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Amman's Refugee Challenge; One Square Meter: Las Vegas; New York Police Pick Up Trail of Escaped Prisoners in Owls Head; Jordan Takes Tourism Hit From Regional Instability. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired June 23, 2015 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:13] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Fresh setback for ISIS, but the group seems stronger than ever on some fronts. We have exclusive reporting
from Syria and a live update from Iraq for you this hour.
We're in one Arab capital that knows all about the battle against ISIS. A very special connection the world show with me Becky Anderson for
you tonight live from Amman.
Also ahead, why the jewel in Jordan's tourism crown is losing its sparkle for some.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AKEL BILTAJI, MAYOR OF AMMAN: Umuna Amman (ph), Amman is our mother. It has to take us all, but wait a minute we have to work it out together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: A man who is relishing his new role, the mayor of Amman shows me his city secrets.
A very good evening from Amman in Jordan. It is just after 6:00 p.m. locally. We begin with setbacks for ISIS on two fronts this evening.
We'll have report from Iraq for you in just a moment. First, though, to Syria where Kurdish forces just announced they've seized a town
virtually on the doorstep of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS.
YPG fighters swept into Ain Issa with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes to push deep into ISIS territory made possible by last week's capture of
Tal Abyad, a strategic town and key supply route near the Turkish border.
Well, scars from ISIS are everywhere in Tal Abyad. CNN's Arwa Damon was one of the first journalists to visit the town after the militants were
In today's exclusive report, she explains why the reality of life under ISIS was worse than what many people could even imagine.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We travel to the town of Tal Abyad with the YPG, the Kurdish fighting force that is currently in
control of the town.
And in just the brief few hours that we were there, we were still able to get a bit of an insight into just how chilling life under ISIS really
(voice-over): No one is around to tell us who was held here or what horrors transpired at the Tal Abyad prison. There is a stench of sewage.
On one solitary confinement cells floor, splotches of red.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: A scrap of paper, an idea about what is considered a crime under ISIS. In this case, taking god's name in vain.
Among the many draconian directives of ISIS rule.
Another forbidden act, smoking.
This is the first time in two years that cigarettes are being sold in the streets of Tal Abyad, this man was just saying. And this is the first
shipment that he's brought in.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: He's saying that there's a cage at the roundabout down the street that they would put people in for punishment for doing things like
We're taken to see it and told the story of a man who spent three days here for playing cards, also banned.
The streets of Tal Abyad oddly very clean. ISIS also ordered perpetrators of crimes to pick up trash. At one of the ISIS security
offices, the ominous black flag dominates every wall lest anyone forget who is in control here.
And we find a handful of blank pads, of official forms on an office shelf.
Shuttered storefront after storefront is spray painted red with the word Dowle (ph), meaning it was claimed as property of the Islamic State.
There's a group of men back there, they don't want to appear on camera because they still have relatives living in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa,
but they were talking about wretched life under their rule was, how they didn't dare stand up to them, how no one dared to speak out. But they say
they chose to continue living here, because what they have here, that was everything that they possess in life. And trying to survive as a refugee
would be just too difficult.
And all of them who we were speaking to then pointed to this roundabout. This was called the roundabout of death, because it was here
that ISIS carried out its executions.
The remnants of life under ISIS plagued this town where it seems that reality was worse than what most could ever imagine.
ISIS may have been driven out of Tal Abyad before now, but the fighting across Syria is still far from over and the future of so many
still remains uncertain.
[11:05:04] ANDERSON: Well, from Syria across the border to Iraq. And reports of progress against ISIS in Anbar province. Troops say that they
repelled an attack on the town of Pisaba (ph) near Ramadi. They say a number of ISIS militants were killed.
Ben Wedeman following developments for you from Baghdad.
And Ben, joint Iraqi forces have been planning a major offensive to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, for weeks now. How successful are
they being in the area?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've seen is that they've at least been able to hold the line really.
Now when we were out a few days ago in Anbar Province not far from -- we were basically between Ramadi and Fallujah, there was a lot of talk by
senior militia commanders and others about actually focusing their efforts on Fallujah and basically waiting for Fallujah to be retaken before they
said Ramadi would be taken without a shot fired. But that's been a lot of talk.
