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Surviving Rwanda Genocide; Forgiveness After the Horror in Rwanda; Denise Uwimana, Rwandan Genocide Survivor, is Interviewed About Rwandan Genocide; Tools Young Women to Succeed in Their Careers; Mishal Husain, Author, "The Skills; From First Job to Dream Job"; The Skills, From First Job To Dream Job; Life And Death In Rikers Island. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 12, 2019 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENISE UWIMANA, RWANDAN GENOCIDE SURVIVOR: He just embraced me. He told me, "I love you," and he went.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Twenty-five years since the Rwandan genocide, one woman tells us how giving birth during the slaughter saved her life.
Then a crash course in lessons learned climbing the Korea ladder. Top "BBC" journalist, Mishal Husain reveals the vital skills she thinks all
women should know.
Plus, life and death in Rikers Island. The former chief medical officer for New York city jails exposes their everyday horrors.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Imagine waking up one day to find your neighbors, colleagues, the people you've spent your entire life around coming to brutally and violently kill
you and your family.
Twenty-five years ago, in the spring of 1994, that is what happened when genocide came to Rwanda in East Africa.
A song of hope in grief. Innocent children of the genocide, Rwandans, their parents murdered. Twenty-five years on, these orphans are now
adults. But the pictures and their trauma remain harrowing.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the Hutu president back from a peace conference was shot down, ending any hope of an end to the war and
triggering 100 days of carefully planned slaughter. Rwandan Hutu extremists targeted the minority ethnic Tutsis and other moderate Hutus,
murdering between 800,000 to a million with clubs, machetes and their bare hands.
Neighbor turned on neighbor, churches became charnel houses, schools became graveyards, there was no escape, not even the youngest was spared. The
smell of death lingered on in the air, there were too many to bury, cadavers left on the roadside to rot.
The U.N. estimated as much as many as 250,000 women were raped during the genocide. The children born from those rapes have now come of age, some
are living with HIV. A 2001 study found that 70 percent of rape victims during the genocide became HIV positive. More than a million Rwandans,
killers and victims poured into neighboring Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Back then I covered the packed and squalid refugee camps that triggered one of the worst cholera epidemics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: All of this just shows how difficult it's going to be to build up trust and confidence after all that's happened since April. The U.N.
says the Hutu militias and ex-government forces are also intimidating the Hutu refugees here, telling them that they'll be massacred by Tutsis if
they go back to Rwanda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yet, 25 years on, reconciliation is Rwanda's official policy. On Sunday, the President Paul Kagame addressed the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KAGAME, RWANDAN PRESIDENT: In 1994 there was no hope, only darkness. Today light radiates from this place. Rwanda became a family once again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: At least that's the hope. It's a hope lit by this flame of remembrance at the genocide memorial.
To understand just what an important and difficult task reconciliation is, we turn to my next guest who survived that genocide. Denise Uwimana was
nine months pregnant when the Hutu militia attacked her village, it was April 16, 1994.
Laying in the blood of her relatives, Denise's water broke and she could not get to the hospital. Twenty-five years on, she's written a memoir
called "From Red Earth," and she's founded Iriba Shalom International. It's a nonprofit that helps genocide survivors. And when we met here in
London, she explained why she's had to forgive.
Denise Uwimana, welcome to the program.
UWIMANA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I see the cover of your book, it's called "From Red Earth". Why did you call it that?
[13:05:00] UWIMANA: I call it that because I wanted to describe the rebirth of my nation after the genocide against the Tutsis, which we
experienced, and a little bit of what I experienced during the genocide.
AMANPOUR: What was it like for you to write this book and to relive that horrible, horrifying past?
UWIMANA: I wrote this book for the sake of people who were killed. I want to keep the history. Because what happened during the genocide many people
did not know about what we experienced.
AMANPOUR: So, what happened to your family precisely? Because what happened to your family happened to nearly a million others in Rwanda.
UWIMANA: The whole family on the side of my father, the side of my mother, the most people were killed. My father, my mother escaped the genocide
because they were not in Rwanda.
AMANPOUR: If they had they be in Rwanda --
AMANPOUR: -- you would have lost your mother and father?
UWIMANA: Of course. Yes.
AMANPOUR: And you were married, you were the mother of children, two boys and you were pregnant when the genocide happened.
AMANPOUR: What happened to your husband?
UWIMANA: My husband was killed during the genocide. Even today, I don't know the way they killed him. So, no one even told me, "Your husband was
killed from these people." I know he was killed by the Hutu militias, but I don't know where they put him. I don't know where he is. This is still
a trauma for us.
AMANPOUR: So, you've never been able to bury him or make your peace?
UWIMANA: Unfortunately. Because I always ask questions, I always ask people everywhere. No one really was able to give me an answer.
AMANPOUR: Do you remember how you got separated? Did you remember the last time you saw him?
UWIMANA: Of course. It was very hard. It was 5th of April, 1994. And he asked me, "What are you feeling?" I told him what I was feeling. He just
saying goodbye, embraced and he must leave. As usual, he went and he never see him again.
AMANPOUR: Do you remember his last words to you?
