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Connect the World
One Month Since Catastrophic Quake and Aftershocks; Opposition Parties Discuss Candidate to take on Erdogan; Ukrainians Defend Bakhmut as Russians try to Encircle City; Sub-Saharan African Countries Repatriate Citizens from Tunisia; Afghans Facing Deadly Winter, Obstacles to International Aid; Using AI in Art to Represent Climate Change. Aired 11a- 12p ET
Aired March 06, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: Hundreds of thousands of kids are homeless in Turkey and Syria a month since that devastating earthquake struck the
region. Tonight, I speak to UNICEF's Executive Director who's just returned from a trip to the epicenter of that disaster.
First up, Russia on the cusp of capturing Ukrainian City Bakhmut for the first time in eight months but Washington cautions it's unlikely to change
the tide of the war. Iran's Supreme Leader says the poisoning of school girls across the country in recent months is an unforgivable crime urging
authorities to pursue the issue further.
Migrants in Tunisia are experiencing fear and turmoil after the President there made seemingly racist comments about illegal immigration. An Egyptian
football Legend Mohamed Salah emerges as a star when his team beats Manchester United 7-0 the worst ever defeat for Liverpool's archrivals.
Welcome back. This is the second hour of "Connect the World". And it has been one month since the cataclysmic earthquake that wrecked Turkey and
Syria and the situation still dire. UNICEF says two and a half million children in Turkey need urgent humanitarian assistance.
But it is in Syria where the situation is even worse. 3.7 million children, let me quote here a catastrophic combination of threats, face problems, the
emotional impact of a deadly disaster, plus the threat of contagious waterborne diseases, the impact of a decade of conflict, meeting recent
tragedies. So tonight, we ask, has the world abandoned, serious kids?
All those figures come from humanitarian organization UNICEF. So let's bring in the UNICEF Head Catherine Russell, who recently, as I said,
returned from Syria and Turkey. And I have to start by putting that simple question to you. Has the world abandoned serious kids?
CATHERINE RUSSELL, HEAD OF UNICEF: Well, first of all, thank you very much Becky for having me. I think you know I was in both Turkey and Syria, the
challenge in Syria? Well, first, it's just utter devastation where the earthquake hit.
But the thing to understand about it this is on top of 12 years of conflict, which was already devastating for the communities and especially
for the children. So the needs are enormous. And I think you know, UNICEF has been there we've been there before - stay people are there trying to
help. But I think the scale of the problem is so enormous.
I mean, a woman described it to me as she felt like when this happened that the world was ending. And I think you can see the images on the screen.
It's just utter devastation absolutely biblical problems there. And I think that there are many; many things that we still need to do to try to help
ANDERSON: Well, let's just reveal what those are. What sort of support do these kids need?
RUSSELL: Well, they need everything. And if you think about it, children very much on basic services that the government provides. So education,
sanitation, health, shelter, these children have nothing it literally this thing hit the earthquake hit the first one and there have been subsequent
aftershocks, but hit it four in the morning, right.
So they were asleep. The people, who survived, got out of their homes with nothing with them, right? And somebody described it to me in Syria also is
that uncertainty about the banking system. So people would keep money in their homes.
So that was destroyed as well. So they literally have nothing they left with not even shoes on their feet. So when you drive around the city, you
see tents, people are living in tents. There are shelters that had been set up. UNICEF was helping, for example with this we took a school that was
still standing in and made that a place where people could seek shelter.
But you know, these are not long term solutions, and the families are absolutely devastated. And the children are shell shocked as well because
of course they're scared. I saw one program where we were trying to get the children to draw pictures of them and say, what did this earthquake feel
like to you?
And so then they would circle a part of their body that was hurt. So for some children, they were circling their hearts, which makes sense. Some of
them were circling their feet, and it took me a minute to understand what that was about. But of course, they felt the earthquake and the aftershocks
through their feet right and so they're just traumatized by what happened so we have a lot.
ANDERSON: And this is piling trauma, onto trauma, of course. How would you rate the government's response in both places? It has to be said you spent
time in Aleppo, in Syria. Did you meet government officials there Syrian government officials?
RUSSELL: I did. I met some of the line ministers.
ANDERSON: What's your perception?
RUSSELL: I would say, look, that country has been in conflict for 12 years, right? So an 11 year old child has known nothing else and the cities in -
as we drove from Aleppo to Damascus, every single structure was destroyed. And it's the scale of the problem is really challenging.