But we're not seeing an awful lot of action. And of course as Iraqis wait for some sort of progress against ISIS in Anbar Province, what we're
seeing is people continuing to flee to safer ground.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's Iraq's bridge of sorrow, a rickety crossing over the Euphrates River for those who have lost
their homes, their livelihoods, lost almost everything but for a glimmer of hope.
On the bridge known as Zabes (ph), soldiers check papers on the lookout for ISIS infiltrators.
But most, like Mohaimin Hossein (ph) and her family are simply seeking a semblance of peace.
"There was an airstrike," she says. "Our house was destroyed and I was hurt. We left because of the fear and terror. We couldn't sleep at
Jema Ali (ph) recently suffered a stroke. He was pushed over the bridge on a cart. Clearly in pain, he's unaware of where he'll end up.
"I don't know," he says. "I have nothing."
Going the opposite way, food and other goods, there's a war on, but business never stops.
This bridge represents the only way for civilians to go in and out of the remaining 20 percent of Anbar province that's still under government
And even in that remaining 20 percent of Anbar, ISIS is present. Iraqi security forces recently rounded up more than 20 men suspected of
being members of the extremist group.
Civilian cars sit idle on the far side of the river, cars from Anbar aren't allowed over the bridge for fear they may be full of explosives.
The only solace here, for boys only, however, is a dip in the river, welcome relief from the scorching summer heat.
Those without the means to go any further, or someone to vouch for them to security forces end up in tents on the side of the road. They
complain of lack of basic services, food and clean water.
"We have nothing," Saad Neji (ph) tells me. "If you get sick here either you recover or you die. A lot of the children are sick, but most of
us don't have the money to send them to a doctor."
And so they must sit and wait in the heat and dust with their sorrows.
WEDEMAN: And the few civilians you see there are just a drop in the bucket. According to the United Nations, there are now more than 3 million
Iraqis displaced by the fighting that's taken here over the last year.
Now just to get back to Syria, however, we do have some interesting information, some news coming out that Syrian rebels, that includes the
YPG, that's the Kurdish fighting group in northern Syria in addition to other Syrian fighters, have retaken the town of Ain Issa, which is just 50
kilometers north of Raqqa itself.
In addition to that, yesterday they were able to take control of what's known as Brigade 93. That was a Syrian army base that was taken by
ISIS now in the controls of these anti-regime fighters.
So definitely what we see, at least in northern Syria, is that ISIS is on the run, although it's not clear at this point whether these fighters
are going to push toward Raqqa, the defacto capital of the Islamic State or simply going to try to push at all, basically take over all the border
crossings between northern Syria and Turkey -- Becky.
[11:10:07] ANDERSON: Yeah, you make a very good point, Ben. Thank you.
Ben Wedeman is in Baghdad for you tonight.
Clearly getting free of ISIS is just a start for any city in either Iraq or Syria, let's go back for a moment to what we heard from Arwa in Tal
Abyad on the border with Turkey. She spoke with residents there about lief after the militants left. Learn that the impact of those two years is
still felt physically in the form of explosive traps left behind and psychologically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: A certain unease emanates from the adults, anger evident in their voices, their answers short and sharp.
Mahmoud Dalwi (ph) says ISIS forced him to purchase from them black clothing for his little girls.
The three say they were sometimes scared. Now they are just enjoying being outside without head scarves. And they want to go back to school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, Arwa's exclusive view inside the city continues tomorrow right here on CNN.
Well, moving away from here to Australia where they are trying to confirm the death of two men who actually left the country to fight for
ISIS. One of them shocked the world last year when he tweeted a picture of his 7 year old son holding a severed head.
Brian Seymour of Australia's 7 Network has more.
BRIAN SEYMOUR, SEVEN NETWORK CORRESPONDENT: Is this jihad justice? The Australians turned Islamic State murderers reportedly killed in a drone
strike in Iraq.
JULIE BISHOP, AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: These two men are not martyrs, they are criminal thugs who have been carrying out brutal
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I shed no tears if in fact this is what has happened in this case.
SEYMOUR: The Pentagon said Australian forces joined in 29 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq on Thursday, both men were reportedly killed later that
evening near the Iraqi city of Mosul.
GREG BARTON, GLOBAL TERRORISM RESEARCH CENTER: These guys are so ill- disciplined and so out of control that even by Islamic State terms, they must have been a little bit embarrassment. You can't really spin them as
being brave warriors, they were just lobos (ph).