UWIMANA: He just embraced me. He told me, "I love you," and he went.
AMANPOUR: And you didn't know what that meant, and you had, as I said, two little boys and you were pregnant. You were nine months pregnant. You
were nearly about to have your third child.
AMANPOUR: So, then what happened?
UWIMANA: Oh, that is really difficult also because sometimes we have -- we survivors, we do not know how to express really what we experienced. I was
pregnant and I heard that we were going to be killed. I informed my neighbor that we were going to be killed. We make peace to separate. And
I -- in my house, we're ten people. We met in the corridor. We knew we were going to be killed. We had time to say goodbye. And I must leave,
flee in the bathroom because I heard that the militias were coming. I had my second son on my back. Others went in my bedroom, other in guest room.
So, in the bathroom, there I struggled really with God. And I have reason to struggle with him. For my faith. I was a Christian. My husband was
not there. So -- and there, I told to God, "You disappoint me. Why didn't you never tell me the truth I be killed?"
AMANPOUR: In the middle of this you gave birth?
UWIMANA: When the killers met me in the bathroom, instead of killing me, they start a discussion with me. They asked me money. I said, "I don't
have money." They said, "We're going to kill you," but they wanted the money. I went in my bathroom and I saw my beloved cousins down.
AMANPOUR: You saw your dead cousins?
UWIMANA: Yes, down. So, I took money, I gave them. When I gave to them, one went to kill me. He said, "No, [13:10:00] why you don't want to kill
this Tutsi woman?" He rose the sword to kill me, and I stopped him. And I went in my bedroom. Under the bedroom, they will I see my cousin,
Manasseh, he was still alive. He told me, "Please, make me come under the bed, I'm still alive."
I crawled myself under the bed. There was full of blood of people who were killed. Can you imagine?
AMANPOUR: So, you crawled into all of that blood under the bed?
UWIMANA: Yes. I stayed there the whole afternoon. During the night, water broken to attempt to give birth.
AMANPOUR: Your water's broke there and then?
UWIMANA: Yes. So -- and all the time, I was hearing my cousin always crying, crying, "Jesus of Nazareth, help me. Help," until she finished.
You can you imagine such traumatic. I breathed the blood. So, I was there, and he helped me. I told him, "Please, let me get out."
All clothes were full of blood. I went to the bathroom, I could wash myself. I watched through the curtains to see how the killers would
plunder the house of Tutsis.
AMANPOUR: So, they were stealing everything?
UWIMANA: Stealing the night.
AMANPOUR: You gave birth to the baby in this unbelievable environment, lying in blood, trying to get help from neighbors.
UWIMANA: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: I mean, the way you talk about it, it's almost as if it happened yesterday. Does it -- is it in your mind from 25 years ago?
UWIMANA: Oh, it's like yesterday. When we -- we used to say, as survivors, always when we share these stories, we say, "It's like
yesterday." When we speak the story, we live again. You know, we live, we live, remember everything, what happened. So, it's in our life.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you because you're very religious and Rwanda is a very religious country, I mean, overwhelming Christian --
AMANPOUR: -- and catholic.
AMANPOUR: And yet, this Christian country set upon each other --
AMANPOUR: -- and with their bare hands --
AMANPOUR: -- one group slaughtered 800,000 to a million others.
AMANPOUR: Did you ever question God or religion over that?
UWIMANA: This for me was a deep, deep trauma, even during the genocide. I could not believe to see that people who believe God, who were called
Christians were involved directly or indirectly. My big question how such Christian can be -- can done that -- can do that.
Tutsi have been killed, are going to be -- were being killed and no one says stop. So, I had many questions.
AMANPOUR: The radical Hutus, the militias, they did do this terrible killing.
AMANPOUR: Also, they killed moderate Hutus as well as Tutsis.
UWIMANA: Yes. Of course, yes.
AMANPOUR: I was stunned to read --
AMANPOUR: -- that you survived of your Hutu neighbors.
UWIMANA: Oh, I can tell you that. I had unexpected support from Hutus, some of my neighbors whom I did not expect that they were the ones to
support me. So, they were like angels sent from God. And until now, they are best friend of me.
AMANPOUR: So, in a way it's just fantastic that you're sitting here, that you're talking about it, that your children are alive, that you're alive.
I know it's a tragedy that you lost your husband and you still don't know where his body is --
AMANPOUR: -- you haven't been able to bury him.
UWIMANA: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: You came back to your village. What did you see when you came back?
UWIMANA: So, it was hard, because when I came there, I saw people whom I knew, they were involved, and I saw women even wearing nice clothes,
because they plunder everything. For me, all worth nothing, because I was mourning for my people, I was suffering, I was traumatized. So, it was
hard to go back there.
AMANPOUR: How on earth --
AMANPOUR: -- did you, after all this that happened to you, and you talk about reconciliation and forgiveness. How did you start the process of
forgiveness out of this horror?
UWIMANA: First,, I started for myself, I can say. Because I started to struggle. Why did you allow that more than 1 million Tutsi were killed?
How will I again live with these people? How will -- where are we going to trust? So, we were young widows. You know, I survived 28, 29 years old.
