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Interview With Chief Diplomatic Adviser To President Zelenskyy And Deputy Head Of The Office Of The President Of Ukraine Igor Zhovkva; Interview With Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi; Interview With International Civil Society Action Network Founder And CEO Sanam Naraghi Anderlini; Interview With "Free To Move" Author And George Mason University Law Professor Ilya Somin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 16, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You are cowardly silence, your attempt to wait out what is happening will only end
with the fact that one day these same terrorists will come for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Zelenskyy's message to the Russian people after one of the Kremlin's signal deadliest attacks on civilian targets so far. I speak
to his chief diplomatic adviser Igor Zhovkva. And Uber's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, of his much needed support to Ukraine. But as the company
does good, are its employees doing as well? Then, western governments condemn Iran's hanging, a dual national citizen, Alireza Akbari. Women's
rights advocates, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, joins me on whether the protest movement survives the draconian government crackdown. Also.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ILYA SOMIN, AUTHOR, "FREE TO MOVE" AND LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: We cannot let the best be the enemy of the good. That if for
political reasons, it is not possible to do everything at once, that does not mean we should not do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A revolutionary proposal to fix America's broken immigration system. From policy expert Ilya Somin.
Welcome to the program everyone. I am Christiane Amanpour in London.
A Russian missile strike in an apartment building in Dnipro has left at least 40 people dead, making it one of the deadliest single attacks of the
war. Ukraine's authorities report that it was cruised by a missile. The current wave of attacks on civilian targets comes at a make-or-break moment
in this long vicious war.
Despite earlier Russian claims a victory, Ukraine says there is continued fears and ongoing fighting for the Russian town of Soledar, near Bakhmut.
And Kyiv fears that Putin will find some excuse to try to reinvade from the north. The military warns that combat air drills that began today between
Russia and Belarus present a clear danger.
Meanwhile, more western allies, including Britain, France and Poland promised to send Kyiv tanks and other advanced weapons. But, is it
happening fast enough to help Ukraine defend itself against a feared Russian offense this spring?
Igor Zhovkva is a top aide to President Zelenskyy and he's chief diplomatic adviser and he's joining me now from Kyiv. Welcome to the program. As we
speak, Mr. Zhovkva, your rescue crews are still digging out that apartment building in Dnipro. Do you know the number of dead? Do you think it will go
IGOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE AND CHIEF DIPLOMATIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Unfortunately,
Christiane, we can predict that the number of deaths will go higher. As of now its 40. Already, official reported that and more than 70 wounded. But
almost 40, they're very bad, are not yet found. And right you are, rescue teams are working already for the third day after this tragic catastrophe.
And unfortunately, there is -- it could be even worse.
AMANPOUR: So, this was, according to your military analysis, a cruise missile sent from Russia. Do you expect that to be the norm? Do you expect
more of that against those kind of civilian and residential buildings? I mean, they've done and they continued to do infrastructure. But do you see
it moving now towards actual civilian residences and such?
ZHOVKVA: Unfortunately, it is moving that of way. I mean, being not able to access -- to had -- to achieve any success in the battlefield, they
started to ruin our energy infrastructure -- critical energy infrastructure starting from October thinking of -- to freeze us throughout the
wintertime. Now, we are in the middle of winter, they have no success in these goals, practically, because we managed to restore.
So now, they are moving their tactics into hitting directly the multistory buildings, the private households. Using this kind of missiles, right you
are, but very really next to impossible to intersect with the air defense system we are now in possession. Because had we had enough war
sophisticated western type air defense and anti-missile systems would be able to intersect more of them.
But having what we have is unfortunately the reality. So, that's why my president is tirelessly talking to world leaders. He practically started to
do it on the first day of the new year, starting having, like, more than 30 full conversations with the world leaders and now it's number one in those
conversations, weapons, weapons, and weapons.
AMANPOUR: What kind, specifically, of anti-missile defense do you need? Is it the Patriots? We know now that they are -- you know, Ukrainian teams are
being trained on them by the United States, they're coming to you. Would that make a difference in this particular case? This kind of missile?
ZHOVKVA: Absolutely, because Patriot system -- and by the way, our soldiers would -- they are really smart and quick and they will not --
don't need that lengthy training as we are told in the beginning. But right you are, the Patriot system is a medium-range system compared to short-
range system of some western countries who have already supplied to us, like Irish, like other types of systems, like Crotale for instance.
But this type of system, Patriot, is a medium-range system, being able to intersect the targets on a more lengthy distance. That's why in the case of
the missile you mentioned, this system would have intersected this type of missile. So, that's why we are really thankful for the U.S. and to some
other countries who already declared delivering such types of air defense systems. But definitely we need more --
ZHOVKVA: -- in order to at least defend each major city of Ukraine and each major energy infrastructure of -- in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: So, the British foreign secretary today told parliament -- actually, the defense secretary told parliament that a whole new level of
NATO and western aid needs to be given to Ukraine at this, sort of, make- or-break moment. You went very, very specific. It requires a new level of support, combat power which can only be achieved by combinations of main
battle tanks squadrons operating alongside divisional artillery groups and further deep precision fires, enabling targeting of Russian logistics and
command nodes at greater distance.