SEYMOUR: Today, family members of both men were reluctant to speak about their apparent deaths.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no comment. Can you just please leave? Thank you.
SEYMOUR: Diagnosed mentally ill and jailed in 2009 for terrorism offenses, Khaled Sharrouf slipped out of Australia on his brother's
passport. Mohamed Elomar left at the same time.
Last August, Sherrouf posted that photo of his 7 year old son holding a severed head.
Earlier this year, Elomar reportedly married Sharrouf's 14 year old daughter.
Well this is the home of Khaled Sharrouf's sister Damour (ph). She has young children herself and will no doubt be frantically trying to
determine if her nieces and nephews, her brother's children, are tonight safe.
The question now, will their widows and children be allowed home?
BISHOP: The circumstances of the families will be considered once the reports have been verified.
SEYMOUR: Seven News has been told the families of the men have begun receiving congratulations for their martyrdom, though we saw no evidence of
that when we visited.
Brian Seymour, Seven News.
ANDERSON: Well, it's been 10 months since a coalition of Arab and western states joined forces to fight the militants. What's been achieved
since then? Well, that is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILTAJI: I did say a burden on the economy, but again we are destined for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: A conversation with the capital's mayor about coping with more than a million refugees, balancing the old and new and taking Amman
into the future.
I'm Becky Anderson. This is Connect the World. We are in Jordan this evening. Back after this.
[11:16:19] ANDERSON: Right. Well, the ongoing war against ISIS, war planes take off from a U.S. carrier in the Persian Gulf as the anti-ISIS
coalition continues to hit targets in Syria and in Iraq.
In one 24 hour period this past weekend, the coalition launched 16 airstrikes in Iraq and six in Syria.
And we just got word of this unfortunate milestone in Iraq. The International Organization for Migration reports that the number of people
forced from their homes since January of last year -- we're talking, what 18 months -- just topped 3 million. And again that's just from the unrest
You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Amman in Jordan for you, a very warm welcome back.
It's been 10 months since the coalition came together to fight ISIS. And while there have been some recent successes, as we've been reporting
against the terror group, ISIS by no means down and out, and continues to pop up in new places across the Middle East and indeed in North Africa.
Joining me now to talk about it is Randa Habib. She is an author and political analyst based here in Jordan. I welcome you to the show.
Randa, I want to read you a quote from an op-ed in The Independent newspaper by Richard Barrett. He's the former head of counterterrorism at
MI6. And he says, and I quote, the policy challenge is not to seek the destruction of the caliphate so much as to promote its transformation into
something that the Syrian and Iraqi people along with the rest of us could live with. This talking effectively to the challenges for the British
government, this is a British newspaper.
His point being we cannot destroy ISIS, so we will have to learn to live with it.
This may be a western-centric view from Richard Barrett, but can Jordan ever accept an ISIS caliphate in this region?
RANDA HABIB, AUTHOR: Well, I don't think not only Jordan, but that people would accept the caliphate as it is presented by ISIS. This is an
overwhelming majority Muslim area who knows what Islam is and ISIS has nothing to do with the real Islam, and that's the first point.
Now, living with it, yes with are. We're living with ISIS every day. We wake up to their nightmare news and we have nightmares at night every
day because of ISIS. So ISIS is there. That's a disappointment that with all this strong coalition, 10 months have past, and ISIS have gained ground
instead of being, I don't know, I mean we expected them to have losses.
ANDERSON: Disappointment an understatement when I talk to those involved around the region, but specifically here in Jordan.
As we mentioned a coalition of countries, as you say, has been fighting ISIS for the past 10 months.
But Arab nations Randa, are divided in terms of where they are willing to fight the militant group. Jordan, for example, the only one fighting
ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria, the Jordanians have help in the region from Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Why, this divide among the Arab nations?
HABIB: Well, first of all, because they're not neighbors to the problem, Jordan is. Jordan cannot but fight ISIS. It's on the border of
this kingdom whether from Syria or from Iraq.
They've been always also ties, good ties, between Jordan and the Anbar in particular region and the tribes who are there who are very close to
tribes in Jordanians
But at the same time I mean who got involved at a certain point with Jordan in the coalition from the Arab world have withdrawn and went --
because of the -- a new front that was opened in Yemen. And I must say, I mean, we keep -- when we talk among each other whoever it is and whatever
age we are, when we look back we have never seen the Middle East in this situation.
