Return to Transcripts main page
Aleppo Civilians Face Desperate Daily Life; U.K. Human Rights Chief Condemns Aleppo Strikes; "Queen of Katwe" Tells the Story of Phiona Mutesi; David Bowie: A Man of Sound and Vision
Aired October 28, 2016 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: This CNN "News Now." Hello, I'm Natalie Allen.
E-mails related to Hillary Clinton's private server are again under FBI scrutiny. The e-mails in question are not from Hillary Clinton, but were
sent or received by one of her top aides according to a law enforcement official. The agency is now reviewing those e-mails to determine if they
contained any classified information.
An engine failure caused flames to erupt from a commercial jet liner at Chicago's O'Hare Airport according to sources close to the investigation.
Everyone on the American Airlines flight got out quickly after the pilot aborted the takeoff Friday today. About 20 had minor injuries.
Rebel fighters in Aleppo have launched a deadly new assault on the government-controlled part of the Syrian City. Car bombings and mortar
fire killed at least 15 people on Friday. The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected his own military's request to resume air
The Philippine president is promising to stop swearing. Rodrigo Duterte says God spoke to him Thursday on his flight home from Japan and threatened
to bring down his plane unless he stopped using foul language. He also warned it's a promise he might not be able to keep. Good luck with that.
That's "CNN News Now."
AMANPOUR is next.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight as the siege of Aleppo piles horror upon horror, will anyone ever be held accountable? The U.N. human rights
chief says the Syrians and Russians must answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZEID RA'AD AL HUSSEIN, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: All parties to a conflict must of course abide by international
humanitarian law and we will call them out whoever the attacker may be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Plus, talent wins out in the face of adversity. The award- winning director Mira Nair joins me with her new film, the true story of a young African slum dweller who becomes a world class chess player.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIRA NAIR, AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR: It shows us that genius is anywhere and everywhere. It has to be seen, it has to be nourished, and then it has to
be harnessed into being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The civil war in Syria continues to spiral into unimaginable suffering, with no respite on the horizon. This week, a school complex was hit by air
strikes in Idlib province with White Helmet activists on the ground reporting that 20 children were killed.
And the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that that must be referred to the International Criminal Court. The continued bombardment
of Aleppo was described at the U.N. as our generation's shame.
The head of the humanitarian effort could barely contain his anger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN O'BRIEN, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: I can't help but be incandescent with rage. Month after month, worse and worse and nothing is
actually happening to stop the war, stop the suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, indeed, that is true. In a moment, we will hear from the U.N. human rights commissioner who joined me this week.
But, first, we see just what is happening on the ground with our Fred Pleitgen.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDEN (voice-over): As the world's attention is focused on the fight against ISIS around Mosul -- the killing in Aleppo
Russia and the Syrian government say they haven't flown any strike missions for over a week, but the shelling of the rebel-held east of the city hasn't
stopped say observers and residents.
The carnage has been brutal. Thousands have been killed in the past years. But sometimes miracles happen like in September. Rescue workers found this
little girl under the rubble of a bombed house.
"Hold my hand, daddy," she screams, before they manage to pull her out. In total, 24 people were killed in this building alone. As the U.S. and its
allies say Russia is using heavier munitions, including possibly bunker- busting bombs in residential areas with devastating effects, an Aleppo doctor told us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who are next to those bombs are immediately dead.
PLEITGEN: Both the United States and Britain have condemned the bombing of civilians in Aleppo and called for both the Russian and Syrian governments
to be investigated for possible war crimes. The Russians deny the allegations and say they are hitting Islamism rebels affiliated with al
But even the U.N.'s representative to the Syrian conflict is likening the situation to massacre the international community failed to stop in the
[23:05:18] STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: There is only one thing that we are not ready to do, be passive, resonate ourselves to
another Srebrenica, another Rwanda.
PLEITGEN: So far there's been little the U.N. has been able to do, even during a recent short-lived cease-fire, no U.N. aid was allowed into
besiege eastern Aleppo. The water system, many schools and most hospitals have been bombed out of commission. Almost as bad as the lack of supplies
coming in, the U.N. says, is the inability to bring the sick and wounded out.
Russia says it currently doesn't see the possibility of another round of ceasefire talks in the near future, keeping tensions with the U.S.-led
coalition high. For the population in Eastern Aleppo, that seems to leave only the option of hunkering down and praying for survival.
