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Interview With U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken; Interview With U.N. Women In Afghanistan Special Representative Alison Davidian; Interview With FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 30, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other news source.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not normal. This is the brutalization of a country and directly attacking everything. Its
civilians, its citizens, the -- to simply survive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is the United States doing enough to protect citizens of Ukraine from Russian brutality? My interview with Secretary of State Antony
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): We tried out this for the future. It is a dark one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The drip, drip, drip of women's rights being restricted under the Taliban's top religious leader. The United Nations representative for
women in Afghanistan joins me from Kabul. And.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA KAVANAGH, FDNY COMMISSIONER: It can be different to be the first. And certainly, there is a little more attention on you because of that. But
I'm OK with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A breakthrough for women's equality in New York. Laura Kavanagh speaks with Michel Martin about become the fire department's first female
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Russia must pay for its "Horrific crimes in Ukraine." That is the word for the European commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Announcing plans
for a special court to prosecute Russian offenses. And while holding Russia accountable is a long-term goal, Ukraine's need for weapons and equipment
now is dominating this week's meeting of NATO foreign ministers of Romania. Here is Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba delivering an urgent shopping
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We need air defense, IRIS, HAWKs, Patriots, and we need transformers. When we have transformers and
generators, we can restore our system, our energy grid and provide people with decent living conditions which President Putin is trying to deprive
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the U.S. says, it's working to make sure that the Ukrainians get those systems as quickly as possible. But the German
government, in particular, is hesitant to send the sophisticated Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine. Even though they offered it to Poland after
a stray missile killed two people there two weeks ago.
So, with winter setting in, and Russia's relentless attacks hobbling Ukraine's infrastructure, I spoke to U.S. Secretary of State, Antony
Blinken from the sidelines of the meeting going on in Romania today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Secretary Blinken, welcome to the program.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Christiane, great to be with you.
AMANPOUR: I just wanted to ask you because you've just meeting with your Ukrainian counterpart who has told you all that they need weapons faster,
faster, and faster. So, is it true that NATO is running out of ammunition, for instance, artillery that the Ukrainians are using?
BLINKEN: Christiane, from day one -- in fact, even before day one, before the Russian aggression started but we saw it coming, we've been working
with the Ukrainians to get them what they need to defend themselves and to push back the Russian aggression, and every step along the way. In
consultation with them, in consultation with allies and partners. We've adjusted as the nature of the aggression has shifted to make sure that they
were getting into their hands as quickly as possible exactly what they needed to deal with Putin's war. And that process continues.
We're now very focused on air defense systems. And not just us, many other countries. And we're working to make sure that the Ukrainians get those
systems as quickly as possible. But also, as effectively as possible. Making sure that they are trained on them, making sure that they have the
ability to maintain them.
And all of that has to come together, and it is. We have a very deliberate process established by the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Ramstein,
Germany, that meets regularly to make sure that the Ukrainians are getting what they need, when they need it.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then about the somewhat confusion from the Pentagon and from you all at NATO regarding American Patriots. As you say,
they definitely need anti-air defense systems.
And clearly you must think that they need more as Putin ratchets up his missile attack and his missile wars against cities. So, will the United
States give Patriot systems? And if not, why not?
BLINKEN: So, I'm not going to speak specific systems. The Pentagon is focused on that. What we've been working to do is to make sure that at any
given time, they have the most effective systems possible to deal with the threat that they're facing. We just recently, for example, provided them
with a very effective system called NASAMS that they're using very effectively.
Before that, of course, we had the HIMARS which they used to great effect, both in southern and in eastern Ukraine. So, virtually every single day,
Christiane, the Pentagon is looking at this. Listening to the Ukrainians. Consulting the allies and partners. And if we don't have something, trying
to it find elsewhere. That is part of this entire coordination process.
AMANPOUR: What goes through your mind when you see how President Putin and the Russian military is basically shifting from you all are terming
failures on the battlefield and losses of territory to this relentless attack on the cities. Again, are you satisfied that as much anti-air and
sophisticated, you know, missile defense systems are getting to them in time?
BLINKEN: Christiane, what we are seeing -- to put it in one word is barbaric. And precisely because Putin is not able to succeed on the
battlefield. He is taking the war to Ukraine civilians and he's doing it in a very deliberate way. Going after the entire energy and electric
infrastructure, to turn off the lights, to turn off the water, to turn off the heat. And that at a time when, of course, Ukraine is heading into the
winter. The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, talked about weaponizing winter. And that's exactly what Putin is doing.
It's also why not only are we seize with making sure that Ukraine has the systems it needs to defend itself, we're also seized with making sure that
we're doing everything possible. Again, as quickly as possible to help them repair and replace everything that has been destroyed by the Russian
onslaught. And just as we put this process together some months ago in Ramstein, Germany to get them the defensive weapon systems that they need,
so too we're doing that with energy, with equipment, with transformers, with generators, with spare parts.