[08:20:23] ANDERSON: I'm sorry to interrupt you.
Many of those Arab nations who are not in the coalition fighting against ISIS in Iraq are not there because of course they disagree with the
HABIB: Yeah. They do. Of course.
And ISIS is playing that also. I mean, they are taking advantage of this feud between -- and these divisions between -- and this war between
Shiite and Sunnis. And this is pathetic. And I think religion should be tackled in every Arab country the same way that they tackle economics and
politics. This is becoming very important whether it is giving the message of true Islam and moderation, like Jordan has already started doing. But
also in schools and in education. Learn that after all, both are Muslims and why should there be this war?
ANDERSON: It does depend on whether you buy the sort of modern Islam traditional Islam or orthodox Islam ideology, of course.
Let me just move on. New figures released today by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Randa, say that about 3,000 people have been
killed since the beginning of the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria in September.
It says the vast majority of those killed -- we're talking about targets here -- were ISIS fighters.
Despite that, young Jordanians are still slipping across the border to join the fight. Randa, clearly the Jordanian state's efforts to counter
the extremist message not entirely effective, not least because some of these young Jordanian youngsters don't agree with the government's support
of the coalition effort or not as it may be against the Syrian regime in defeating it.
What needs to happen next?
HABIB: Well, I think first it's not because they don't agree with the government position. I don't think that the people who go to join ISIS
from Europe, from London, from Paris and many of them are even from northern European countries, are going there because of the position of
their countries towards ISIS.
I think there's a problem there, there's a problem of identity, whether if they are of Islamic roots and they live in western countries.
Maybe this generation is feeling the lack of identity.
As for the Middle East Arab countries, there's so many reasons. It could be economics, it could be -- yes, another lack of identity, something
that is a vulnerable and they're being called in and they're being attracted.
ANDERSON: That's a problem, isn't it?
HABIB: It is. Absolutely a problem. And it is time to take measures, first with education programs in schools, but that will take
But there could be so many other things.
This generation, this young generation that is vulnerable, has been taught that most of the heroes in the past, in history, were people who
have won war. So it's hero out of violence. Let's put up heroes out of peace, heroes that make good things. And there are plenty of stories in
I would put -- I don't know, I mean a big board where -- if a policeman saves somebody from a fire, I would put his picture there. If
someone like it happened not too long ago in the Dead Sea, a guy from the general security stayed in the water for six hours waiting for help to save
the life of a child. Those people -- I mean, children should...
ANDERSON: Create some heroes.
HABIB: Children should start.
And it's heroes with cartoons, this is how it started. And you had an interview about that. This is important, too.
But real stories are even better than cartoons.
ANDERSON: Randa, it's a pleasure having you. You're going to join me a little bit later on. We're going to talk more than just news and
politics here as we continue to take a look not just at the region, but at Jordan itself. Thank you, for the time being.
Our coverage of the fight against ISIS does continue online, on CNN.com.
The U.S. State Department now says ISIS has supplanted al Qaeda as the world's leading terror group. You can read that article at
Live from Amman, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. At 24 minutes past the hour of 6:00 locally, how the city's mayor remains
upbeat even in the face of repeated adversity
And from a Vegas no-man's land to a Turkish star grand bizarre, One Square Meter is after this short break.
We'll be back with the headlines at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.
[11:26:37] JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: The Las Vegas strip is the main artery of what is the beating heart of America's gambling
mecca. Millions of cars cruise by these giant hotels every year, one trying to outdo the other with around the clock wow factor.
This is the Las Vegas that most people know, a hotel with a grand entrance like the Caesar's Palace with high ceilings, and an ample casino
floor designed to keep people in doors and entertained. The Grand Bazaar has the exact opposite strategy. It's all outdoors in a confined space.
The Grand Bazaar shops is actually not so grand, taking up less than a hectare, but developer Larry Segal sees big potential due to its location.
LARRY SEGAL, DEVELOPER: If you go to Google Earth and you type in Las Vegas strip, the pin drops right on this site and you've got 44 million
cars that pass us a year and literally tens of thousands of hotel rooms looking right down on the site.
DEFTERIOS: Segal had his own light bulb moment when he came to Las Vegas for a property developer's convention.
SEGAL: Yeah, I looked around, and I said it's like a park in the middle of Time's Square. What better place to, you know, build a consumer
DEFTERIOS: So, what was basically a hotel transit point is now home to 130 retailers, averaging about 30 square meters each.