AMANPOUR: So I asked the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Al Hussein, to give me his judgment on war crimes and punishments.
AMANPOUR: High commissioner, welcome to the program.
Can I drill down, if this terrible war in Syria continues, what is your view on what is happening in Eastern Aleppo? Besieged, being hit by
bunker-busting bombs, people can't even shelter in their basements any more.
And you've suggested that Syria and its allies are guilty of war crimes. Flesh that out for me, if you will. Are you particularly and specifically
accusing them of such?
AL HUSSEIN: Well, if I can begin, Christiane, by just pointing out over the last 24 hours, we have seen a lull in terms of the aerial raids in
Eastern Aleppo. That is not to say that raids in other part of the government have not taken place, they have. But in Eastern Aleppo, we have
What we are saying is that the aerial bombing as of the 22nd of October seemed to be of such an indiscriminate nature, where a number of facilities
have been struck, where civilians have borne the brunt of the damage essentially. Yes, that the allegation is that this sort of bombing is very
much in keeping with what we would consider to be war crimes to be proven later in a court. But that's exactly what we're saying, yes.
AMANPOUR: And so what do you expect to be the tangible result of what you're saying? Do you expect the Syrians to stop? Do you expect the
Russians to stop?
AL HUSSEIN: Well, it's not that if we don't see a consequence, we shouldn't speak. I think we have a duty to speak out when we see this sort
of bombing. No matter where it may be taking place. Whether it's in Syria, in Yemen and Afghanistan, all parties to a conflict must of course
abide by international humanitarian law and we will call them out whoever the attacker may be.
The -- you know, even in conflict, there must be rules and civilian life must be spared to the greatest extent possible. Whether it has ultimately
an effect, we don't know. But, certainly, if we didn't speak, we couldn't expect any change in the approaches to this sort of aerial assault on
civilian targets. It seems to be indiscriminate in many cases.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because you have gotten into some kind of a spat with Russia and the Russian government. A couple of weeks ago, I was in
Moscow and I presented to the foreign minister the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the little boy who became symbolic of the cruelty of what's
happening in Syria, the little boy with the dust and the blood all over his face that went viral all over the world.
And, obviously, the foreign minister told me that this was tragic. But, you know, refused to admit that there were war crimes being committed and
certainly that Russia was not targeting civilians.
So first and foremost, what is your answer to that?
AL HUSSEIN: In all cases, we expect that to be a rigorous investigation undertaken. And to, for it to be proven to us, that every, every measure
was taken to avoid civilian casualties when targeting a particular group or other.
And in the event that there is no investigation, then the allegation stands sort of basically unproven until we can get to a court of law, but the
suspicion is very much there that these sorts of crimes are being committed. And instead of entering into a debate with us, sort of telling
me that I should be speaking or I'm overstepping my mark, I think it's, it will be more proper for the investigations to take place and for evidence
to be presented to us showing us that, that every measure was taken to prevent civilian casualties again.
[23:10:20] AMANPOUR: One of the reasons that the Russians apparently seem so mad at you particularly is because of a whole different speech that you
gave, and this was at a gala in The Hague not long ago.
And you were concerned about the rise of populism and demagogues across the world, in Europe and indeed in the United States. And this is one of the
things you said.
"What Mr. Wilders" -- talking about the head of the Netherlands' far right party, Geert Wilders - "what he shares in common with Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban
of Hungary, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer of Austria, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen of France, Mr. Farage, he also shares with Daesh. All seek in varying degrees
to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion -- living peacefully in
isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war. A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.
Europe's past, as we all know, was for centuries anything but that."
So there you are, basically, criticizing all of these far right and populist parties, including Trump and the Russians didn't like it at all.
AL HUSSEIN: No, it's a very serious point. I was trying to be very clear that I didn't equate Daesh and the monstrous crimes with the actions of the
populists, what I was trying to say is that these populists use half-truths and over-simplification, to carry support, to win support and place blame
on a very distinct community.
And in the case of the populists, they're going after vulnerable communities for all the ills and all the pain and frustration that many
people feel in Europe and in the United States.
And it's inexcusable to do that. It's oversimplification, use of half- truths, and you and I served in the former Yugoslavia many years ago, we saw with our own eyes the consequences of these sorts of actions.