AMANPOUR: Did you ever think you'd be a widow at 29?
UWIMANA: Never. You saw, I was dreaming many good things with my husband [13:15:00]. So, suddenly, all were cut. How I come to forgive, so it was
a voice inside me told me, "Do not overcome by evil. Do good things." And then, as I was always praying, I got a message, really which gave me
strength from the bible. Inside the voice told, "Denise, give chance. These Hutu people who killed you, so that they recognize that they have
done bad to you."
AMANPOUR: Did they have to admit what they did?
UWIMANA: Yes, yes. They asked for forgiveness.
AMANPOUR: Because you didn't just forgive them just like that?
UWIMANA: No, no, no. They said, "Forgiveness." But forgiveness, it was a process. I say, "Yes, but I must fight every day, I forgive, I forgive."
AMANPOUR: Why is it important for you to forgive? Why did you need to forgive them?
UWIMANA: So, I forgive because also they killed myself, also I hurt them. And as a Christian, I should not do like them.
AMANPOUR: So, you needed to forgive to end the hate?
UWIMANA: End the hate, because I forgive, and I end the hate and I had peace. And --
AMANPOUR: So, that brought you peace, it wasn't about bringing them peace, it wasn't about bringing you peace?
UWIMANA: At first my peace. And also, I gave them also a task to think about what they have done. So, that also, they can (ph).
AMANPOUR: In the end, as I've said, your children survived and you survived. And your son is 25 years old, that's exactly the day that your
village was attacked, you gave birth to him. What do you say to the women you know who were raped and who have 25-year-old children now, which are
the product of rape by their killers -- by the killers? How have they been able to reconcile with their children?
UWIMANA: You know, it's a process. Some could, others could not. Still difficulties. But I know many examples. I know examples of when I was
doing counseling with women who were raped. I listened to how it was difficult to care for a child who you got, unwished, from someone who
killed your family, someone who forced you to sleep with you by force, to rape you, and you got a child. So, it was very hard.
So, it was really a process. So, we start -- it was difficulties, but in a way we started to help them and we support also the family so that they
overcome this trauma, because the child is innocent. You know a child is a child, but the background is difficult.
AMANPOUR: Finally, do you believe Rwanda is reconciled for real? It is the official policy of the government, reconciliation.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that it will be a country that is reconciled forever?
UWIMANA: I think we are on a good way in Rwanda. It's a process, if churches together, schools together, markets no. For me, when I am on the
field, in the village, working. I met people there, no machete. I say, "Thank you for the new government." It's my testimony.
AMANPOUR: Well, we hope reconciliation remains in Rwanda. Denise Uwimana, thank you so much. Your book "From Red Earth".
UWIMANA: Thank you very much for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: It is an extraordinary story and with women like Denise taking part in those reconciliation efforts, it gives us some hope they will
But now, we look to a different kind of female leadership as we focus on the tools young women need to succeed in careers and in a world that aren't
always designed for them. That's what our next guest, Michal Husain, is focused on.
She's a reporter and presenter on the top "BBC" morning news program. She was handpicked by Prince Harry to conduct his engagement interview with
Meghan Markle. And now, Mishal Husain is trying to pay it forward, laying out the challenges and lessons that she's learned in her new book "The
Skills," which is out in America.
Mishal Husain, welcome to the program.
MISHAL HUSAIN, AUTHOR, "THE SKILLS; FROM FIRST JOB TO DREAM JOB": Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, here's your book, "The Skills; From First Job to Dream Job". So, it's about -- you say what every woman needs to know. What do you
know? What did you learn? Why are you writing this?
HUSAIN: Well, the book -- the initial thought for the book was born partly out of a sense of frustrations, like why are we having these debates about
women in the work place. That frankly, when I left the university, I would have been amazed that we're having today because I thought all of those
battles have been won essentially by my mother's generation.
So, that was the initial starting point. But I started to think about what I could contribute. And the way I thought about it, about women in the
[13:20:00] work place, it's really that there are three dimensions, there's a structural dimensioning that I don't think we still have good enough
solutions on part-time working or flexible working, which affects so many women and -- which -- for which, too often may pay a promotion penalty or a
There are questions about perception, socialization, the different ways in which we can perceive comparable women and men, particularly at senior
professional levels. And then there's what I think the personal dimension. And I guess this is where I really wanted to share what we learn on the job
as broadcasters. And I've written about using your voice, about public speaking, about public scrutiny because our mistakes and successes are on
display. Picking yourself up when things go wrong. All those kinds of things that are part of our working life but I think have broader
AMANPOUR: So, you've laid a table which we're going to dig into one by one. But I want to first start with -- where you first started. So,
you're essentially a second generation, as they would say in America, British-Pakistani or --
AMANPOUR: -- Pakistani-Brit. You were raised, to an extent, when your parents were working in Saudi Arabia. So, you're a young girl in Saudi
Arabia. Do you remember anything about that time?