We are doing a lot to help there. I think that it is hard for me to really say how much the government has the capacity to do. You know, in Turkey,
the government is much stronger, obviously. And the government is leading the efforts that we are supporting there. And so it's a little bit of a
ANDERSON: I know you're not going to want to get into politics. I mean, we could talk about why this is a very different situation, at length and ad
nauseam. Let me stick to where I know your expertise is, at this point, this couldn't have come this earthquake at a worse time.
You've got so much going on with the war in Ukraine, with Yemen and various other places. I know, you know, top of your inbox, as it were, how much did
this earthquake stay you as an organization, of course?
RUSSELL: Such an interesting way to think about it. You know, when I look around the world, there are so many problems. And I think it's hard to
imagine a time that was in recent memory worse for children, and that you pointed out some of them, you'd have to add Afghanistan to that ongoing
conflicts in the DRC and other places.
I mean, just one thing after another. And I think remember, that all comes on top of COVID, which had such a dramatic impact on education around the
world everywhere. I mean, we estimate that 70 percent of 10 year olds in the world now in the whole world can't read or understand a simple
So the work that we have to do is enormous in every place. And I think, you know, we look at it as we can't turn our eye from one problem to the next,
we have to keep our eye on all of these problems.
And I think the challenge I think is for the international community to find the support that they can give to all of these issues. Because really,
you know, we say this all the time, a child as a child, no matter where he or she lives, no matter what circumstances and we have to do everything we
can, as an international community to try to help them.
And I don't underestimate how challenging it is for donors? But we do get a lot of good support. We're so grateful for that. It makes such a difference
to the lives of children.
ANDERSON: Catherine you talked about Afghanistan, people there dying amid extreme poverty, freezing temperatures, it's that time of year. How would
you describe things there? This is a story that, you know, tries as we might it, it falls off sort of headline radar, you know, and it's so
important that we continue to shine a light on what is going on there?
RUSSELL: Yes, you know, Becky, it's interesting. It was my first trip last year as Executive Director of UNICEF, and I'd have to say it was shocking
to see the devastation there. The humanitarian needs are just extraordinary.
We estimate I think 28 million people are in need of really fast humanitarian assistance. It's very challenging to work there. You know,
everything that government has, the fact that government has done in the last year has been challenging to the role of women and girls there, which
has made it hard for us in terms of resources.
But you know what? We've been in Afghanistan for decades. We will stay there. We will do everything we can to help the people who are there,
especially the children. I mean, the stories coming on to their absolutely devastating you know, I saw I went to a hospital and held some babies that
were literally on the verge of starvation.
And that's something I wish I'd never had to see. But I see it there and the needs. People are cold, it is starting to get a little bit warmer, but
as you say, they've been freezing to death. People are starving. The needs are just incredible.
ANDERSON: Catherine, that's Afghanistan. I name checked Yemen, you've reminded us of so many other places in the world where there is so much
help needed for so many kids. I just want to draw us back to Syria finally.
You were in Damascus. I know the heads of other agencies have spent time in Damascus with the President. I know you know, there have been
representatives from here in the UAE for example, the Foreign Minister who spent time in Damascus, nudging the President there to at least ensure that
these corridors were open between Turkey and Syria if not these cross lines between rebel held and government held areas in Syria.
ANDERSON: You know, from the conversations you had do you genuinely believe that the government in Damascus is focused - laser focus on doing what it
can for Syrians who are in so much need at present?
And you can answer this question through the lens of the kids, because that's your file. But I think it's really important to understand from
leads like you, what is it that's being said, behind these closed doors? And what sort of access is actually being provided?
RUSSELL: Well, let me say this. I've met with several of the Ministers, I met with the Health Minister, Education Minister met with the Foreign
Minister, and they expressed sincere concern about what was happening, and we're supportive and are supportive of our work there.
Now, you know, beyond that, thankfully, UNICEF doesn't get into the politics of the matter. We really are focused on trying to help children.
You point out the very great challenges, we have access, and they are real.
You know, there are some additional places now where we were able to cross the border, which is very helpful, because even though we can do cross
line, crossing the border is a little bit faster and safer for people. So we're happy to have that access now.
