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Interview With Senator Chris Coons (D-DE); Interview With Kabul Education Center Manager Yalda Kohi; Interview With NPR's "Morning Edition" And "Up First" Host Leila Fadel; USC Gould School Of Law Orrin B. Evans Professor Elyn Saks. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 21, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
After 300 days of conflict, Ukraine's president takes his plea to Washington. I ask Democratic Senator, Chris Coons, what Zelenskyy's visit
can achieve as Kyiv continues to ask for more help to fend off Russia. Also ahead, despair as the Taliban banned women from universities in
Afghanistan. I speak to the manager of an education center in Kabul that has been forced to close. Then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: (Speaking in a foreign language).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Tunisia was once the bright spot of the Arab Spring. So, why is the country backsliding on its Democratic gains? NPR's Leila Fadel recently
traveled there and joins me live. And finally, we have --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELYN SAKS, ORRIN B. EVANS PROFESSOR AT USC GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW: We have to, you know, be thoughtful about how we approach people with mental health
disorders. But I would think that it's a good idea just to hospitalize everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Professor Elyn Saks give her takes on a controversial new mental health plan in New York, and shares her own struggle with schizophrenia.
SIDNER: Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner here in Los Angeles, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
A historic surprise visit, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is in the U.S. today on his first trip outside his homeland since Russia's
invasion nearly 10 months ago. He's meeting with President Biden and addressing Congress as lawmakers prepare to vote on a spending bill that
includes billions of dollars for Ukraine, and NATO allies. President Biden is also announcing another $1.8 billion in military aid, including the
Patriot air defense system, a long-standing request from Kyiv as Moscow continues to pound Ukrainian cities.
That route (ph) is one of them. And when Zelenskyy visited the front line there on Tuesday, a Ukrainian soldier handed him a flag assigned by his
troops to give to President Biden and Congress as a gift and as a reminder of the fight that is still raging there. The Ukrainian president's visit is
drawing parallels to British Prime Minister's, Winston Churchill's, visit to Washington 81 years ago just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He
became only the second foreign leader to speak before Congress at a critical time for the Transatlantic alliance.
Democratic Senator, Chris Coons, recently met with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv as part of a bipartisan Congressional delegation. And he is joining us
now for the program from Washington. Welcome Senator Coons.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thank you, Sara. Great to be on with you.
SIDNER: I want to first ask you about President Zelenskyy's visit to Washington. This is a very dangerous trip for him to take, in particular.
Just leaving the country can be extremely nerve-racking. Why do you think that he decided to leave Ukraine for the first time now and travel there to
COONS: I think this is an important opportunity for President Zelenskyy to speak to the American people. He's meeting with our president, with
President Biden, this afternoon, and he is speaking to the American Congress tonight.
But who he's really speaking to, through our representatives, through Congress and our president, is the American people. To thank us for another
$45 billion in assistance that we will be appropriating in the end of year Appropriations Bill that we will hopefully pass tonight or tomorrow. He's
thanking President Biden for, what I believe, will be the commitment of new state-of-the-art, sophisticated air defense systems. And he's going to
remind us that the fight is far from over.
Look, President Biden is just reaching the conclusion of what has been a remarkable first two years. Great legislation signed into law, nearly 100
federal judges confirmed, bipartisan successes. But I think where President Biden has been most successful on the world stage, is pulling together our
European allies, our global allies, in support of Ukraine's fight against Russian aggression and occupation.
So, I think it's timely. I think it's important. I recognize it's risky, but I am grateful that President Zelenskyy will be addressing us in person,
here in the United States Capitol, tonight.
SIDNER: Senator Coons, you just mentioned the amount of money, $45 billion for Ukraine in the omnibus bill. Do you believe that America should be
giving that amount of money in a time when the economy is, sort of, iffy. We're not sure where it's going to go. But there is a lot of concern, and
it means a lot of money, a lot of weapons going to Ukraine from, basically, the American taxpayer. Do you think it's the right thing to do as this
COONS: Yes, absolutely. Whether or not Ukraine wins, whether they are successful in repelling the Russian invasion, is going to set the stage for
this century. The Appropriations Bill that we are debating on the floor right now, that will vote on tonight or tomorrow, is going to spend more
than $800 billion in the coming year on our defense.
And frankly, nothing is more critical for our defense now than whether the west, whether our allies in Europe, whether the United States and our other
allies from around the world, successfully support to Ukraine. The Ukrainians are doing the fighting and dying. They're not asking for a
single American to go and fight on the front lines against the Russian invaders and occupiers of their country. They are asking for economic
support, humanitarian support, and military support. And there has been a broad and sustained bipartisan support for that because members of the
Senate of both parties recognize how urgent this is to pushback Vladimir Putin's aggression and invasion.
