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Dozens Perish in London Tower Block Fire; One Year Since Murder of British MP Jo Cox; "Daring to Drive" as a Woman in Saudi Arabia

Aired June 16, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:01:47] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, London continues to count the cost of one of its deadliest tower block fires. More than a

dozen confirmed dead, but dozens are still missing and unaccounted for.

This tragedy comes as Britain marks a deadly anniversary. One year since the MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right wing fanatic. Her husband, Brendan,

honours her memory with street parties to pull Britain together especially at this difficult time.


BRENDAN COX, HUSBAND OF JO COX: This is just a moment, I think, that we need even more so after Manchester and after London and after the election,

that's the referendum just to say let's talk about those things that we have in common. I think it's overdue.


AMANPOUR: And daring to drive in Saudi Arabia. A key of the United States and the UK, where women still can't drive. I speak to Manal al-Sharif on

that simple act of freedom that her government as unlawful rebellion.

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

Well, the metal of this capital city has been severely tested this week and for several months, indeed, practically the whole of this past year. Just

days after fatal terror attacks in London Bridge, in Borough Market, an unspeakable tragedy unfolded again in the city midweek.

Grenfell Tower, home to hundreds of low-income families caught fire and the blaze quickly engulfed the whole building. More than a dozen people are

confirmed dead, which is a toll that will rise as the search and recovery continues.

The question of how to process such tragedy and how to pick up the pieces afterwards is difficult. But it is a daily reality for Brendan Cox.

This weekend, the country will come together to remember a tragic anniversary, the murder of Brendan's wife, Joe Cox. A 41-year-old MP. She

was killed by a ring wing fanatic.

Brendan is organizing community events across the UK. Street parties and picnics to celebrate Joe's life. A life that she devoted to advocating

unity over division.

On Monday, Brendan joined me in the studio to discuss Jo's life and legacy. It was the day his memoir was published. He spoke movingly about his loss

and of how his young children are dealing with their mother's death especially amid all these other brutal tragedies that have left their mark

on this country.


AMANPOUR: Brendan Cox, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You've just written this book about your wife's life. Why did you choose that title?

COX: Where it came from was Jo's maiden speech where she said that the amazing thing about her constituency, which has been kind of diverse, very

different, was less the fact that it was diverse and different, because that's part of our country, but more of the fact that despite all that

difference, the things that we have in common are more important than the things that divide us. And more in common came from that maiden speech.

[14:05:07] But also I think it also came from her sense of our country and the time that we're living in, where I think we spend a lot of time talking

about diversity and difference and we're not very good actually at talking about the things that bind us together.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's interesting you say that because as we speak, it is the anniversary of her brutal murder. But in the meantime, we've had

terrible attacks as well. So do you actually believe still in the more in common philosophy?

COX: Yes, even more so. I think what the extremists show, the extremist, whether they are fascists and white supremacists like the person that

killed Jo, or whether they're Islamic extremists, they have incredible overlap.

I mean, they essentially are both driven by hate. They both believe that we have to live in pure societies where difference can't mix. And they're

met with revulsion by the vast majority of all of our countries. And so I think that central narrative about togetherness, about how we draw

communities closer together, is the most important thing we can do.

AMANPOUR: I want to go back to your wedding. The way you met, the story of your romance is really one for the love stories. She was older than

you. She was your senior when you first met. How did that happen?

I mean, did she ask you out? Did you ask her out? How did it go?

COX: I'm not sure how we met. I don't know how romantic it was. I think we first met on a conference call, which I think in terms of romantics is

probably not up there. But that's where we sort of first started working together.

And she was -- had this amazing reputation as this sort of over impressive, very driven, very passionate person, and we were very different. But what

we both had is this sort of energy and drive to try and get things done.

So we started sort of working together a little bit more. And then I play in a very, very bad band. And she came to a rehearsal. And then our first

date, she invited me around for dinner. She burned it very, very badly, which was a running theme in our relationship, mostly her burning food.

And yes, we found out then that we have this amazingly sort of shared set of interests and just this mutual energy that we threw at life and we threw

at each other. And yes, all is good.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you then, how have you been coping in the year since she's gone, and how have the children been coping?