But you know access is a challenge for us in many, many places. And I think that everyone has to always keep in mind that we are there to help
children, right? That's our sole mission. It's our sole effort, and we are doing the best we can we need all governments, all people to support us and
to make it possible for us to do our work.
ANDERSON: With that we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for giving us your time tonight, Catherine Russell, on what she
learned on her latest trip into Syria and just giving us the opportunity to provide a proper platform for the kids who are displaced who need the
world's help there, and in other places around the world. Pleasure to have you, Catherine, thank you very much indeed.
Well, any moment now we are expecting an announcement from Turkey where the opposition is about to name its candidate to make take on Recep Erdogan in
this year's general election. Political tensions have been strained as six of the big parties work on a common platform before the contest scheduled
for May. This man appears to be the favorite. He is the Leader of the Center Left Republican People's Party.
Nada Bashir is in Istanbul. And the appeal by those who support the opposition is to ensure that there is one candidate that they can coalesce
around because the opposition will say in the past that is where their weakness was. And that is why President Erdogan remains in the position
that he does today and over the last two decades. Where is the opposition at? Do they have that leader?
NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well look Becky; there's certainly been some tension within the opposition over the weekend. We've seen a party
pulling out now coming back in to that alliance those talks to form a more formal coalition to coalesce around one single candidate.
It has been ongoing for a year they are coming to a head now. We are still waiting for that final confirmation of a leader to carry that opposition
alliance through to the presidential elections. But look, over the last weekend we have seen tensions we've seen discord within that opposition
bloc, and that will certainly play into President Erdogan's favor.
He has of course, been campaigning on maintaining stability in Turkey particularly in a time where the country is already facing so much turmoil
and indeed massive crises, including, of course, the earthquake in which we have seen the government taking a firm stance on that, but that could also
be President Erdogan's downfall.
The opposition here was quite clear in its criticism of President Erdogan's government in terms of its response to the earthquake. They say that the
government didn't respond quickly enough. Some opposition politicians have said that more lives could have been saved had the government acted more
And then of course, there is the question of the financial crisis here in Turkey, which is only worsening inflation above 55 percent families here
struggling with day to day necessities. So there is a real crisis on President Erdogan hands. But of course, playing into that question of
stability may prove in his favor.
For now we are still waiting for the announcement of a single candidates represent that opposition alliance. However, this will be the candidate the
stands as rival to President Erdogan he's already made clear and indicated that those elections are still expected to go ahead in May, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nada Bashir is in Istanbul. Thank you. And a new economic agreement; Saudi Arabia has deposited $5 billion in the Turkish Central
Bank. A statement by the Saudi government said that it's a testament to the close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
And is aimed at supporting Turkey's efforts to strengthen its economy and promote growth. It comes just days after the UAE signed a trade partnership
agreement with Turkey, worth 40 billion in non-oil related trade. You are watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson.
Still ahead, the harsh warning from Iran's Supreme Leader to whoever have been poisoning hundreds of school girls and one Health Minister is saying
today about the girls' medical status. And the relentless battle for Bakhmut. Ukraine rounds to defend the battered city with Russia on the
verge of taking it more on that, after this.
ANDERSON: The Head of the UN's Nuclear Watchdog reports progress in efforts to monitor Iran's nuclear program. Rafael Grossi says and I quote him
concrete access will be given to certain individuals at uranium enrichment sites. Here's what he told me last hour about what he expects to happen in
the weeks ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: We were in a sort of an impasse. So now what we decided is that we are going
to be looking into other things and that we are going to try to clarify this. What the final outcome is some colleagues of yours will say well, how
do you know this will be --?
Well, of course, I don't know. The important thing is that we have picked up where we left it. And this is positive in the sense that I am going to
be able to continue with this probe. And until now I have been stopped. So of course, we hope for a clarification or resolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: That was Grossi speaking to me after spending part of the weekend in Tehran to talk about inspections and jumpstarting stalled nuclear talks.
Well, Iran's Supreme Leader says whoever is behind a wave of poisonings of schoolgirls must face the toughest of punishments.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out today after more poisonings were reported over the weekend, more than thousand girls have now been poisoned since
November and that is according to state media and government officials. Khamenei calls it a big an unforgivable crime. Nima Elbagir is back with us
this hour. Nima, Iran's Deputy Health Minister also speaking out should today. What has he been saying?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, those levels of officials beneath the Supreme Leader appear to be walking a
very treacherous knife edge Becky, while trying to assuage domestic feeling and absolutely understandable anger from Iranian parents, they are also
trying to diminish what many are saying is a wave of incidents of suspected poisonings.
