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The Voice Of UAE's Next Generation; Leading Women: Maryam al Mansoori; The Coalition against ISIS; Countering Extremist Ideology; Parting Shots: The Burj Khalifa

Aired December 25, 2014 - 11:00:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Welcome to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque behind me, for those of who you are regular viewers of the show, that will be a familiar sight here in Abu Dhabi in the

United Arab Emirates. The country that we now call home, we brought the show here in March of 2014. To get under the skin of the people and

stories shaping this region and what a year it has been.

We've traveled extensively across the Middle East, meeting global leaders who are making headlines. We also covered stories here in the UAE.

Here's four students I met with some inspiring ideas.



ANDERSON: Does it bother you that here in the Gulf, though, your generation is a lot less politically engaged than elsewhere. I'm thinking

about the Arab Spring, about social media and blogging back in 2011 and this summer of reckoning. You see this next generation so infused with sort

of political rhetoric. You don't feel that here.


ANDERSON: Or you're just spoiled.


SARAH BAWAZIR, STUDENT, ZAYED UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I think in some places it was chaos and they stopped schools. And so they stopped the

education. Education is crucial, you know. I mean, we're fortunate that everything is stable here. We can focus on our education --


ANDERSON: It's stability that helps here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing to complain about, yes.

MARIAM AL HOSANI, STUDENT, ZAYED UNIVERSITY: The situation -- like if you're not getting what you want you're going to get frustrated. If you're

getting what you want you should be grateful, you shouldn't -- you shouldn't go down a path that's not going to --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like we have everything. And we like have more than what we need sometimes. So why should we complain?

ANDERSON: What people will say around the region and perhaps around the world is that this region is run primarily by tribal autocracies, and

that isn't what democracy is, is it?

Does that matter? Does that bother you?

AL HOSANI: Personally, someone who has -- we've studied democracy and we've studied the concept of all these nations and it's a wonderful

concept. But I think every country functions in its own way. And not everyone should function in a similar -- this way works for us. And as a

people we're happy and we're satisfied.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As Mariam said, we are -- we function this way. So, no matter what people say, you know, we're happy.

AL HOSANI: I think it's very important for the people -- what's the point of having democracy if you can't trust the leader. You have to trust

your leader. And we trust our leader.

ANDERSON: Who is the biggest influence?

Is it still family, friends, religion here?

AL HOSANI: It's religion and family and culture. Yes, it's a social (INAUDIBLE).

MARIAM AL DHAHERI, STUDENT, ZAYED UNIVERSITY: We fear a lot about reputation. Here the number one thing is reputation, whether it's the

country or a girl or a child or a family name. So for example, if a girl dresses inappropriately or behaves inappropriately, the first thing that

would come to mind is her reputation.

Her reputation might be at risk so she would change that. So she would be more --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not just her reputation, even her family --

BAWAZIR: Dressing appropriately and not inappropriately, actually it's dressing traditionally or non-traditionally.

ANDERSON: So what do you say to those who would say that you girls are kept down by the tradition of needing to wear the abaya?

AL HOSANI: In the UAE it's -- even though it's the -- like they said, the reputation and the culture, there is the option. If you don't, nothing

like legally is going to happen to you.

ANDERSON: But your families will feel --

AL HOSANI: Your families will feel, but I think it's more of a personal -- like you want to do this because you want to feel connected to

everyone else, you don't want to feel different.

ANDERSON: You don't feel imposed upon by wearing the abaya?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually abaya is beginning to be fashion.

TAHRA AL HAMMADI, STUDENT, ZAYED UNIVERSITY: They have fashion lines like worldwide, so it's fine.

AL HOSANI: I think they're like, we're adapting. Instead of feeling, oh, we're oppressed and feeling sorry for ourselves, we're shifting the

situation. OK, we have to wear this, we'll wear it in a good way. We'll change it up.

ANDERSON: What do you think the biggest challenges are going forward?