COX: I think, I think the children have been coping as well as can be. And for me, you know, that's both the hardest thing, because they are --

you see the greatest pain when I imagine what they're going through, and when I know what they're missing. That's the hardest, hardest possible


But they're also the thing that get me out of bed in the morning, physically. But also emotionally, you know they are the things that keep

you going. And my kids are amazing. And they have a lot of Jo's spirit. And I see that, and I love that.

AMANPOUR: How did you first hear about what had happened to her?

COX: I was in a restaurant near to my boat with a colleague of mine, and I got a phone call from -- from somebody that worked with Jo, telling me that

she had been attacked but not in any detail. And I went as quickly as I could to get on the train.

And when I was on my way to the train, I was told that she had been shot and stabbed, and that is when I first realized how serious it could be.

And I remember running to the train, just thinking, just be OK. If you're injured, if you're hurt, we'll be OK. We'll put you all back together.

Just don't die. That was the thing that was in my head running to the train.

AMANPOUR: And then you got the call on the train that she's gone?

COX: Yes. So then I -- I was on the train and spoke to Jo's sister, Kim, who told me that she hadn't made it when I was on the train on the way.

AMANPOUR: You talk about yourself and what you experienced and obviously so much about her wonderful life. But also about your children and what

decisions you had to make in those immediate moments afterwards.

And you share this incredible story of how you decided to let them say goodbye to her for the last time.

COX: I got a lot of advice. I spoke a lot to people I knew or friends of friends who had lost their own partners, or who had lost parents when they

were younger to try and understand how to go about things. And one of the pieces of advice was, first you need to be very open and to tell them what

has happened, not to try to keep that from them.

And then secondly, as part of that, them seeing Jo's body was an important part of them understanding and grieving. This to me I really struggled

with emotionally, but we did it, and it was definitely the right decision.

AMANPOUR: I just want to read a little bit from the book about that. "We were with Jo for not much more than a few minutes, but it was long enough

for our children to reach out and hold their mom's hand one last time. They touched her hair and they spoke to her. We love you mommy, they both

said as they sprinkled love arts over her. I didn't want them to stay too long and I persuaded them gently that we needed to leave."

That was hard.

COX: Yes, I mean -- I think when you're that little, death is quite a hard thing to conceive of, to conceptualize. And so in a way, the language you

have to use has to be very clear, you know, the whole -- people used to say they're asleep or up in the clouds or whatever. That is all very unuseful

according to the child psychologist. You have to be quite brutal -- brutally honest so that they do understand what's happened.

And I think seeing their mom, clearly knowing that the life wasn't there anymore, helped them move to that -- move to that next stage.

AMANPOUR: And what do you do as the father of such young children who have been through this, when there's a Manchester for instance. Did they hold

on to that?

COX: Yes, yes. I mean --

AMANPOUR: Or London Bridge.

COX: Yes. I mean, I told them about both. And I think, you know, the way that I explained it to them was to say what happened, but to talk about how

rare that was and to talk about how news focuses on those individual acts of hatred and drama and not the millions more acts of every day kindness.

I think it's good that they realize that. They know, they know what happened to their mom. They know that somebody did it and made a choice to

do it. But they also know that, you know, they stood in front of the crowd of thousands at Trafalgar Square of people expressing their compassion.

They -- on the drive to Jo's funeral, it was lined by thousands and thousands of people, and Cuillin turned to me and said I knew people loved

mommy, but I didn't realized that this many people did.

AMANPOUR: That's beautiful.

COX: So I think that for them, they still have that sense of, you know, this being a great place to live and people generally being kind, realizing

there are some horrible people and evil people out there. But they don't represent anybody other than themselves.

AMANPOUR: Brendan Cox, thank you very much indeed.

When we come back after the kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the rights of women to drive their own vehicles and their lives is still a big ask. We

speak to the activist and author Manal al-Sharif about daring to drive. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now Britain's biggest arms company BAE Systems has sold mass cyber surveillance technology to several repressive regimes including Saudi

Arabia. That is according to a year-long investigation by BBC Arabic and a Danish newspaper which also say that increased levels of cyber surveillance

since the start of the Arab spring have had a devastating impact on human rights activists.

