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Interview With Minister Of Women's Affairs In Pre-Revolutionary Iran Mahnaz Afkhami, Interview With Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland; Interview With Open Society Foundations Europe And Central Asia Director Catherine Fieschi. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.

President Biden observes one year since the death and custody of 22-year- old Mahsa Amini. I ask Mahnaz Afkhami, Iran's first and last Miniter of Women's Affairs, whether Amini's legacy has spurred progress on women's


Then, devastation in Libya. I speak with Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council about getting in desperately needed relief.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Every time you call them, the way they treat us it's like, they treat us like we're nobody.


AMANPOUR: -- Haitian women exploited by U.N. peacekeepers. Paula Newton Reports from there.

Plus --


CATHERINE FIESCHI, DIRECTOR, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA: We're now actually what I think is quite a dangerous situation in



AMANPOUR: -- in Europe, the far-right moves into the mainstream. Hari Sreenivasan talks to political scientist Catherine Fieschi.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

President Joe Biden has marked one year since the death of Mahsa Amini, saying that she inspired massive women life, freedom protests all across

the world. Amini died after being manhandled by Iran's morality police. Her crime, not wearing her hijab properly.

Back then, Iran's only Nobel Laureate, a woman, Shirin Ebadi, had this advice for the fundamentalist regime.


AMANPOUR: Do you have a message of Ayatollah Khomeini?

SHIRIN EBADI, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER (through translator): The message that I can give you Khomeini and those around him is that learn a lesson from

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. When he heard that the people no longer want him, he got on the plane and left. Why can't you learn a lesson from that?


AMANPOUR: But one year later, the Ayatollahs have survived and the regime is rounding up activists, journalists and others hoping to preempt any new

demonstrations on the anniversary. And the Morality Police are back on the streets after laying low for a time, reportedly using surveillance cameras

to identify unveiled women.

Mahnaz Afkhami was the minister of women's affairs in Iran's government before the 1979 Islamic revolution. She believes that despite the regime's

brutal crackdown, change is underway inside Iran. So, welcome back to our program.

Mahnaz Afkhami, let me ask you what you mean by that. What kind of change specifically?

MAHNAZ AFKHAMI, MINISTER OF WOMEN'S AFFAIRS IN PRE-REVOLUTIONARY IRAN: Thank you, Christiane, for having me. And I just want to say that sometimes

we look at the events in Iran from point of looking that is not the true cause that the women are working for.

The women are not working for overthrow of the regime, although they would love that idea. They would love to have a modern, decent human rights

leaning regime. But obviously, a whole lot of young people with no arms and no experience of a military, you know, interference to be able to have a

change in the regime as horrific and as savage as the Iranian regime.

But what they are doing is trying to do the best they can to get what they can in terms of their own freedom, their own rights, their own needs. And

in that, they have slowly learned, throughout the last few decades, how to do that. For one thing, to be able to express their needs in ways that are

acceptable to a large portion of the population. They have learned to bring in men to work with them, so -- because it is not what they are dealing

with is not only a woman's problem, it's a humane and human problem.


So, they have done a lot. They have been able to move forward in terms of their own existence in the country. They -- at first, they weren't even

allowed to take certain majors in universities. They weren't able to walk around without having interference from the police or from the watchers

that the government presented for that. And many more limitations. Now, whatever they do that is based on their own freedom of action, they can do.

They can do -- prepare businesses, be entrepreneurs, be artists, be all sorts of -- have all sorts of presence in the society.

And the recent demonstrations has -- had not only made their life different, they can walk around even if the government keeps being as

savage as ever. And even though they keep having slogans that are constantly handed out, the fact is that it looks different. It is a

different kind of social presence.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you this then, because, you know, I hear what you're saying historically, and I'm trying to figure out what they might --

what progress might have been made, if any, because it does not look that - - like that from the outside.

But I do know that people like yourself and others who have been traveling there come back and they tell us that Tehran looks very different, many

other outed cities look very different and that women are walking around courageously, maybe with some fear, they're having to stiffen their spines,

but without their scarves and by and large, are not being accosted, or if they are, they are staring down and yelling at the Morality Police who try

to accost them.

Can you fill in that picture and what you're hearing?

AFKHAMI: Yes. Christiane, I am in contact with the leading activists in Iran. And it's not that they are happy with what where they are, but

they're much, much better off than they were before. They know in what areas they can push the government and have it's back to the wall, which

they have done, but they can't do other things. They can't overthrow the government. That needs the kind of support and the kind of really serious

commitment, especially from western governments, which we do not have right now.