AL HAMMADI: For me it's tradition. Some, like there are still some families who like, no, we don't want to go to the future, we want to stay

in tradition. And -- but I can see that it's changing like for me.

AL HOSANI: We have a hard time focusing. The other day I was at a lecture and I only listened to the first 10 minutes and then I was on my

phone and then I listened again and then I was on my phone. And then when I went home my dad was speaking about the Moroccan king's speech a long

time ago.

And I was like, how could you listen to this whole speech without being distracted? Our attention span is so much shorter than the

generations before us. And I do think that is a challenge.





ANDERSON: Welcome back to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me Becky Anderson, taking a look back at some of the best of our

coverage of 2014.

Now you join me here on the terrace at the CNN Bureau in Abu Dhabi, where we broadcast the show from on a regular basis. The guy's just

setting up for the program tonight. Now much of the headlines dominated this year by the spread of ISIS across Iraq and Syria.

Involved in the fight to prevent that group's march across the region a woman by the name of Maryam al Mansoori, the Emirates' first female

fighter pilot. I met up with her back in July.



ANDERSON: Maryam, this is your office, quite remarkable stuff. You are the first female emirate air force pilot. When did you decide you

wanted to fly?

MAJOR MARYAM AL MANSOORI, UAE AIR FORCE: Actually, directly after I finished my high school. I put up my mind to be a fighter pilot, but at

that time the doors are not open for females to be pilots. So I had to wait almost 10 years.

ANDERSON: Was that frustrating?

MANSOORI: Yes. Yes. Of course. But this isn't to be taken. And as soon as the door were open I volunteered.


ANDERSON: Let's be quite honest, just how challenging was it amongst your male colleagues here in the air force?

MANSOORI: Initially, the higher authorities, they were very supportive, but to complement the idea, there was some hesitation in how to

do deal with us, which is normal in every culture. Whenever a woman enters a new male dominated field they find the same hesitation, the same

prejudice, the same stereotype thinking.

And I had to prove myself by just being determined and having the skill and the knowledge enough to prove that I can perform as skillful as

the men in this field.

ANDERSON: You said you had to prove that you were equally as skillful.

Did you have to prove you were better than them?

MANSOORI: Yes, most of the time, because the spotlight is on me, especially since we are the first group.

ANDERSON: Yes. Sure.

Do you remember the first time you got in one of these? Just walk me back.

MANSOORI: Yes. The first time it was really amazing. So -- with an I.P. in my backseat. But shortly after four missions, they send me solo,

which increased my confidence that --


ANDERSON: How did that feel?

MANSOORI: Yes, that felt really awesome, especially that -- they give you this confidence that you can take this very expensive and valuable jet

that is used to defend the country and fly it solo.


ANDERSON: Do you feel like you've broken a glass ceiling?

MANSOORI: Let's say yes, because it was like a dream or something impossible that came true. So I think yes.

ANDERSON: Do you feel a great responsibility on your shoulders?

MANSOORI: For sure; from day one that we started flying in 2006 I felt this responsibility. And I felt that I have to be up to this

responsibility. And through that I can be -- that I can be a great fighter pilot like any other male in this field.

ANDERSON: Are you a great fighter pilot?

MANSOORI: I hope so. It's a continuous process of learning.

ANDERSON: The leadership here has made a lot of noise about where it wants to see its Emirate women going forward, involved in the workplace,

involved in industry, ambassadors for the country.

But do you see that happening on the ground or will you be the exception that proves the rule, do you think?

MANSOORI: No, I can see it in every field in the UAE. I can see women working in different fields that we're not used to. And they are

being very successful. And they prove their proficiency in every field.


ANDERSON: Is it more important today than ever to be involved in defending your country, do you think?

MANSOORI: Yes, for sure. We are in a hot area. So that -- we have to prepare every citizen in this country to be ready to defend UAE. So

female or male, it does not matter as long as we are defending our country.

