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Turkey Mine Disaster; Turkey's War-Torn Neighbor, Syria; Nigeria's Nightmare; Imagine a World

Aired May 15, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Sorrow in Soma, an official period of mourning is underway in Turkey after its worst-ever mine disaster. Nearly 300 workers were killed after a fire broke out underground on Tuesday. President Abdullah Gul canceled a trip to China to meet with victims' relatives today and he promised a swift investigation.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Erdogan had visited the site and he had been met with jeers, boos and calls for his resignation.

The heckling got so bad the prime minister was forced to seek refuge in a nearby store. And now this image of his top adviser appearing to kick a protester after a scuffle around Erdogan has gone viral, and that is stoking the anger of protesters in Istanbul and in Ankara.

They're accusing the government of murder for not doing enough to ensure workers' safety. Now under fire for his increasing authoritarianism plus a corruption scandal and the massive anti-government protest in Gezi Park last year, Erdogan is feeling the heat at home and abroad because of the endless war in neighboring Syria. The so-called Friends of Syria met here in London today to try to shore up the moderate opposition now that the Geneva political process has collapsed and now that Assad is trying to cement his own cement power with elections next month.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told me that vote is illegitimate and would never be recognized. We spoke at the Turkish embassy. He gave me an exclusive interview just after meeting his counterparts.

He also told me the government would take all means necessary to protect its own miners and beef up its poor worker safety record.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, welcome to the program.

AHMET DAVUTOGLU, FOREIGN MINISTER, TURKEY: Thank you and you're welcome to our embassy.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. And in this embassy, like all Turkish embassies, you have had a moment of mourning because of the disaster that has struck your country with so many miners who have been killed.

Your president went to speak there today and said that he promised government would take care to ensure that there was an investigation and that safety of the workers would be improved.

What do you say to the world, looking in on this?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, thank you very much.

First of all, I want to express our thanks and appreciation to all the countries; leaders, ministers who expressed condolences to our nation and offered assistance in this very difficult time of Turkey.

Of course this is a very sad event, one of the most tragic accidents which have been occurring in our republican era. All the things, all the efforts we've been done to check what was wrong if there was anything wrong during this disaster or before how it turned.

AMANPOUR: Sadly, Turkey has a very poor safety record for worker safety, one of the lowest in the world. The prime minister is under a lot of criticism inside your country right now because he's perceived to have made light of this accident, that it was just another accident.

Is that how you see it, that this was just another accident?


DAVUTOGLU: I think this is -- I think this is -- this is a wrong perception.

AMANPOUR: But he perceived to have said that because he said there had been other accidents here, there, around the world.

DAVUTOGLU: (INAUDIBLE) what prime minister wanted to underline that this is a challenge which all other nations had to face, otherwise, of course, we have been very careful in dealing with these safety and security working life. And our standards are quite high.

AMANPOUR: Again, as I said, the prime minister is under a lot of pressure. There are calls for him to resign over this, people are angry, people you know, thumped his car. He had to take refuge in a supermarket and protected by policemen.

DAVUTOGLU: In this type of various emotional times, there could be always demonstrations and we are respecting the right of demonstration. We should not forget that right of demonstration and rule of law is complementary. They are not against each other. Everybody must respect rule of law as well as right of demonstration.

Unfortunately and we understand the pain of our people, prime minister understands yesterday. I spoke with him and before departing Turkey as well as during the day. He was feeling all these pains in his heart and he -- everybody knows that our prime minister is always with the people and always feels the pain of people. Otherwise, he wouldn't get such a high support in eight elections in last 10 years. And prime minister instructed to all the institutions, aid institutions, agencies that everything should be done for this case, especially and all the measures will be taken in the future.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, let me move onto why you're here in London and that is yet another Friends of Syria meeting.

What did you come up with?

What have you decided in your latest meeting with other foreign ministers here in London today?

DAVUTOGLU: So we are working now on an action plan. This situation on the ground cannot continue as it is. And we cannot allow someone like Bashar al-Assad, who committed so many crimes, to continue to oppress and kill Syrian people. Therefore, we agreed that all the issues mentioned in the communique strengthen moderate forces and Free Syrian Army, preventing terrorism of Assad and any form of terrorism on the ground, creating humanitarian access.

And there are several topics we agreed that we do have an operational framework and joint effort in coming weeks and months.


AMANPOUR: So something's changing.

DAVUTOGLU: Yes. Something must change.

AMANPOUR: There was this much vaunted chemical weapon deal between the West, Russia and President Assad. The French government has accused the Assad regime of even this year using chemical weapons that are chlorine- based. Now the Syrian government denies it.