We met here in Bucharest, not just with NATO allies but with the G7 countries and some other countries to put in place a very coordinated
process to make sure that, as fast as we can, we're getting Ukraine what it needs to get through the winter. To make sure that men, women, children are
not literally freezing to death.
We heard from Foreign Minister Kuleba, my friend and counterpart, who just came from Kyiv and described for all of the ministers here what life is
like under this Russian onslaught. And by the way, this is not normal. This is the brutalization of a country and directly attacking everything, its
civilians, its citizens need to simply survive. And I hope that the world understands it and sees it that way. We are seized with this. And we're
acting on it to get Ukraine everything we possibly can to get through the winter.
AMANPOUR: So, just one last question then on this issue of weaponry and what they need. You know, "The New York Times" has reported that you all at
NATO are considering investing in, for instance, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, factories that have made Soviet era ammunition for
artillery that apparently, Ukraine is mostly using. Is that correct?
BLINKEN: We are looking at every option to make sure that, again, they get what they need and what can be most effective for them. Some of that does
go to the Soviet era systems that they've had in their inventory for decades. And for example, making sure that the ammunition is there for
those systems. And in some cases that may require producing things that have not been produced for some time.
So, we are looking across the board at all of that. And, Christiane, even as we are working to get Ukraine what they needed most urgently, we are
also working to make sure that over the medium and long-term, we're helping them to build up their capacity to deter and defend against future
aggression. Because when this war, eventually comes to an end, one of the things that is going to be so critical is making sure that we've done
everything possible to ensure that it doesn't repeat itself. That Russia does not renew its aggression against Ukraine. Part of that is making sure
that Ukraine has, over the long-term, the ability to deter aggressions and defend itself if aggression comes.
AMANPOUR: Can I move on to Iran because on the one hand, you and others, obviously, accuse Iran of supplying Russians with much weaponry but also
especially these kamikaze drones that have caused a huge amount of damage and death.
But I also want to ask you about your reaction to reports that Iran has told you and the International Community and the IAEA that it plans to
upgrade and increase its production and purity, you know, power of uranium, near to bomb capacity. Move that to, you know, an area that is difficult,
you know, for you all to attack, I believe it's the Fordow, and to increase its nuclear fuel production in other places that both the United States and
Israel accused of having sabotaged. What is your reaction to that? Have they told you that?
BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, I think the world is rightly focused on what is happening on the streets in Iran throughout the country and that is
incredibly brave young people, mostly women who are standing up, speaking out for their most basic rights. And that, of course, has been the case
since the killing of Mahsa Amini some months ago. And that's where the world's focus is, that's where our focus is.
We have taken steps, as you know, to sanction those who have been responsible for trying to repress people peacefully protesting. We have
worked as well to make sure that Iranians have, to the best of our ability, the communications technology that they need to continue to communicate
with one another and to stay connected to the outside world.
At the same time, we have continued to believe that the best way to deal with Iran's nuclear program is through diplomacy. As you know, we have an
agreement, the so-called JCPOA to put Iran's nuclear program in a box. Unfortunately, the decision was made to pull out of that agreement. And
what we've seen virtually ever since is Iran building back its program.
We've been very clear with them, and not just the United States but others including European partners that they should not take additional steps to
increase their nuclear capacity, including by enriching to higher levels. And if they pursue that direction, we'll be prepared to respond.
AMANPOUR: Regarding the protest inside, we've seen some Iranian protesters at the actual games in Doha, the World Cup. The wrestle to the ground for
wearing, you know, the woman life -- women, life, freedom t-shirts and other things. We know that the match between the United States and Iran
last night, which the U.S. won was highly charged, to the point that President Biden, who's not known as a soccer fan, you know, said
afterwards, you know, USA, USA, that's a big game, man. They did it. God love them.
So, all of this is going on around this very serious issues that you're talking about. Is there anything that the United States will do to support
the protest, you know, other than sanctioning some of the people who you said that you've sanctioned?
BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, I watched the game last night. I think Team USA performed remarkably. I also have to salute the performance of the
Iranian players throughout the tournament, as well as in the game yesterday. And yes, it was a highly charged atmosphere but I'm glad that
the players actually had a chance to play the game and that we got result that we got.
But this is -- what's happening in Iran, is first and foremost, about Iranians. About their future. About their country. And it's not about us.
And one of the profound mistakes that the regime makes is to try to point the finger at others, at the United States, Europeans claiming that we are
somehow responsible for instigating or otherwise fanning the flames of the protest. That is to profoundly, fundamentally misunderstand their own
But as I said, not only have we sanctioned those responsible for cracking down on protesters, we've also worked to make sure that, again, to the best
of our ability, technology, communications technology that the Iranian people need in order to continue to be able to communicate with one another
and to be connected to the outside world is available to them. And so, we're focused on that.