My next guest Manal al-Sharif knows the cost of this activism all too well. She was forced out of Saudi Arabia. She lost her job and even custody of

her son. Her crime? Driving while female in the only country in the world which still bans women from taking to the road.

So we drove around New York in 2012 discussing the start of her campaign.


AMANPOUR: What message are you trying to send by driving?

MANAL AL-SHARIF, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST: It's a symbolic act of the woman rights. We want to be full citizens. I'm educated. I have a job. And I

should be able to -- I should be trusted to drive my own car.

It's really bizarre.


AMANPOUR: So this week five years later here from the studio in London, I talked to Manal again and I asked her about her book, "Daring to Drive and

Still Being Treated Like a Child."

Manal al-Sharif, welcome back to the program.

AL-SHARIF: Thank you for having me again.

AMANPOUR: What do you mean when you say you want to be trusted, you want to be a full citizen?

AL-SHARIF: So I'm 28 today. Five years later, I meet you. I'm 28 and I'm still treated as a minor. I'm a mother of two boys and an engineer, but

I'm not trusted with simple acts in my life like getting my passport and leaving the country. I'm still not trusted.

The government until this day did not name an age when I become an adult. I'm a minor from the time I'm born until the time I die. And if -- other

say this mean prejudice that we as woman, I'm looked as objects or subjects that shouldn't be disobedient. Listen to whatever rules they impose on us

and not question them.

AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary. What is the cost that you're having to pay, though, for trying to be a full citizen, a grown up trying to drive?

AL-SHARIF: Worldwide, globally, when a woman speaks up, she pays a very high price. It is special punishment deserved only for the woman who speak

out. Personally, the personal toll was really high.

I had to let go of my job because I was threatened to be fired. If I don't stay silent and I refuse to stay silent. I had to -- I lost my son's

custody so I have a second son living with me abroad, who I cannot take him back home. So a lot of harassments happening for a woman who speak up.

AMANPOUR: What is the point if it's so painful? Do you really, really, really think that the authorities are going to allow women to drive any

time soon?

AL-SHARIF: I see women changing the game. I see more women speaking up. When I started they were too afraid. You have to be obedient. Keep --

don't be scandalous, don't speak up. Don't embarrass the government. And I'm like for how long do we have to wait because freedom is not giving.

Freedom is taking.

AMANPOUR: But the very powerful crowned prince, the deputy crowned Prince Mohammad bin Salman said just last year, "Society is still not convinced of

women driving, believes it has very negative consequences if women are allowed to drive. This is up to Saudi society. We can't force something

that society doesn't want."

I see you shaking your head.

AL-SHARIF: With all due respect to our deputy crown prince, which I find him an amazing man because he is very ambitious and he is a visionary. And

he is doing things. He's taking things and he's doing things that a lot of people are skeptical about it, but I do believe in the things he is doing.

That vision.

AL-SHARIF: While I disagree with all due respect with him is that the society is not really -- when I drove, the society would not stop me. The

one who would stop me was the traffic police and the religious police.

When other women go out today and drive, the society doesn't stop them, it's the police. We get harassed by the police, by the authorities. So if

the society is not ready, why the government is interfering? Leave it between us and the society.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of powerful people coming to Saudi Arabia and perhaps speaking out on behalf of Saudi women? You know that, obviously,

President Trump was recently there along with the first lady, Melania; the first daughter, Ivanka and they did quite a few tweets.

[14:20:10] Ivanka said, "Today, I met with Saudi Arabia women leaders and learned directly of their accomplishments, challenges and vision for the


But you replied, "We are tired of being betrayed by one U.S. administration after another."

What do you mean?

AL-SHARIF: I find it really surprising to me that all these years, with all this administrations, they could not push for positive. They could not

push for more human rights and woman's rights in my country.