That is from Ben Wallace himself, a military man, formerly, now the defense. That's very detailed. You know they're saying that they need a
whole new battle formation. Are you getting -- is that what you need?
ZHOVKVA: Yes. Absolutely right. You know, to put it more simply, nothing that sophisticated manner as wonderful person, a really -- an expert, and
really a professional at this sphere as to what it's told. It's very simple, we need this triad of weapons. Apart from air defense system, which
we already talked to you about, this is an artillery system.
Not only artillery system themselves, definitely, or western artillery systems, but the ammunition to them. We badly need the ammunition because
we are running out of the ammunition for the soviet tabs (ph). And thirdly, its armored vehicles and tanks. And it's very important of (INAUDIBLE)
which the U.K. side has already made, some of our European partners has made about battle tanks.
But unfortunately, we still lack the courage from some countries to move this, you know, final decisive step. So, that's why we are counting on the
Ramstein meeting in the end of this week where more than 50 ministers of defense will get together, including the minister of defense of Ukraine,
and really count on the decisive steps and actions to be made during this meeting. Not to help Ukraine, not only to withstand the current attacks of
Russia, but to make a counterattack and counteroffensive immediately.
AMANPOUR: So, do you believe then -- I think you are calling out Germany, which has not yet taken a public decision like other European allies to
send its Leopard tanks, and also has not yet given official permission to other countries which have those same tanks to send them to you, even
though that they are willing to do so, such as Poland.
Do you believe this ministry of, you know, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, as you said, your own, others are going to be meeting. What do you think?
You're the diplomatic adviser. Do you have any, you know, any hint that Germany will come through like the other countries have?
ZHOVKVA: You know, tomorrow is a very important day, the anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Ukraine, so it's symbolic day,
just to mention. But right you are. I have a cautious optimism about the decision including on the country you mentioned to be taken this Friday
during the Ramstein meeting.
Because really we have a lot from Germany, and not only from Germany, but sometimes, you know, you need to make this very important decision to gain
ZHOVKVA: Like, remember it was happening with the air defense system. How someone has to be first and then you follow them. So, we would like Germany
to make this very important step.
AMANPOUR: It appears, and again you are the diplomatic adviser, that any idea of any negotiations or some kind of light at the end of the tunnel in
terms of a peace deal is just so far off, that's what it appears like. So, I want to ask you what you make of President Putin telling President
Erdogan of Turkey that it's all because, you know, western and NATO weapons, they're prolonging this. They've already blamed the Dnipro
building attack on a Ukrainian, you know, supplied missile defense system, saying that it was your missile defense systems that went into that
What do you make of Putin's conversation with Erdogan?
ZHOVKVA: You know, it's traditional false narrative. I mean, I can name you -- you might mention also this Russian narrative that this is Ukraine
who doesn't peace. Ukraine wants more. Imagine, Ukrainians who are dying, day by day, night by night, being wounded, and they don't want one to have
So, President Zelenskyy who is striving for peace, was talking about this from the first days who doesn't want peace? Who suggested a very simple way
out. 10 points peace formula. The president suggested it to many of the world leaders. And I haven't heard anything this peace formula from any
single world leader -- oh, except probably one, you just mentioned now, President Putin himself. He doesn't even want to talk about this.
Very simple formula with nine points being the points of depriving Russia of aggressive instruments, not only on the battlefield. Because depriving
all of us from food supply from Ukraine is also aggression. Making environmental disaster is also aggression, et cetera. Even the statute of
the U.N. is also an aggression. So, let's combine our efforts together, that's what my president tells to the world leaders. And that would
inevitably bring us to peace because any war, any victory ends up at the negotiation table.
AMANPOUR: Igor Zhovkva, chief diplomatic adviser, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
ZHOVKVA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, Uber is throwing its muscle behind Ukraine. The CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi is supporting efforts to help move food, medical supplies, and
refugees around the war-torn country. On Thursday, Khosrowshahi visited Kyiv to meet with government partners and with Uber employees who are
risking their lives to drive people to safety.
But at home, in the United States, the focus is less on Uber's humanitarian efforts and more on its labor practices after the company sued to block pay
hikes for its drivers in New York. Dara Khosrowshahi is now on his way to the world economic forum in Davos and he's joining me from Amsterdam.
Welcome back Mr. Khosrowshahi to the program. Let me first start with your visit to Kyiv. Talk about what motivated you to get Uber involved in that
kind of humanitarian space.
DARA KHOSROWSHAHI, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, UBER: We have been operating in Kyiv for some period of time and in Ukraine overall. And the team on the
ground has just done everything that they can to help. They started with transporting refugees, as you talked about. But then we started giving
doctors and teachers transportation to hospitals and schools, you know, transportation now is something you cannot take for granted. Public transit
systems, especially in power outages or rocket attacks, aren't -- isn't available.
