tried repeatedly with her but he was unsuccessful. And she eventually

returned to her parents' home in the same way she came from it.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): We also met Raida (ph), who was barely 17 when she got married three years ago to a Jordanian who lived in the city.

AMANPOUR: How did you think it would help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was to escape the conditions in the camp.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now back with her family and new baby brother, she says she said she fled her husband after just a few months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He treated me very badly. His family treated me like a Syrian refugee who came from a camp and not as one

of them. I was inferior to them.

AMANPOUR: What would you say to young girls your age, you know, when you were 17 when you got married or even younger?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The first thing to tell them is that it's not right for a young girl to get married. She should have an

education and look after her future first. And the parents should be educated instead of relying on tradition and customs that say a girl should

get married when she reaches 16 or 17.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The mentors and the teachers here tell us that some young girls need years of therapy to help get them back to normal, which is

why they say prevention is the best medicine for this trauma.


AMANPOUR: Child marriage doesn't just rob girls of their own young lives and productive futures. It also means communities and entire countries are

less likely to prosper without their skills and talent.

This week, Lakshmi Sundaram, who's the executive director of Girls Not Brides, told me how the organization is working to end child marriage

around the world.


LAKSHMI SUNDARAM, GIRLS NOT BRIDES: Girls Not Brides members are working with girls and communities all over the world. And what they're trying to

do is talk to the girls, talk to families and communities about the actual impacts that child marriage can have, the devastating impact on the health

of a girl if she is forced into early childbirth, for instance, on her and on her children as well.

But also the impact on the community and the country if girls are forced into marriage and pulled out of school.

AMANPOUR: You know, that is one thing that almost nobody talks about, the idea that it can really, really damage a girl's health physically, mentally

and then have the sort of ongoing impact.

Give me a sense of other places in the world that you have been to with the program and what the results of this early marriage are.

SUNDARAM: You know, child marriage happens across countries, across cultures, across religions. We're seeing high rates of child marriage in

places like Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, India.

It really is driven by the fact that girls and boys are not seen as equal but it's often exacerbated in situations where there is insecurity as we

see in these camps.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, my final report from the Syrian refugee camps. Imagine bringing my own 16-year-old son along to meet young adults

just like him, but living a life that couldn't be more different. That's next.

[14:30:00] But, first, a reminder of just how brutal life remains inside Syria even for the very youngest. This week, Syria's White Helmets release

this video showing them pulling a 5-year-old girl from the rubble of a bombed house in a Damascus suburb. She survived the ordeal after this

civilian defense force rushed her to the hospital.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a life of world away from your own. My final report from the Azraq Refugee Camp, which is surrounded by nothing

but dessert in Jordan.

My son, Darius, gets to meet and speak to Mohammed, a young man his own age who's living a very different reality.

Although together we did learn that hopes and dreams have no borders no matter how widely our everyday experience is diverge.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Imagine bringing my 16-year-old son Darius to work, only this isn't your normal day at the office, it's the Azraq Camp for

Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Imagine this adolescent living his comfortable and ordinary city life in the West.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): .coming to discover how these adolescent, young people his own age survive in the most extraordinary situations.

We meet Mohammed (ph), his four sisters and his mother, Shama (ph), who've escape war in Syria and found refuge here in Jordan. They welcome us into

their new home with open arms. It's a far cry from what they've left behind, one room with everything in it, from sewing machine to bedding.

Two shelves on the wall that served as the children's library and wardrobe. Heat from a stove fed by a pipe that snakes it's way in from a gas


For Darius the obvious question --

DARIUS RUBIN, CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR'S SON: What was your house like before this one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My house is very beautiful and my --

AMANPOUR: And Mohammed (ph) continues his story in Arabic, how the family fled when the war finally reach their Syrian village more than three years

ago. How the constant bombing disrupted school and made it too dangerous to stay.

RUBIN: Were you afraid anytime during the journey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I was afraid, but I had to go, which was to reach somewhere safe and I manage to put my fears aside.

AMANPOUR: And I ask about their dad.

(on-camera): You're the man of the family. You are here with your mom. You've got your four sisters. What happened to your dad?


AMANPOUR: What happened? How?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are at home at the time. And there were some bombing and shooting in the area. He went outside to have

a look and he was shot.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Fortunately, Darius doesn't have to step up quite like Mohammed (ph) does, fetching water for his family everyday. Filling

these heavy canisters several times each day. It is hard work.

His mother, Shama (ph), has come to rely on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Mohammed (ph) does really a good job, especially fetching water which is difficult for me to do. Sometimes

he carries 20 liters in each hand. There are six of us and we need a lot of water. So sometimes he carries 10 or 12 containers a day. He also does

the shopping because the market is so far away.

[14:25:05] AMANPOUR: Into the big, blue barrel and out through a pipe in the kitchen, which is a tiny room that they have only just manage to add to

their main room. Shama (ph) says she's trying to recreate a proper family life for the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's so hard. I cannot tell you. I try to make it comfortable by moving things around and I try to

find spaces for their belongings to make it look like home.

We eat, watch TV and sleep here. Now at last, we have a kitchen I can cook in unlike before.

AMANPOUR: Back in Syria she says, she was the queen of her castle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is hard to lose your husband. I used to be the lady of the house and I was spoiled. I had everything I

needed. All I had to do is ask my husband and he would get anything for me.

AMANPOUR: She keeps her memories on her phone.

(on-camera): He's a handsome man, huh?

(voice-over): Yes, she says. And like so many of the mothers we've met, Shama (ph) insist that education is the most important thing for her

children's future.

AMANPOUR: And as we walk with Mohammed from his small metal home to the community center in this refugee camp, he says he has learned English here

since fleeing Syria.

His dream is to go on to university. Once upon a time, he thought he would be an architect. Now after all that he's born witness to, he thinks he

wants to be a journalist.

(on-camera): Should we go in?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And here, with a group of teenage boys and girls, Mohammed founded "The Camp" magazine, which they publish every month,

thanks to funding by the U.N. and its NGO partners.

And as we sit in on their editorial meeting, Darius who also works on his school newspaper wants to know what this project means to them.

RUBIN: What kind of impact does this magazine have on your life here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It raises awareness and helps get children back to school.

RUBIN: And do you look forward to these new things?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, very much.

AMANPOUR: Internet is only available at these centers so these adolescents don't spend their time online. And there's not much of a social life for

them. The camp only got electricity back in December so television has become their main source of entertainment.

But everywhere we hear the almost mystical reverence these children of war pay to the power of education and determination.

(on-camera): What would you say to Darius about life and about what it's like to be a 16-year-old boy today in this situation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price of success is hard work. To determine whether we win or lose, the most important thing is that we have applied

ourselves to this task. Any task.


AMANPOUR: Words of wisdom that belie his young age. And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and

see us online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and good bye from London.