Return to Transcripts main page


Madeleine Albright Slams Trumps Travel Ban. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a special program on the plight of Syrian refugees, we see the impact of President Trump's travel ban on

the ground and we speak to one family who may be the last to get asylum in America. And I take my teenage son to meet refugees his own age.


AMANPOUR: Good Evening everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Just days after he came into office, President Trump

signed an executive order banning citizens from several Muslim countries from entering the United States, including Syrian refugees.

U.S. courts put a lid on the ban for months but just before the end of this year, the Supreme Court ruled for the Trump administration by allowing the

latest version of the ban to take effect pending appeal. It is hardest fro refuges fleeing war, like almost 5 million Syrians now living in

neighboring countries.

The United States has taken in only around 20,000 since the war began, while refugees make up 10 percent of the entire population in Jordan.

Earlier this year, I witnessed their plait first hand. I found the vetting for travel to the U.S. to be intense and I met a family preparing to fly

there, a bitter sweet moment for them.

Walk into this registration center at the U.N. refugee agency in Iran and suddenly something about this millennium's desperate refugee's story speaks

to the last millenniums. Ellis Island circa 1900, that was the storied gateway to America. Here, some 1,000 refugees a day come dressed their best

hoping to find their own gateway to somewhere.

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


PAUL STROMBERG, UNHCRL: It involves many different agencies in the U.S., different security databases, several different 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.

Normally, less that one percent of refugees are resettled -

AMANPOUR: That's tiny.


AMANPOUR: A quick walkthrough revealed endless interview rooms, interview rooms, biometric testing areas, creating an 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: 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. The started to have some sort of post traumatic stress.

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

born. This is Zaarari, a sprawling refugee city of 80,000 that is morphed from tent and poplins to fixed 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: Imagine living in this camp and knowing that home is 20 kilometers away across the Syrian boarder. The last big refugee

resettlement saw one and ever 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.


AMANPOUR: Which may explain why this family looks sad and afraid when we meet them just hours before they're due to take off for America. Look at

all the suitcases. Um Muhammad 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 parceled into eight suitcases, one for each family member.

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



AMANPOUR: Are you excited about going to America?


AMANPOUR: What are you hoping for?


UM MUHAMMAD, SYRIAN REFUGEE: Our house was burned and my in laws house was also destroyed.

AMANPOUR: This family got their ticket to the U.S.A. because they too are considered vulnerable. Their oldest lost his hearing when they fled the

bombing and now his speaking is impaired too. Have you heard the news from America that the President wanted to say no to Syria refugees and that

there's a lot of problems with immigration?

ABU MUHAMMAD: I feel that Donald Trump had a bad picture about Muslims in genera, that the American people are much wiser and know that not all

Muslims are the same. 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 for feet on American soil?

UM MUHAMMAD: I have no idea.

AMANPOUR: 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 their 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 threat of (Abdul Ismail)'s long life, a grandfather taking his family clear across the world.

Twenty four hours later here they are in Chicago, tired, 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. Everyday Syrians try to voluntarily head back across the border. If only Bashar Assad and

his barrel bombs would let them.


I asked the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright an immigrant herself if she agreed with Trump's view that the travel ban is about

keeping America safe. Where is this going to lead to? None of these countries that have been banned have committed any terrorism against The

United States, certainly not since 9/11.

What do the people of The United States need to know about what's going on? They think this is to make them feel safer.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think that the important part here is that these are people that have suffered

tremendously, that have suffered for their own freedom and for having a better life. I think it's outrageous to decide that we would not take them.

You were in Jordan I really do think Jordan is the front line state. They have hundreds of thousands of refugees and we should be taking more,

because it's the right thing to do. The humanitarian thing to do, it would be good for our diversity and the way that the ban was set up before; it

was a gift to ISOL.

AMANPOUR: So you think it actually could harm America's security?

ALBRIGHT: Definitely, and a group of us that were involved in national security issues made that point clear when the first ban came out, that it

was actually bad. It also hurt our troops in Iraq for instance, where some of the people that have been helping us there, interpreters and others,

would feel that they were being discriminated against.

That and also a propaganda gift and also Christiane, we have been able to share intelligence with a lot of these countries. And I think so in every

way, this was a very bad idea and I hope that if there is another one, ban that it is done in a way that is not so unfair and so totally un-American.

AMANPOUR: You yourself have been a refugee. You tweeted not long ago when this ban was first imposed. I was raised Catholic became Episcopalian and

found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in solidarity. Should there though be more vetting?

ALBRIGHT: First of all the vetting, frankly is very deep at this point. With a number of different steps right, there's more than 20 steps. 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 where terrorists delve and decide that

they couldn't come in because they were a particular religion.