There are other steps that we are taking diplomatically across the international organizations and with many other countries to make clear how
the world sees the repression that's going on in Iran to try to hold down those who are simply trying to peacefully express their views. But the main
focus has to remain on the Iranian people. This is about what they want, what they need, what they expect.
AMANPOUR: You next trip is to China, I believe it's going to be your first such trip as the secretary of state. And President Biden has been and he
was trying to, as you said, lower the temperature and make sure that we don't enter a new cold war. But I want to ask you given what China did
along with Saudi Arabia to block any meaningful word on fossil fuels and emissions at COP27. And the fact that, you know, all they pretty much talk
about in terms of international relations, security in Taiwan.
If they're not going to play ball on climate and if they are angry about Taiwan, and particularly Nancy Pelosi's visit, what is it that you all have
to talk about? What can you hope to get out of visiting China?
BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, President Biden and President Xi had, I think, an important meeting in Bali. And one was productive in the sense
that it's vitally important that we communicate clearly and directly to one another about our interests, about our intentions, about our policies.
Because -- precisely because we're in a competition with China. The potential for miscommunication for not at least understanding what each
other is trying to do. That is something we have to guard against. And that's necessary, particularly if, as President Biden has said, we want to
ensure that the competition regulation does not veer into conflict. No one has an interest in that.
So, first and foremost, the trip that I'll take early next year is about continuing that communication. Making sure that we have lines of
communication that are open, that are clear even when we disagree and indeed disagree profoundly. The world also expects us to manage this
relationship responsibly. To make sure that, again, to the best of our ability, we avoid any conflict. And, yes, that where we're able to
cooperate, especially on issues that affect not only Americans and not only Chinese, but people around the world, that we at least try to do that.
It's going to be up to China to decide whether it wants to participate in that kind of cooperation, on things like climate, on global health, on the
macroeconomic environment that we're all living in as we try to get beyond COVID and pursue an economic recovery. We cannot decide that for China. We
can make clear that we're prepared to engage and to cooperate where it's in our interest to do so and where the world expects that of us. China will
have to decide whether it wants to do the same thing.
AMANPOUR: The French President Macron is being hosted by President Biden, it's the first Biden administration state dinner, state visit. And at the
same time, there is quite a difference between what Europe and the United States is saying, for instance, over trade. Macron has accused the U.S. of
aggressive protectionism approach, plus the whole price of gas. They want to lower price of gas. What do you think will come out of this visit for
Europe and what are you hearing from your European colleagues now?
BLINKEN: Well, we're really looking forward this visit. It is, as you said, the first state visit for President Biden. And I think the fact that
President Macron is the first person that the president is welcoming on a state visit speaks volumes about the importance that we attach to the
relationship. Not only that, what I have seen over the last two years with France, specifically, Europe more generally, including the European Union
is greater and greater convergence on the issues that matter most, whether its Ukraine. Whether it's the approach to China. Whether it is dealing with
everything from climate to food insecurity, to energy.
And do we have differences on certain things? Of course, we always do. But we always work through them. And so, for example, when it comes to some
concerns that we've heard in Europe over some of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act to go to creating incentives for investing in the
United States. We've heard some concerns expressed by European partners, we immediately set up a task force with the European union to work through
those concerns, and that's exactly what we are doing
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thank you so much for joining me.
BLINKEN: Thanks. Great to be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Meantime in Afghanistan, women are asking why the United States and the rest of the world are not supporting their struggle, like they
supported women in Iran. Senior Afghan and U.N. officials tell me that they are very concerned about an even more draconian crackdown coming on women's
and girls' rights. Coming straight from the Taliban's hardline religious leadership based in Kandahar. They are now banned from public paths and
from traveling long distance without a male guardian. Not to mention the fact that girls still cannot return to public high schools.
There are fears that this may become permanent and that women may also be barred from university if the Taliban's reclusive supreme leader, Amir
Hibatullah Akhundzada, and his so-called kitchen cabinet of mullahs get their way. People like the chief justice, the minister of religious
affairs, and the minister of preventing vice and propagating virtue.
We, of course, reached out to the Taliban for their response but they did not get back to us. A recent U.N. report says, "In no other country have
women and girls so rapidly disappeared from all spheres of public life". And I saw this for myself in May when I visited. TOLOnews, for instance,
it's Afghanistan's only independent news channel. And I was there the very day the staff had to reckon with a new edict. Ordering female anchors to
cover their faces on air. Here is a little of that report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): For the past five months, Khatera Ahmadi has been anchoring the morning news on TOLO TV. but this might be the last time that
she can show her face on air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).
AMANPOUR (voiceover): The morning editorial meeting starts with worried discussion about mandatory masking. Station director, Khpolwak Sapai, says
he'd even consider just shutting down and leaving. But then he thought female staff who want to carry on anchoring with a mask can. While those
who don't will get other jobs behind the scenes.