So, that transportation becomes a necessary entity to keep the country going, essentially. We have a pilot program with the U.N. to distribute
food and also winter supplies, blankets, et cetera, to people in need, many of them having been displaced. Ad then we also have a really interesting
program as well with the ministry of culture where we're helping transport works of art or culture that are being threatened, take them to safe places
for storage and/or restoration.
When I saw the teams doing all this on the ground, I really wanted to show my support. I wanted to go there and show my support. Meet them. Tell them
that the whole company was behind them. We also have a program now with United24 where we have these drivers' stories that we are putting in front
of our customers. And we've raised now enough money to buy over 50 ambulances that are necessary.
Obviously, to take care of people, shuttle people from the front lines to get care in hospitals. So, for me, being there in person, you know, Uber,
we are technology company, but we operate on the ground in the cities in which we are operational. And I wanted to go there to see what's happening
on the ground, but just as importantly, show my personal support for our teams and our drivers who are risking their lives every day.
AMANPOUR: And it is extraordinary actually because you read in Ukraine so many civilians are banding together to be, essentially -- you know, another
army supporting their armed forces, men, women and children, you know, cooking and sewing uniforms and, you know, all the rest of it. But also,
American big tech getting involved. There's you. There's Elon Musk's SpaceX Starlink, which has helped with satellite locations and precision
targeting, not to mention internet there.
KHOSROWSHAHI: Oh, I think that they feel the need to get involved because every day, we are seeing, the humans tragedy. And I think all of us -- you
know, more and more companies, whether technology companies or otherwise, I think we're recognizing that it's not just about business. It's not just
about shareholders. It's also about stakeholders.
Ad for use at Uber, it makes it more real because our drivers are on the ground. They're risking their lives. We have teams on the ground. They're -
- we take it very, very personally. We have many of our employees who have been displaced by Ukraine and are working in Poland. So, I think it becomes
personal. And I think companies now, more and more, are stepping up, not just in the interest of shareholders, but in the interest of stakeholders,
and I think that's a great thing.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you a question, and I referred to in my introduction to you. That you are, you know, countersuing New York to try to stop a pay
hike that they, you know, passed for your drivers. I mean here you are speaking about the danger that your drivers are going through. You admire
them so much in Ukraine. Why are you trying to, you know, take money out of the pockets of your drivers back at home?
KHOSROWSHAHI: We'll, if you look at driver earnings now at Uber overall and in New York, they are at record highs. When you look at even the last
quarter, Uber essentially, through our service paid out $10.8 billion to our drivers. It's up 25 percent on a year on year basis. The average driver
in the U.S. and New York, it's even more, makes $36 an hour.
So, the pay hike there, it's -- you know, it was -- we think completely unnecessary. We think market forces, essentially now are creating earnings
that are healthier than they really never have been. And we think it was just something that was completely unnecessary based on drivers in kind of
a platform that we are building. And certainly, their earnings levels that we see now that are incredibly healthy.
AMANPOUR: So, as you know, you faced criticism for raising costs for customers and also squeezing these driver wages. I know what you've just
said. But a New York state senator, Jessica Ramos, at an Uber rally before Christmas, said the following. I wonder if you would comment on what she
said. Let's just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JESSICA RAMOS (D-NY): Uber continues to put the burden of the job entirely on the drivers, while they reap the profits, enjoy bonuses, and
are going to be able to give their families a nice holiday. Meanwhile, the men standing behind me on strike today who are fathers, sons, grandfathers,
yearning to offer their children a nice Christmas, a nice holiday won't be able to do so because of Uber's greed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dara, is greed good again?
KHOSROWSHAHI: I think the fact is, Christiane, that these are, you know, talking points that the senator used. But the facts are that we are passing
through the price increases to drivers. Driver earnings this last quarter were up over 25 percent up on a year on year basis. Average earnings levels
were $36 an hour, so the facts do not bear what the senator said.
And we, when you look at actually the number of drivers on our platforms, its up 60 percent year on year. And the fact is, in the U.S., if you want
to job, you can get a job. And the fact that 60 percent of growth on our platform indicates that the combination of earnings and flexibility that
you have on our platform are very, very attractive in this economy.
And so, words are words. But the numbers for us, they are the fact that drivers are actually doing very well. And we are passing on those price
increases to drive earnings.
AMANPOUR: So, look, you are on your way to Davos, which is known as, you know, the elite talking shop. It's called the World Economic Forum and you
talked about numbers. So, let me give you a few numbers. Oxfam has just said that the top one percent capture nearly twice as much new wealth as
the rest of the whole world during the pandemic. Their fortunes soared by 26 trillion, while the bottom 99 percent saw their net worth rise by 16
trillion. I know that's a lot of numbers, but you see the inequality gap.
You know, I just want to know why you feel that you need to go to Davos? What is it for? What does it do for you at this time? And re you concerned
about this very, very pronounced inequality gap that just keeps growing?
KHOSROWSHAHI: Yes. I think the inequality gap is a fundamental concern and real issue that every society has to take on. And the fact is, it hasn't
gotten better. And until we find a real solution, we have to keep working at it.