That is totally un-American. 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: Secretary Tillerson is sort of being - people say quiet, sort of out of the loop. I don't know sort of absent on the job and apparently a

lot of pressure on State Department officials as well; any advice?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all it's one of the all time great jobs, but what you really need is a department that is fully staffed and working with you.

There is no such thing as being a solo act.

AMANPOUR: Girl refugees suffer horribly. Every year, 15 million girls all over the world are married off before the age of eighteen, that's 28 per


The Sillian (ph) war has led to an alarming rise in early marriage with some girls as young as fifteen. But there's also a movement on the way to

try to keep them in school, as we found as we continued our visit to Zaatari Camp in Jordan.


AMANPOUR: The scenes and shrieks of girls being, well just girls. Age eight to fifteen, they're enjoying their soccer. It is the brain (ph) of an

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

Some of the worst colossal damage from the Syrian war is an increase early marriage. Poverty stricken parents off loading one too many mouths to feed

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

In Jordan, you can legally marry at eighteen or if Syria (ph) judges approve, even at fifteen. Amal (ph) uses her coaching sessions to mentor

these girls.

AMAL HOSHAN, SYRIAN FOOTBALL COACH: 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's the same child. She got involved with something much bigger than her age. Girls have developed psychological complexes, they

experience depression. Some girls even tried to poison themselves. They don't like that life but many get stigmatized if they get divorced.

AMANPOUR: Yes, with around one in four Syrian refugee girls, under eighteen, married off in this region. According to the UNHCR (ph), early

divorce is a new trend in this refugee population. And, it's a stigma that girls, like this sixteen-year-old, are trying shake off. She wouldn't give

us her name nor show her face. But, she's been married and divorced by the ripe old age of fifteen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE GIRL, REFUGEE: I didn't know what marriage meant. I had no idea what it means.

AMANPOUR: The UNACR's (ph), Needa Hahsin (ph) helps her tell me her story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE GIRL, REFUGEE: I tried it once, I got engaged, he wasn't so nice. I wasn't happy with him. I knew that I wasn't happy with

him. I shared it with my parents so I told them, no, I have to stop this so we got separated.

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

AMANPOUR: 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's relieved, no longer trapped in that vicious cycle and especially that her parents welcomed her home with open arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE GIRL, REFUGEE: I went to focus my education. I want to continue my education to them, to be able to decide what I want to be in

the future.

AMANPOUR: In Zaatari camp, most of the 28,000 kids go to school. Girls and boys in separate three hour shifts. And these, are the tiger girls,

adolescents who are mentored, after school, by their own community in this UNACR program. Adult refugee women teach the math, science and talk to them

about early marriage and violence.

Here, the teacher asks them what they have learned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should advice the family that they should not marry their daughter under the age of fourteen. It is not necessary for the

girl to get married while she's still young.

AMANPOUR: And Amal says, she's heard horror stories.

HOSHAN: 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. Her 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: We also met Riadah (ph), who was barely seventeen when she got married three years ago to a Jordanian who lived in the city.

How do you think it would help you?

RIADAH (ph): It was to escape the conditions in the camp.

AMANPOUR: Now, back with her family and new baby brother, she says she fled her husband after just a few months.

RIADAH (ph): He treated me very badly. His family treated like a Syrian refugee who came from a camp and not as one of them. I was inferior to


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

RIADAH (ph): 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: 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: So what will it take to end child marriage and give girls a future? I asked Lakshmi Sundaram. She's the Executive Director of Girls Not

Brides. Welcome to the program.

LAKSHMI SUNDARAM: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: How shocking is that, what you've just seen? Is that similar to what you see in other parts of the world?

SUNDARAM: One of the things that's really awful within the context of Syrian refugee camps is, just keeping in mind in Syria, before the war

started; the rates of child marriage were about 13 percent. And by 2014 in the camps they had increased to more than 30 percent. That's a huge

increase and that shows that families and girls themselves are using marriage as a way to cope with this horrendous humanitarian crisis.

AMANPOUR: And we saw now, not just marriage but now divorce; young, early divorce (ph) and kids who are divorced. We think we've picked up sort of a

movement to try to stop these marriage practices and certainly the families we spoke to, they regretted that their girls got married, they're glad that

they're home; is there sort of a pushback on this as far as you can gather? Not just in these communities, but others that you monitor.

SUNDARAM: So 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 impact that child marriage can have; the devastating impact on the health of a girl if

she's 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: 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 that sort of ongoing impact. Give me a sense of other places in the world that you've been to with the program and what they results of these

early marriages are.