ANDERSON: Do you enjoy what you do?

MANSOORI: For sure.

ANDERSON: Do you love it?

MANSOORI: Yes. I'm in love with it, yes.

ANDERSON: You should go to work. I'm going to let you go to work.



ANDERSON: Putting a face to the stories behind the headlines, which is what we do on this show. And it is the reason why when we came back in

September, we dropped everything to board a U.S. aircraft carrier somewhere in the Arabian Gulf to meet the U.S. service men and women fighting against



ANDERSON (voice-over): Sunrise over the deck of the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. On board, the crew of this 90,000 tons of U.S. national

sovereignty prepare for the day's critical missions.

ANDERSON: Some 5,000 people employed on this ship tending to around about 60 jets and it was these jets on August the 6th that dropped the

first bombs on Iraq in this latest conflict against ISIS.

In June, midway through a nine-month tour, this $6 billion military asset was redeployed to the Persian Gulf, where it's now a key component in

operations against ISIS. Captain Dan Cheever, a 20-year Navy veteran and fighter pilot himself, oversees the ship's strike planes.

CAPT. DAN CHEEVER, U.S.S. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: So the mission is to project power from the carrier over both Iraq and Syria and to defeat the

terrorist enemy.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The U.S.S. George H.W. Bush is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Two, which also includes five destroyers and a

cruiser, all under the command of Rear Admiral DeWolfe C. Miller.

ANDERSON: Chuck Hagel has said that air power alone will not degrade and destroy ISIL.

Do you agree?

REAR ADMIRAL DEWOLFE MILLER, CARRIER STRIKE GROUP COMMANDER: So, good question. What I will tell you again, my focus is on that air power.

Are we being effective in how we do it?

I will tell you that we have seen great effect on the ground in Iraq when working with the Iraqi security forces.

This isn't going be measured in weeks and months. This is going to be years. And I do agree with Secretary Hagel that it will take a combination

of forces on the ground and air power to achieve that.

ANDERSON (voice-over): To stand on the bridge of this 4.5-acre carrier is to understand the enormity of the task required of a naval


ANDERSON: This is the size, I believe, of the Empire State. It has some 5,000 staff, many of whom are young men and women living on this ship

together for months at a time. You have got millions of tons of fuel and ordnance.

It must keep you awake at night, being in charge of this.

CAPT. ANDREW LOISELLE, COMMANDING OFFICER, U.S.S. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Absolutely it does. Bottom line, if my phone rings, I'm on duty 24/7.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Nighttime brings no respite from the noise and punishing work. These planes returning from another mission somewhere over

Iraq or Syria. The sun set over the Gulf hours ago. But a day's job is never done for these men and women of the U.S. Navy -- Becky Anderson, CNN.




ANDERSON: Earlier this year in a speech at the United Nations, President Barack Obama echoed the words of one moderate Muslim cleric, who

lives here in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, he said, offers a foil to the skewed ideology of militants' extremism. I met up with him. Have a listen.


ANDERSON: Why are we seeing such extreme violence in Muslim countries today?

SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN BAYYAH, MUSLIM SCHOLAR (through translator): It involves historical grievances: unemployment, poverty, political and

social conditions, as well as an extreme religious element. For that reason, it is not possible for a cleric to put forward solutions to all of

these problems.

But we can at least attempt to address this problem at hand, to convince those who stir up the violence that their methodology and their

vision is not a sound one from the religious perspective.

ANDERSON: The U.S. president asked the world to challenge what he called the "perverse ideology" of ISIS or Daish. I'm going to show you a

recent training video, a video called "Blood of Jihad."

And I wonder how you believe you can challenge what is this propaganda being released by the organization, which is being used to pull in

disenfranchised, disillusioned young Muslims. This is the video, sir.


ANDERSON: How do you counter the message from ISIS?