You know, for us as it relates to Davos is, it is an opportunity for us to talk to our stakeholders, to talk to investors, governments, et cetera. And
the fact is that we are the largest platform for flexible work in the world. There are now over 5 million earners who are earning on our platform
in one way or the other.
And as I said before, today their earnings levels are incredibly strong. They are growing on a year on year basis and these earners get to retain
flexibility as well. We want to talk, we get feedback from our stakeholders regarding the future of work and certainly the future of work on the Uber
AMANPOUR: You know, obviously one of the big inequality drivers and existential crisis is the climate. And you've said that you wanted to get
the entire Uber fleet, you said in 2019, all electric by 2025. You have now pushed that back about five years. Why and how much has this whole pandemic
and the war set back the international climate mitigation agenda?
KHOSROWSHAHI: So, we have not pushed it back at all. 2025 was the target that we had in London. 2030 is the target that we had set for the U.S.,
Canada, Europe. 2040 all over the world. And we are absolutely a leader in terms of sustainability. We are working with companies like Hertz, who is
behind Teslas, putting them on to our platform.
If you look at Europe today, about seven percent of kilometers on the Uber platform are electric. That is five times the kilometers of the general
public in Europe as well. So, we are the penetration, as far as EVs on our platform is significantly higher than the broader population. The average
Uber driver, of course, you can expect drives a lot more than the average person.
So, it's incredibly important for us to step up ourselves. We've committed $800 million to help drivers make that transition from internal combustion
engine to EVs. And, I think that we are doing, you know, we've got a partner with government, with other companies to do so. But right now, the
penetration of EVs on Uber is multiples of the penetration that you see broadly. We're going to keep leading, and we're hoping that the world
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's good news. I just need to ask you just one more personal question. You were born and raised in Iran. Your family left
around the time of the revolution. You're obviously seeing, like, many exiles what's going on inside the country. I just wonder your reaction to
what's going on in your home country.
KHOSROWSHAHI: Yes, sure. You know, you are filled with emotions as well. Honestly, it's really tough for me because we don't have operations on the
ground as a company. You know, in Ukraine, we have operations on the ground. I can go there in person. That's not possible in Iran. Uber doesn't
have operations on the ground. We've got, you know, complications as it relates to U.S. sanctions.
So, I'm certainly, you know, trying to be as helpful as I can. I have sent, you know, my support in every way for the great women and men who are
fighting for their rights. I think that Islamic regime has really not served the people of Iran well. The people of Iran, as you know, have a
deep history, deep culture. I think they very much want to be a part of the world. Not just the western world, but the entire world. And I think that
is the Islamic regime has prevented that.
And I am very, very much with the people of Iran who are trying to step up and fighting for their rights in any way I can.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. Thank you very much for being with us.
And we're going to talk more about what's happening in Iran because here in the United Kingdom, the government has reacted furiously to Iran's
execution of Alireza Akbari, a dual British-Iranian citizen and former Iranian government official. He was accused of spying for the U.K., which
The British foreign secretary warns Iran, "Quote will be held to account." Akbari's death comes as scores more have received sentences in the
crackdown on anti-government demonstrations. Four people have already by hanged. Could this state the spate of execution succeed in stifling the
process. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini is founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network,
With more than two decades of experience working to permanent violence against women around the world and she is joining me now from Geneva.
Welcome to the program. Can I just first start by asking you about this spate of executions. First let's take what was clearly a political
execution. And perhaps that's your analysis as well of Alireza Akbari and the reaction from the British government. How do you analyze why he was
SANAM NARAGHI ANDERLINI, FOUNDER AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ACTION NETWORK: First of all, thank you for having me, Christiane. It is a
strange one to have in the middle of the protest, right, that all of a sudden, we have a case like this with the accusations that the Iranians
have, and then the denials from the U.K. side in terms of whether Mr. Akbari had been affiliated with MI6. I think it might be a combination of
trying to -- sort of --
AMANPOUR: OK. We're going to come back to that in a second. But we're going to turn to another story for the moment because those fleeing war and
depression have often then also had to face long immigration battles when trying to seek refuge in the United States.
Uniting for Ukraine is a private refugees sponsorship program that the Biden administration created in response to Putin's war. Bypassing the
conventional admission system, refugees can be settled within weeks. George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin sponsored Ukrainian refugees
under this program and he discusses how this model can revolutionize U.S. immigration. He talks with Hari Sreenivasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Professor Ilya Somin, thanks so much for joining us. First, let me start
with kind of a basic question. You and your wife sponsored a family of three from the Ukraine. Why?
ILYA SOMIN, AUTHOR, "FREE TO MOVE" AND LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: I guess for two reasons. One is, I have long been involved in
immigration issues and advocated for freer migration rights in both academic and popular writings. And second, I'm originally from Russia, I'm
an immigrant myself. And perhaps more importantly, for present purposes, I speak Russian and I am familiar with Ukraine and obviously many Ukrainians,
including the ones we sponsored.