HUSAIN: Yes. So, I grew up in the Middle East. First in the UAE, which was a very easy expatic (ph) existence. But when my parents moved to Saudi
Arabia, I was 11, and it was a turning point because they started to think very concretely about where my secondary education should be and they were
certainly concerned that if I stayed in Saudi Arabia I'd have to wear the abaya and cover my head going to school, and they were very concerned that
could limit my sense of what I might be able to --
AMANPOUR: So, let me read them from your father, how you quote your father about this very, very issue. You basically say, when you're in Saudi
Arabia, years later you found out, "My father told me that the motivation wasn't only a desire for me to have a British education by sending you here
to Britain, but also a worry about remaining in Saudi Arabia where I would have to wear an abaya or black cloak in public, might fundamentally alter
my belief about what I could achieve in life."
Honestly, I mean, that is so profound for a father to think about his young daughter. It was about how you, not about the way other people would look
at you but about how you looked at yourself.
HUSAIN: Yes. Correct. Would those physical constraints or requirements affect how I saw myself in later life? And I did discover it much later
on. I always thought, "Well, they wanted a British education and that wasn't available." And when I realized years down the line that they had
thought very concretely about how I would perceive myself, of course, I was, you know, very, very grateful for having, you know, parents, in
particular a father who had that kind of foresight.
AMANPOUR: Did you stand out in your boarding school, in your school life here as a young girl?
HUSAIN: No, not really because that is a very -- I'm very conscious that it's a very unusual, very protected and, of course, very privileged
environment to be in a boarding school in the English country side.
I think it's later I've thought much more about aspects of my identity, being a Muslim, for example, that weren't -- well, also, they weren't the
matter of public debate in the way they are today. So, it's certainly the case that over time there are aspects of my identity which I have become
much more conscious of than I was at that time.
AMANPOUR: Would you say that sort of happened post 9/11 and then post 7/7, which was sort of Britain's 9/11?
AMANPOUR: Yes. Certainly. I think I first became very conscious of it post 9/11 and then, again, with the attacks that took place in this
country. But I also think that, you know, there's been quite a change sin atmosphere in recent years in the U.K.
So, I have been -- I've had this strong belief that -- which I still hold onto, that I was very fortunate that it was to this country out of the all
the European countries that my parents came to from Pakistan. I've often thought, well, I've had opportunities to do the kind of job that I do today
on the "BBC" that it's hard to imagine I would have had as the daughter of Muslim immigrants in another European country. But that has been harder to
hold onto in the current climate, which --
AMANPOUR: You mean the Brexit climate, where immigration and identity is so tied with the politics?
HUSAIN: I mean, with the general climate in this country. I don't think it's simple enough to be attached to one event. But I think the general
atmosphere, which is a lot less inclusive and, you know, less generous, less tolerant than it was a few years ago.
AMANPOUR: Are you conscious of that as you're broadcasting? I mean, you broadcast as a journalist, you're at the top of the pecking order, you're
on the "Today" program which sets the agenda across Britain for the entire day, everyone listens to it from the cab driver to the prime minister.
Are you conscious of being a woman, being a Pakistani-Brit, being a Muslim woman [13:25:00] when you're dealing with these really raw issues of
identity now and politics?
HUSAIN: I would say, I'm not overtly conscious of it I'm at work, because I think you're in a certain mode when you're broadcasting. And frankly,
we're so short of time that you go into it, you know, you take your brief - - you know, you see you have -- you focus on your interview.
But I think in a broader sense, I'm certainly conscious of the fact that I do have a knowledge and an insight, which I've learned to own more over the
years. I think in a way, when it's something that comes from yourself, I think in the past I might have been a bit reluctant to say, "Well, I do
have a particular insight on Pakistan or on Islam or on Muslims in this country."
In a way, if you've been a foreign correspondent in a certain country, you know, you are regarded afterwards as being an expert or authority on that
particular place. And sometimes it's harder to own that when its' something that's come from within yourself. But I think I certainly am now
much more at the point now where I -- you know, I will make sure I demonstrate that this is something I have a particular knowledge and
AMANPOUR: I was interested to read, and fill me in, your mother was not just a housewife and mom, she was a professional in Pakistan. She was a
producer of news and content, right?
AMANPOUR: And so, she then moved, first to the Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and then to Britain. And she couldn't continue her career. And here, you
write about her, you say, "She told me years later that there were times when she would watch the Asian programming coming out of the "BBC" and long
to be part of it, to use her experience and have an identity in this new country beyond that of a wife and a mother." And you bring that in where
you talk about balance, how do women balance, you know, the perineal of struggle between work and motherhood and --
AMANPOUR: -- domesticity.
HUSAIN: Yes. And that was something I was initially reluctant to write about, because I thought, you know, I'm, again, conscious that I have been
in the privileged position of being about to have really decent child care and that has made a big difference in my professional life, and that's
something that, you know, not all working women have, at least not a level they would ideally like.
But I did want to write about some of the things that -- because I did have three children in two years. So, I had a very sort of intense period and
mine are now -- one is a teenager and one -- and the other two are close to being teenagers. So --
AMANPOUR: Because they're twins?
HUSAIN: Yes. And so, things are a bit more settled. One of the things I learned along the way, I -- you know, my role model was a stay at home
mother because my mother had been a television producer in Pakistan before she had us.