They first invaded and occupied Crimea and the Donbas region in 2014. And the Ukrainians have been fighting this fight for eight years. But this
year, the Russians sent over 100,000 troops and tried to overrun the capitol to capture and kill Zelenskyy, to knock out his military, and to
This is a colonial war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, and one where the outcome is critical, not just for the United States, not just for
the region, but for the world. And for whether or not autocracies are, again, going to be able to simply rule their region of the world through
violence and aggression. So, I think this is an investment well worth making.
One last point if I might, Sara.
COONS: Whether or not Vladimir Putin assesses that he can win, that he can renew his aggression and possibly overtake Ukraine, will depend on how
reliable he thinks their support is. If we appropriate the significant amount of money tonight, it will be available to President Biden to give to
Ukraine over the coming years. And some of the questions coming back and forth about whether or not there will be Republican support in the House in
the coming Congress will recede. And Vladimir Putin will know that he is facing a well-armed, well-supported and determined opposition in Ukraine.
SIDNER: Yes, you certainly are sending -- would send a message to Russia and to President Putin. I know that you visited Kyiv a few weeks ago. I had
also been in there in 2014, and again after this unprovoked invasion. And there is a lot of heart, and a lot of fight in the Ukrainian population.
But you had the chance to sit down, and meet with President Zelenskyy then. Can you give me a sense of what your takeaway was from him as a leader, but
also on a personal level.
COONS: Look, going in to visit President Zelenskyy in person, in Kyiv, as a Republican Senator Rob Portman and I did, in the first week of November
is a remarkable experience. It is a reminder that Vladimir Putin wants to kill no one in the world more than he wants to harm President Zelenskyy.
You go into his offices through a byzantine series of barriers and barbed wire. You're searched and examined several times. You go through long dark
tunnels underground, and find your way to his offices in a path that I could not retrace if I wanted to.
The security around him is intense. He and his family have chosen, bravely to stay in Kyiv and fight. I'm sure you remember, but I hope your audience
remembers, that in the very first days of the Russian invasion, the United States reached out to President Zelenskyy saying that we thought Kyiv might
fall in a matter of days.
COONS: And we offered him a ride out of Ukraine. He said, I don't need a ride, I need more ammunition. And he is determined to show, in his person
and by the risks that he's taken, as he did just earlier this week by going to the very front line, to the town of Bakhmut where there is better
fighting in the Eastern Donbas.
His courage, was reflected in our visit. in our conversation. He was upbeat. He was optimistic. He was grateful for America support.
And for the Liberty Medal that Senator Portman and I delivered from the National Constitution Center.
SIDNER: I want to talk to you about someone who is extremely divisive. And I know you've -- we've all heard some pretty wacky things coming from her.
But Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, called President Zelenskyy's Americas a shadow president, and there are some Republicans who seem to
feel the same way.
She said, of course, the shadow president has to come to Congress and explain why he needs billions of Americas taxpayer dollars for the 51st
state. Ukraine. This is absurd. Put America first. How do you respond to that?
COONS: Well, I don't spend a lot of my time responding to the most extreme voices in American politics. I invest most of my time in working across the
aisle with serious legislators who want to contribute to moving our country forward.
Obviously, President Zelenskyy is not our shadow president. He is a brave and the determined leader of a free and democratic Ukraine. Pushing back
against aggression by Russia. And our duly elected president, Joe Biden, who is finishing up a great first two years as president, is inviting,
welcoming, and meeting with President Zelenskyy.
This is what democracies do. They support each other. And I can think of no accomplishment of President Biden in which I'm prouder on the world stage
than his leadership in supporting President Zelenskyy, and the brave Ukrainians who are fighting and dying on the battlefield. They are
literally on the front lines of freedom, globally.
SIDNER: Senator Coons, I want to move to another region. I would like to move to Afghanistan and what is happening there. When the Taliban first
came in, the Taliban first took over Afghanistan and Kabul fell, they said that they were kinder and gentler. That was the idea version of themselves.
But Afghans, Taliban leaders now say that they are banning woman from university education. Can you give me a sense of what you think the Taliban
is a really about? Do you think that they are trying to do things differently, or is this the same old Taliban that crushed women's rights
back many decades ago?
COONS: Well, Sara, anytime you talk about a government or a movement or an organization, it's important to recognize there's always factions. There
were some Taliban leaders who had been negotiating in the Gulf, the Persian Gulf, who are outside of Afghanistan. Who were trying to present a more
moderate face to the world. And then there were the hard-eyed commanders on the ground who are carrying out atrocities.
So as soon as the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan, we saw both of those factions. The government leadership of the Taliban announced that
there would be no retribution. That they would try and reconcile with those who had been fighting alongside the Americans, but within a matter of
hours, others, local Taliban commanders, were hunting down, and in some cases killing those are very Afghans who had stood shoulder to shoulder
with us in our 20-year fight in Afghanistan.
That's why I think it is so important for us to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. Something Senator Klobuchar, Senator Graham and I will be joining a
bipartisan group of senators in talking about later here today on the floor of the Senate. We have heard from veterans from all over the United States
who want to make sure that the more than 70,000 Afghans who fled the Taliban, have legal status here in the United States.