At the same time, we're hearing from medical sources and parents that they are being told not to speak out that they are being told to not share with
the world their absolutely understandable fears, take a look at this Becky.
ELBAGIR (voice over): Furious parents outside in Education Office in Tehran challenging Iranian authorities desperate for answers. After what is
believed to be the worst day of incidents of suspected poisonings at girl's schools. These videos were filmed on Saturday which marks the start of the
school week in Iran. For months now Iranian schoolgirls and their families have been speaking out about incidents of suspected poisoning.
The numbers of incidents reported to CNN in the dozens, then over the weekend, dozens - CNN was able to verify these new incidents using video
and witness testimony across 10 provinces. The U.S. and others are calling for Iran's authorities to investigate these incidents. But Speaking to CNN
medical sources, they have been barred by hospital administrators from sharing details of symptoms and test results even with the patient's
parents. We dub this doctors voice for his safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm inside Iran. My phone is being monitored. I can't share any more with you.
ELBAGIR (voice over): Iran's interior minister after months of vague statements now says suspicious samples have been found and are being
assessed at laboratories. Parents though say they don't trust authorities to investigate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To hell with this country and its rulers, we would be better off without a leader, this is our country. They don't know what
they're doing. They don't even have medicine.
ELBAGIR (voice over): All the incidents begin in a similar manner as described to us by students and noxious smell and then.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt dizzy and fainted. I had dimness of vision and heart palpitations. All of us had identical symptoms, palpitations, my
hands and legs were numb and frozen. I was shaken. We had tears coming out of our eyes.
ELBAGIR (voice over): With no one so far held to account and parents no closer to answers, many continue to risk their lives to challenge Iran's
ELBAGIR: And there's heightened domestic scrutiny with regards to Iran's handling of these cases of suspected poisonings, Becky, comes with
heightened international scrutiny, not just with regards to these incidents, but also with regards to how Iranian authorities have behaved
throughout these tumultuous months since the protests in Iran began.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S., which is the U.S.'s lead foreign policy body, is now asking that a UN probe look into CNN's
findings of the Iranian authority's use of torture, black sites. It feels like there is really an escalation internationally in this scrutiny but
also in these attempts to get Iranian officials to address what is happening in their country and their response to it, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nima, thank you. Well, to Ukraine now in the fierce battle for Bakhmut, the Ukrainian forces vowing to defend what's left at the eastern
city, Russian forces surrounding it and on the verge of taking their first Ukrainian city in eight months.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense says even if Ukraine does reposition to the west, he wouldn't consider it a setback. CNN's Melissa Bell covering these
developments, she is live in Kyiv. What do you make of what we heard from Lloyd Austin?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is the assessments of the Western powers that have been watching this unfold for the last few weeks Becky.
Many questioning why so much time and effort and blood frankly on the Ukrainian side have been spent on this town which lacked a great deal of
strategic importance to begin with.
In terms of battlefield and yet by their determination Ukrainians have made it strategic hoping to wear down the Russian war machine. And costing them
a lot of men, a ratio of about seven to 10 have been lost on the Russian side according to some estimates. That's extremely high. That's been their
point. But I think also not just reflecting the assessment of many when he says that, should they choose to retreat and it is probably realistically
just a question of time Becky.
We should not read into that anything terribly significant about the tide of this war turning in the Russian favor off for all these months. When the
gains have tended to be on the Ukrainian side it has come to take on this hugely symbolic importance. But he won't mean very much.
BELL: In fact, probably what it tells us when you look at how much effort and time and men the Russians about to spend taking it is not so much of
their strength. But more likely, overall, when you look at the length of the frontline of their weakness, that is certainly the analysis of many
people looking at this battle.
Where we are tonight, Becky is street to street combat that continues to cost the lives of the many young men that have been sent by both sides to
try and carry it out. We've been hearing from President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian side today, who said that they continue to hold on.
We don't know how long, much longer they will be able to hold on whether it is a matter of hours or days. But at some point, a tactical retreat seems
inevitable. In the meantime, the question is how many more soldiers are lost and perhaps more importantly, how many more civilians lose their life.