AMANPOUR: But I also ask Foreign Minister Lavrov, about what you had said and about their pursuing some kind of discipline against you. And this is
what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: His position is not about passing a ruling or passing judgment on sovereign states. His position is
protect, is to protect human rights. And this does not involve intervention in domestic affairs. It does not involve giving
characteristics to foreign leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that? As a permanent member of the Security Council.
AL HUSSEIN: Yes, yes, and Sergey Lavrov is an official and dare I say also a friend who I respect greatly. But here I would beg to differ.
The relevant article in the U.N. charter, Article 27, which essentially prevents the U.N. from intervening in the domestic affairs of state has to
be read in its proper context.
Intervene means when it plans to take coercive measures or coercive measures are undertaken. Criticism of the conduct of a government, its
policies, does not in our reading, fit that description.
So I see it well within my mandate as given to me, to offer critical comment when I need to. And also, to offer encouragement when I should do
so. And so I don't see that I'm overstepping my mark on this.
AMANPOUR: One of the things that apparently seemed to get the Russians riled up was that you mentioned Donald Trump. And obviously you know we
exist in an environment where certainly the United States intelligence agencies have determined that Russia is interfering in the U.S. democratic
process on behalf of Donald Trump, or at least against Hillary Clinton.
AL HUSSEIN: To be honest on this, I have -- I mean, the Russian permanent representative did say that he objected to comments I made regarding
certain leaders. He denies that I, that he raised Trump as one of them. But I have expressed my concerns about Donald Trump and what he has said
about possibly bringing back torture, which is clearly prohibited in the convention against torture. And other things that he has said, which
raises dangers and threats to the human rights of many people should he act on them and were he to be elected president. And so I've been open about
those issues, too.
[23:15:00] AMANPOUR: On that note, High Commissioner Zeid, thank you very much for joining us from the United Nations in New York.
AL HUSSEIN: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, survival comes in all shapes and sizes. Next, the true story of a young Ugandan girl who became the "Queen of
Katwe." That's director Mira Nair's new film and I speak to her after this break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
From the slums of Kampala to the silver screen, the amazing real life tale of young chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, which inspired Disney's new film,
"Queen of Katwe," starring the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o and the "Selma" star, David Oyelowo.
And it is brought to us by Mira Nair, the queen of global cinema. She's one of the most prolific and successful female directors working today.
Her vibrant stories like "Monsoon Wedding," "Mississippi Masala," and "Salaam Bombay," have brought a whole new world into focus for western
audiences and many more. After all, she told me, "If we won't tell our stories, no one else will."
AMANPOUR: Mira Nair, welcome to the program.
NAIR: Thank you so much. Lovely to be here, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You have just said that you've been around Africa with the premiere. What did African audiences make of this?
NAIR: The "Queen of Katwe" is a true story. It is a story from Katwe which is the worst slum of Kampala, where I also happened to live for
several years. But the fact is that really -- it shows us that genius is anywhere and everywhere. It has to be seen, it has to be nourished and
then it has to be harnessed into being.
And that is the story of Phiona Mutesi. This ten year old girl who sold corn for a living and one day she follows her brother, because she sees
that her brother is always satisfied in the belly. And says why, and he gets porridge in a program, which teaches chess by a remarkable man, about
ten years older than they are, Robert Katende, who teaches chess to the kids in the slum. And she joins this program really for porridge and then
becomes -- proves herself to be a kind of protegee at chess.
AMANPOUR: That is incredible. That it was the hunger that led her to this. How good was she or is she actually as a global chess player?
NAIR: Well, Phiona Mutesi is now the -- was already about six years ago the first candidate master in Uganda. In her teams, like at the age of 13.
Now she is 18, 19. She has played her, I think, third chess Olympics, and she's playing world competitive chess. She recently played Magnus Carlsen.
The remarkable thing about Phiona is that she became a candidate master completely illiterate. She could not read or write. And that was what
really riveted me about her story.
Often times, Africa is like a dark continent background for someone else's story or a story typically of violence and despair, that has nothing to do
with the everyday life even I live around.
And so -- but ironically, this story, even though I'm surrounded by local fare, came to me from Disney. From Tendo Nagenda, this --
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, I was going to ask you, because you're not exactly Disney fair, right? I mean, you're gritty, you're -- as you say,
in Africa, in all around, how did that marriage work? Did Disney try to sanitize it in anyway?
NAIR: You know, it is -- and I don't sugar-coat my own work or my own speech, but it was the most positive, extraordinary embrace with Disney.