KHPOLWAK SAPAI, THEN-DIRECTOR, TOLONEWS: We will leave the last decision up to them. They will make their own decision.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): And it's a tough decision for these women who brave the new Taliban regime to stay on the air, who already adjusted their
headscarves to hide their hair, and who now fear a steep slide back to the middle ages. Khatera says she's so stressed she couldn't even present her
KHATERA, TOLONEWS ANCHOR (through translator): It's not clear. Even if we appear with the burqa, maybe they will say that women's voices are
forbidden. They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Across town, the Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, was attending a meeting with local journalists to mark
a slightly delayed World Press Freedom Day. We stopped him on the way in.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Because you have said they have to wear a face mask if they're on television, women. Why?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): It's advisory from the ministry, he says.
AMANPOUR (on camera): But what does that mean? Is it compulsory?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): If it is said, they should wear it. It will be implemented as it is in our religion too, says Mujahed. It is good if it's
AMANPOUR (on camera): Afghan women are afraid that this is the beginning of your efforts to erase them from the workspace. They're afraid that, if
they wear the mask, the next thing you will say is their voice cannot be heard publicly. What is your response to that?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Like during COVID, he says, masks were mandatory. Women would only be wearing hijab or masks and they will continue their
He seems to say that, if women wear this, they can go to work. But the dress code edicts, like saying female university students must now wear
black, not colored head scarves, is an escalating war of nerves, and everyone fears where this will lead. Back at TOLOnews, these female anchors
What should we do? Cries Tahmina. We don't know. We were ready to fight to the last to perform our work, but they don't allow us.
We women have been taken hostage," says Hilah (ph). Women can't get themselves educated or work, like me, who's worked on screen for years and
couldn't leave Afghanistan. Due to the fear of the Taliban. I can't go on screen again.
Since the Taliban takeover, the station has employed even more women than before, because they need a safe space. And as for the actual journalism,
TOLOnews is Afghanistan's leading independent news channel. But Director Sapai says they will all quit the day the Taliban pressures them to tailor
their coverage or lie to a public that's come to trust the truth they have been delivering over 20 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (on camera): And in the intervening six months, further pressure does mean now that female anchors are seen less and less on TV. Now, my top
Taliban sources tell me that the more pragmatic government figures in Kabul are still trying to lobby to keep girls and women in school and at work.
This is where I found some of those high school girls in Kabul back in May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Wednesday morning in Kabul, and we're going to girls school through these plastic curtains and past prying eyes.
Yes, this fashion studio has become an alternate education facility, since the Taliban stopped girls from attending government high schools. 17-year-
old Rokhsar wanted to be a doctor. Now, she's learning to be a dressmaker.
We're feeling very bad, she tells us. Girls are not able to go to school, staying home, doing nothing. We hope that this will change our life, so we
can be self-sufficient, have a profession, learn, earn money to support ourselves and our families.
Neda wanted to be a professional soccer player.
AMANPOUR (on camera): You're 17. You have never known the Taliban government. Did you ever imagine that this would happen to you, that you
would be prevented from going to school?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): No, never. We tried our best for our future. But it's a dark one now, because we're kept away from our schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (on camera): So, again, in the intervening six months, they are still kept away from their schools and women are increasingly being erased
from the public sphere. Joining me now from Kabul is Alison Davidian. She is the representative for U.N. women in Afghanistan.
Welcome to the program. Let me just ask you, you saw that coverage. Everybody was saying to me at that time, don't worry. It's going to happen.
It's going to happen. Women and young girls are going to go back to school. What is your concern? What are you actually hearing about that issue, high
ALISON DAVIDIAN, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE U.N. WOMEN IN AFGHNISTAN: So, in terms of -- the Taliban have been saying from the peace table to now since
they've taken control of the government, that women and girls' rights will be respected within the framework of Islam. This is something that we've
continually heard. But they've never actually defined what that actually means.
And as with the weeks have progressed, we've continued to see ongoing restrictions and the deterioration of the rights of women and girls and
their social and political status. And this is also reflected in the delays in girls going back to school and also women returning to work in the real
full spectrum of women and girls rights.
AMANPOUR: Alison Davidian, are you trying to meet with the so-called pragmatist in Kabul? And do you believe that there are Taliban officials
who do want to see girls stay at school? Are you in touch with them? Do you try to negotiate with them? Do you try to convince them?
DAVIDIAN: We do engage with the Taliban. I engage with the Taliban. And we engage as a U.N. system on specific certain issues. Particularly for U.N.
women around women humanitarian workers and their ability to access women and girls. And also, for women-led organizations and their ability to meet
the needs of women and girls. There is engagement with the Taliban authorities on a range of issues. But certainly, the space for women and
girls to be able to exercise their rights is shrinking.