BELL (voice over): Ukrainian forces giving all they can to defend Bakhmut what's left of it. After the longest battle of the war, one of the oldest
cities in the Donbas lies in ruins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were no waters, no decisions were made regarding withdrawal from Bakhmut, there have been no tactical changes, we are
holding the defense.
BELL (voice over): Abandoned by more than 90 percent of its population over the course of the seven months siege, only those who couldn't leave before
are left. The intense fighting means that only five to 10 people a day can now be evacuated compared to the 500 to 600 a day when the evacuation
started at the end of February according to the city's deputy mayor.
The Russians throwing all they have at the city says the deputy mayor. Heavy artillery, mortar fire airstrikes and a substantial commitment of
ground forces both regular soldiers and Wagner mercenaries. But Russian advances have come at huge cost. Wave after wave of Russian soldiers have
been sent to their deaths.
And Ukraine has accused Russia of exaggerating its gains, claiming they still control one of the major highways into Bakhmut, a lifeline for
Ukrainian defenders, with one Ukrainian commander tweeting that there are many ways still to get into the city.
Analysts have questioned the strategic importance of Bakhmut, but that has not stopped Moscow's intense campaign to capture the city. Nor Ukraine's
existential fight to keep it. The unceasing barrage of artillery fire hasn't just killed or forced out most of the city's civilians.
It's taken a huge toll on Ukrainian soldiers too, as the battle turns to close quarters street fighting. But Ukraine continues its fierce fight for
victory, even as Russian forces continue to close in on a city that's already a byword for Ukrainian resilience on the battlefield.
ANDERSON: Well, there's a lot more detail and analysis on that battle for Bakhmut. On CNN's digital platforms, including this beast questioning the
strategic importance of the city and why some believe it Ukrainian withdrawal there would not be a disaster.
Well, coming up xenophobia on the rise in Tunisia. Hundreds of black migrants are fleeing and despite controversial comments from the president,
Tunisia's government says the country is not racist.
ANDERSON: You're back with "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson. Your headlines this hour the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Jordan
where he has spoken about the war in Ukraine. Austin said that Kyiv repositioned in some areas of the west of the besieged city of Bakhmut, he
would not view that as a setback Russia continuing to pour in what he called ill-trained and ill-equipped troops which are quickly being taken
Well in Turkey political drama reaching a fever pitch. The opposition is set to make an announcement anytime now about its pick to take on Recep
Tayyip Erdogan in the general election in May. And these are live pictures of a crowd outside opposition headquarters in Ankara as they wait for the
The favorite seems to be Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the center left Republican People's Party. Well, the Head of the UN's nuclear watchdog says
Iran will provide "Concrete access to certain individuals for monitoring Iranian enrichment sites. Rafael Grossi, the spoken Vienna of visiting
Tehran at the weekend discuss monitoring and stalled nuclear talks he calls discussions there positive.
Well, Tunisia's government is denying that the country is racist after its president made controversial comments last month aimed at sub-Saharan
migrants. They've been fleeing in droves after its president accused them of being part of a criminal enterprise aiming to change the democratic
composition of the country. The African Union strongly condemned the President's statement as racial and shocking. Larry Madowo joins us now
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, the Tunisian government says it is not racist. In a new statement after President case aids comments which
have been likened to this conspiracy theory known as a great replacement. It's popular within certain Right-Wing groups in Europe and North America.
And this almost Trumpian logic that he made here.
There are 20,000 or so blacks have Sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia out of a population of about 12 million, so they make up about 0.001 percent of the
population. The African Union has given a rare rebuke condemning those statements, calling them shocking and racialized.
And now the African Union has canceled a planned conference those to be in Tunis next week, indefinitely. We don't know if that's going to happen
again. But some countries, especially in West Africa, have gone the next step. They're evacuating the citizens out of Tunisia.
MADOWO (voice over): Unexpected return home, hundreds of people arrive in Mali from Tunisia. What they see is no longer safe for them.
ABRAMANE DOUMBIA, STUDENT: I didn't go out anymore. I stayed in my house. I didn't go to school anymore. I was locked up at home.
MADOWO (voice over): Almost two weeks ago, Tunisian President Kais Saied sparked a backlash against migrants with his controversial remarks, saying
illegal immigration from Sub-Saharan Africa was the conspiracy to change the racial makeup of Tunisia. Saied also blamed illegal migrants for crime
in the country and ordered security forces to crack down on them.