Firstly, it was because the vice-president of Disney is a Ugandan born, wonderful, worldly person --
AMANPOUR: And he brought you the story.
[23:20:28] NAIR: Yes. Tendo Nagenda brought me the story in my garden in Kampala, a little ESPN sports journal article on Phiona Mutesi, this slum-
dwelling kid who becomes a chess protegee. And I always -- immediately, you know, was riveted by it, because I'm always drawn to stories of those
who are considered marginal to any society and I always question who decide who is marginal. But here is a story that will finally give me that
insight into the sort of incredible joy, what I call the lifest (ph) quality in living in Kampala.
You know, you may have half an inch of water in your basin, but you will wash your hair, you will look smart. You will really do anything to go to
school. That is the Kampala I live around. And that is the Kampala I never see.
AMANPOUR: I hear that Phiona's part is not played by a professional actress.
NAIR: Well, the film, as much as it is with two legendry Bolly -- you know, I'm sorry -- legendary bona fide Hollywood legends like Lupita
Nyong'o and David Oyelowo --
AMANPOUR: Of course, she played in "12 Years a Slave". He played in "Selma," who is Dr. Martin Luther King --
NAIR: That's right. That's right. And both have sons and daughters of this great continent. And that is very important for me, because, really,
"Queen of Katwe" is an African story and is very specifically Ugandan story that I want it viewed with all the layers of gravitas and tradition that we
can bring to it.
There are about 17 kids in the film. And all the kids were cast in the streets of Katwe and Kibuli. The lead is played by Madina Nalwanga, who is
like a 13-year-old dancer that I saw in a traditional dance troop in a hotel for tourist on Sunday nights, you know, in Kampala.
AMANPOUR: I read that she said something to you that sort of opened your eyes. She said as a chess player, you always have to look at the other
side of the table.
AMANPOUR: Of the board.
AMANPOUR: What did that say to you relevant for you today?
NAIR: You know, Phiona Mutesi taught me how to play chess for three months before I started shooting the "Queen of Katwe." And I was this reckless
player. And every time I would make a move, she would kind of laugh and say Mira, you must consider the other side of the board. And instead of,
you know, I just used to write down those lines, because they are so -- they are prophetic and they are fantastic metaphor for life. And for the
world today, for the politics of today, you know, you must consider the other side of the board.
I mean, I think that is really a mantra for opening one's eyes and one's hearts today. You know, because so much of the world is being divided into
these schisms, into these what I call them myopia and a desperate ignorance of what really is the other side. Or who is the other, right from -- you
know, after 9/11, with -- that's why I made the "Reluctant Fundamentalist," I mean, because no one will know what it is to be a brown man in post 9/11
world, who comes from Pakistan or India and tries to make his way in a Wall Street of America.
And is perfectly qualified, but suddenly, he is Muslim. And then you know, you will never belong, you know, in this current world. And one has to,
you know, raise the mirror to that. And ask those questions. You know, who is the real human being, or who are we that we consider that we are
other from you and me.
AMANPOUR: Mira Nair, thank you very much indeed.
NAIR: Thank you so much, Christiane. It is lovely to be with you.
AMANPOUR: And talking of female chess champions, Georgian-American chess grand master, Nazi Paikidze, says that she'll boycott a tournament to be
held in Iran because of having to wear the hijab, which is mandatory there. But in Iran, some female masters worry that will just set back their
efforts to enter the competitive arena.
When we come back, the man always five moves ahead of the rest of us. Imagining the genius of David Bowie, releasing new music months after his
[23:26:30] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine David Bowie still impacting our culture from beyond the grave and making us smile. Any
manner -- number of artists and fans continue to pay tribute, such as the artist, Ten Hundred, who decided to paint this huge mural of Ziggy Stardust
on the bottom of a pool in the U.S. State of Washington.
While that's being revealed, so too is his new music. Three new David Bowie songs posthumously released, but written and sung by Bowie, and now
available on the album for "Lazarus," the musical that he collaborated on before his death.
He attended the opening in New York in December 2015. It was his last public appearance. He died a month later. And now, the play is opening in
London on November 8th, including this song, which is called "New Plan."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(MUSIC VIDEO PLAYING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Just more proof of Bowie's enduring legacy and critics are hailing the music as another symbol of his last creative burst. But will
it be Bowie's last word?
That is it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.