AMANPOUR: You know, the special rapporteur expresses grave concern about the, "Staggering regression in women and girls' enjoyment of civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights since the Taliban took power." As well as being fearful that this edict is going to come down from
Kandahar. That They cannot go back to public school and maybe even to university, which I've been told by senior Afghan official. I hear you
nodding -- or rather, I can see you nodding.
We can also, which is awful -- I mean, it's just awful, we can also see that they've been banned from parks, they've been banged -- banned from
public hammams. And these hammams are centuries old. They are traditional. It's the one place only women can go. I mean, they're women only hammams.
Tell me more about the, sort of, wider set of restrictions on women and how it is affecting those people that you and your, you know, that your staff
DAVIDIAN: Before this interview, we asked some of the women that we work with. What do you want the world to know now about what is happening to
women and girls inside of Afghanistan. And one of the responses that we got, I think, really summarizes the situation. And she said, dear world, we
can't breathe. Please do not let us suffocate.
I traveled the country -- I travel across Afghanistan and everywhere I go I meet with women.
And women tell me what has been already said in your program that they feel that they have been erased. And the continuous restrictions, including most
recently on women not being able to go to public baths and parks and gyms, I mean, these are public spaces where women were able to access community.
And this has really been impacting.
And so, now, the result of that is that women's voices, perspectives, and faces are becoming increasingly invisible in a climate, in an environment
where there is fear and uncertainty. And that visibility is becoming normalized.
AMANPOUR: I spoke to the most senior Taliban official. And a name deputy of the religious leader, the so-called emir in Kandahar. He is, obviously,
the minister of interior, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who told me that soon -- and this was in May, you will hear good news. That these girls will go back to
public high schools.
Again, as I have said, and you've said, and others have told me, this may never happen. Do you believe that all the statements, maybe they thought
they were real, the Taliban in Kabul, that this was going to be a new dawning and that they would not be Taliban 1.0. Do you think they are
heading back in terms of women's rights to, you know, the '90s?
DAVIDIAN: Suddenly some of the restrictions that we're seeing, and even now with the public punishments, it's a very chilling reminder of the
1990s. What Afghan women tell us, and what's critical is that we assess the Taliban not by their announcements, but by their actions. And this is
really critical going forward. That we hold them to account for what actually happens.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me a little bit about than then. What can and should the International Community do? It has already used the suppression and
repression of women in Afghanistan as a reason not to -- it's not recognized, the Taliban regime by the United Nations or the world. It's
under huge sanctions, restrictions by the central banks of the world to access to financial markets. What more do you think, from your perspective,
from a U.N. perspective, can the world do to help women?
DAVIDIAN: I think a number of things. I think, first of all, what's really critical is that we invest in women and girls. We invest in services for
women, jobs for women, we invest in women-led businesses, in women-led organizations, in women leaders that we really put resources behind women
I think the second thing is that we need to ensure that the priorities and the needs of Afghan women themselves inform a decision-making on
Afghanistan. We know Afghan women as a group more often talked about than heard from directly, and this needs to change. We need to also make sure
that women participate in any stakeholder decision-making in Afghanistan. There's a lot that we can't control. But we can control who we send to
meetings and who meets with the Taliban.
And finally, we need to really be advocating for the full spectrum of women's rights. Educated is critical. There's no future without education.
It's one of the most powerful equalizers on the road to gender equality. But what Afghan women tell me, is what happens after my daughter is
educated. What other opportunities for her to go to work and to be able to access public life? And so, the urgency of returning to the full spectrum
of rights is really critical and we cannot lose sight of that broader advocacy.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, what you are saying, the fact that the Taliban's takeover has led to a 28 percent decrease in women's employment, that's
according to the U.N. which obviously affects the, you know, the general economic well-being of the country. We also now hear from the U.N. that
growing numbers of Afghan women are being essentially forced by circumstance to take part in the opiate trade. Tell me about that. How is
DAVIDIAN: So, one of the consistent messages that I hear from Afghan women as I travel the country is a real collective mourning over the loss of
livelihoods and over the loss in their identity and dignity that comes from working.
And so many restrictions on women being able leave the home and to access formal labor market and even the informal labor market. So, women are just
turning to whatever opportunities are available. And what is -- one of the greatest challenges is that there's no plan or pathway in place for women
to be able to fully return to work. And that's where a real sense of loss and loss of hope come from.
AMANPOUR: And yet we understand that still in some ministries, for instance, the interior ministry -- at least, in my last call to
Afghanistan, that women were still working for the Haqqani ministry. I just wonder, and in other aspects of work, I wonder whether you've noticed, like
we saw in the 1990s, whether there are underground schools, whether somehow high school girls are still getting educated.
DAVIDIAN: The resilience of Afghan women is something that constantly humbled by. Even as the space is shrinking, Afghan women are not giving up.
Everywhere I go, they told me they will not give up on their right to live free in equal lives. So, yes, we are seeing that women teachers are
transforming their homes into schools.