But they have changed completely. If you look -- if people have the historical memory to look at how things were when the revolution first

happened, it's not even comparable. And the level of interaction that women have in various aspects of society, it is amazing. They are really -- they

are the majority of the university graduates, they are doing all of the things that have to do with the arts they're participating in, which ones

they weren't able to.

And it's not that the government is happy with that, it's just that they can't stop them. Once the population is aware of what they want and of

their rights, there's no way to get that out of their heads. And they have been amazing in doing it so wisely and so properly.

AMANPOUR: As you know, I just -- sorry, I just wanted to ask you because, as you know, this might sound, you know, very Pollyanna-ish to a lot of

people who only see the other side of the coin. And certainly, women's rights, as you know, a lot of the legal rights are still really, really

negative in terms of personal space and custody, finances, all of that kind of stuff, since your time there, when actually women were given so many

more legal rights.

But I want to know what you think about whether there will be and what are you hearing the kinds of protests that maybe everybody is expecting on, you

know, the day, tomorrow, which is Saturday, the 16th, is the actual anniversary. And we have heard, seen and witnessed that the regime is

cracking down and preemptively trying to make sure that does not happen.

AFKHAMI: The regime has, of course, the central focus of keeping women limited in their rights, in their movements, in their choices, that is part

of the Islamic Republic's philosophy of life. And of course, they want the most limitations that they can on women. But the fact of the matter is that

they haven't been able to do it.

And I think that what women in Iran have done is slowly fight against these limitations and do whatever they can wisely do, you know, even if it is at

the price of savagery and violence, they have done it and they have become very known across the world as people who know how to do the battle against

limited rights and the Taliban like behavior.


And they are very different, when you even look at the photos, even if you look at the kind of actions and the kind of social interaction that people

have, it's different than what the government wants, but they can't do anything about it. They can't shut up millions of people who have changed.

But what we have learned to expect is overthrow of the government. That is not what the purpose of these people is and nor can they do it. That needs

another type of interference. But, Christiane, what is really important is that in the process they are also learning in a close society how to

organize, how to build civil society groups, how to find out in connection with the diaspora, who's a very important connection for them. Because the

diaspora is so well -- you know, so successful in so many different areas.

The interaction between them and the advance of technology has helped very much. They know how to prepare for a change, and that is extremely

important. Because in these countries, when change happens, when the government falls, there are two choices, either clerics or military. And

these people are preparing for having a democratic kind of a government. And that preparation takes a lot of effort and a lot of connection, and a

lot of support by the diaspora and by other governments and other populations, because this is a global matter, it's not just Iran.

It is -- we keep seeing more and more governments becoming more and more dictatorial and democracies are in more danger everywhere than they have

ever been. So, this is a very important moment and it's important thing for us not to get too involved in our own western measurements and goals that

are set in reporting the news. Because --



AMANPOUR: Yes. Sorry, sorry. I hear what you're saying. You know, I hear exactly what you're saying. But I want to ask you what you think. The

president of Iran is coming to New York in the next few days for the Annual General Assembly meeting. I tried to have an interview. We did get granted

an interview and then, because I refuse to wear a hijab here in the United States, he did not agree to sit down. So, I wasn't able to quiz him on all

of these things. And we had the empty chair moment.

And then, afterwards, I actually did sit again to try to follow up on this issue with the Iranian foreign minister in Geneva. And I actually put to

him a CNN investigation which had shown that in prison many girls and women had been sexually abused and violated by prison guards and the like in

prison. And I put that to him. And here's the exchange.


AMANPOUR: Is it acceptable for a woman, whatever she's done, to be arrested and raped? And there are many, many, many reports of sexual abuse

in this situation against women and men.

HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Personally, in the peaceful demonstrations in the fall, no one was


AMANPOUR: So, you are just denying that?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): However, in those protests that had become violent, some individuals, some of whom who had entered Iran from

the outside and were using firearms and killing the police were arrested. You do know that the supreme leader actually issued an amnesty, and all of

those in prison were released, with the exception of those who had killed someone or were being sued.


AMANPOUR: So, there are two layers there. One is that the violation, you know, against the women in custody that CNN investigated and he is denying

that. And the other, of course, is the -- well, let's talk about that first. Women who do standup are obviously taking a huge risk because of

this kind of violence that can -- that they can meet with. Are they still doing that from what you are learning from your contacts? I don't mean the

abuse, but I mean the courage to stand up. And are you hearing about abuse?