I also speak Russian, so I thought that I would be in an especially good position to be a sponsor in this program. Though I should emphasize, you
don't have to speak Russian or be from Russia or be from Ukraine for that matter to participate.
SREENIVASAN: So, for people who might be unfamiliar with it, tell me a little bit about the program and how it worked.
SOMIN: When the Russian invasion started in February of last year, there was a massive refugee crisis. I was told some 7 million people have fled
Ukraine. In response, the Biden administration created the Uniting for Ukraine program, where if an American citizen or permanent resident agrees
to sponsor a group of Ukrainians, or one or two people, or however many it is. Then they can enter the country quickly and have the right to live and
work here for up to two years, a period perhaps that may be extended in the future.
And unlike the traditional refugee system, which is more them than extremely slow and can take years to process applicants, here you can get
permission for the people to enter within just a few days after the sponsor files the paperwork. In our case, only nine days after I filed it.
SREENIVASAN: That's amazing. I mean, nine days of anything related to the word immigration seems a miracle. So, I mean, what is that -- what was that
process like? Did someone call you? Try to vet you?
SOMIN: Sure. So, I started by going to a website called welcome.us, which is a private organization where if you want to be a sponsor, you can set up
And then, Ukrainians who want to come, they have profiles of their own and they can contact you on it, almost like a dating website. Though I should
emphasize that dating is not the purpose of this institution.
SOMIN: And within a couple of days, after my wife and I set up our profile, we were contacted by the Hasanam (ph) family. I communicated with
them. We established that there needs an expectations were a good match for ours. And then, I filed the paperwork at the USCIS website, the federal
government immigration in industry.
SOMIN: There is a form called I-134A that you have to file, one for each of the three people. It's a somewhat complicated form. Nonetheless, I was
able to fill out all the forms and file them within a few hours and I got an answer back from the website, from the USCIS within nine days.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about this family. I mean, what was their situation? What did that they say that they were facing in Ukraine?
SOMIN: So, the two of them are from the town of Irpin, in Kyiv -- near Kyiv. And it was occupied early in the war by the Russian forces where,
when they occupied it, there is, as elsewhere in the cane, occupied by Russia great brutality, and hundreds of civilians were killed. They managed
to escape Irpin just before the Russian troops entered. They, nonetheless, face bombing and saw missile strikes and the like.
Many of their family members were either trapped behind Russian lines or in some cases, in prison or deported in the way, as were many people that they
knew. And when the they initially fled, Ruswan (ph), the husband, he stayed in Western Ukraine, whereas Maya (ph), his wife, and their two-year-old
daughter found temporary refuge in Spain because the European Union opened their borders.
However, overtime, they recognize that even after the Ukrainian forces recaptured Irpin, which they did later in the fighting, that normal life
there would be almost impossible and they also recognize, for various reasons, that it would not be possible for them to stay in Spain
permanently, including the fact that Spain, because of its labor policies, has significant limits on child opportunities in that country and there are
other issues as well.
So, they heard about the Uniting for Ukraine Program from friends of theirs who were previous participants and were already in the U.S. And then, they
got on to the same We-Connect website that I mentioned earlier and they found us.
SREENIVASAN: Are you talking to them on a daily basis? I mean, how much are you responsible for them, so to speak?
SOMIN: In our case, they arrived in Northern Virginia, where we live, and we -- they spent a few days with us and then, they moved on as they had
previously planned their final destination in Florida. I do communicate with them and I help them with various annoying bureaucratic problems that
inevitably come up when you move to a whole new country and start a whole new life.
And -- but the exact extent to which the sponsor does that is to a large extent up to the sponsor working with the sponsoree family. There aren't
really precise regulations and guidelines saying, you must do precisely X, Y and Z.
SOMIN: And there shouldn't be because each situation is somewhat different and also, each family has their own needs. And similarly, sponsors can vary
in terms of what they are able to do.
SREENIVASAN: You mentioned you are an immigrant to this country, you speak Russian. What were the circumstances that led you here?
SOMIN: In the 1970s, the U.S. had a program for letting in people from persecuted minorities in the Soviet Union. One of them was the Jews of
which group I am the member. And my parents were able to leave the Soviet Union entered the U.S. under that refugee program, and we're obviously very
happy about that and obviously, that experience is one of the things that influenced my interest in being involved in the Uniting for Ukraine program
SREENIVASAN: I should point out that you are kind of not the average bear here. I mean, you are a professor of law. You cover migration policy. I
mean, given your background, how complicated was this? How easy was this?
SOMIN: I totally understand that I'm a lawyer and I have some advantages that a normal person might not enjoy and normal people probably have less
tolerance for bureaucracy and forms than lawyers do. Nonetheless, we now have close to 100,000 Ukrainians enter the country through this program
just since April of last year. And the vast majority of the sponsors who helped them enter, I think, are probably not lawyers or migration policy
experts. Soi, I won't lie and I do recognize that the forms are more complicated than they should be and there are some aspects of the process
that are annoying. I have advocated for trying to fix that.