In the spirit of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, one shop imports only Turkish handicrafts. There's the Honolulu Cookie Company, and Alex and
Annie (ph), a New England based Jewelry designer, one of many using large LED screens to engage customers, especially young millenials.
SEGAL: It's all about dwell time. Dwell time is the most important thing. The longer you keep them, the more you're going to sell them.
ANA GUTIERREZ, DESIGNER: This one was inspired in Costa Rican bird (ph).
DEFTERIOS: Ana Gutierrez is an emerging designer from Costa Rica. Her corner shop looks out onto the Las Vegas strip and the landmark
Bellagio and Caesar's Palace hotels.
Your first foray outside of Costa Rico wasn't say a New York or Las Angeles, but Las Vegas. What was the strategy there?
GUTIERREZ: Las Vegas attracts people from all over the United States. So it's a way to start building brands and get exposure to the whole
DEFTERIOS: That was also the developer's pitch to the bigger international brands like Brazilian flip flop maker Havaianas. More than
20 million people walk the boulevard each year, even if it is to take a break from what Las Vegas is famous for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice, because you spend so much time inside gambling, drinking, doing shows and stuff like that. And any time you
actually get to spend outside, it's nice weather, cloud cover, nice breeze.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nice walking through here, not only the breeze, but having to have some seating around with a nice view. And it's
on the strip, so, what better can you ask for?
DEFTERIOS: And after the sun sets on the strip, the Grand Bazaar even offers a view of a miniature Eiffel Tower, and a Time's Square inspired
John Defterios, CNN, Las Vegas.
[11:32:14] ANDERSON: This is Connect the World. We're in Amman all this week. And that was music from the Jordanian rock band Janal (ph) who
will join us on this show this coming Thursday. And I do hope you will join us for that.
We'll do some news and politics. We're also going to do our culture, entertainment, talks on some very, very, very cool tech entrepreneurs.
It's going to be a very good show. That's Thursday this time.
This is CNN where the news of course comes first. The top stories for you this hour.
Kurdish forces in Syria say they have seized a town on the doorstep of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS. YPG fighters swept into Ain
Issa with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes. Now that push comes after the capture of Tal Abyad from ISIS last week.
A EuroZone summit on the Greek debt crisis ended positively on Monday, but was still no agreement on helping Greece through what is an upcoming
debt payment. EuroZone leaders welcome new proposals from -- for austerity from the Greek government. Finance ministers will meet Wendesday to
continue the negotiations.
Eurostar is canceling all train services between London and Paris for the rest of the day following a strike by French ferry workers in the port
of Calais. The company says protesters set tires on fire and left the debris on the tracks, blocking the Channel tunnel on Tuesday. It says it
won't resume services again until Wednesday at the earliest.
And the governor of the state of South Carolina is calling on state lawmakers to vote for the removal of this flag. In the wake of last week's
shooting in Charleston. The Confederate battle flag currently flies in front of the state capital and is seen by many as a symbol that stokes
Well, police in New York are following a new lead in the hunt for two escaped killers. Search teams now scouring an area about 40 kilometers
from where the pair broke out of prison more than two weeks ago.
CNN's Sara Ganim joins us now from the small town of Owls Head where the manhunt is focused.
At this stage, Sara, what do we know? Are they any closer to finding these two guys?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Becky.
State police here telling me that things are status quo this morning, although they are trucking in, literally trucking in all terrain vehicles
to aid them in their search in the wooded area after the best lead they've gotten so far in this 18 day long search came when a man witnessed someone
running from his cabin, which was unoccupied, realized it had been burglarized, and investigators later found items inside that match the DNA
of both of the escapees.
That was over the weekend.
Since then, they have been searching this area in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. It's a town called Owls Head, very rural, very
little cell phone service, although police here are very worried that the two escaped inmates maybe able to track their communications, listen in
through the radio because they've been able to stay one step ahead, although authorities telling me with this new lead they are confident, much
more confident, that at least they're on the trail of these two inmates.
That's what's going on on the search side.
Now on the investigation side, how did they manage to escape undetected? Well, authorities are now looking into the possibility that
some of the tools they used to break out of that jail may have been smuggled in through hamburger meat that was frozen. These two inmates,
even though it was a maximum security prison, they were staying on what was called an honor block where they had some extra privileges. And one of
those privileges was that they had hotplates. They were able to cook their own food.