SUNDARAM: Child marriage happens across countries, across cultures, across religions. We're seeing high rates of child marriage in places like Brazil,

Mexico, Thailand - -


SUNDARAM: - - Indonesia, India, it really is driven by the fact that girls and boys are not seen as equal. But it's often exasperated in situations

where there's insecurity as we see in the camps, and actually we have Girls Not Brides members in Nepal who are telling us that they saw increases in

child marriage after the earthquake in Nepal. Again, families and girls themselves are seeing marriage as a way of keeping girls safe without

realizing the violence that these girls face within marriage.

AMANPOUR: And how did that change in Nepal or did it in the years subsequent to the earthquake?

SUNDARAM: Well there's been a lot of work both from the government, from NTOs, from U.N. agencies and others to really try and highlight the

negative impact of child marriage. But also and I think this is fundamental, is making sure that the camps or other places where girls and

families are staying are safe for girls. If girls cannot even go to the toilet without being worried about being raped, it's going to be very

difficult to convince them that actually being unmarried is a safe option.

And continuing to make sure that schools are available, that they're accessible and safe for girls as well because the other thing to keep in

mind, whether it's in Syrian refugee camps, whether it's in other parts of the world, is that when girls are educated, when they can stay out of

marriage and go to school they're much more likely to be a productive part of the solution once the conflict is over.

AMANPOUR: We know that in many countries say the law in Jordan, we know in Pakistan, child marriage is outlawed but nonetheless it still happens. What

do you make of these programs that we witness? The mentoring, the after school programs, that helps right?

SUNDARAM: That has a huge impact; working with girls directly has an impact, working with families and communities has an impact, working with

boys, with parents, with religious leaders, but we also have to make sure that there are schools available, that health services are available so

that girls whether they're married or unmarried can stay safe and know about their bodies and can avoid pregnancy if they want. And also we need

laws and policies that are supportive that outlaw marriage and that provide recourse to girls who are -- find themselves in these situations.

AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating insight; we were amazed to find what we did there so thanks Lakshmi Sundaram, thank you very much from Girls Not


SUNDARAM: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, I took my teenage son with me to these camps to image a life a world away from his own. At the Za'atari camp in Jordan.

Darius got to meet and speak to a young man his own age but is living a very different reality.

Imagine bringing my 16-year-old son, Darius, to work. Only this isn't your normal day at the office, it's the Za'atari camp for Syrian refugees in

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



AMANPOUR: Hi. How are you?


AMANPOUR: Coming to discover how these adolescent young people his own age survive in the most extraordinary situations. We meet Mohammed, his four

sisters and his mother Shama(ph), who've escaped 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 serves as the children's library and wardrobe. Heat from a stove fed by a pipe that snakes it's way

in from a gas canister.

For Darius, the obvious question.

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

MOHAMMED: My house is very beautiful and my.

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

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

AMANPOUR: Were you afraid at any time during the journey?

MOHAMMED (through translator): Yes, I was afraid but I had a goal, which was to reach somewhere safe and I managed to put my fear aside.

AMANPOUR: And I asked about their dad. You're the man of the family. You're here with your mom, you've got your four sisters, what happened to your



AMANPOUR: What happened? How?

MOHAMMED (through translator): We were at home at the time and there was some bombing and shooting in the area. He went outside to have a look and

he was shot.

AMANPOUR: Fortunately Darius doesn't have to step out quite like Mohammed 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.

SHAMA(ph) (through translator): Mohammed does really a great 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.

AMANPOUR: Into the big blue barrel and out through a pipe in the kitchen, which is a tiny room that they have only just managed to add to their main

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

SHAMA(ph) (through translator): With the families 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 and make it look it like home. We eat, watch TV and sleep here. Now, at last, we have a kitchen I can cook in like


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

SHAMA(ph) (through translator): It is hard to loose 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 was ask my husband and he would get anything for me.

AMANPOUR: She keeps her memories on her phone. He's a handsome man. Yes, she says, and like so many of the mothers we've met, Shama(ph) insists that

education is the most important thing for her children's future.

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

fleeing Syria. His dream is to go onto 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.

AMANPOUR: Should we go in?


AMANPOUR: And here, with a group of teenage boys and girls, Mohammed founded the camp magazine which the publish every month thanks to funding

by the U.N. and it's 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.

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

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

AMANPOUR: And do you look forward to these meetings?

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

AMANPOUR: Internet is only available at these centers so these adolescents don't spend their time on line. 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.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price of sexist (ph) is hard work. It remain whether we won or loose the (ph) is that. We have applied ourselves to this task,

any task.

AMANPOUR: Together we learn that hopes and dreams have no borders. No matter how starkly different our everyday experiences are. And that's it

for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast anytime and see us on line at And follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.