AFKHAMI: Oh, yes, absolutely. There is abuse, of course. And it's more sporadic than previously. But there is abuse. But not to -- at -- not in

any way able to stop or limit the women's activity and the women's presence. And this thing has been there, you know, the last few decades,

it's increased. The freedom movement of women has actually increased every year.

And now, it has exactly the kind of approach, the kind of approach to other people who are not as modern or as liberated as some of the younger and

more active women. This has really helped a great deal, because you have to get more and more of the population involved and get by far a large

majority. And then, you also have to learn how to organize under circumstances, which are so severe and so hard.

And of course, that piece of it we are all -- all oof the activists outside are doing their best and the ones inside as well, to learn how to build

civic organizations, how to learn what democracy is, how to get it, how to do a constitution that is a viable and supportive of democracy, all of that

has to be learned. Democracy doesn't happen just by somebody dying or an overthrow of a regime, it needs to be learned and internalized, and made

into advocacy plans and into organizational reality. And that, they are doing.


AFKHAMI: And the technology is helping very much.

AMANPOUR: It's really amazing to hear all this one year later. And obviously, many of them complained. And I think you have. And many in the

diaspora complained that neither the United States or Europe has any proper relationship and sort of, you know, association with the Iranian regime to

try to make that kind of thing happen for the people.

Anyway, Mahnaz Afkhami, thank you so much for joining us.

AFKHAMI: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Thank you so much. And just before we go on to our next program, I just wanted to play a few seconds of the anthem for these women in Iran

that was written and performed over the last year by the singer, Shervin Hajipour. He put it on Instagram. He was arrested. He then won a Grammy for

the best song for social change.




AMANPOUR: That was the anthem and it was called "Baraye" for -- and he talked about women and sisters and all of those people who are dreaming of

something better in Iran.

It is now five days since the massive floods hit Libya, and reports of the devastation are staggering. Thousands are dead, another 10,000 are missing,

tens of thousands more are displaced. Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh is in the hardest hit village of Derna now witnessed to a scene of utter



JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have all covered wars, natural disasters before, but none of us had ever seen anything like this. I mean,

we drove into Derna late last night. And even during at nighttime, in the dark, you could still see the destruction.

And now, during the day, this is just utter, utter destruction. And it really feels like you're walking through a war zone. Like massive bombs had

gone off here. And this is what people here would tell you. You know, you've got several cities along the Libyan coast that were impacted by

Storm Daniel, the flooding over the weekend, but nothing like this, what people are describing this catastrophe.

What happened in Derna, of course, as you know, is those two dams burst and you have the floodwaters swept through the heart of the city, washing out

entire buildings, neighborhoods, homes, infrastructure, families and brought it all down here to the sea, to the Mediterranean.

I mean, this is just -- it's very difficult for us to really move the camera around because of the communication issues. Communications were

disrupted in the city. So, our connection is not very stable. But looking into the sea, what we see here is people's lives in there. You see homes,

you see door frames, windows, furniture, cloths, cars and everything. And they are still right now searching for the dead bodies. Bodies that are

still washing up on the shore six days after this tragedy happened.


Right now, Libyan officials are saying about 5,000 people have been killed. There are still 10,000 people unaccounted for. And officials that we've

been speaking to say they don't expect they say to find anymore survivors right now.


AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh witnessing that for us. Really just terrible. And the government is overwhelmed. And international agencies are trying to

help like the Norwegian Refugee Council. We'll discuss the crisis with Jan Egeland, the secretary general. And we also ask him about an ongoing

political crisis in the Middle East, because as a senior Norwegian diplomat 30 years ago this week, he sat on the White House lawn to witness the

signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Jan Egeland is joining me now from, yes, Oslo.

So, in a moment we'll ask about the Oslo Accords. But first and foremost, are you managing to make some kind of inroad, some kind of relief for the

people of Derna and Libya and elsewhere?

JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Yes. We are starting up now, our teams reached Derna, like your colleague did. We are

assembling supplies. Everything from mattresses to blankets to food, to whatever they are needing. The tens of thousands of people that have lost


The red crescent (ph) colleagues are now assembling more body bags. It is a catastrophe beyond belief. It is a tsunami really that hit Derna, because

there were 30 million square meters of water in the two dams that burst, so thousands are missing and we fear that very many of them, unfortunately,

are dead.