What do you think?

DAVUTOGLU: Syrian government and I have all the facts in the past, we also have certain evidences that given after the agreement on chemical weapons, chemical weapons in different form has been used against Syrian people, including chlorine substance.

AMANPOUR: Not only has the Geneva process collapsed, but the long- suffering envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, has quit and President Assad seems to be winning on the ground, creating his own deals. Forget you and the Friends of Syria and the international community. He is winning back territory by besieging and then making deals with let the rebels out.

Does that worry you?

DAVUTOGLU: All these policies, tactics of the regime are crimes against humanity. Besieging the city and implementing starvation or surrender policy, using chemical weapons, using barrel bombs, barrel bombardments, (INAUDIBLE). These are all crimes against humanity according to any standard.

If such a regime survives, that regime will be a risk factor for all the regimes.

Second thing is the rise of terrorism. In this sense I would -- do not mean only terrorism committed by certain groups, but also terrorism committed by Bashar al-Assad and his regime and their supporter terrorist groups.

So these two big threats are on the table and --

AMANPOUR: But is Bashar al-Assad winning on the ground?

He's won back Homs.

DAVUTOGLU: A dictator who committed so many crimes against humanity cannot survive. This way or other way, he lost all legitimacy. If he survives today, it is not because of his success to gain the heart of the people. But it is because of the inability of international community to stop this machinery of killing.

AMANPOUR: Well, OK. The international community has spectacularly failed to stop this killing machine. It's also said Assad must go; instead, he's winning back territory. He's having elections and he's building up his own idea of legitimacy for the future. And permanence for the future in his mind, presumably.

So you believe like the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, practically said in Washington, that the Obama administration has helped him stay in power, has helped this sense of momentum shifting towards Bashar al-Assad by not actually committing any kind of strike after the chemical weapons use?

DAVUTOGLU: Not only we cannot reduce this problem only to the attitude of President Obama's administration, but in general the international community has failed. And of course --

AMANPOUR: But failed and enabled.

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, yes. And therefore -- and United States is a leading world power. I mean, fact, the main leading of world power. All of us, we have a responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens and the basic (INAUDIBLE) community. Therefore the deterrence of international community has been deteriorating in last three years.

AMANPOUR: So you think the deterrence has been deteriorating because of Syria the last three years?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, I -- of course. Therefore --


AMANPOUR: Do you believe that the crisis we see now between Russia and Ukraine is because of lack of action in Syria?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, that I -- psychologically and also strategically let me say there is a link between the inability of the international community to stop this bloodshed in Syria on the situation in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: So the U.S. has not (INAUDIBLE) deterrent is what you're saying?

DAVUTOGLU: Not only U.S.; I am saying international community as a whole.

AMANPOUR: The head of the Syrian National Council has said that only force and weapons are going to help him and the moderate Syrian opposition against the Assad regime and against the terrorists who are there now.

Is there any weapons going to these people? Is there any uptick? Did you discuss that? Is there a pipeline for them?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, it is clear today regime has been successful because of the flow of weapon systems, sophisticated weapon systems by certain countries. And because of the flow of foreign fighters on the side of the regime by -- from certain countries as well.

Since there is such a flow which makes the regime more brutal and able to commit humanitarian crimes against humanity, of course that creates a reaction on the ground by the majority of the Syrian people trying to defend themselves, this is self-defense. This has been declared by --


AMANPOUR: All right. So what are you going to do about it?

DAVUTOGLU: We need to strengthen moderate --


AMANPOUR: But how? With respect --

DAVUTOGLU: -- by all means --

AMANPOUR: -- for years.

DAVUTOGLU: -- yes, as it has been declared in previous communique of London 11, what you call 11 call group of Friends of Syria, by all means, if you don't want to see spread of terrorism and spread of this inhuman tactics of the regime, moderate Syrian opposition should be strengthened and be in order to able -- to be able to defend themselves. (INAUDIBLE) Syrian people we will not international community will not act because of the absence of United States Security Council. We will not help you. And you cannot defend yourself.

What is the option for them? Waiting to be killed? This is -- this should not be the option for anyone in the world.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And as hundreds of anxious families in Turkey still wait for news of their loved ones still missing there after the mine disaster, in Nigeria parents' pain and anxiety have been mounting for a month since Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls.

Coming up, I speak to the governor of Borno State, where the girls were taken, about the search and what, if anything, can be done against this terrorist group.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan is set to finally meet the families of nearly 300 schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram a month ago. He'll visit the village of Chibok on Friday, which is the epicenter of a nightmare that's gripping his country and fueling global outrage.