But one of the things I've learned along the way is just -- I just feel it's really important to try and keep your hand in, in that period, in that
very intense period, often between 30 and 40 when many women are both trying to advance their career and thinking of having a family or indeed
having a family. And it's very easy to make sort of big decisions about what you can and can't do in that period.
I was working on "BBC World" at the time I had my sons and, you know, traveling on a breaking news assignment was normal part of my life. And
had any editor said to me at that point, "Do you think you'll ever be able to travel on a breaking news assignment again," I would probably have said
no. But thankfully they never asked me a question as bold as that.
AMANPOUR: That's lucky.
HUSAIN: And, you know, soon things started to fall back into place again.
AMANPOUR: Across the board, the pay dispute is a huge one, the gender pay gap. And you mentioned "BBC." And, actually, here, you were one of the
first, the women of the "BBC," you were one of the first to bring it out into the open and really start agitating.
How is it now? And we read that in other companies it's a real struggle, it's a real struggle despite now a couple of years of this being in the
public domain, governments setting standards and targets and, you know, monitoring companies for their equity, pay equity. How is it working at
the "BBC" now?
HUSAIN: Well, so there are two different things. One is the gender pay gap, which you're referring to, and I think a lot of that is advancement
and promotion and they are very, you know, clearly, for some companies more than other and in some professions more than others, there's more work to
At the "BBC," it was much more a question of equal pay because it was about individual salaries being disclosed. I would say in terms of where that is
at, it has been resolved for some not for others. What meant a lot to me was being told by women who were employed by other organizations or
companies and just hearing about how other employees had dealt with it, is that it was a moment that led to a lot more questions being asked in other
work places. And that did mean a lot to me, because I felt that it had -- you know, it was opening up a conversation that wasn't about us as a
particular group of women, but one that has much wider resonance.
AMANPOUR: This book is coming out in the United States --
AMANPOUR: -- has come out in the United States.
HUSAIN: It's already out, yes.
AMANPOUR: It is already out in the USA. Is it sort of universal? I mean, what do you hope American women and maybe men, journalists, will take from
this in America?
[13:30:05] HUSAIN: So I guess what I really hope is maybe particularly for women who are just starting out, for those who are coming out of high
school graduation, college graduation, entering the workplace. I hope that it puts the how alongside some of the things that -- some of the attributes
we talked about.
For example, one that I think about quite a lot is authority. I was told quite early in my career, to be a top broadcaster, you need authority. So
to -- just for the audience to feel that you have earned the right to ask the questions that you do.
And the bit that was missing was the how. I thought how do you develop authority? And I hope that some of the very practical things I've written
about, public speaking, using your voice, body language, resilience, picking yourself up, how to negotiate, how to put your points across in
short period of times.
Because let's face it, all our attention spans I think are shorter than they probably were 10 years ago. I hope that some of those things,
especially for women who are just starting out just help answer some of the how questions.
AMANPOUR: And you do talk quite revealingly about your own fears and insecurities. You said that for a long, long time, you were just
frightened every time you got up, got into the studio, sat in that chair. Why were you frightened? How did you get over it?
HUSAIN: I feel that it took me quite a long time to find my courage, not in everything. But for example, when I first started presenting the
"Today" program and indeed when I thought about whether I really wanted to present the "Today" program, which is there's a lot of scrutiny that comes
AMANPOUR: I mean let's just say it again, it is the agenda-setting program across the United Kingdom.
HUSAIN: And what I find the most difficult about it is that you -- is that your mistakes and your successes are subject to immediate and often
feverish public comment. And that takes quite a lot of getting used to.
And for about the first three years I was doing that job, actually I worried about almost every shift. And then things started to fall into
place. And it doesn't -- and that's why I wanted to be quite honest about nerves because when I went to talk in schools, quite often people would say
to me, young men and women, teenagers would say to me, "You must never get nervous."
And I thought this can't be right. If people think, only someone who never gets nervous does a job like this, then too many people would just rule
themselves out at far too early a stage. So I wanted to be honest about the nerves.
But when I look back and realize that it took me three years to really settle into that role, I think had I stopped doing it at any point during
those three years, I would have thought well, it never felt right to me, I never felt quite comfortable.
And actually, that wouldn't have been because of me. That would have been because it's a tough job to do.
AMANPOUR: I wonder beyond nerves and the scrutiny that comes with this high profile platform, you also -- and we all exist and sort of everybody,
politicians and just about everybody today, under this horrendous microscope of immediate social media trolling, push back, commenting,
whatever you might call it.
How difficult is it for you because you are also broadcasting, and your colleagues, about the most existential issue that has faced this country
since the Second World War and that's Brexit and there are fierce commentaries on both sides?
HUSAIN: Well, my overall thought on social media is that I appreciate it so much as a source of information. It has made me a better journalist.
It has made me much more connected with audiences in the U.K., around the world.
I can see it as a snapshot of reaction and public opinion. It's a certain sort of section of people who watch or listen to my work on air. But I
find it incredibly useful.
And I always feel a bit worried when I hear about people often in very high profile positions who insulate themselves completely from all of that. It
is a heated -- it is a very heated place. Much more so than when most of us first joined the social media platforms.