Migrants with and without papers say they now live in fear in Tunisia. The incendiary remarks resulting in evictions, firings and even attacks on some
migrants. Many say they want to leave the country lining up at their embassies for repatriation, rather than face prejudice or worse if they
WILFRID, IVORIAN TUNISIA: Landlords are kicking us out. We are beaten and mistreated. For more security, we prefer to come to our embassy to register
to return to Ivory Coast.
MADOWO (voice over): Saied has since denied his comments were racist, saying legal migrants have nothing to fear, but reiterated his belief that
illegal immigrants are causing the downfall of the country.
KAIS SAIED, TUNISIAN PRESIDENT: This is a matter for the state. It must take its responsibilities. There is no question of allowing anyone in an
illegal situation to stay in Tunisia. There is a state and institutions.
MADOWO (voice over): Saied's remarks are causing shockwaves across the continent, the African Union calling them racist and shocking. Countries
like Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea and Gabon are now working to have the citizens leave the country.
But some migrants say they've got nothing to go back to in their home countries. Even though some are living rough on the streets, after they say
mobs ransack their homes, fueled by the president's words.
NATASHA, SIERRA LEONEAN LIVING IN TUINISIA: We need help. We need help from all over the world. Because we are really suffering here things are not
really useful. You can see the place that we are sleeping; this is not the place that you want to sleep. We are suffering.
MADOWO (voice over): Tunisia is home to about 20,000 migrants from Sub- Saharan Africa. The country has visa free travel for many African countries, and has become a transit point for many illegal migrants trying
to cross to Europe.
It's also a country sliding away from democracy to one man rule. In 2021, Saied's suspended Parliament making way for a new constitution that took
away many of the government's checks and balances consolidating power with himself.
On Sunday, Tunisian demonstrators gathered in the capital Tunis, despite a ban on the rally to protest against the president and the recent arrests of
opposition leaders, a crackdown on critics and a purge of migrants that signs Tunisia's time as a democracy may be ticking away.
MADOWO: The Tunisian government's latest statement says there's a campaign to painted as racist, which is not, just not true. It was one of the
founders of the Organization of African Unity, which is a precursor to the African Union. I want to read a part of this statement for you. It says it
is an honor for Tunisia to be an African state, Africans are our brothers.
During recent years, Tunisia has not stopped calling for Africa to be for Africans, and has attacked by all means the human trafficking crime from
which the African brothers have suffered so far. But this situation highlights the anti-black racism, the xenophobia and the anti-blackness as
a whole that many Africans have complained for, especially the Arab world, Becky.
ANDERSON: Alright, thank you. Well, my next guest is a Tunisian author. A latest book released in 2022 translates from Arabic to things. Samar Samir
Mezghanni normally based in Tunisia joins us live via Skype from Ottawa, Canada, as I understand it tonight. Thank you for doing this. How surprised
if at all, are you by these inflammatory comments by Kais Saied?
SAMAR SAMIR MEZGHANNI, TUNISIAN AUTHOR: I'm not very surprised. In fact, there are different this is a result of many things that I can go through.
But most of all, I am ashamed I'm, I feel very ashamed and frustrated and angry about the speech. In my PhD, I studied discourse analysis of
minorities of Muslims in the United Kingdom.
And I can see now, similarities between the negative perpetuated stereotypes I've studied. And what this speech has presented, you know,
practices discursive practices of collectivization, of otherness, and of demonizing different people in Tunisia and other places, minorities in
general, every country. There are similar practices, destructive practices, and I'm very ashamed that this is one that we're seeing now in Tunisia at
the highest level.
ANDERSON: Racist and shocking is how comments have been described by many who they were aimed at. There are those who are suggesting that this is the
president using migration as a cover to avoid addressing what is Tunisia's worsening economic situation at present. Just how bad are things? And do
you see that as a, you know, a genuine criticism?
MEZGHANNI: Yes, people are frustrated, a lot of young people are disenchanted, they are angry and it is easier to put the blame and find a
scapegoat than to admit one's own mistakes and failures. So, this is the easiest strategy that can find echoes in society as well because there are
people who can out of ignorance or out of racism, agree with the speech.
But there are also people who are now fighting these stereotypes and show their pride and their pride in their African identity because Tunisia is an
African country. And Tunisians have diverse identities in fact that can live in harmony, instead of being conflicting and opposing each other.