Borno State in Northern Nigeria is stalked by Boko Haram terrorists. And joining me in the studio right now is the state governor, Kashim Shettima and a member of the Nigerian opposition, Sharon Ikeazor.

Both of you, welcome to the program.

Let me first ask you what are you doing here in London? We understand that the U.S. Secretary of Defense has confirmed that U.S. spy planes are -- or surveillance planes are flying. But he's received no intelligence that they've found the girls.

What are you asking for?

KASHIM SHETTIMA, NIGERIA BORNO STATE GOVERNOR: Well, I'm here because we're on a very short visit to partner with some strategic partners because of the crisis in our state. They are threatening to pull out of the state and they're involved in bringing over 1,000 bohols (ph). And if they get out of the state, it will further compound --


AMANPOUR: If who gets out of the state?

SHETTIMA: The strategic partners in Washington.


SHETTIMA: So I came to reassure them and I tell (INAUDIBLE) opportunity to thank the global community for their support, for their empathy because without the support of the global community, I believe these girls with the attention they are getting will help.

AMANPOUR: OK. So where are they? And how can one get them? If U.S. surveillance planes can't find them, the Nigerian army can't find them, what is going -- what is the future?

SHETTIMA: Believe me, we are working assiduously (ph). We are getting information. And anytime we get information, we relay it to the military for them to take it up to the next level.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any info?

SHETTIMA: Certainly we got some information 2-3 days ago. We obliged (ph) them with the (INAUDIBLE) information we got and we are working with the local communities because we are the (INAUDIBLE) platform of local people who are sensitized (ph) to report to us in any unusual movement, be it (INAUDIBLE) or human (INAUDIBLE) and we are doing a good job.

AMANPOUR: What are you saying to your government as a member of the opposition now about what they have done or haven't done to find these girls but also in general? This is not the first time girls and others have been kidnapped by Boko Haram.

SHARON IKEAZOR, NIGERIAN OPPOSITION WOMEN'S LEADER: Yes. This is not the first time. This has been going on for quite a while but we've never had it to such a large number. I mean, it's sad that it took the kidnap of this number of girls to wake up the government to their responsibilities. I mean, it's sad to say they have failed us. They have failed our daughters. All they wanted was an education.

AMANPOUR: And we have a graphic here that shows so many children all over Nigeria are not actually in school.

IKEAZOR: We have over 10 million kids --


AMANPOUR: Over 10 million. Look at this, 10.5 million children not in school.

What do these parents in Borno State, where are they to go? They send their kids to school and they get abducted and nobody can find their kids.

Can they safely send their kids to school in Borno State, Governor?

SHETTIMA: (INAUDIBLE) very tough question. But believe me, we have gone out of our way to assure them and we are partnering with the military to provide adequate security and we are buying into the safe schools program. It's championed by Gordon Brown so that our schools can be better places, better, secure places.

AMANPOUR: Now President Goodluck Jonathan basically didn't come out, didn't talk to you for a long time. This campaign went viral before the government came -- how long was it before you heard from him?

SHETTIMA: Well, it took quite a while. For the past three (ph) weeks, we are politicking. And there's all of the (INAUDIBLE) between governors and politics. In support to us to (INAUDIBLE) address those problems, we were really looking for scapegoats, even questioning the very (ph).

AMANPOUR: So valuable time was lost playing politics and looking for scapegoats.


AMANPOUR: Do you think that there was a moment where they could have been found in your conversations with the governor?

Could that have happened?

IKEAZOR: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And this, I mean, this age of cell phones, most of the girls in school had their cell phones. They had contacted their parents.

AMANPOUR: These very ones?


AMANPOUR: These very ones?

IKEAZOR: These very ones. So they knew when the attack was happening and the villages around had reported to the military.

And if you remember, it was said they had at least 3-4 hours' notice for them to do something. They could have followed up; one of the trucks broke down. They could have followed up. Our anger at the ineptitude of the government, they could have saved these girls.

AMANPOUR: And your state is -- is it overrun by Boko Haram?

And by the way, who are they? Are they religious? What do you -- you know. You live with them. Who are they?

SHETTIMA: Boko Haram are a bunch of raving lunatics --


AMANPOUR: Raving lunatics?

SHETTIMA: -- yes, that's who are taking cover because they have violated every single concept, every single belief of the religion of Islam. But there's (INAUDIBLE). They have gotten a very captive audience because of the endemic poverty (ph) --

AMANPOUR: So do you think the government should negotiate with them? They've said no; they're not going to do a prisoner swap.