I think overall I very rarely sort of engage in a back and forth on Twitter. It's partly because I'm not an advocate. And where I have
engaged in a kind of -- in some kind of back and forth, I've often thought later on, well, next time I'm never going to get back.
So I think you have to use that sort of judgment. You can sort of -- you can absorb it and use it as information but you don't have to engage with
it at an angry level. Unless you're the kind of person who's in the business of convincing other people and it's part of your job to work hard
to have that.
AMANPOUR: Part of the shift as well, part of your public persona to engage like that. Let me ask you, though, because you, the BBC, you know,
journalists in general, have been accused by let's say the hardliners, the really Eurosceptic part of the Tory Party because you're being a lefty
And then you've got others [13:35:00] maybe who wanted to remain in the U.K. who say you're just taking the Brexit points of view and you're
treating all sides equally and being neutral. I know journalists have to be objective and search the facts.
Do you ever fear that because some people might think you're a left of center, not you personally but the BBC, you go overboard being right of
center so to speak? I mean I think a lot of the facts have been lost in the Brexit debate. It's all about one side getting its point of view
across and the other side getting its point of view across.
HUSAIN: Yes. I think one of the central difficulties with covering Brexit, and it's been nearly three years with this being the dominant story
for the U.K. is that it is a complicated story. I mean even the facts have developed over time also as we have learned more about, you know, certain
institutions or certain mechanisms, certain aspects of Brexit, whether it's customs, the way a policy works now or would work in the future.
So there's a whole lot of complexity, which I think very few people appreciated three years ago. In terms of the spectrum of criticism, I
mean, I really hear it from all sides. And I think, you know, as a broadcaster who has a job to do, my job is just to take whatever is in
front of me that particular day, that hour, that particular interview and do it to the best of my ability.
And, you know, I think that there are clearly bigger questions that other people are answering about how the organization's coverage as a whole or
indeed how the U.K. media, as a whole, has covered Brexit. But I think I try not to be distracted from whatever task is immediately in front of me
because that's what I personally will be judged on.
AMANPOUR: Some of your colleagues, like frontline reporters, sometimes have to either wear protective gear or get protection because they get
death threats. Do you worry about that? I mean can you believe that something like this has developed into such a difficult thing, even for
those reporting on it?
HUSAIN: I think what I've noticed is that you normally -- I look back at my career in journalism and I think well, there are sort of three big
phases. One was 9/11. I was a young journalist. That reshaped the world, reshaped the kinds of things I would go on to report on.
2011 for me was another key moment because I was working international news, the year of the Arab Uprisings, Osama bin Laden being killed. And
then this period from 2016 onwards. It's been for the U.K. and normally you have the sort of peaks and troughs surrounding an election or the
Scottish Referendum where there's that period of intensity and then normal times and normal service resumes.
And it's been, of course, totally different for -- not for everyone in the U.K. but certainly for politicians, also for the media. So I'm very
conscious that we are at a heightened state of intensity, which is ongoing, and I think that is really uncharted territory for all of us.
AMANPOUR: It's almost like business as usual sort of the new normal because it's not just here. It's in the United States, it's across Europe.
It's quite something to think about as we try to navigate the future and chart the future.
So the skills, one overarching skill to impart to a young woman or a young man who wants to go from entry level to the top like you?
HUSAIN: I would say don't miss the opportunities to put yourself forward. And learn to do that in a way that is purely objective and unashamed,
almost as if you're talking about someone else.
I think for me it took a long time to really feel that I could say that I had a particular knowledge or insight I would be good at something without
feeling quite self-conscious about it. And I think the more that you take any kind of emotion out of that, the more that you can portray yourself in
really quite a fact-based way and that actually becomes easier in the process.
So I would say the route to authority and advancement in your career is the knowledge that you acquire and also willingness to demonstrate it. And
that part, you -- that part is in your own hands what I think about as the personal dimension. So not to lose the chance to make sure that people
know what you want to be known for.
AMANPOUR: Excellent. Mishal Husain, thank you so much.
HUSAIN: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, this week, we've also focused on U.S. prison reform and few places, of course, are worse to live in, but one man argues they're even
worse places to die in. Homer Venters was once the top doctor in Rikers Island. In New York City, it is one of the country's most violent jails.
His latest book, "Life and Death in Rikers Island" exposes the extreme health risk inmates and staff face and how brutality and abuse have become
common place in an institution that's bursting at the seams. When he sat down with our Alicia Menendez, he talked of dehumanization of mass
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: What was the basic [13:40:00] work and responsibility of your job at Rikers?
HOMER VENTERS, AUTHOR, LIFE AND DEATH IN RIKERS ISLAND: It changed. So when I started in 2008, I was a deputy medical director. So I oversaw some
part of the medical service, the medical care people received. Then I became the medical director and ran all the medical care.
And then I became the top doctor, which would have been the chief medical officer, essentially. And so overseeing all the mental health and medical
and discharge planning work. And so as that responsibility grew, the scope grew, it really opened my eyes to, for instance, the harms of solitary
When I started working in 2008, I was focused a lot on physical injuries, and that certainly was important. But then it became clear to me with this
larger frame, with the mental health service, that it wasn't that the risk of injury was spread out evenly, right.