But, by the standards of federal government bureaucracy, we should admit that we are pretty well in this respect, this is much easier than most
immigration paperwork and documentation and, most importantly, USCIS actually acts swiftly in response to this as opposed to a lot of
immigration related issues, which it can literally take years for them to process things.
SREENIVASAN: You are describing a relatively swift process, compare that to the refugee process of getting in the United States if you are from
pretty much any other country than the Ukraine right now.
SOMIN: So, I would say, just recently, actually, a system similar to Uniting for Ukraine has been extended to the four Latin American countries,
Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. The president actually announced that just a few days ago. So, it's no longer limited to just Ukraine. But I have
advocated in my writings to extend this to people fleeing poverty, oppression and injustice and war all over the world, not just residents two
those now five countries.
But I think to the extent that we see a double standard here, the solution is leveling up to make this more available to more people rather than say
that, you know, because of political realities, we can't make it available to everybody all at once, then we should make it available to nobody.
SREENIVASAN: So, put this in perspective for us. How many people have come to you in the United States through this program versus refugees being led
in by the rest of the world?
SOMIN: In the fiscal year 2022, the traditional refugee system let in only about 25,000 people from anywhere in the world combined, that's willed by
historical standards, thought it was still a bit higher than the 11, 000 the previous year.
By contrast under Uniting for Ukraine since April of last year on through December, we have had close to 100,000 people come in and probably another
30,000 or 40,000 have already been authorized and they have likely been more since than the last few weeks that the official data hasn't yet
captured. So, this program works much faster and more effectively than the traditional refugee system. Though unlike the traditional refugee system,
it doesn't grant the participants permanent residency. And under the current rules, they only get to stay for up to two years. Though I hope
overtime, that will be extended.
SREENIVASAN: I can hear the echoes of the people who wouldn't have a problem with this and they say, first of all, what about everyone that's
been waiting in line for years and years to have the same opportunity to enter the United States, even on a temporary basis, much less a permanent
one? How fair is that?
SOMIN: I think the answer, as I said before, is that we should be trying to level up rather than level down. In principle, I believe we should be
open to all those fleeing poverty, oppression and war, not just those from particular countries. And we should not view that as some kind of lost in
our part or charity but rather as a win-win because these people get to live in greater freedom and prosperity. And in return, they contribute to
our economy, to our society, the scientific innovation and so forth.
But I would also say that we cannot let the best be the enemy of the good. That it for political reasons it is not possible to do everything at once,
that doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. As Ronald Reagan once said, if you can't get 100 percent of what you want, you should at least be willing
to get 80 percent or even 50 or 20 percent and try to come back and get the rest later.
SREENIVASAN: What about the concerns at the speed and efficiency of this program, saying, hey, if we are letting in 100,000 people as quickly as we
have, we probably did not apply the same level of vetting to these people to come into the United States as we do with those 25,000 refugees from
every other part of the world? Are we in any greater danger?
SOMIN: So, if you look at the history of emigration from Ukraine, Russia and other related countries, and for that matter, for around the world, the
rate of criminality, terrorism and other similar problems is actually lower than with native born Americans, and that is true even for populations
where the amount of vetting done was very low.
So, obviously, if you are doing something like giving people access to classified information, then, you know, you want to have a significant
level of screening, regardless of where they come from, frankly. On the other hand, if all you're doing it is letting them participate in the legal
economy and seek jobs and the like, then I don't think some great vetting is necessary to allow, for example, for a person to become a hairdresser in
the U.S., as one of our sponsorees, that's what she does for a living. She's a hairdresser. So, I don't think that is quite the same thing as
working in the Pentagon and handling classified information and the like.
SOMIN: And similarly, while in any large group of people, there's always a risk that somebody might be a criminal or dangerous in some way. The rate
of this risk is actually lower, as I said before, that it is for native born Americans. And therefore, we don't need some kind of extraordinary
vetting to deal with that for ordinary law enforcement should suffice.
SREENIVASAN: Could a program, like the one you're participating in now, be challenged in court?
SOMIN: So, while a program like this could be challenged in court potentially, I think it is well within the wording of the statute because
the president could just simply say, the U.S. interest at stake is that we are supporting Ukraine against the geopolitical rival. In addition, there's
an interest in relieving people from the danger of war and severe oppression from our geopolitical enemies. There are also geopolitical
advantages to us taking in the Ukrainians in this situation because, for -- in pretty obvious ways, it strengthens our position in the international
war of ideas against dictators like Putin.
So, while one can imagine legal challenges, it's unlikely that they would succeed, at least not based on the wording of the statute in question. I do
recognize concerns, and I've written about it myself, that, you know, this statute if interpreted broadly as, by the way it was, under the Trump
administration, would give the president vast unilateral power over immigration, perhaps too much. You know, that raises some questions, but,
at least, under the current interpretation of the statute by the courts, it should be feasible to do this program and even to extend it to some other
countries as it's recently been done.
SREENIVASAN: I wonder about the role of race or R xenophobia (ph) in constructing any kind of a holistic national immigration policy. It is an
incredibly politicized issue here and when it's advantageous to a particular politician or a party, they are on X side of it, and when it's
disadvantageous, there and Y side of it.