AMANPOUR: And why is it that international agencies are trying to call on the Libyan authorities not to bury all of these thousand the bodies in mass

graves? Why is that a problem when they are trying to probably just sort of, you know, sanitize and get some dignity for the dead?

EGELAND: Well, it is -- yes, I understand that the local authorities, really, they are -- that they are seeing too many dead bodies lying around

on roads and shelters and basements and in the open. But it is also very important that people are identified. That the missing -- the families who

have people missing know whom have died and whom may just have fled. So, for reasons of identifying the individuals, they should not be buried in

mass graves immediately.

AMANPOUR: It's such a tough, tough calamity there. Can I just move over to Afghanistan? You heard, we just were talking about Iran and women's rights

and in the years since the death of Mahsa Amini. In Afghanistan, it is a thousand times worse for the women there and it's just a tragedy what's

happened to them under the Taliban, unable to be educated, unable to work, unable to socialized. You know, they've been cast into being erased.

We've seen one of them -- one refugee who went on a hunger strike for days and now had just ended it. There's an uptick in suicides amongst women. Do

you see any way, whether your organization or others, are able to engage with the Taliban to stop this situation and, you know, get international

cooperation based on how they treat women better?

EGELAND: Yes. We're there. We have 1,200 aid workers on the ground. Nearly all of them are Afghans, 400 are women. I spoke to my female colleagues in

Afghanistan in recent days because I was invited to speak to the International Donor Program in Brussels on the need for increased

assistance to Afghanistan.

Nearly all of our female colleagues are back to work. As you know, we got a ban, an incredible horrific ban on female work in humanitarian

organizations. It's landed on our Christian Christmas Eve. The day after, we froze all activities. And we told the Taliban, when I arrived in Kabul

10 days later, that we are not going to do any work male to male only because we would then exclude widows and single mothers and whatnot.

Since then, we've had negotiations with the Taliban authorities district by district, province by province, and then 90 percent of our operations were

back. So, it is possible.


I also went to Kandahar. We are not successful in having the edict from the supreme leader against female education, higher education nor female work

as the national edict rescinded, but we have progress on the local level for women with women.

AMANPOUR: I see. So, sort of creative ways around the fundamentalists in Kandahar. Can ask you to put your memory back 30 years and maybe even a

little bit before that when you were the top diplomat in the foreign ministry in Norway engaged with two amazing colleagues, Mona and Terje

Larson, and the Israelis and the PLO to come to the Oslo negotiations.

I want to ask you 30 years later, has it -- it's obviously not turned out as you expected. Are you surprised that it's got so, so almost worse?

EGELAND: Yes, I am surprised and I'm very disappointed really. Because we did have high hopes. What we achieved really in this Norwegian channel that

led to the Oslo Accords was to bring Israel at the occupier and PLO, which at that time was seen by Israel, but also by the United States and most

western countries, as a terroristic organization, we got them to have mutual recognition. And that's a starting point for any talks.

And then, we had to schedule, five- year schedule, for how to make peace around Jerusalem, the illegal settlements, the borders, the future of

Palestine as a political entity, and we got two strong forces against the peace process on both sides. A lot of terrorism.

Prime Minister Rabin, whom I knew well and who was there with us, who endorsed the Oslo agreement, he was killed, not by the Palestinian

terrorists, by a Jewish extremist, killed during a peace demonstration. The counterforces became too strong. And today, it is worse than I -- I mean,

the disillusionment is worse than at any time really, which means that the peace process needs to be rebooted because there is no alternative to that.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, if it was to be rebooted, do you agree Hanan Ashrawi, one of the main original negotiators, that actually that the process, in

her view, was more to try to get the occupied to kind of work for the occupation, like to do their dirty work? In other words, there was no

recognition of Palestinian statehood in return for the Palestinians recognizing the Israeli statehood.

EGELAND: Well, again, it was a mutual recognition. I mean, Hanan Ashrawi and others were not part of this back channel then at all.


EGELAND: It was their supreme leader, Yasser Arafat, and his team that did that. Hanan Ashrawi and others were sitting in Washington and talking

indirectly with each other and it produced nothing. The back channel produced a scheduled for peace, which should have given full and then a

two- state solution with Palestinians where they were masters in their own house, where the illegal settlements would go, where the refugees would

have a right to return all of those things, we didn't achieve them. And I am heartbroken for that.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, we'll continue to watch the fallout. It doesn't look great right now. Jan Egeland, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us on

all those issues.