BIN BAYYAH (through translator): This is a great challenge that has to be confronted with a strong response. This is what it means to wage war

on war. This is challenging our existence and its treatment has to come from Islam itself, using the same language that the extremists understand.

For some time now, we have been crafting the appropriate language. Islam does not call to war. Islam invites to peace.

ANDERSON: With respect, sir, given these slick propaganda videos that you see, the likes of "Blood of Jihad" and "Dabiq," the magazine that ISIS

releases, there are those who say that scholars are no longer relevant to this younger, disenchanted, disenfranchised Muslim.

Your response?

BIN BAYYAH (through translator): The scholars themselves are in need of introspection. We need satellite channels in order to reach people and

we need means of communication, the Internet and social media, because to a certain degree, scholars today are incapacitated. The scholars are the

only ones who are able to challenge those ideas.

Military opposition is not enough, and I think the world is beginning to admit that. Military solutions are not effective solutions in reality

because. even though one group can be stopped today with military might, another will emerge somewhere else. So the real solution is an

intellectual and social one.

ANDERSON: To some, sir, in the West, you are a controversial Muslim leader; the allegation is that you signed a fatwa post-2003 on killing U.S.


Did you?

BIN BAYYAH (through translator): I have never issued a fatwa to kill anyone. My fatwas are for supporting, promoting and for protecting life.

I have never given a fatwa that has to do with death and killing.

Perhaps there was some resolutions at conferences that I was involved in that denounced certain policies -- for instance, American occupation or

Israeli occupation -- but I don't believe that denouncing occupation is a fatwa to kill anyone.

In fact, I can never recall giving a fatwa that harmed anyone, let alone one that's calling for anyone's death. I call to life. I call to

life. I do not call to death. I do not call to kill anyone, and if anyone claims this or are making allegations, let him bring his proof.


ANDERSON: Well, that's it for this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Watch this, watch this, watch this: I'll

leave you with one of the first things I did on arriving here in the UAE in March. We broadcast the show live from Dubai.

Come and have a look at this, because my scale is the tallest building in the world. For a bird's eye view of my new home.



ANDERSON (voice-over): I'm told on a good day you can see the spire of the Burj Khalifa, from 95 kilometers. Well, I'm on my way up. This is

my ticket. Ten meters a second, they tell me. It's the speed at which these elevators go.


ANDERSON (voice-over): We are going to the 124th floor, 450-odd meters in the sky. And that is only halfway up. This building itself is

852 meters up; that's more than 2,500 feet.

Let's go: 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 --

Come and have a look at this, because this is fascinating. Now this is the Dubai Mall, which is the biggest in the world. Just next to it is

the Address Hotel downtown. Now, that is where we are broadcasting from tonight. That's our live position.

Now this has all emerged in the past five years. Five years.

When I started coming here around about the end of the 19th beginning of the Naughties, as it were, there was nothing here apart from the Emirate

Towers. So we're talking, what, 10-15 years ago? It's remarkable.

Come back inside with me, because we (INAUDIBLE) view on the Dubai Marina from here. So come inside. I wanted to get you to the other side

of the Dubai. That's the Burj Al Arab, if you can see through there.

These are the guys who are cleaning the windows here on the 13th floor of the Address Downtown in Dubai.

You guys are circling up. Let me show you this. Can you see this, Dubai in the shade, where we consider that boys are actually in the sun.

That will probably take you about to what, (INAUDIBLE), 38, 39.

Do you need anything, like water?


ANDERSON (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE). I think something's just about to happen. Watch this, watch this, watch this.

You know, when things like that happen, (INAUDIBLE) you just feel like you got the (INAUDIBLE). There are -- there's a rehearsal. Happens later

on tonight.

And this will be -- am I correct? This will be our live shot position this evening. Please you'll tell me that when the sun goes down, the wind

will drop. Now it's one of those things you just have to buy it, right?

(INAUDIBLE) we'll be fighting the elements out here.