It was spread unevenly. And often those disparities had to do with the race of the people that were hurt but also the places that they were held
in the jail, like solitary confinement setting.
MENENDEZ: What are the most basic health risks of jails?
VENTERS: I would start with death. We have thousands of deaths in jails in prison in this country. We would measure, when I was in the city jail
system, which death we would call "Jail attributable". That is the death is directly related to something that happened in the jail.
That doesn't happen in other places and we don't know how many of these thousands of deaths every year in jails and prisons are really preventable
and jail attributable.
MENENDEZ: Tell me why doesn't that happen in other places?
VENTERS: Well, I think that it is because these are paramilitary settings that we decided a long time ago that these health outcomes and the health
care provided to people was under the authority of the security service. So if you look at who the doctors and nurses and social workers work for,
most of these places they work for are sheriff or commissioner of corrections.
So you have a local sheriff trying to spend as little money as they can. And when bad things happen, they are worried about lawsuits and so very
little information gets out.
MENENDEZ: One of the things that was most surprising to me reading your book was just how difficult it was to deliver daily medications to people
who needed them. This is because you couldn't track where patients were.
VENTERS: Yes. And that basically continues and it's a systemic problem everywhere. It's that as long as security staff have the ability to move
people back and forth, to hide them places, sometimes for reasons of physical abuse or sexual abuse, but sometimes for neglect or sometimes just
because they're not sure what to do with somebody.
That ability opens the door to some of the most profound abuse. Because if we don't -- we know more about what happens when you order a package on
Amazon than we do about how human beings are shuttled from one cell to another, from one housing unit to another.
And then with the power dynamic that exists in these places and the inhumane design of things like solitary confinement, the outcomes are
really pre-determined. It's brutality, physical sexual abuse, and neglect.
MENENDEZ: In your time there, were there specific people, were there specific cases that stood out to you?
VENTERS: In the vein of solitary confinement, this case of Jason, a young man who was in solitary confinement was thought of by the security service
and to some extent the health service as somebody who was kind of faking things, that he wanted to get out of solitary but they weren't sure why or
they thought he wanted to get for some sort of illegitimate reason.
There was a day where as often what happen in solitary confinement, many people were flooding their cells. People with mental illness at that time
were in solitary. He was actually in a unit for people with mental illness who were in solitary, which should never exist. It's insanity to even say
So he, like others, had raw sewage dripping, coming into his cell because people flood their toilets in a gambit to get out. Security staff came
through and tossed this toxic soap balls into each cell.
But what people were supposed to do was to take this little soap ball or two or three of them, put them into their toilet or their sink I guess and
then take that soap water and use their hands or some garment to slop the sewage out of their cells.
And when he had these soap balls tossed in, he saw an opportunity, I would guess, we don't know because he died but he swallowed them. And knowing
that they were toxic, he told a passing health staffer and security staff I just swallowed these. And so the health staff said, oh, he's at risk of
dying. We have to get him out right away.
What happened then is really a horrific story among horrific stories, which is that they didn't let him out. They watched him, taunted him for hours
overnight as he screamed as that soap corroded his esophagus, as he died.
At some [13:45:00] point, which also you see in a couple of these stories, the lights went out and the video cameras mysteriously turned off. And
when people came in in the morning and the lights came back on, he was dead. Having been taunted and ridiculed as he was dying, in full view of
everybody else in this unit.
So that struck me because, you know, it didn't matter what was in his heart about the source of his like psychological distress. We often fight about
solitary confinement like how do we know if the patient is telling the truth or not. Are they -- health staff will call, say the patient
malingering or they're using -- they're seeking what's called "Secondary gain".
Well, it doesn't much matter because he died. And so when we did our large study of solitary confinement, we looked at physical self-harm because we
wanted to cut through this idea of like we're not lie detectors in medicine. The psychologist or the social worker doesn't know the truth of
what's in somebody's heart.
But if somebody cuts themselves, if they hang themselves, if they swallow the soap ball, the fact that that behavior is associated with solitary
should lead us to question what's the reason we use this anywhere.
MENENDEZ: When we talk about solitary, we're often talking about some of the most vulnerable populations in a jail or prison. How does that
vulnerability intersect with the conversation around sexual assault in jails and prisons?
VENTERS: Well, the patients who are in solitary confinement are already unlikely to be believed by lots of people, including the health staff
actually, because the security service has already labeled them as dangerous, as violent.
They may, in fact, have lots of problems with aggression or violence. And so then they have lots of uses of force, right. They have lots of
interactions, physical interactions. Many of the sexual abuse reports we would get in the jail system had to do with things that happened during a
use of force.
So if somebody is being restrained by officers and then something is shoved into their rectum or they're hit in the groin or there's like a lot of
comments about them sexually and then there's some sort of sexual touching, all of that is very explicit power dynamic being used to humiliate, right.
And so that is the more somebody interacts in this physical force domain, the more we see that there's an opportunity for degradation that's not just
about physical or psychological traumatization but it's about sexual abuse.