EGELAND: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And we turn now to Haiti. And a heartbreaking story there of abuse of power. U.N. peacekeepers have left communities traumatized in the

wake of their reported misconduct. Correspondent Paula Newton met several families who say they were exploited or abused by U.N. personnel who were

there as peacekeepers between 2004 and 2017. Some father children leaving behind mothers to struggle with both poverty and stigma long after they


Paula Newton has the CNN "As Equals" report from Western Haiti.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The U.N.'s promises weight heavily in Haiti at its long-abandoned compound at the coastal outpost of

Port Salut, there's barely a trace of the peacekeepers that served here. And yet much has been left behind.

This woman who asked to be referred to as Roselaine due to the stigma of her situation says she has been cast aside.

ROSELAINE (through translator): How can you abandon a child like this? She's without a father. I am raising her alone.

NEWTON (voiceover): Roselaine has a teenage daughter who was fathered by Uruguayan peacekeeper. The U.N. says she is one of at least 35 women who

were in exploitative or abusive relationships with U.N. personnel.

Peace is something this mother says she has never known. She has filed a paternity claim, but argues the U.N. should be held accountable as well.

She says that she has been left to raise a daughter on paltry sums authorized by the U.N.

ROSELAINE (through translator): They know the kids, they did DNA tests and everything. They know the situation of the kids with everything that is

going on in Haiti.

NEWTON (voiceover): Rosemina Joseph says she was a child when she was lured into relationship with another Uruguayan peacekeeper and became

pregnant. He was sent home and served a sentence for abuse, that's according to the U.N. document. But Rosemina wanted us to see her home. A

place where she says dreams once stood, a plot for a house, still a barren foundation. She has no money to build here.

She lives on this patch of land in nothing more than a tent. Clinging to proof and staking her claim that the U.N. is also responsible for the harm

done to her and her 12-year-old son.

NEWTON: Do you think he understood that you were a child?

ROSEMINA JOSEPH (through translator): Yes, he knew I was a minor. It started when I was 16. I became pregnant in January, I was 17.

NEWTON (voiceover): Rosemina says while her abuser was punished, that does not absolve the U.N. of its responsibility.

JOSEPH (through translator): It would be much better if they had worked directly with us. They know they can help, they're just not doing it.

NEWTON (voiceover): We sat down with a half-dozen families, some of whom have received money mostly for schooling. But all have the same complaint,

that they were made to feel like beggars, not victims of exploitation. They need to wait years for little money that does not meet the needs of their


JOKENCIE JEAN BAPTISTE (through translator): Do you know what hurst me the most? Every time you call them, the way they treat us it's like, they treat

us like we're nobody.

NEWTON (voiceover): Jokencie Jean Baptiste says she and her son have been victimized all over again. First, fighting for paternity tests and

financial support, submitting receipts for expenses to the U.N., waiting months or years for money that arrives sporadically or not at all. If money

is granted, the U.N. decides how she should spend it.

BAPTISTE (through translator): If you get the money to pay for school, and the child dies of hunger when he's back from school, what would you do?

NEWTON (voiceover): By the U.N.'s own admission, allegations of exploitation and abuse have been a predictable problem in U.N. missions

around the world. In 2017, the U.N. secretary-general launched what he called a new approach, pledging zero tolerance for future abusers. And he

appointed Jane Connors as the first U.N.'s first Victims' Rights Advocate. Her expertise is matched by fierce will to help. But she acknowledges the

limitations of the U.N. system.

JANE CONNORS, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ADVOCATE FOR THE UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. doesn't provide compensation and the U.N. is in a position to essentially

create cooperation with the member state in order to reach the desired objective. I would love to see more progress, but I think that you can't

argue that there is been no progress.

NEWTON (voiceover): Connor says the U.N. has helped with school fees, some medical expenses and assisted with some paternity claims at the behest of

the initiative from the secretary-general.

CONNORS: But I think we have made some progress with regard to their children going to school, with regard to some of the paternity claims that

have been resolved, some are ongoing. But we have much more to do.

NEWTON (voiceover): It has been six years since the United Nations and secretary-general himself pledged to make the rights and dignity of victims

a priority.

NEWTON: That was 2017. How far do you think you've gotten with that?


CONNOT: The commitment is there. We are improving, but it is -- it remains imperative and I think, as I say, more has to be done.

NEWTON (voiceover): What needs to be done, these women say, is simple, no strings attached financial support. They say that will restore their

dignity and allow their children a measure of accountability that the U.N. has so far failed to provide.