But that outside of a nationwide policy that allows girls to go back to high school will always be ad hoc and not sustainable. But we are seeing
women continuing to run businesses, to create new civil society organizations, continuing to go to work to provide health and protection
services. And this is where we really need to be supporting and investing in these women.
AMANPOUR: Well, Alison Davidian of U.N. Women in Afghanistan, thank you for joining us to raise awareness as what you say and what the Afghan women
say, the slow suffocation and erasure from the public sphere. It is just appalling. Thank you.
And turning next to New York City where the mayor has now asked the police and fire departments to enforce a state law to intervene and possibly
commit someone involuntarily if they're deemed to be suffering from a mental health crisis.
Laura Kavanagh as the city's new fire department commissioner. First woman in the role and the youngest to serve in over a century. Michel Martin
joined the commissioner to discuss her historic appointment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thank, Christiane. Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, thank you so much for talking with us today.
LAURA KAVANAGH, FDNY COMMISSIONER: Thank you for having me
MARTIN: It's -- I -- it's one of those things that little boys, you know, grow up thinking they are going to be a firefighter. You know, they get the
little red hat, you know, in Halloween. It's a classic little boy costume for Halloween. So, I don't know that too many little girls have been
encouraged to grow up and think they are going to be firefighters, let alone fire commissioners. So, do you mind if I ask you, what did you want
to be when you growing up?
KAVANAGH: Oh. Well, I mean, similar to what you just mentioned, I actually put in a bit -- envisioned this as a career for myself. So, I do think
that's changing. You know, I talked to a lot of young women and I find that what they envision for themselves in the future is far vaster than I
envisioned. And that gives me a lot of hope, right. It means, within a generation, the idea of what people believe they can be someday is
changing. And that makes me really excited.
But, you know, I actually had a love for animals when I was younger. So, my career definitely didn't involve them at any point. But certainly, when I
was that age, you know, that was where my interest lie. But I would say there is a theme through my entire career which is that I did always want
to do something that I felt good about. And I've sort of followed that gut throughout my career. And the FDNY, when the opportunity came was an
obvious organization that I would feel good about working for because of what they do every day and how incredible it is.
MARTIN: So, you joined the FDNY in 2014 as the director of external affairs. What attracted you to that role? I mean, to that point, you had
been in the public service in a variety of different positions. But what attracted you to that role at that time?
KAVANAGH: It was -- you know, exactly what I just said that while it wasn't on where I expected to go on, sort of, my future list. When somebody
said, FDNY to me, I thought just deep down in my gut that has to be an important job. They do these incredible things every day. These, you know,
acts of bravery of bringing people back to life.
And I think that, you know, when you feel good about what you do at work, you know, you do enjoy your job. And so, when somebody said, FDNY to me, it
just seemed natural to me to take that leap even though it was something different because the organization does such good things. It's such a part
of New York City, too. You know, it's really a part of the DNA of this city and I love that.
MARTIN: And then -- just this, while you became New York City's first female commissioner in the department's 157-year history. You're at 40,
you're also one of the youngest commissioners. And this is the largest fire department in the country. And I just, you know, have to ask what has it
been like? I mean, obviously, you're taking on this role has attracted a great deal of attention. Just what's it been like?
KAVANAGH: Yes. So, the in -- you know, that part has been an adjustment. It's really incredible to think that I'm first. That I could inspire other
people to do the same. I think that does take a little bit of adjusting. But what I would say is that, you know, I feel such a -- I am so proud of
the idea that I could open the door for anyone else. I should also say lots of people opened the door for me.
You know, while I was the first, there are many other women who have come and have paved the way at the fire department in order to even allow this
to be possible. So, you know, when it comes to the work, I feel very confident.
You know, I've been at the fire department for a while. I know how to advocate for the needs of my members. You know, I have a good sense of what
should happen every day in order to lead the organization forward. But certainly, that attention, and being in the spotlight is -- you know, is a
little bit of an adjustment for me. But, like I said, if I can help somebody else think that this is possible for them then, you know, that
makes me feel really good about, kind of, the legacy I can leave behind. We open the door a little bit for everybody who comes after us.
MARTIN: Yet on the one hand, that I'm sure that your appointment is tremendously inspirational, you know, for some. But as I think, our first
black president, our first whoever, to - you know, a first female speaker of the house has found out and also sometimes attracts some not so exciting
things or some not so positive things. Sometimes it invites a backlash. I'm just curious if you've heard any of that so far?
KAVANAGH: You know, so, I'm -- you know, copying Commissioner Sewell, another first, our police commissioner, in saying that, you know, the light
is a little bit brighter and a little bit hotter when you're the first. But I think that I can handle it. So, I agree with you. You know, it can be
different to be the first and certainly there is a little more attention on you because of that. But I am OK with that, you know.