But when you think about the fact there are lives at stake and dangers that those human beings are facing in other countries, how should we proceed
with, say, scaling a program like this up as you are advocating for?
SOMIN: The racial and ethnic bias has played a significant role in American immigration policy ever since we've had federal government
immigration restrictions all the way back to the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th century. We cannot immediately eliminate all of these biases. That
said, obviously, I think society is on the whole more opposed to racism now than it was 50 or 100 years ago, to say nothing of the 19th century. And
the administration has, in fact, extended this policy now to people fleeing foreign countries where most of those people are not white or at least not
white as Americans understand that term.
Though, I think we can perceive incrementally and I think we can learn lessons from the domestic civil rights struggle against racial and ethnic
bias where, ultimately, progress was made because more and more people recognize that distinctions of race and ethnicity are ultimately arbitrary,
where you are allowed to live, what sort of work you are allowed to do should not depend on whether you are white or black or Hispanic or Asian or
whatnot. And if that is true domestically, it should be true in immigration policy as well.
SREENIVASAN: So, what is this family planning to do after their two years are up?
SOMIN: So, that is a great question and I don't think that they know that with certainty. And sadly, it also depends on what the federal government
decides and that if we end up with the situation that when the two years are up, people lose their status and they're subject to deportation, that
would be a very bad thing, and even if most were not actually deported, it would be hard for them to work in the legal economy, given that they would
no longer have legal work permits.
SOMIN: My hope is that either the president, or better still, Congress would give them some kind of permanent status or, at the very least, extend
the timeframe the president could, if he wanted to, unilaterally make the two years or every five years or 10 years or potentially more, that would
be subject, perhaps, to a reversal by a future president, but it would be politically harder for that future individual to reverse an existing policy
than it would to just simply let the existing two years run out.
SREENIVASAN: Professor Ilya Somin, thanks so much for joining us.
SOMIN: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And we now have our connection reestablished with Sanam Naraghi Anderlini. And she is an Iran expert, also the founder and CEO of the
International Civil Society Action Network.
Again, welcome back to the program. So, we were talking about the political execution. I'm going get back to that in a moment. But there has been a
spate and a frenzy of executions, of sentencing to death, of what are being called sham trials, lawyers even being rounded up, so they can't even
defend, you know, protesters and others who've been also arrested and charged.
So, in that space, what are you seeing through your connections, your contacts of the protests in Iran, the woman led protests?
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: So, thank you. And I'm sorry about the connection. So, first of all, I think these protests are remarkable and it is a real
watershed moment in the history of Iran and in the history of this regime because I think it's kind of a space of before these protests and after in
terms of how the public deals with the regime and vice versa.
So, typically, what the regime has done in the last 30 years is that every once in a while, people have -- there have been reasons for people to get
out of the streets and protests, and they have -- had heavy crackdowns, if you remember what happened in 2009.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: It was heavy, heavy crackdowns and then, they back down a bit. And that's been the dialogue that the public has had. This time
around, the regime is going all out again in terms of the arrests and these long sentences for women and men and as you say, the sham trials and so
forth. And the executions, I think, are -- it's really about trying to scare people back into their homes, because these protests are happening
all over the country. It's -- as you know, it's a lot of young people. And the real issue is that if they are protesting now about the issues that
they care about, their ideology isn't going to change.
So, I think the regime understands that and it's using the only tool it knows, which is violence and fear.
AMANPOUR: And that is working because according to many experts, and I'm sure you see it as well, there is a remarkable or rather a market decrease
in the number of these organized or flash protests, right?
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: Well, the -- I think it is two things. One is that the -- that -- there are protests still happening. The question is whether we
are hearing about them because of the internet connectivity. So, you know, I -- there's some days that I see more and other days that I see less. The
second thing is that even if the protests aren't happening, there is an understanding that the regime's legitimacy, whatever was left of it, has
really diminished significantly.
Anything they say, it's almost as if nobody believes them. And, you know, going back to the case of the most -- the --
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: -- recent one that you --
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: Mr. Akbari. Yes. Mr. Akbari, we were talking about. You know, they say he is on MI65. Most people are probably sitting there and
saying, you know, we don't believe that. He was obviously a reformist politician. So, maybe the signaling was to the reformist to sort of get in
line with the regime.
So, there is definitely a legitimacy question that's there even if the public demonstrations are fewer.
AMANPOUR: Do you think -- you know Akbari's execution leads me to a question about what should the West do? Because, you know, there's a whole
pleather of, you know, trying to step up sanctions, trying to particularly target sanctions, you know, calling in and day marching diplomats and a big
call for westerners, certainly, to remove their ambassadors from Iran.
Do you think one of the Iranian regime's reasons for the execution of Akbari was to tell the West to back off?
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: Well, if it's trying to tell the -- well, I think it's trying to tell the West that it's business as usual, however macabre that
might sound. But if it's trying to tell the West to back off, it certainly backfired because the British are now coming on much strongly -- much more
strongly about sanctions or putting the IRTC on the terrorist list.