NEWTON (on camera): A couple more things I want to add here, Christiane. I mean, look, the secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, he really wanted to

make a difference. But at the end of the day, as it was explained to us, as it is explained to these women, it is the member states that hold the

responsibility for any exploitation or abuse committed by the peacekeepers they send around the globe.

The women we spoke to, Christiane, say this is exactly the problem, that the next time you deploy peacekeepers in this way anywhere that it should

be understood that the U.N. does accept responsibility. And more to that, Christiane, we were certainly struck by what we witnessed and what the

mothers told us was intergenerational trauma.

These children, in some cases, are teenagers now. They understand the struggle of their mothers. And they also tell us of some stigma that they

go through even in Haiti, because, in some cases, they are lighter skinned, and everyone knows that their fathers were peacekeepers and this is also

adding to the hardship, hardship the mothers believe, you know, could really be helped if the U.N. lived up to what they say is the U.N.'s

responsibility. Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Paula, for that powerful reporting. And we will put it to the U.N.

Across Europe, the far-right is breaking into the political mainstream. Extremist parties are gaining support and forming coalitions within the

government. Catherine Fieschi is director of policy and strategic outreach at Open Society Foundation focusing on Europe and Central Asia. And she

joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss this moment in European politics.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Catherine Fieschi, thanks so much for joining us.

First, I guess for maybe our American audience and our overseas audience, kind of set the landscape for us a little bit. When we think about the

political right or the far-right, how is the gaining ground in Europe?

CATHERINE FIESCHI, DIRECTOR, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA: So, I think in Europe, to some extent, it's been gaining ground

probably from the early '80s in various places. First in France, then in Italy. Then, you know, gradually more and more, the Scandinavian countries.

Now, we even have Germany. Of course, there's details of Poland and Hungary.

And what we see is that, you know, in a very basic way, the way that they are gaining ground is that they are either in some places the most

important opposition party or they're in encouraging government or they are basically, you know, getting ready for government. So, you know, this is a

very basic measure. They are winning elections, right?

And I would say that, you know, the other measure is that possibly, you know, they have become the parties that have set the agenda, whether it's

on migration and increasingly on the environment, whether or not they are actually in government, they are managing to set the agenda for the whole

of the political scene and the political landscape. So, the combination of the two back means that we're now in actually what I think is quite a

dangerous situation in Europe.

SREENIVASAN: So, let's go maybe country by country here. Let's start with Italy right now. It's a dominant far-right party that is in control. How do

we get there?

FIESCHI: Well, would get there -- Italy is a really interesting case. Because, you know, we get there in Italy through a number of ways. There's

been a long kind of slow rise of all sorts of challenger parties, right? You know, we had the radical left and then the rise of the radical right,

then the radical right and the radical left in coalition together and then, you know, a kind of technocratic, more stable government.

And I think, you know, what we see in Italy is that, you know, this kind of very technocratic government, in Italy as in elsewhere, you know, generally

we know that this is the kind of precursor for people reacting to policies who -- which they think are, you know, kind of taken without the interest

of the people in mind and, you know, essentially too technical and too opaque and too disconnected from what ordinary people thinks politics is



So, this is what we have in Italy. And we have a coalition which is really interesting, because it's got a dominant, in a sense, ultraconservative

neofascist party, you know, as the main coalition partner with Giorgia Meloni. She's definitely the most -- important most, if you like, popular

party in Italy. But she does not quite have the votes to do it on her own, so she's to cobble together this coalition.

So, you've got this weird looking coalition of people who don't particularly like each other --


FIESCHI: -- (INAUDIBLE) to govern together.

SREENIVASAN: What are the issues that are animating the rise of the far- right in Germany and Austria? I mean, countries that have for so long dealt with Nazi history and really to run 180 degrees from it for decades?

FIESCHI: We tent to put them together, but actually, the stories are really quite different because, you know, what's shocking about Germany is

the fact that actually Germany has, in a sense, you know, done a lot in education terms, in -- you know, in its cultural life, in its kind of

collective narrative to really come to terms with its past, to really own it, to move beyond it.

And so, the rise of the IFD and, you know, a political option on -- you know, on the far-right is something, you know, that is still very shocking

to a lot of people. And it's a very -- it's a relatively recent phenomenon, the IFD. And I think that, you know, one of the things that we know about

Germany is that Germany is going through a lot of transitions at once.

You know, it's -- first of all, Merkel who have been in power for a long time is no longer there. So, it's certainly was a transition away from her.