I think in order to get at this point in my career, I knew, you know, what might be great about this job, what might be a little difficult, and I
understood that going in as eyes wide open.
MARTIN: You didn't come up through the ranks as a firefighter. So, what skillset do you think is it that caused the mayor to appoint you to this
KAVANAGH: Yes, it's a fair question. I think, you know, one I had point out, there had been a number of civilian commissioners of this agency. So,
it's not as unusual as it may seem. But, you know, certainly being the first woman and being a civilian, people do ask that question. And what I
always say is that, you know, the fire department is the largest fire department in the country. It's almost the largest fire department in the
world. It's certainly, I think, the leader in the fire service.
We are in an enormous organization. There's 17,000 people. We have a $2.3 billion budget. And my role, and any commissioner's role is about running
the agency. We have men and women in the field who put out fires, who respond to medical emergencies, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, fire
marshals. They are doing, you know, the work of responding to emergencies. And that's their expertise and they do it well.
And that, you know, that is not my role. My role is to support them in helping them do that more safely. Making sure they have the equipment to do
it. And it's really leading a large organization into the future. And I think, you know, the mayor recognized that that's something I've been doing
my whole career. And I think, you know, many folks in city government, that is really where their expertise lies.
It's about, you know, having the decades of experience running large organizations and managing, you know, problem sets and navigating through
really difficult times like the pandemic. And, you know, that's where -- that's how I've always worked. So, to me, this is natural next step.
MARTIN: What are your priorities in this role? It's interesting that firefighting hasn't, sort of, been at the tip of spear in a way policing
has been in recent years. Would you agree? I mean, it's -- you know, firefighting is such a critical role but in the urban context, that's not
what we've really been talking about. I mean, we're talking -- we've been talking a lot about forest fires. We've been talking a lot about, you know,
But policing has really kind of been in the spotlight in recent years. So, what are your major challenges and what are your top priorities?
KAVANAGH: Yes, I think what's critical, you know, to note is that we're -- at a really important juncture, I think in our city's, you know, legacy
coming out of COVID and looking at what does the city look like for the next 10 years.
And that deeply affects and agency like ours. I think while certainly the firefighter running into a fire is the, you know, icon of the FDNY, really
we're an all hazards emergency response agency. And that can mean anything from putting out a fire to responding to a medical emergency, to responding
both of -- to both of those things in really unique circumstance, right. As we built taller buildings, we obviously have the subways that were
underground, we're 100 stories above.
There are all kinds of complex emergencies that the FDNY has the responsibility to respond to. And you know that's really where I us going
over the next 10 years. Those, you know, complexities of emergencies in the city only continue to grow. And that's really the mission I'm trying to
And, you know, that means giving our firefighter, EMTs, and paramedics new equipment to make sure they can do their jobs safely. It's putting
information into their hand which we do now via smartphones so that when they respond to a building, they can better understand what that building
looks like. What's the interior of that building like. What are some of the circumstances that might make doing their job more dangerous or more
Certainly, bringing in the diversity of the city into the ranks of the FDNY and then working more collaboratively with our communities to prevent fires
and medical emergencies. Those are all things I've worked on in my time here. And really, I'm passionate about expanding as I took over.
MARTIN: It is also the case that women in the fire service in some places have been subjected to some vicious harassment, it's just a fact. I mean,
there was a terrible story, I assume you're aware of it, in 2016 in a -- in what, has otherwise been a highly regarded fire service in the Virginia
area where a young firefighter woman took her own life. It was revealed that she had been subjected to, kind of, a vicious campaign of harassment
in her own house. And that other women firefighters came forward to say that they have been subjected to similar conduct.
And I wonder given that women firefighters are still so few, even in New York City, which is more diverse than most. Have you heard reports about
this? And if so, what does your -- what's your sense of how to address it?
KAVANAGH: Yes, it's something I think about a lot. And when I talk to members in the field, when I talk to our staff here, that is what I talk
about. You know, is that we need to be proactive in identifying the areas where we might not be needing that high-bar that I believe we generally
meet and should continually be the example for.
We really are the example for the fire service. And that's a huge responsibility. And I think we need to live up to it. So, you know, really
my call to our members is whether, you know, things are good in their firehouse, but maybe no somewhere else's that we all have a responsibility
to figure out how we're doing, how are all of the members in our firehouses being treated? How are they feeling about their jobs? And it's really our
responsibility to, you know, set the example for the fire service and change those circumstances wherever we may find them proactively and not
And I think that's, you know, something our members can really -- I -- when speak to firehouses about it, they really understand that and they agree.
You know, they love this department. They love the work they do. They feel great pride in it. And I think everybody wants to continue to feel that.
MARTIN: We've been talking a lot about gender but it is also the case that the racial and ethnic diversity of the department is not, in any way,
reflective of the city. I mean, I think, what -- you got, what? Eight percent of your firefighters are African American. I think, what, 14
percent are identified as Hispanic or Latino. Why is that? I mean it just seems odd in a city that as diverse as -- racially and ethnically diverse
as New York is.