So, I think that there is definitely -- the tensions are there and the West is also dealing with this very vocal Iranian diaspora population, as we see
in Canada and in Europe. And so, on the one hand, they are responding to the domestic audience, that Iranian diaspora. On the other hand, they are
trying to figure out how to engage with the -- in the Iranian setting.
And for my work, when I think about Iran and I think about Afghanistan and other places where I work, which is fragile conflict areas, you know, often
not in the news, the lack of diplomatic involvement, or the lack of diplomatic presence is actually detrimental to the cause and to the people
that are on the ground.
So, I certainly don't, you know, ascribe to this idea of, you know, kicking out all the ambassadors who are pulling out all the diplomats. I think we
need a much more concerted diplomatic presence on the ground in terms of the issues that they are dealing with and these cases, you know, if they
can go to trial, to the courts, if they can go visit prisoners, raising things like the, death sentence and so forth. So, I would like to see much
more robust diplomatic presence and use of that presence on the ground.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: The other point I just want to make on this is that the West is one side of the story, but there are other countries that have
diplomatic missions, Mexico, you know, Latin America. Mexico has a feminist foreign policy. What does that mean and its dealings with Iran?
AMANPOUR: Well, exactly.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: And -- you know, and it's important because, again, when you look at Iran and Afghanistan, it's only a year and a half ago that
essentially the U.S. handed Afghan women and their lives into the hands of the Taliban. So, the credibility of the West and certainly NATO countries
is fairly limited right now in terms of standing up for women's rights.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about women's rights because, you know, one of the real problems, and I mentioned it, and this is what you are
concerned about as well, is that there has been really a lot of credible reporting and eyewitnesses abuse of these detained women. I mean, the
details and these stories, you know, you just almost cannot believe them. And for an Islamic country, so-called, to engage in this sexual abuse of
women who say that they are trying to protect, you know, I mean where does this end? What leverage does anybody have to prevent these women being
abused in the terrible way that they are being abused right now?
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: It's absolutely horrific. It's been going on for decades, as we know. I mean, these are not new incidences, unfortunately,
in terms of the regime's handling of people. I think the fact that we are now talking about it and more people are willing to come out and tell their
stories and lift the veil, if you want metaphorically, on these issues, is really important because, you know, this idea that under an Islamic
setting, women are valued and protected and so forth, it's absolute nonsense. It's nonsense there, it's nonsense in Afghanistan, in nonsense in
The hypocrisy has to be addressed and they have to be brought forward into the international setting, if they want to be part of the international
community. We have laws around these things, we have 10 security council resolutions that talk about the issues of women, women's right to be
involved in politics, but also, protection and sexual violence being a particular issue that is addressed. So, it's time to be brought up and, you
know, let them answer to these questions.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this because you talked about a conversation that sometimes happens between demonstrations and crackdown. So, now, the
so-called supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, tweeted last week that, hijab is obligatory in the religious laws, and there's no doubt about this, but
those who don't fully observe the hijab should not be accused of being irreligious or against the revolution. They take part in certain religious
or revolutionary ceremonies with enthusiasm and eagerness.
So, he's obviously shifting his public demeanor, probably because women insisting still on going out, some of them anyway, without the hijab. So,
what actually is happening and do you believe the argument between factions of the establishment is actually weakening the regime's or not?
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: So, I think, number one, this question of the status of women in Iran has always been central to the ideology of this regime. And
women have been the first ones -- and to this day, the last ones to be out, you know, protesting, resisting nonviolently in all sorts of ways in 40
years. So, generation after generation has been resisting this thing.
What's interesting this time is that for the first time in history actually, even globally, we are seeing a revolution that is not only led by
women, but the message of women's rights, women like freedom is the clarion call for everybody, for the men to join in across ethnic and religious
lines and so forth.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: And I think the regime is struggling with that. It's actually quite interesting, it reminds me of the --
AMANPOUR: We've got 30 seconds, Sanam.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: Just, you know.
AMANPOUR: 30 seconds.
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: Just this. Yes. Gorda Farri (ph) dresses as a man, goes to fight. Lifts his veil -- lifts her veil and she says to him, if you win
from me, you won from a woman. If you beat me, you have beaten a woman. This is the dilemma that the regime is facing and they don't know what to
NARAGHI ANDERLINI: So, the support -- the tension is really, really critical carrying on right now. It's absolutely essential.
AMANPOUR: And we've got -- we have got to keep the spotlight on. So, thank you. Thank you, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini.
And finally, tonight, his dream was cut short, but his legacy lives on. It is Martin Luther King Day, and people across America are honoring the civil
rights leader. Dr. King was committed to combatting what he called the three major evils, materialism, militarism and racism. Evils that still
threaten our human rights and our global civilization today. He was one of the greatest orators to ever live, empowering generations with his words.
And his last speech, I have been to the mountaintop, turned out to be prophetic.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, he said. Longevity has its place, but I am not concerned about that now. One day later, there in
Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King would be assassinated.
That's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.