ANDERSON: There will be those watching this tonight this interview, who will remark that Tunisia until very recently was always hailed as the great
success story out of what was known as the Arab Spring at the sort of, you know, the last bastion of democracy, if you will, what went wrong?
MEZGHANNI: I think we have to; we have to put this in a global context. We Tunisians see, for example, the U.S. as a democracy - as a model of
democracy. We see many countries in the Western part of the world, Europe, North America; we see them as democratic examples to follow. And in these
countries, in the same countries, we see a lot of racism, we see xenophobic discourses, we see a lot of practices against immigrants, refugees,
So, this is just the trickle-down effect of global North discourse against minorities that is now witnessed in the Global South. In fact, in the words
of very famous Tunisian philosopher who is in fact the founder of sociology and Khaldoun? He says the defeated wants to imitate the victor.
And this is this is why I'm not very surprised, because for a lot of Tunisians in times, if you look at colonialist and new colonialist power
dynamics, this is only a result that is expected by Tunisians to be reproducing the same representations we're seeing in Western countries, now
ANDERSON: It's good to have you on, we'll have you back. Thank you.
MEZGHANNI: Thanks a lot.
ANDERSON: Taking a very short break, back after this.
ANDERSON: The United Nations says Afghanistan is in the middle of its coldest winter in more than a decade. It's contributing to what a
humanitarian crisis one made worse by the Taliban is limiting international aid. My colleague Anna Coren introduces you to Afghans who are struggling
just to survive and some of the people who are trying to help them.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Fresh snow blankets the hilltops of gore province in central Afghanistan, creating the illusion of
a winter wonderland. But for those who live here, there is no wonder let alone a glimmer of hope. Simply staying alive is a daily struggle.
For this family, their young son lost that battle. Now they huddled around his hillside grave offering prayers to six-year-old Wahid who just days ago
froze to death.
COREN (voice over): I miss my brother and that is why I came to visit him at the graveyard, she says. Abdul Zahia - moved his family to the township
of Feroz Koh in Ghor looking for work as a laborer. But with an economic and humanitarian crisis, gripping Taliban controlled Afghanistan; he wasn't
able to make ends meet.
I had nothing to burn to keep the house warm, he explains. I checked on the children during the night and their bodies were numb. I realized my son had
died of frostbite. This is a photo of him last year he says, and here is his dead body.
And unprecedentedly brutal winter has claimed countless Afghan lives this year, but so too has extreme poverty. This has been exacerbated by the
repercussions of the Taliban government's dystopian gender policies and the response by the international community. Almost a year ago, the Taliban
banned female secondary students from attending school that has morphed into a nationwide ban on all female education.
But it was the Taliban's decision in December banning women from working for non-governmental organizations that forced humanitarian aid groups to
abruptly halt or suspend operations.
JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: There are 28 million Afghans in desperate need at the moment, 28 million, and we're not
even reaching a fraction of those.
COREN (voice over): The Norwegian Refugee Council says they normally help 700,000 Afghans each year, but their operation has been drastically pared
back. Its Secretary General recently traveled to Kabul pleading with the Taliban to allow female aid workers to return to work.
EGELAND: It's at its worst hour. It's never been as bad as it is now.
COREN (voice over): 35-year-old Sephora - wipes away her tears as she grieves for her husband who perished from the cold also in Ghor Province,
father and breadwinner for their eight children, the youngest, just two. Now she's wondering how to keep her family alive.
I have no education, she says, my children need food. What should I do? Three of her children are girls, including a 12-year-old - who knows all
too well what happens to poor young Afghan girls who reach puberty. I'm worried that if we don't have food, my brothers were forced to sell or
marry me under pressure, she says.
And I don't want to get married. I'm a kid. I don't want a husband. U.S. charity Too Young to Wed says it's been able to provide emergency aid for
the family and many others. But founder Stephanie Sinclair says the avalanche of need is overwhelming and they're unable to help everyone.
STEPHANIE SINCLAIR, FOUNDER, TOO YOUNG TO WED: To me it's unconscionable that the international community is not paying more attention to what's
happening to women and girls in Afghanistan. It is simply just inexcusable that we're not doing everything in our power to try to change the course of
what's happening there. We have to do better.