KAVANAGH: The fire service, writ large, struggles with this issue. They've long been behind, you know, behind their other uniformed counterparts as
you pointed out in diversifying across race and gender. I think also what you pointed out is something that we found in our recruitment campaigns is
-- this job is so incredible. But there's not often much that's known about how you actually do it.
And so, what I found out in our recruitment campaigns, and those -- you know, those have begun to make great strides, I should point out. You know,
we've tripled the number of women since I came on the job. We have increased the number of black, Latino, and Asian candidates by 15 percent.
So, we've made a big leap. We just need to go much further.
And what I would say makes the biggest difference of all is actually just getting into communities and talking to people about the job. And what I
find is most people have not considered it. Most people didn't know whether or not it was a job that was available to them. And so, you know, I think
that we can, you know, actually look at the model of the fire department where people have gone into this job because other people in their
communities were in it and talked to them about. And we're really just trying to take that and replicate it throughout all the communities in New
And we do find that when we do that, you see big increases in diversity. Once people realize not only how great this job is, but that it is
available to them. It is not a job that you need a family member to recommend to you. It is a job anybody can apply for. We see huge increases
in people across all, you know, race and gender categories looking to be interested in doing this work.
MARTIN: Obviously, one of the major tragedies that affected this department was 9/11. I mean, we are more than 20 years on from 9/11, you
were a very young woman when that happened. But this department has lived with that for the last 20 years and I just wonder if you still feel that
the department is marked by that in what way?
KAVANAGH: Oh, I -- incredibly so. You know, 9/11 is very much present here every day. It does not feel like 21 years ago. Losing 343 people on one day
when it is -- it's so difficult when we lose one member. You know, to just even try to imagine how the department could go on from that, it is really
You know, I think it -- there's two things I'd say. Is one, part of the reason that 9/11 is very present in this department is not only because of
the tragedy of that day but also because we continue to lose members from World Trade Center Cancer on a pretty regular basis. And so, 9/11 is truly
still with us and will be with us for some time. It is still taking our members.
And it's something that we talk about a lot. We're talking about, you know, mental health aspect of dealing with that sort of loss. But I -- You know,
I also think that what is so incredible to me about the fire department is their ability to rebound from such an epic loss, you know? I think no one
would have blamed the fire department if they had not been able to respond to emergencies in the days and weeks after, and yet they did.
You know, they still staffed every ambulance. Every fire truck still went out the door. And so, it's really a testament, I think, to the resilience
of the organization which, you know, unfortunately has been learned through many losses. But it also, I think, is really become part of the fabric is
we do understand how to be there for one another. And I see a really powerful support and connection between our members that, I think, really
gets them through. And, you know, I think is really a lesson for all of us about how to come together more as a community during these tough times.
I think it's certainly a great lesson coming out of COVID where people feel very disconnected. They feel like they don't have a community. People don't
really feel that way in the fire department. I don't feel that way. This feels like a very close-knit community where when something tragic happens,
everybody shows up. And it's a great, you know, it's a great lesson and it's one, you know, forged out of the toughest of times.
MARTIN: And if you and I were to talk a year from now, two, five years from now, what kind of conversation do you hope we'll have? What do you
hope we'll be talking about?
KAVANAGH: I hope that we're talking about me having been able to lead -- leave a great organization a little bit better than I found it. You know, I
think I'm very conscience of the long history of this organization. And I understand that, you know, while it is a great thing, a historic thing for
me to be leading it right now, you know, we're all really just stewards of this agency.
It has been here for a long time. It will be here for a long time. And what I hope is that I can just leave it a little bit better than I found it.
That it's a little bit safer for our members. A little bit, you know, a little bit more innovation, more tools, more diversity that I can move
these things forward just a little bit and leave it in the hands of someone else who's great and hopefully another first.
MARTIN: And maybe more little girls will get those little plastic red fire hats that --
MARTIN: -- will be sporting those at Halloween, right?
MARTIN: Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, thank you so much for talking with us today.
KAVANAGH: Thank you. I appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In the meantime, women and young girls in Ukraine are certainly wearing those hats and helmets, certainly, on the battlefield.
So, finally, "In the Eye of The Storm", that's the name of a new exhibition featuring Ukrainian art from the early 20th century. It is now on display
in Madrid. 51 paintings were secretly packed into trucks out of Kyiv a few weeks ago amid Russia's heavy missile fire. The artworks showcase the
history of modernism in Ukraine and aimed to project and protect the nation's cultural heritage. After April 30th, the exhibition will leave
Madrid and move to Cologne in Germany.
The critical value of investing in women's rights, education, and health will be front and center at a conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. That's
going to be hosted by the former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And she will be our exclusive guest on the show tomorrow.
That is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast.
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