Then, you know, it had to really sort of, you know, revise its attitude toward its energy policy, its attitude toward Russia, whom it had tried to

treat to, you know, treat as a partner, it's going through a rough time economically.

And of course, the IFD is something that is based mostly in the former East Germany where, you know, economic conditions are, in any case, even on a

good day, nowhere near as good as in -- you know, in what we might still call West Germany.

So, there is an economic backlash there. But also, I think, you know, a slight backlash, kind of a nostalgic major knee-jerk reaction because

Germany is feeling it's losing its footing a little bit. There is -- the national narrative is being called into question in all sorts of ways.

Austria on the other hand, I mean, we have to keep in mind that, you know, Austria, didn't do all of that work that Germany did on its own past,

right? It tried to bypass that kind of collective consciousness and owning of the past in order to do better. And actually, the far-right was -- you

know, the FPO, which is the far-right party, I mean, was actually in power in Austria back in the 2000, right? That's the first time that it was --

that it, you know, already sort of, you know, became important.

So, they have ebbed and flowed since, but they've been an option on -- you know, on the electoral map, you know, for essentially the better part of 40

years at this point.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there's also the idea that, listen, if these are the leaders that people elect, that's kind of the bargain we signed up for

with democracy, that these are people and parties that are able to make the case better, that they are able to weigh the hearts and minds. Now,

underlying that is the notion that it's a fair fight, that it's a level playing field. I mean, what is your response to that?

FIESCHI: I think that, you know, increasingly it hasn't necessarily become a fair fight or -- and it's less and less of a level playing field, because

I would argue that, you know, many political leaders who are not part of these parties, whether on the -- they're on the mainstream left or the

mainstream right, you know, they will hesitate to use, you know, some of the tactics that these parties use, right?

So, you know, I would argue that most of us, you know, however we lean, most of us who are in the kind of mainstream of politics, you know, we

probably would not -- in a sense, wouldn't have the heart and actually would feel pretty immoral using the kind of tactics that they use.

For example, we feel bad about lying and being caught lying. You know, on the other hand, you know, look at Meloni, you look at Marine LaPen, you

know, you look at Orban, they really don't care, you know, if they are caught out, you know, in a big lie. They sort of shrug and say, well, that

just goes to show that I'm willing to do anything, you know, to actually defend the interests of the people, right? I'm not hemmed in by these

bourgeois constitutional considerations. You know, I'm a man of the people. I defend the people. And if it takes lying, I will lie, right?


So, these are things that, you know, just -- that were just not very a good theme to adopt, you know, in terms of tactics. But the other thing that I

would say -- and you've put your finger on it, it's an important point, it's very hard to argue that these parties are not democratic parties.

You know, it's very hard to say that these -- some of these leaders or, you know, the way that they get elected is anti-democratic. And I've always

been very careful about saying that, actually. they are not anti- democratic. They are just disposing a kind of democracy, the kind of democracy that we don't like, which a kind of, you know, an oppressive will

of the majority to the exclusion of every minority view.

And of course, this is -- you know, this a big problem in societies like ours that our diverse societies, you know, where, in a sense, the social

contract that we have in our democracies is that, you know, you win some, you lose some, you know, you're not always on the losing side, you're not

always on the winning side, but, you know, by and large, you know, everyone has a voice.

The kind of democracy that they put forward is the one that -- you know, that the founding fathers, you know, the American founding fathers, you

know, warned us against, which is, you know, one that is simply an oppressive majority, right? So, I think that, you know, the -- as you say,

this may be a democratic expression.

The final point, if I may on this, is that one of the thing that we see is that once these parties are in the game, whether they are, you know, a

credible opposition or whether they are part of government or whether they are leading government, they get their hands on some key institutions,

which basically means that the game from then on is rigged.

If we look at, you know, somebody like Orban, for example, there is no immediate freedom, there is no, you know, judicial freedom. And therefore,

in a sense, you can shape reality to your own needs. People think they are voting for something but, you know, they're not getting the whole story

because you control the story. And we're seeing this in Poland and we're seeing this increasingly in Italy and we're even seeing it, you know,

increasingly in France.

Once they have power, they get their hands on the levers, and then they shape the reality that people will see. So, the choice is not a real


SREENIVASAN: You know, as you lay out these characteristics, I'm listening and I'm saying, hmm, capture of the judiciary and capture of the press

leads to an unfair fight going forward. And of course, I have to apply this to the United States. And I wonder what are the lessons that are kind of

going back and forth? Is there almost an ecosystem of support?