Authorities now looking into the possibility that the woman, the seamstress who has been charged with helping them by smuggling in tools,
may have hidden those tools in hamburger meat, given that meat to a guard who didn't follow protocol, didn't put it through a metal detector.
Now, there's always been speculation about the relationship that Joyce Mitchell, that seamstress, had with those two inmates, but her -- her
husband telling NBC this morning that he does not believe their relationship was sexual -- Becky.
ANDERSON: All right. Thank you. Sara Ganim reporting for you.
Well, let's shift our attention back here to Amman. This vibrant capital is the center of Jordan's economy, its culture and its politics.
But it has seen a huge influx of people who have fled conflicts in neighboring countries.
As we reported here yesterday, many of those stay permanently. Jomana Karadsheh reminds us of the challenges that they pose.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over the past 10 years, Jordan has become home to half a million Iraqis, the majority from
their country's upper and middle class, and they've settled in cities like Amman.
Decades before the Iraqi exodus of 2003, Jordan took in Palestinians in 1948 and 1967. They were granted Jordanian citizenship. Now, more than
half of the country's population is of Palestinian origin.
And just over the past four years, this country of little resources opened its doors to 1.4 million Syrians displaced by yet another war on its
borders, more burden on an already strained economy.
Only 20 percent of them are living in refugee camps like this one. The vast majority are urban refugees in Jordanian cities.
ANDERSON: Well, some big challenges for the country and the capital. But Amman several months the Rockefeller Foundation named it to a list of
100 resilient cities.
Well, we spent some time touring this city with Amman's mayor and adviser to the king. I began by asking him how Amman copes with the influx
BILTAJI: We will not underestimate the presence and the pressure of our guests imposing it on us I think. Our limited resources of water,
limited resources of wheat, the bread that we dish out every day is subsidized so heavily. Two-thirds of that bread goes to non-Jordanians.
It is a burden on the economy.
But again, we're destined for this. Jordan prides itself to be an Arab. We are the roots of the Arab renaissance. And at times of stress on
our neighbors and brothers, we embrace it.
ANDERSON: Population growth, an explosion of population here as a result of the refugee crisis exemplified by much of what is happening over
here. How big a challenge is that to Amman?
BILTAJI: You know, that population is putting me into either straight into five pillars that I had to work around.
What is environment? Just the massive amounts of rubbish...
BILTAJI: Trash and all that...
BILTAJI: What do I do with it?
Two, the fluidity of traffic and the construction of roads, bridges, sidewalks, lighting streets and all these things.
Three, it's the zoning. How do I zone the city with all this pouring numbers of people from within the country and from outside the country? So
that zoning: commercial, industrial, the residential had all to be sorted out.
The fourth is the development. How do I develop communities? How do I bring in the harmony amongst communities to work together.
The fifth is the identity. When you have all that exponential growth or explosion of population, how do you bring them around to one identity?
[11:40:17] ANDERSON: Well, how did you -- how are you trying to create this sense of identity for Amman?
BILTAJI: I brought them straight to one thing. I said, listen, Umuna Amman (ph). Amman is our mother. It has to take us all, but wait a
minute, we have to work it out together.
ANDERSON: This is a city steeped in history.
BILTAJI: 12,000 years.
ANDERSON: How do you construct a very modern city within such a challenging environment, not least the fact that this city is built on
seven hills. How do you plan for that going forward? BILTAJI: If you look at the construction even of the hills, you find that first they used to walk up and start building from down up. That's
how they started.
So, we later on in the 30s, 40s, 50, 60s, we -- the government, or the local government had to follow these trails, trails of donkeys, trails of
carts, trails of people, and start building streets. That's why in certain areas you find very narrow streets that are now into a one way.
One of the issues is fluidity of traffic and congestion.
ANDERSON: What do you say to those who say how about this wonderful old city and all this new construction here?
BILTAJI: The nature and the culture and the heritage of the old city, that is -- in fact, it has its character as well. The identity of Amman as
a whole is going to be the old and the new.
Your target is always ahead. His majesty has taught us if you even reach your target, before you reach it, start building an imaginary target.
No complacency. And I hope that this is the moral of business (ph).
ANDERSON: Well, that was the major of Amman speaking to me, joining me again to talk about the difficulties facing the capital and this country
as the author and political analysts Randa Habib.