That's because, I think, it's the same old Taliban, I think once they've worked out their differences, their sort of brutal corps, their repressive
view of women, and their determination to exact revenge against those who worked with us in their war in Afghanistan, has come to the floor. And
that's why I think it's more important than ever that we vet every single Afghan who's come to the United States and give them a legal status here so
they can begin to move forward with their lives here in the United States.
SIDNER: They've have been through so, so much. Decades of war there in Afghanistan. Senator Coons, I want to lastly ask you about an editorial
that you wrote. We know that President Biden met with African nations this past week, talking about development aid to Africa.
You run an editorial in "The Huffington Post" together with Prince Harry, and a former Ethiopian prime minister, calling for a better path forward
for global, environmental aid. And you proposed a conservation effort in Africa that is globally funded but locally led. Let me ask you about your
idea. What does it mean -- in your estimation, what does that better path forward look like?
COONS: The better path forward for conservation that is African-led puts human development at the forefront of conservation. If none Africans come
to the continent and try to pour money into preserving or sustaining wildlife and national parks --
-- and they ignore the legitimate need of indigenous communities, they will not be successful. I've seen this play out over the last dozen years. My
first four years here in the Senate, I chaired the Africa subcommittee.\
I was an undergraduate student for a semester at the University of Nairobi decades ago. And I've had the blessing, the opportunity, to see African-led
solutions where heads of states, conservation leaders, communities, find ways to promote the health and development, and vibrancy of human
communities that surround national parks and find a way in harmony that everyone can win. That we can preserve the biodiversity of some of the most
majestic places on our planet, and have human communities as stewards of these wild places benefit from the preservation of these wild spaces.
It's also the most important thing we can do in the global fight for climate change. If we lose a place, for example, like the Congo River
Basin, which is one of the most important tropical rainforests on the planet, it's irreplaceable. But the people of the Congo also have to have a
path forward for their own thriving and their own sustainability.
I went to Mozambique and to Rwanda in August with Prince Harry, with a wide range of folks from Congress, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate,
to look at two great examples. And I'm trying to move legislation here in the Senate with Senator Graham, and a bipartisan group in the House and
Senate, that would create a public-private partnership that would follow up on the results of an African-led summit that happened in Rwanda this
summer. Calling for exactly this, sort of, outside partnership with African-led conservation.
SIDNER: We will be looking for that and paying attention. Senator Coons, I always appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas
and your insights with us.
COONS: Thank you, Sara.
SIDNER: All right, let's go ahead and focus more now on Afghanistan where, as we've said, the Taliban has suspended university education for all
female students. This video, shows protest in front of one university in Jalalabad. The suspension is the latest up in the Taliban's brutal clamp
down on the rights and freedoms of Afghan woman.
Girls are already barred from secondary school. The White House has called this latest moved, "Indefensible and deplorable". Here's one female student
reacting to the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYANAT HASTI, AFGHAN STUDENT (through translator): My classmates informed me of about us being banned from universities. I cried a lot. I had all of
my study materials, but I couldn't study. All of us were awake until morning, and we didn't sleep at all. When the sun rose, we thought there is
no life for women in Afghanistan anymore since they've closed all the routes towards success for women. When the doors of schools and
universities are closed for the woman who are half the society, it means the process of human evolution and development is paralyzed in a society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Yalda Kohi is the manager of an education center in Kabul which has been forced to close. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak
YALDA KOHI, RUNS EDUCATIONAL CENTER IN AFGHANISTAN: Thank you so much.
SIDNER: First of all, can you tell me, you were forced to close, tell me how you, as an Afghan woman trying to educate other Afghan woman -- women
are feeling at this very moment.
KOHI: Thank you so much. It can be said that the situation of girls and women in Afghanistan is worse than it's said or it can be said in words or
in sentences. We can truly say that once again, Taliban showed their hostility against women and against girls' education in Afghanistan by
announcing a new rule of banning the schools -- sorry, universities.
Even last evening that they announced the rule for banning the universities. We just think that it's just about universities, we do not
think that all the private centers are, of course -- are also included in this rule. But to -- this morning, we're faced with an uncertain thing that
we didn't even think about it. They asked all the centers to close, and you have to close. In some have places, even they just behave in a very bad way
with this (INAUDIBLE) with girls.
We can truly say that whatever they ask, or whatever they do, it's not -- it doesn't have any base in our religion, even in our culture. But it is
just rise from a very small group of ideology people that they just wanted to put their ideology on -- majoralize (ph) it and to just put it for other
We do not know, actually, that -- why they have this kind of behavior with the girls or women. Everything that they have in their policies is just --
belong to women and girls. What the women and girls should do it and what should do not do it. They do not have anything else for other people, for
SIDNER: Yalda, can I ask you about the girls who you were teaching and the girls in the country who you have met because you run -- or ran an
educational center up until it was closed by the Taliban today. Can you tell me what the girls are saying to you and how they're feeling about all
KOHI: Whatever they feel right now, we cannot explain it. They were all -- they were -- all of them were just really sad. Once again, they just lost
their hopes. Once again, they have lost their dreams about their future. Every one of them were crying and saying that, what is our sin? Why we are
not allowed to study? And what we should do in the future? Even their families, their mothers were crying.