Do you think they should?

SHETTIMA: Well, we need to get these girls back and we don't have the luxury of time on our side. It is so painful. This is how it is, if our own daughters are (INAUDIBLE). So the issue of non-negotiation, of not negotiating with the terrorists is out of the question.

AMANPOUR: Out of the question.

SHETTIMA: It is mere talking to the devil. It means the devil can come down, who can get back our girls.

AMANPOUR: So talk to the devil in this case to get the girls back and then deal with it.

But how does one deal with the situation in Borno State, Sharon?

It's poor; these Boko Haram people are taking advantage of that.

They also have been seeing what the government has done. And it's pretty sort of scorched earth when the government goes up there.

Does that just give them, you know, backlash?

IKEAZOR: Yes, it does. That is why I feel Nigerian government ought to concentrate on the economic empowerment of the (INAUDIBLE) starting with Borno. In fact, the women part of this Bring Back the Girls campaign we're thinking of economic empowerment of the women now, starting with the women we can -- they can now feel the impact all around. So that has to be done, because what is happening boils down to poverty and corruption. Nigeria is a rich country yet there is so much poverty.

AMANPOUR: And so much corruption.

IKEAZOR: Corruption, yes, lack of accountability.

AMANPOUR: Including in the military, I understand.

IKEAZOR: Including in the military. The military are trying their best because they go to international peacekeeping missions and they excel. Why can't they do the same at home? They don't have the (INAUDIBLE) environment to do the same at home.

AMANPOUR: What about the rest of the country? You know, this has been going on for a long time, the international press has been reporting these kidnappings. But the rest of the country until this time kind of didn't react.

IKEAZOR: People now are waking up now. At first, they thought it was a northeast problem. I'm not from the northeast. It's now a Nigerian problem because if they can do this in the northeast, and government doesn't react when they should, it can happen anywhere in Nigeria. So we'd better realize it's all our collective problem. It's a global problem. It's not just a Nigerian problem.

SHETTIMA: And the sad element of all these things is that three years ago, I was repeatedly telling the whole world that this is a minor problem, that if it is not handled, would (INAUDIBLE) is capable of (INAUDIBLE) that might condemn the whole lot. But the federal government was deaf, dumb and blind to the ground reality.

AMANPOUR: So you had warned them so long ago.


AMANPOUR: It would explode into this kind of massive attack.

SHETTIMA: And we need a holistic approach to our solving. Military option is not the only option because Boko Haram is a (INAUDIBLE) borne out of social instability, poverty, hunger, joblessness, hopelessness, (INAUDIBLE). These are very dangerous (INAUDIBLE), a mixture of cocktail that can really explode anywhere.

AMANPOUR: Do you, and this is the final question, think these girls will be found?

SHETTIMA: I am an eternal optimist. I believe that they will be found and if it's one thing that (INAUDIBLE) of everybody --

AMANPOUR: Everybody know.

SHETTIMA: -- and I have to thank you. And the whole global community for bringing the whole issue on the spotlight.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's tragic, really, in so many, many ways.

Governor, Sharon, thank you very much indeed for being here today.


AMANPOUR: And while the Nigerian farmers scratch out a bare subsistence from their land, below the Earth there are riches of oil, of course, but also gold. But digging for that gold has unleashed a plague of poison death. Gold must be extracted from lead. And since 2008, a literal gold rush of unregulated mining in the north has caused the deadliest lead poisoning epidemic in modern history.

And when we return, more unrest under the Earth; this time in South Africa, where a deadly mining strike has brought the world's platinum industry to its knees. We'll be back after a break.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the people who risk their lives deep inside the Earth are valued as much as the precious metals they bring out. As we've discussed on the program tonight mining is among the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs around. Miners go to work each day not knowing whether it'll be their last.

And in South Africa, workers looking to share the benefits of the country's mining industry, among the richest in the world, have brought global platinum production to a grinding halt.

A strike by up to 70,000 miners there has ground on for four months now. It's South Africa's longest and costliest strike ever. And it's based in and around Marikana, where police shot 34 striking miners dead back in 2012. At least four people have died so far this year. But this time the violence pits miner against miner.

An intimidation campaign targeting those who are thinking of returning to work. So the anger continues to build in a country where even after two decades of majority rule, executive pay runs as much as 700 times higher than that of the lowest paid worker. And of course, we continue to look and to cover the plight of those miners still trapped underground in Turkey.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.