As you know, many of our viewers will also know this, but the war in Syria has hit this small country particularly hard. I just want to give
our viewers, Randa, some numbers. Jordan has taken in nearly 630,000 refugees from Syria during the four year conflict, that is nearly 10
percent of Jordan's pre-war population.
And quite frankly, they are not cheap. Refugees I think cost something like -- we're talking $2.9 billion of which 5.5 percent, just 5.5
percent is being covered by the international community.
The strain on public services, the strain on the education system, the strain simply for people here getting jobs, refugees and Jordanians
themselves, is clear. What more can be done?
HABIB: Well, only America -- first of all donors should be moving ahead once more towards Jordan. The problem is that those refugees are in
one country where there are so many other refugees also in other countries. And I think this is what would explain the lack of funding.
But Jordan has very scarce resources, has one of the poorest in water in the world. And all this has to be shared, it's not only feeding the
refugees and getting jobs. It's also everything that is public that they have to share.
Yes, there is now much more unemployment among young Jordanians and other Jordanians, not only the young ones, because some refugees have taken
jobs in Amman. And they're cheaper, so people who have a shop or anything would employ a Syrian refugee than a Jordanian.
ANDERSON: And that anywhere in the world of course will be a (inaudible) some 70 percent of Jordanians under the age of 29, I believe,
so many of those of course are struggling for jobs.
One guest who has written an op-ed for CNN.com, and viewers I'll get you the link to that shortly, has said this. And this is a Jordanian
speaking. He said the problem is that reform measures are, and will always be, opposed and perceived as an existential threat by major constituencies
in this country.
I mean, clearly there is need for reform. Do you agree with that, that there are too many people holding things up?
HABIB: Well, I think reforms have taken their time and some of them should have been done. There were a lot of studies that were done. And
there is this impression that they are locked somewhere in a drawer.
But to be fair, it's not appearing now as a priority. Contrary to what has happened in 2011. I mean, people are -- it's really about
survival, about protection, about being sure that the children have a future and that the country will hold up.
[11:45:25] ANDERSON: Well, talking to that future, I know that the United Nations says that many of this region's best and brightest simply
don't want to stay in the region. And I know that Jordan is finding that a problem as well.
According to the UN development program, some 20 to 25 percent of young Arabs across the region for (inaudible) often referred to as a brain
drain. The UN says that figure is up from the estimated 10 to 12 percent who left just three years ago.
Clearly when people leave this country and go and work elsewhere there is money repatriated. I know that's incredibly important to the economy of
Jordan, but you don't want to lose your best and brightest, do you?
HABIB: Brain drain is the most dangerous thing. This has happened with Lebanon at the civil war, but many of them afterwards came back.
And yes our young generation, we keep saying that. There isn't a single family that I know whose son -- I'm not talking about immigration,
even if they just go and work in Dubai, Dubai is really such an open space for people from the Arab world to go and work and find better salaries and
to be able to survive instead of staying home.
Yes, this is a problem. And it's -- but there is nothing that you can do to stop it, only that war cease that ISIS will disappear that people
will have still confidence and come back and invest in this country, that tourists come back to this country, because definitely children suffer also
from the lack of tourism now.
ANDERSON: And that is something that we are going to discuss next. For the time being, thank you very much indeed.
Randa has been with us throughout the show.
This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Amman. Coming up, it has some of the most famous attractions in the world, but
Jordan's tourist industry as we've just been discussing, is struggling. A report from Petra up next.
ANDERSON: More music from Jadal (ph) there. You are watching CNN and Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back to Amman in Jordan.
With some of the world's most beautiful and historic buildings, tourists have always been drawn to this country, but not so much now.
Numbers dropping, and that is hurting what is already a struggling economy.
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has been to the jewel in Jordan's tourism crown Petra to see how that is being affected.
[11:50:02] KARADSHEH: It's an iconic image of Jordan that draws tourists from around the world. It may look like there are many visitors
in Petra, one of the modern seven wonders of the world, but the numbers are nowhere near what Jordan wants to see at its main tourist attraction.
This is the main tourist parking area, and officials here tell us prior to the Arab uprisings of 2011 this would always be packed. Right
now, in the middle of what is tourist peak season, this is what it looks like.