COREN (voice over): And with the UN predicting two thirds of the population will require humanitarian aid this year. Afghan children like - can only
hope the world is listening. Anna Coren, CNN Hong Kong.
ANDERSON: Well, Afghans hoping the world is listening and seeing. For the past year and a half, stories like the ones Anna just told us about are all
too familiar from women's rights abuses the cases of ethnic persecution. But for Mufazar Ali, the photographer behind these images, Afghanistan is
much more than a tragedy.
MUFAZAR ALI, PHOTOGRAPHER: In Pakistan when I was growing up, I heard that Afghanistan was all about war, civil war destruction Taliban Mujahideen.
And my work experience with the UN showed me a different picture of that Afghanistan. It was pleasant and non-pleasant simultaneously.
ANDERSON: Mufazar shows as the people behind the headlines and the beauty of Afghan and their land. But he also tells us about a darker reality,
where 3.5 million Afghans are displaced within the country, more than half of the population relied on humanitarian aid and the most vulnerable are in
ALI: I went to some of the places in Afghanistan where people had never seen a car. They have never seen a camera. And the tragic thing was that
several times when I pointed a camera to take a photo, people were scared because they thought I'm pointing the gun towards them.
ANDERSON: Well for Mufazar, the Taliban are representatives of darkness the darkness at the eyes of girls in Afghanistan. I've had to adjust to more
than anyone else. Well, last December, the Taliban decided to suspend university education for all female students a hard blow. For Afghan women,
the same women who Mufazar says are Afghanistan's last hope.
ALI: I think my hope only hope is Afghan woman. My only hope is the woman that they are our real heroes, real champions. They are the bravest woman
in the world. They are the only hope. But Taliban are closing the doors on them. They're leaving no space for them to break. International community
need to rescue our women they are the only hope in Afghanistan right now.
ANDERSON: Well, in tonight's parting shots, we take a look at how artificial intelligence is being used to represent one of the world's most
complex problems. Climate change, artist Refik Anadol, uses AI to analyze images of melting glaciers like this one, he recently displayed his work at
art Dubai, the fair, take a look.
ANDERSON (voice over): You're looking at more than 85 million images of melting glaciers, composed into one piece of immersive art.
REFIK ANADOL, ARTIST: I'm Refik Anadol, I am a media artist and director of our studio, working with data and A.I. last 14 years and pioneered many
paintings and sculptures and immersive environments.
ANDERSON (voice over): Analyzed by A.I., it's meant to convey the emotion of how climate change erodes memories from Earth.
ANADOL: From that perspective, the data here is a collective memory of humanity, which is the glaciers; we have more than two weeks of just sound
recordings of this beautiful environment. And we also have weather data. So, I'm literally using all this information and then together to generate
ANDERSON (voice over): Known as a disruptive in the art world, Refik's pieces are pushing the boundaries of art and artificial intelligence.
ANADOL: So, the idea is if a machine can learn to drink and hallucinate. In this case, what we are seeing is that the form, the color, the speed, and
the texture is coming from this AI dreams the speed of light melting and the speed of change of these like tones of blue, all coming from the AI
ANDERSON (voice over): First shown at Art Dubai, the fair is also pushing boundaries in the arts world.
BENEDETTA GHIONE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ART DUBAI: I am Benedetta Ghione; I'm the Executive Director of our device. Where a fair of innovation, we're
independent, we're boutique fair, and we really aim to foreground these different and fresh perspectives, you know, and take a very unique position
in Dubai. At the meeting place of east and west, north and south a deeply cosmopolitan, open-minded city.
I feel that the transformation that the digital art, landscape evolving is going to bring into mainstream artistic production are only starting to be
understood and on earth. It's also about the bridges that are going to be built between so called traditional practices and practitioners and the new
possibilities that digital art can unlock.
ANDERSON (voice over): For Refik, it's still vital to get out and explore the natural world.
ANADOL: The physical travels to these locations are literally the core of the data research, and physically going there physically collecting data
and then training AI is the process. I do believe it's one of the most ethical ways of doing AI research. And literally the concept of this may be
truly the last memories of humanity when it hit me that was very heavy.
ANDERSON (voice over): Using A.I. to artistically express the world's most complex problems, one pixel and one algorithm at a time.
ANDERSON: Thank you for joining us. CNN continues after this short break. From the team working with me here in Abu Dhabi and those working with us
around the world, it is a very good evening.