Everyone were just, somehow, nervous and sad because of this. Because it was just an unexpected thing that will happen. It was just the same the
first day that the Taliban took over the country, everyone were really sad and nervous and everyone wanted to just reach (ph) themselves in a very
Today, once again, we experience the same situation by closing the doors. Everyone were -- we just wake up with a very big dream but we face with
something that's -- it's just something trouble. It's something -- it's really horrible for girls and women.
SIDNER: Yalda, Yalda we're looking at pictures of Afghan women. And I remember being there, and the one thing that I heard over and over and over
again from women was, I am afraid that when the troops pull out, when -- you know, NATO and the United States pull out, that we will be left to fend
for ourselves, and it usually has not gone well because if the Taliban takes over. But the Taliban, this time, made many promises saying that it
would protect the rights of women and girls. Do you feel betrayed by them?
KOHI: Unfortunately, that they will -- whatever they promised, they are not doing that. This time, I think, it is my idea that this time Taliban
just systematically want to remove all the women and girls from the society. It is just the main difference from them that's 20 years ago, they
just do it in a one time. But right now, they're systematically do it.
I don't know which kind of policies they are following. But whatever they do it, it's just like that. They wanted to show that woman or girls are
their -- men and on the issue of their policies, their plan. And they just come in Afghanistan in order to put or make rules for women and girls,
which a country needs more than of this.
In this case, we are not -- we do not believe on them that what they -- right now, what they said or what they do is just totally different. In
this case, we are not just trust on them and we wanted to just continue our ways. We want to find a way for ourselves, for our girls, for a daughters -
SIDNER: Yalda --
KOHI: -- for our --
SIDNER: -- Yalda, you are saying it's not about religion, it's not about the way that most Afghan people feel, but this is the Taliban basically
breaking its promises to the women and girls. And frankly, the families of the country. I thank you so much for your bravery in being here, and for
educating girls the best way you can there in Afghanistan. We appreciate your time, Yalda.
KOHI: Thank you.
KOHI: Thank you.
SIDNER: Next, it lit a fire that spread across an entire region. Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring back in 2011, fueled by a hunger for
freedom, economic opportunity, and dignity. Tunisians toppled President Ben Ali who had ruled for two decades.
The spark at the heart of that revolution was a defined act of self- immolation from a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi.
Now, a symbol of hope for many. I traveled to Tunisian 2015 and met with his family to take the pulse of a country in transition at that time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER (voiceover): Laid to rest in a simple grave, grid, Mohamed Bouazizi could never have imagined the impact his final act of desperation would
have on his country and the world. The street vendor never thought he would start a revolution. It began after he set himself on fire outside this
government building in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. It was an act of hopelessness, a government inspector had seized his fruit cart.
He was trying to work with his cart to avoid having to steal for his family. He was trying to work with dignity, but they didn't let him.
Bouazizi's aunt tells us.
Protests erupted over his plight under the Tunisian dictator's reign. The people were fed up with their government. Their frustration spread from his
small town to the capital and eventually across the Arab world. The Arab Spring, had begun.
SIDNER (on camera): Four years later, a different Tunisia has emerged. It has its very first democratically elected government. And the people are
enjoying a freedom of expression they've never had before. But all is not well, even Bouazizi's family laments the peoples' needs are not being met.
SIDNER (voiceover): We didn't even benefit, in fact, we paid for it, she says. There is no health insurance for the poor, no jobs, even family
members with a university degree, they can't get work, Radhia Bouazizi says.
From the village fruit stalls, to the country's richest tourist spot, life is hard. Inside this 500-year-old home that sells Tunisian wears, there is
no one to sell to.
SIDNER (on camera): So, where are all the tourists, because we're the only ones here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome in Tunisia. No tourists.
SIDNER: No tourists.
SIDNER (voiceover): This shopkeeper Belhassen Al Arabi says, usually his store is bustling with chatty tourists year-round. Now, silence.
Outside, the sound of wind permeates the narrow streets, not people's voices. As it happened, the initial power vacuum of the revolution allowed
terrorists to gain a foothold. In an effort to destabilize the country, they began attacking tourism, one of its biggest industries.
Terrorism is the first problem, and a lack of security. This is what is scaring everyone the most. As a Tunisian, I am scared.
But in Mohamed Bouazizi's hometown, it's joblessness that still plagues the people. Unemployment is higher post revolution. Since the revolt, a huge
banner hangs with an image of a man who started it all, and a symbol of justice. His cart, enshrined in concrete. But so far, the outcome of the
revolution has not yet been fruitful for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER (on camera): That was seven years ago in 2015. So, how much has changed in Tunisia since then? Journalist Leila Fadel has just returned
from there. She is a host of "Morning Edition" on NPR, in the United States, and she joins me now from Washington.