Tourism has taken another hit in the past year with the rise of ISIS in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Despite Jordan's stability, there are less
In the first quarter of this year, the number of Petra visitors drop by 50 percent compared to the same period last year.
Almost everyone in this local community of 33,000 relies on tourism for a living, and things have been tough.
Ten out of 38 hotels and hostels have been forced to close in the past year. Khaled Nowaflay (ph) a hotel owner and head of Petra's hotel
association says occupancy rates have dropped by more than 70 percent since turmoil hit the region in 2011.
"We're operating on the hope that things will change. We feel that if we shut down we'll lose customers," he says, "so we've reduced staff, cut
down on electricity costs and have closed off floors that are not being used."
Here at this little stretch of tourist restaurants, it's a similar story. Hamad Zubeidi (ph) has managed this establishment for 18 years. In
recent months, he's had to lay off half of his 14 employees. He says this is the worst business has ever been.
"Most tourist restaurants are operating on a loss, because our business depends on foreign tourists," he says. "Restaurants can barely
cover their expenses with the number of tourists now."
Local authority head Hamed Nowaflay (ph) describes this year's high season as a dead season. Like many others, he says, the instability in the
region is to blame for the drop in tourism. And Nowaflay (ph) believes the high cost of flights and hotels is also a factor.
The Jordanian government has passed a number of measures this month to try and make Jordan a more affordable destination and also cut operational
costs for businesses in Petra.
While the country tried to lure back visitors from traditional markets like Europe, in the short-term it's eyeing the potential closer to home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a promotional campaign targeting Arabs and foreigners in Gulf countries because they live
in this region and know very well that Jordan is a safe country.
KARADSHEH: For the longer term, Nowaflay (ph) has more ambitious plans that he says would bring the Petra region to life, giving tourists
more to see and do as well as opening up the market for foreign investors.
UNIDENITIFIED MALE (through translator): We welcome investors in Petra. They would receive all the incentives and privileges and all the
support they need from the local authority and the Jordanian government.
KARADSHEH: Officials hope these initiatives to revive tourism will start to pay off soon, something that will be put to test with the next
tourist season in September.
ANDERSON: Well, on the face of it, Jordan must seem to the rest of the world like a welcome refuge from the violence engulfing many of the
countries around it. But if you scratch at the surface a little you'll find that it's a country facing major, even unprecedented challenges from
all sides. Those are the words of Bassem al-Dala (ph), a former director of the office of King Abdullah. Read more of his article called "Jordan's
Five Biggest Challenges" on the CNN website.
So, what do you want to know about the challenges facing Jordan? Send us your questions before that article or on Twitter and Facebook. We'll
answer the best ones live Thursday on Connect th World. That's 6:00 p.m. local time here in Amman. I'm sure you can work out what time that is
locally wherever you are watching in the world.
Live from the capital of Jordan, this is Connect the World. Coming up, a royal walkabout for Ramadan. Jordan's King Abdullah and his wife
Queen Rania meet the people here.
[11:55:54] ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. We're live from Amman all week. And we have many
more sites and sounds of Jordan online for you. Go to the Facebook page to follow the stories that we are working on throughout the day. That is
Facebook.com/CNNConnect. You can write to us and watch the reports again there.
You can also tweet me as ever @BeckyCNN. And the team who are @CNNConnect.
Well, millions of Muslims around the world -- millions of Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan, a time not just
for fasting from dawn to dusk, but also a time of self-reflection and charity. It's also a time for unique traditions, that's what we want to
show you in tonight's Parting Shots.
In Syria, despite a civil war and the presence of ISIS, it's business as usual at this market in Aleppo. Vendors stocked up in preparation for
the holy month.
In Libya, this baker makes a traditional sweet fried dough called zalabiyah (ph), it's a delicacy popular during Ramadan.
And these pictures from India, where the production of vermicelli is ramped up during this month. The sweet is popular among Indian Muslims.
And here you see people working long hours to meet the demand.
And it was special Iftar, or break the fast meal for some Muslims in the United States. They were invited to the annual White House Iftar
hosted by President Barack Obama.
Well, in the spirit of Ramadan, we want to leave you with these pictures: Jordan's King Abdullah and Queen Rania visited disabled children
at the al-Hussein society in Amman. The center accommodates more than 200 kids with special needs. And the government says about 4,000 people
benefited from these society's services last year alone.
This is Connect the World. From the team here in Amman, thank you for watching.