Because I have never seen as much interest in Hungarian politics as I did over the last few years in the conservative media in the United States in

espousing and supporting Viktor Orban who, maybe two administrations ago would have been considered an authoritarian dictator, but here we are.

FIESCHI: I think that one of the things that we shouldn't underestimate is actually the links between these leaders and the links between these

parties. You know, when CPAC starts to organize, you know, events in Europe, including in Hungary, it means that -- you know, that there is

money flowing behind it that the, you know, certain media outlets that are lining up, you know, behind this kind of Transatlantic cooperation, and it

stretches across from the United States and Europe.

And I think that, you know, this suggests to me that what many of us thought for a long time, which is that because we are talking about

nationalist parties, they would never cooperate with one another out of nationalisms, if you like.

In fact, you know, they are starting to see that, you know, cooperation, you know, has its rewards. And this could well happen, you know, at the

level of Europe as well, in the aftermath of the European elections, parliamentary elections which are taking place June of 2024.


One of the things that we worry about is, you know, some of these far-right or right-wing populist parties, you know, really getting huge scores,

particularly pushing back on quite a sophisticated and expensive environmental policy agenda. You know, and at that point, you know, the

fear is that they will cooperate with each other much more effectively, and that they will cooperate with the mainstream right, right? You know, that

what we will see is a kind of an increase in the radicalization even of mainstream right parties who stemmed to gain from associating with the

harder right.

SREENIVASAN: Traditionally, one of the platform planks of a far-right party in Europe or elsewhere has been tied to a certain nationalism, has

been easily identified as somebody that cares about the other, and that might be the immigrant, that might be that somebody who is coming in from

outside to take the jobs, et cetera.

And I wonder if you are seeing different minority communities even within. And what I'm thinking of right now is kind of anti-LGBTQ legislation, not

just in the United States but also in parts of Europe or even really attacks on women's rights in places that we thought were otherwise

progressive safe havens.

FIESCHI: Absolutely. And, you know, I think that in -- you know, Orban probably set the tone on -- you know, on this early on, not just anti-

immigrant, anti-Roma, but also, you know, very much pushing back on, you know, women's rights. Certainly, the -- in the Polish case on abortion,

which has been a huge issue in Poland with the current government, you know, really trying to crack down on it. And, you know, Polish citizens

really trying to push back.

But, you know, where we also see it where I think is interesting is in the Scandinavian countries, right? So, Scandinavian countries that have always

been kind of, you know, trailblazers in terms of particularly women's rights. The pushback in a place like Finland or Sweden isn't just on

immigrants but it's also on the fact that, you know, the other here is the women who have taken the service jobs, right?

And, you know, in a way it makes sense. It's those places that were furthest ahead like the Scandinavian countries on particularly gender

rights that, you know, were the pushback is most conspicuous and it's no longer just traditionally the migrant or the immigrant, but it is

increasingly, you know, other perceived minorities.

The final other that I would mention and then I think it's taking shape, you know, really under our eyes in Europe is the kind of middle-class

environmentally conscious citizen who is, you know, starting to become, you know, a figure of hatred. You know, trying to push an environmental agenda,

trying to raise the alarm on climate change, you know, they are considered, you know, a kind of elite that is -- that also needs pushing back on.

SREENIVASAN: How much is the rise of the far-right a response to the left taking its eye off of the ball?

FIESCHI: I think it is a huge part of it. I mean, it's quite clear if we want to get these voters back, there needs to be a credible social offer,

right, a credible offer of taking their needs, you know, their views seriously and, you know -- and meeting these needs and being in

conversation with these views. It's really very clear.

And so, you know, what these parties have understood is that people want to talk about politics in a kind of, you know, more connected way and they

offer a connection, which, you know, progressives have failed to do for a while.

SREENIVASAN: From the Open Society Foundations Europe and Central Asia, Catherine Fieschi, thanks so much for joining us.

FIESCHI: My pleasure. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And we'll have to keep an eye on that, of course.

Finally, tonight, a once in a lifetime cosmic hole or simply a sandpit dug by some Irish lads. This large crater on the north Dublin beach has been

causing quite a stir. With one local astrophysicist telling local media the rock he found inside could be a meteor fallen from outer space. But it

turns out it was actually just a group of friends and having some fun down by the seaside.


Virgin Media News who filed the report are likely -- are luckily seeing the funny side. And we'll be sure to be on the lookout for any more suspected

cosmic activities.

That's it for the show. Goodnight from New York.