Thank you so much for joining.
LEILA FADEL, HOST, NPR'S "MORNING EDITION" AND HOST, NPR'S "UP FIRST": Thanks for having me, Sara.
SIDNER: So, let's talk about what's happening now. I mean, Tunisia had -- they won a Nobel Peace Prize for going towards a more democratic country.
Over the decade since the toppling of the old regime, do Tunisians have the work, freedom, and dignity that the revolution was all about?
FADEL: You know, Sara, I sat on the outskirts Sidi Bouzid, that same city that you visited in 2015, and those questions have only gotten bigger.
Unemployment is -- has grown since 2015. People don't have jobs.
And I sat with the young man who tries to help other people find employment. And I asked him, the theme of the revolution was work, dignity,
freedom. Do you have work? Do you have dignity? Do you have freedom? And the answer to all three was no. Because since 2015, capitalizing on this
unhappiness with the fact that life has gotten harder. There are milk shortages. There are food shortages because of the war Ukraine, because of
what happened with the pandemic.
Kais Saied, the current president of Tunisia came to power by a landslide. Promising to get through -- get -- stop corruption. And he used that
opportunity to hijack the democratic process. And he disbanded the parliament to a lot of popularity, actually, because people were frustrated
with the political class. And then he proceeded to start jailing his opponent. So, the only gain of that revolution, freedom of expression.
Democratic institutions are now in jeopardy.
SIDNER: This is where the, sort of, birthplace, as we mentioned, of the Arab Spring was.
SIDNER: And, you know, now you fast forward to where we are now, it was really the beacon of Arab democracy.
But then, this weekend, there was a vote, and just 11 percent of illegible voters went to vote for the parliamentary elections. How did we get to this
place? Is it simply that people don't trust the process?
FADEL: Well, I think two things are happening, right. So, people have lost faith in the political process. So many people I spoke to who wouldn't
consider themselves politically active, they're just trying to feed their kids, have a nice life. They say that this process hasn't really brought
them much, except maybe the freedom of expression to complain to me. And now, even that's in jeopardy, as I mentioned.
And so, there was an effort to fully boycott the process so that this president didn't have legitimacy to what he's done in the past year and a
half since he disbanded the parliament. You know, firing judges, firing government ministers, and installing his own government.
But also, there's a general malaise. Why participate in a process that has not made my life better? Because the story goes that Mohamed Bouazizi, when
he set himself on fire, when he doused himself in gasoline, he asked, how do you expect me to make a living? And that is the question of so many
young people in Tunisia still, in 2022. And the question is much more serious today.
SIDNER: You know, you talked about the president, Kais Saied, and you know, we've heard from young men in Tunis, in particular, and you mentioned
Bouazizi. This is a 37-year-old young man we're about to hear from. He's unemployed and he's frustrated, as you -- as anyone would be. But here's
what he said about the election results and President Saied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMDI BELGACEM, UNEMPLOYED (through translator): The people are frustrated because of the economic situation and the high cost of living. I personally
participated in the day of 25, July 2021 and in the demonstrations of 13 and 14 January 2011. He promised investments, and he did not keep his
promises. He promised us to fight corruption, and he didn't do it. He promised us to clean up the judiciary, and he didn't. He promised a lot of
things and he didn't keep them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Basically, all of the promises not kept, according to his opinion. And he's beside himself with frustration. In the end, do you see this as
President Saied, at this point, failing?
FADEL: You know, I think the turnout, like you said, 11 percent, there's no question that Tunisians are sending a message to their president that
they don't have faith in him and his process. I think that's definitely true. But this crisis is not his alone. For over a decade, the political
class, according to the Tunisians I spoke to, people felt that they were failing them.
And so, right now, the question is where do you go from here? I think a lot of opponents to President Kais Saied are very happy that this turnout was
so low because it says, we do not accept the end of the democratic process. The gains of this revolution. But something does need to change. Life is so
hard that people are getting on boats and dying at sea trying to get somewhere else because they don't see a future in their country.
SIDNER: I want to talk to you about that because I know you've written about this as well.
SIDNER: The International Organization for Immigration has tracked a sharp increase in the number of Tunisians who are making that dangerous trip
crossing into Italy since 2020. The numbers are really growing quickly. And you reported on "A Museum of the Memory of Sea and Man in Tunisia". Can you
tell me about that and tell me what your biggest concerns are for what you see now that's happening with people migrating?
FADEL: Yes. So, we spent time in Zarzis in Southeast Tunisia, which is one of the places that people leave to try to cross the Mediterranean illegally
to get to Europe for a better future. And in speaking to fishermen, who, in some cases are involved in that smuggling and in some cases are the
witnesses who save people at sea. They said they've seen, as the IOM has reported, that now it's not just people from other parts of the continent,
but Tunisians. And not just young men, but families, young children at times. A lot of the times they are by themselves trying to get across the
Mediterranean to somewhere else.