MENENDEZ: You also talk in the conversation about sexual abuse about how it is very easy to target certain individuals or how it's easy to assess an
individual's vulnerability and take them on then as a target.
VENTERS: Given the need to survive and the kind of, you know, very -- like the tribal nature of the who's in power and who's not in power and
extortion, sexual abuse is a very common tool that's used. And it's very quickly assessed, you know, when people come into a new housing area
probably before they hit the housing area, in the intake pens, as they're moving through, maybe even before that, in the courts.
The people that are not able to navigate the rules, the people that are viewed as weak physically, or who have problems processing new information
or who don't have allies are quickly preyed upon.
MENENDEZ: Right. You write about the stories of Brianna and Maria.
VENTERS: Yes. And I think those stories reveal both just how quickly and savagely weakness is assessed and used as a point of exploitation, physical
and sexual exploitation. But then they also revealed to me at least how much of this abuse is ongoing.
And so, you know, I think that based on what I know from the publically available information, these are women that came into the jails, were
subject to repeated sexual abuse on multiple incarcerations, abuse that was not only violent but the abuse that led them to be then secondarily singled
out for abuse by other inmates and other correctional officers.
Because other COs would recognize the vulnerability that they're being abused brought to them. And so these strange scenarios where a
correctional officer would tell one of them, what you're doing isn't right, it's horrible, it's dirty, it's shameful when they're the abused, they're
the victims, or survivors. And so that dynamic would play out with other inmates as well.
MENENDEZ: Talk to me about the concept of dual loyalty.
VENTERS: I think of all the things that I write about in the book, this is the problem that is least validated as a real problem, but to me [13:50:00]
is most concerning. You know, we have health staff all over this country that clear patients to go into solitary confinement.
So completely unethical practice where the doctors, nurses, psychologists are part of deciding should you be punished or not. And it completely
erodes the confidence, the relationship with our patients, not just in the jails.
I think you think about we have 12 million incarcerations a year, probably 11 million of them are in jail. So people going home, so what they're
going home with aside from the physical wounds and the psychological trauma, is that they've learned not to trust their health staff. And
that's a real --that's a level of damage we haven't even started to measure in the community for dual loyalty.
MENENDEZ: And yet you have sympathy for these correction officers.
VENTERS: Yes, I believe that these health risks are systems risks. That is to say, we've built and designed these jails and prisons to confer these
risks to people. A lot of health risks are conferred to correctional officers themselves.
In my time working at Rikers, we had a couple of correctional officers, relatively young, die of asthma attacks. Correctional officers have very
good insurance. They should have good primary care access. But what is going on with their jobs?
They have so many health problems. They work in incredibly toxic Settings and things like solitary confinement force them into a dehumanizing dynamic
with people just as it forces the patient or the detainee into a dehumanizing situation.
MENENDEZ: We've talked a lot about what's not working. What have you seen that is working?
VENTERS: So I'll start with, in New York City, we've been more successful at lowering the rate of
Incarceration than any big city in the country --
MENENDEZ: Which you argue is the biggest thing one could do to address this challenge is less incarceration.
VENTERS: That's right. But it's a cautionary tale because we did that and then the city more or less turned its back on a lot of the really core
brutality problems that were happening for the people who go into Rikers.
I think now in one of the areas of success is that we have built these better mental health units in the jails. Where instead of having somebody
locked into a cell for 22 hours a day with not just worsening behaviors on their part but actually like a heightened risk of death, of self-harm, and
risk to the staff that works with them, we built their (INAUDIBLE). We call them "Clinical alternatives" to punitive segregation.
And those units had a whole raft of services throughout the day. So not just talk therapy or access to medications and psychiatrist, but movement
therapy, art therapy, things that engage people. And when we published the data about those units, we started with these units are better, safer for
everybody. Safer for staff, safer for patients, better outcomes from a health standpoint.
But those units are incredibly expensive because of all those stuff I just mentioned. So probably what we should do is not put people with serious
mental illness into jail period. And that is our bet because even those better, more therapeutic units, everything about them would be easier and
cheaper if we did it in the community.
MENENDEZ: Prison reform has emerged as a uniquely bipartisan issue. Where do you see it going in the next 5 to 10 years?
VENTERS: Well, my hope is that you know, the coalition of people that buy into prison reform can come together to understand that the way we keep
people, the way we undo mass incarceration is by building structures in the community that aren't there today.
If what we do is simply put a restriction in the courts to say like a lot of people aren't going to go in and we restrict by charge or by, you know,
some profile who can go in, we won't have built community structures that are health structures, that are a huge part of this is supportive housing
that doesn't exist in many communities.
If we don't exist -- create those community-based structures, then what we do is we just set people up to return to that same door a week later or two
weeks later or four weeks later. And so I think the true test is can we really invest in communities that need access to mental health services and
employment, because that's the way we will really have a sustainable undoing of mass incarceration.
MENENDEZ: Thank you so much.
VENTERS: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: Now, although the tide is turning in public opinion towards criminal justice reform in the United States, this is a warning that that
reform is only a starting point to change the mass incarceration problem.
That's it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at Amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.