They could use diplomacy to push more. And we've been, it's been neglected. It's not brought up. And if it is brought up, Ivanka, she

said, she betrayed women who are very successful. We have successful women. But she really doesn't know the ins and outs. She -- I don't

understand why she said it's encouraging the progress and why Saudi Arabia, this last year, 2016, was listed as -- when the ranking of Saudi Arabia

went down 241 on the global gender gap index and it's the last country on earth where women can't drive. Why? That's the question. Why?

AMANPOUR: You started your "Women to Drive" campaign in 2011 with a video of yourself that you put and posted on YouTube.

Did you expect the backlash?

AL-SHARIF: Oh my God, no. I had no clue that it was this sensitive issue, because the government kept saying for 21 years, ever since the 1990

protest for the banning women driving that it is a society issue. We have no problem. If women wants to drive, it can go out and drive. And there

are no laws in the country so we're just like, you know what, we can help the society get prepared by encouraging more women to go out and rive. But

it turned out to become an act of civil disobedience to the government.

AMANPOUR: How do you think this is going to end up? When do you think Saudi women will get the right to drive?

AL-SHARIF: When they want. When she want, she will get the driver's license, she will learn how to drive and she will go out and drive and that

will force the government to issue them driver's license.

They cannot arrest 9 million women if they want to go out and drive. And it's happening, because I am my own guardian. Women are realizing that the

guardianship system in Saudi Arabia is un-Islamic. Has nothing to do with Islam. And when you reach this realization and this level of awareness,

women are changing.

AMANPOUR: All right. Manal al-Sharif, author of "Daring to Drive." Thank you for joining us.

AL-SHARIF: Thank you, Christiane. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And as Manal just mentioned, in 1990, 47 Saudi women defied the ban and drove their cars in Riyadh. I covered the demonstration and the

government's harsh response.


AMANPOUR: In Riyadh, the remnants of a tribal past look out onto a spanking new skyline. A capital city with buildings and boulevards that

would feel at home in Dallas or Beverly Hills.

But traditions and values here are the same today as they were 100 years ago. So a recent demonstration by a group of women has provoked a backlash

that caused some of them to be suspended from their jobs.

News of the affair has been kept out of the Saudi press, but is making headlines in the West.

What the women did was drive around the city to demand a ride that's taken for granted around the world. But it is banned here not by the law, not by

Koran, rather by this conservative Islamic culture.

You here women are driven around by male family members or chauffeurs, even those who may drive in other Islamic societies such as Kuwait for instance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love driving. I wish I can drive in our country.

AMANPOUR: You'll hear the same thing from almost all educated and professional Saudi women. But even the most liberal say the protestors

used the wrong tactics. The change should come through dialogue, not demonstration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The social system is based on segregation of the sexes. So if women start to drive as men does, they have to unveil


AMANPOUR: Like many women here, they work in a mixed environment. But both point out they receive some rights only after years of consultation

between government and religious authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I compel myself to my mother and my grandmother. I would not be sitting here and talking or working in a mixed environment. I

want to be educated. So we'll have change and it's gradually, because we have to accommodate our needs to our social needs.

AMANPOUR: Needs the driving demonstrators gabled with and lost.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN in Saudi Arabia.


AMANPOUR: It still amazes me that that was 1990 and still those women can't drive.

Now, back to London which has suffered a string of tragedies in quick succession. From terror attacks to this week's harrowing tower block fire.

But communities often rally in the face of disaster and London of course is no different.

After the break, we imagine a world where the British capital bears its resilience.


[14:26:31] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as London's absorbs yet another fiery blow, we imagine a recovery ringing out clear as a bell.

Ringing in a renewal for Borough Market just days after the vehicle and knife rampage that killed eight people on London Bridge and at that famous

market. It is city's oldest fruit and vegetable market. It's been around for about a thousand years. And the emotion was palpable as the market

reopened just hours after the towering inferno across town in West London.

It was all too much for the fruit and vege trader who rang in those bells.




AMANPOUR: A little ray of sunshine amid all this horror. And 83,000 pounds were raised in a fund for those traders who's stores had been shut

down for almost two weeks. Now as they get back to business, the hum and the sizzle of this ancient quintessentially London tradition starts up


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. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.