And this museum was a man who really started collecting stuff as an ecological action. He wanted to clean up the shores. And in 1995, he
started finding peoples' things. Little slippers, a jacket, and he saw it as a collection of the memory of the sea, the footprints of suffering as he
And in those 30 years, he's seen more, and more shoes, and items of clothing show up. And he has this installation now, with all of the shoes
he's found over decades, including one just in September that was likely from a sinking ship, where 18 Tunisians were killed. And he says, he has
books scattered throughout those shoes as a statement on the fact that not just the poor are leaving, but the intellectuals. It's crossing from the
poorest to wealthiest. Trying to leave Tunisia for a better future. And that is the statement he's making today.
SIDNER: What a crushing and poetic idea. The footprints of suffering.
SIDNER: And seeing those little slippers really jars you. Can I just lastly just ask you, if you have hope for the future of Tunisia and the
Tunisian people who are going through this?
FADEL: You know, in my reporting, the things that struck me is, all these laws had passed which people could go to jail for speaking to me and
criticizing this president, and yet they did. Because they are unwilling to accept a regression on that freedom. And so, most of the people I spoke to,
still had hope that there is a better future. They're just tired of waiting. They're tired of waiting and they want to know when they will have
the gains of the revolution.
SIDNER: Leila Fadel, thank you so much for bringing the story. I adore Sidi Bouzid and Tunis and many parts of Tunisia and the people there. So,
here's hoping that they have a better future. I appreciate you coming on the program.
FADEL: Thank you for having me.
SIDNER: Now, we turn to a woman who has dedicated her career to how people with mental illnesses are cared for. Professor Elyn Saks, focuses on the
important ethical issues surrounding their treatment. And here, she is speaking to Michel Martin about her own struggles with schizophrenia, and
how to best help others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Professor Elyn Saks, thank you so much for joining us.
ELYN SAKS, ORRIN B. EVANS PROFESSOR AT USC GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW: I'm really delighted to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me, such an important
MARTIN: It is. And I'm so glad we had a chance to talk with you, because you occupy such a special place in conversations about this issue.
MARTIN: Because you are a distinguished scholar.
MARTIN: You've done a very important work, but you have also lived, for many years, with a diagnosis of a serious illness. So, do you mind if I
just start with your story? How did the science of mental illness first manifest in your life.
SAKS: When I was a senior in high school, I read Sylvia Plath's "Bell Jar" and it sort of spoke to me as it does to many teenage girls. So, one day I
just got up in the middle school and started walking home, it was about three miles away. And something strange happened, which I started noticing
that the shapes and sounds, and so on of everything around me were really different and scary. And I was hearing things, saying, you know, you are
special. You are especially bad, you know. Do this. Do that. And I -- you know, I was extremely frightened.
MARTIN: You've been diagnosed with -- living with schizophrenia. Just as briefly as you, because I just think there are so many mythologies around
this, like, what is it?
SAKS: So many mythologies. So, a lot of people think because it's schizophrenia, that it's a multiple personality disorder. But it decidedly
is not personality disorder. It's a different category of illness. MPD is a dissociative disorder and schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. So,
they're completely different things that people might have.
A lot of confusion about, you know, how dangerous people are and how they're able to take care of themselves. The stats on dangerousness are
very much, don't show the people of mental health disorders are dangerous. They're rather victims, more likely, than victimizers.
MELVIN: How does it generally manifest in people?
SAKS: Basically, people have what are called positive symptoms, which means things like hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech. Negative
symptoms are things like apathy and withdrawal and inability to work or connect with people. So, I often have the symptom that I tell hundreds of
thousands of people with my thoughts.
MARTIN: Oh, that sounds hard.
SAKS: It's very hard. It's very hard.
MELVIN: Yes. Uh-huh.
SAKS: I've also had hallucinations, rarely, where I would see a man with a raised knife standing in front of me, or a woman at the foot of my bed at
night. So, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech. So, people have something called word salad where they put together words that seem like
they have a connection, but they don't really.
MARTIN: And can you cure these illnesses, or is it -- at the current moment, is it only that they can be generally controlled?
SAKS: So, we have medications and therapies that can help people put a good life for themselves together. But, you know, it's very unlikely that
anyone would ever -- be able to get off medication and do OK.
MARTIN: If you are in the throes of say, a psychotic episode, right?
MARTIN: Do you know something's wrong yourself?
SAKS: Yes, it's not uniform. I think probably about 50 percent of people understand what's going on and make decisions about treatment and so on.
And then another 50 percent say, nothing wrong with me. This is just who I am.
MARTIN: You've been hospitalized many times. What happens when your hospitalized?
SAKS: You know, I have been hospitalized many times, but the last time was like in 1986 -- '83. And when I broke down at Yale Law School, I was put in
a, you know, Yale New Haven Hospital Psychiatry Department.
MELVIN: You were there in voluntarily?
SAKS: It was very painful and very toxic. I mean, I think they were afraid that I was like a flight risk, so they wouldn't let me go beyond a certain
point on the ward in case I would run. So, that was kind of hard. They restrained made a lot. So, the first two days, 20 hours a day, and the next
three weeks, five to 15 hours a day. And my chart had this notation which was, use restraints liberally, which I thought was pretty awful.
They restrained me long periods of time, and they even wouldn't let me go to group therapy because I would upset the other patients. You know, I was
really, I think, badly mistreated. I remember when I was in the E.R., they restrained me. There was a woman looking in the E.R. through the glass in
the door, and I was like, why is she looking at me? Am I a specimen? You know, a bug impaled on a pin, you know. It's just really, really awful.
And then also, one of my professors at the law school, I told them was going to do my student article on restraints. And I said, it must be very
demeaning and painful, but I have -- self-disclosing. And he said, oh, Elyn, you don't understand. These people are psychotic. They're different
from you and me. They experience restraints differently than we would. So, don't worry about them.
And I didn't have the courage, in that moment, to tell him, no, we're not that different. And the, you know, the effect of force --mechanical
restraint is very painful for people. I used to have nightmares every night about it.
MARTIN: Well, thank you for sharing that. I appreciated.
One of the reasons we called you -- well, the immediate reason we called you is that there is a new directive in New York to allow people in
protective services, you know police, fire, emergency, et cetera, to force hospitalization in certain cases. You know, New York is a big city. It's an
expensive city to live in. It's got a lot of people who are unhoused. So, people pay attention to the things that people in New York do in a lot of
So, I just wanted to ask, you know, what's your, kind of, top line response to that given your own experience and given your work where you've
extensively, kind of, studied and written about some of these issues?
SAKS: Yes, actually, the new mayor of L.A. noticed the New York situation and wants to do the same thing here, which I think is kind of a pretty good
idea, you know. I think the best idea is to, you know, get people to want care and not use force. It's a much more sustainable solution if someone
buys in themselves than if they're forced because the force stops, you have no intent of not to go back to the way things were. So, I think that is
kind of important.
MELVIN: You said that you are pro-psychiatry but anti-force. What does it mean to be pro-psychiatry but anti-force?
SAKS: What it means is that we should find ways to study how we can get people to want care versus having to use force to get them in care. And I
think that is really important and really good. And again, if you buy into the treatment, you're much likely to stay on it, so that's another reason.
MARTIN: The New York Mayor, Eric Adams, announcing this new policy, says that he thinks that people misunderstand or have, over the years, taken the
wrong approach to this problem. I am quoting here from his announcement.
MARTIN: He says that, "There is a common misunderstanding that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent, suicidal or
presenting a risk of imminent harm". His argument is that the standard is just too strict. That people who are not necessarily in imminent danger of
hurting themselves or others, that if they can't meet their basic human needs, that that should be the standard.
SAKS: You know --
MARTIN: What is your thinking about that?
SAKS: Yes, my impression is that that is already the standard. That if you're dangerous to self or others or gravely disabled, meaning you cannot
meet essential needs for food, clothing and shelter. Some jurisdictions say, can't meet requirements for medical care, then you are simply
I mean, you know, one question is why can we round up people with mental health challenges, who are homeless, and not just homeless people who don't
have mental health. And I think the answer, you know, if you are homeless mentally ill, you may not be able to live as well as a homeless person who
is not mentally ill.
It's also the case that we should be thinking about policing this context. Because a lot of times if police get involved, you know, the easiest thing
to do is to bring them to a mental hospital or a jail. And you don't have to really wait around or anything like that.
I think actually the police are doing better than people think that they are. So -- when I have my events on mental health and law, we always have a
table with police and sheriff. The police also ask me to come down to see them and then separately to see the sheriffs to talk about what I think is
the most effective, humane way to deal with someone who has a mental health challenge.
So, as an example, in the typical context without mental illness, police use a show of force and that kind of gets people to stand down. But for
people with mental health disorders, a show of force is just going to ratchet up the anxiety and make them more dangerous or whatever. So, we
have to, you know, be thoughtful about how we approach people with mental health disorders. But I don't think that it's a good idea just to
MARTIN: The impression that I get from you is that you don't object on its phase to requiring some people to involuntarily get psychiatric care and
even being hospitalized?
SAKS: I'm not an absolutist that says it's never permissible, it's a bad thing to do. I think there are cases where it's the right thing to do.
MARTIN: I do think that there is a concern that hospitalization will be abused. I mean the fact, is around the world, you know, psychiatric care
has been used to punish dissidents, has been used to just sort of kind of get people out of sight, and then nothing happens when they're out of
MELVIN: And then this becomes this vicious circle. But what are some circumstances in which you think that it could be beneficial?
SAKS: So, I think if someone is seriously mentally ill and unaware of that or doesn't believe it will and not willing to try treatment, even though
trying treatment is the most sensible thing to do. We just have to make a decision as a society of when do we make them get treatment? And I think
that's a, you know, a difficult and a hard, hard decision.
And it's, you know, it's not just -- well, let's just say, everybody who's homeless and has mental illness should be rounded up, that's kind of awful.
And if you look at the statistics, there is a lot of discrimination. So, most people who are involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals, at
least in L.A., are African Americans. And most people who are put in jail or prison are African Americans.
So, we're -- you know, we're not doing this in the right way. I do think, you know -- as I said, I think that some forced treatment is necessary and
important. It should be the minimal amount of force that you can do. So, you should work really hard to get the person to understand what is going
on and, you know, what their options are and what their assets are and stuff like that.
MARTIN: Talk, if you would a bit more, about something you raised earlier which is violence. I mean, you indicated that the number of incidents
actually of violence actually committed by people with severe mental illness is relatively low.
MARTIN: But the ones that do occur are deeply frightening.
SAKS: Right, yes.
MARTIN: They are. I mean, it's the idea that, you know, you're just on the subway trying to go to your job and then somebody shoves you in front of a
moving train, because they hear -- they say they hear voices or somebody -- you hear voices telling you to do it. And how should we think about this?
SAKS: I think as a society, we've done a disservice to people who have serious, mental illness, suggesting that pushing people in front of a
subway or whatever is the norm, and that we really have to worry. And that's not true. I mean in terms of insanity, only one percent of people
have mental illness, and three quarters f that one percent are by agreement of the prosecution.
Many people think that psychiatric patients, schizophrenic people are extremely dangerous. They're going to commit violence, and then they're
going to be put in a hospital for the rest of their lives. So, that's, kind of, a misconception.
MARTIN: We often think about this in terms of this, kind of, binary conversation about rights.
MARTIN: This person has the right to not accept care.
MARTIN: Whereas other people say, I have the right to be in a peaceful environment. I'm guessing that maybe this rights conversation is not as
productive as it could be. Is there another way we could think about this?
SAKS: You know, the question is what do we do about people who are refusing care but could have a much better life if they accepted care? I
mean, rights may not be the right language. Maybe the language should be ability to make reasonable decisions. If they make decisions that we
disagree with, that is not a sufficient reason to hospitalize them. If they make decisions that indicate that they don't really know what's going on,
that's a different situation.
And I guess there is something called anosognosia which is people who don't have insight that they have a mental illness. And I think with
schizophrenia, it's supposed to be the case of about 50 percent of people have anosognosia. And that is one thing we need to talk about, you know. Is
that enough to force you to get care if you don't know that you need it?
MARTIN: If you could wave a wand and change one thing, what would it be about the way we talk about this issue or address this issue from a matter
of policy? What do you think that would be?
SAKS: Wave a wand to help people understand that the stigma is a real scourge, you know. People who have mental health challenges often don't get
help because they don't want to be identified. I mean, when I used to sit at our admissions committee many years ago, some students would self-
disclose in their application. And when I was in the admissions committee, half of the professors were like, and deans and so on, this person has gone
through a lot of luck -- a lot of stuff in life and they're -- they have come out the other end. How cool. We should give them a chance.
And at the other end are people who say, do we really want to borrow trouble if someone with mental illness decompensates (ph). It's going to
affect other students and the morale of the school. And when students who are applying for law school or medical school asked me, should they self-
disclose. I always give the pros and cons and let them decide. My real answer is if you don't have to, don't explain gaps in your resume, you
shouldn't. But I'm not going to say that because that just sends the wrong message, even if it's really true, you know.
MARTIN: Do you think these conversations are getting better?
SAKS: I think it's getting better because people are more willing to come forward and tell their stories, even if it could be risky. Actually, I had
a friend, she was a psychiatrist at UCLA. And when I told her I was going to write my memoir, she strongly urge me to do it under a pseudonym. She
said, you want to become known as the schizophrenic with a job?
And I thought, you know, that's not how I want to be known. But I think it just sends the wrong message that this is just too awful to say out loud,
to do it under a pseudonym. And in retrospect, she said I was right and she was wrong. So, that was kind of interesting. So, things may be changing.
MARTIN: Professor Elyn Saks, thank you so much for talking with us today.
SAKS: Thank you for inviting me to talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Incredibly insightful. It's so important to hear her perspective and learn how we can all help break the stigma around mental illness. So,
if you or anyone you know is in need of help in the United States, you can call or text 9-8-8 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It provides
And for anyone outside the United States, a worldwide directory of resources and international hotlines is provided by the International
Association for Suicide Prevention. You can also turn to the global organization, Befrienders, and of course, to your friends and family
wherever they might be.
And finally, on Peru's southern Pacific coast, 168 additional ancient designs have been discovered in and around the country's mysterious Nazca
Plain. Take a look at these extraordinary figures. Only visible from the sky. They have been carved into the desert and often represent humans and a
variety of animals. So cool. Over 2,000 years old. They could help scientists and visitors better understand pre-Columbian artwork and its
That is it for now for us. And if you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast, on your screen now is
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