Return to Transcripts main page


President Obama Visits Poland; ISIS Takes To Social Media To Recruit Westerners; One Square Meter; Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul

Aired June 4, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, HOST: Showing the world he will not go away. He has overseen a civil war lasting three years costing 150,000 lives and forcing millions to leave their homes. Now Bashar al-Assad is headed for a third presidential term in Syria. We're going to analyze today's election and reaction to it.

Also ahead, message for Moscow. Barack Obama arriving in Europe saying relations with the Kremlin are repairable, but only if Putin plays fair.

And beware the lady killer as researchers reckon the most demure sounding storms could in fact be the deadliest.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.

CLANCY: The outcome of Syria's presidential election is almost certain even before the first ballot was cast. President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win today's vote by a landslide margin. He's going to be running against two relatively unknown challengers in a race many western countries are calling a farce.

Polling stations will be open only in areas that are under the control of the government.

One place where Syrians will not be casting any ballots if, of course, at a massive refugee camp in northern Jordan. Ben Wedeman joins us live from the Zaatari Camp, which is home to about 100,000 refugees.

Ben, the view there of this voting?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, almost to a man and a woman everybody you speak to here says it is a farce, it's a joke. But of course it's a deadly serious farce.

Many people see this as Bashar al-Assad's way of saying, "I have survived. I have won this war. My forces are retaking areas along the Lebanese border, in the north and the south of the country." And there's a feeling that these people are really sort of stuck on the outside, 100,000 people as you mentioned, many of them have lost relatives in the war, they've lost their homes, their homes have been destroyed, their livelihoods destroyed. And many of them blame Bashar al-Assad for the destruction of their lives.

So whoever you speak with -- for instance, one man he said when you walk in Syria you walk upon the bones of those who were killed, the women and children slaughtered by Bashar al-Assad. So there's deep bitterness and certainly no desire whatsoever to take part in the elections that are going on in Syria today -- Jim.

CLANCY: The barrel bombs continue to fall. There was smoke smearing the skies on the outskirts of Damascus, people there in that camp and elsewhere around the region that are outside the country really have to be wondering if this man is going to not only survive, but to triumph and what that will mean for them.

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly there's the situation on the ground in Syria is grim. There's -- it does look Bashar al-Assad does have the upper hand at the moment.

For the people here, they start to wonder when will we ever be able to go home. And if we go home, what price will be pay for fleeing the country, for siding with the rebellion, keeping in mind that many of the residents of this camp are from the southern part of Syria Daraa, where the revolt in March of 2011 actually began. Many of them have relatives who are in the Free Syrian Army, in the other Syrian factions that have been fighting in this horrendously blood war against the regime in Damascus.

So the worry is that what if Bashar wins this war? Will they ever be able to go home. And if they do, will they be punished, will they be able to resume their lives or will they have a very, very high price to pay -- Jim.

CLANCY: Ben Wedeman there, food for thought on this day as we reflect on Bashar al-Assad not just the politics, but the people that have so much at stake. Thank you, Ben.

We're going to have much more on the Syrian election just coming up a little bit later in this hour. We're going to take you live to the Syrian- Turkish border and examine what a third term for Bashar al-Assad might mean for people on either side.

We're going to tell you about the candidates facing al Assad in today's vote and what they claim to stand for, at least. We'll give you some rare access to some of the other oppositions in Syria, namely the militant group ISIS.

Now, President Barack Obama says trust can be rebuilt with Russia. It's going to take a little bit of time. But first Moscow must demonstrate what Mr. Obama called responsible behavior.

The U.S. president making those comments as he began a European visit with a stop in Warsaw, Poland. Mr. Obama is there to reassure leaders in the region who are obviously anxious about Russia's annexation of Crimea.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree that further Russian provocation will be met with further cost for Russia, including if necessary additional sanctions.

Russia has a responsibility to engage constructively with the Ukrainian government in Kiev, to prevent the flow of militants and weapons into eastern Ukraine. Russia also needs to be using its influence with armed separatists to convince them to stop attacking Ukrainian security forces.


CLANCY; CNN's Erin McLaughlin is following President Obama on this tour. It's likely going to also be taking him to Belgium as well as France for D-Day. Erin joins me now from the Polish capital of Warsaw.

Erin, what is the point that the White House, that President Obama is really trying to make?


Well, I think to begin with we may be in Poland, but the United States' relationship with Russia certainly front and center at that press conference earlier this morning between U.S. President Obama as well as the Polish President Komorowski.

Obama talking about how it's needed for Russia to continue withdrawing its troops from its border with Ukraine in order to begin to rebuild some of that trust. Take a listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: If, in fact, we can see some responsible behavior by the Russians over the next several months, then I think it is possible for us to try to rebuild some of the trust that's been shattered during this past year. But I think it is fair to say that rebuilding that trust will take quite some time.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the White House's position has long been that the separatists to the east and to the south of Ukraine have enjoyed the support of the Kremlin, which is why President Obama this morning calling on Moscow to send a message to the separatists to stop the violence. For its part, the connection that Moscow has denied, instead pointing the finger at the Ukrainian government's counterterrorism, or so-called counterterrorism operation in that portion of the country -- Jim.

CLANCY: You know, we look at it -- and the president also announced a billion dollars to set aside for training and for other things. Is that going to be enough to reassure people? They're looking for a stronger United States. They're looking for President Barack Obama who will do more to stand up for them. And he seems to say we'll back you up.

MCLAUGHLIN: That's right, Jim. And that initiative, that $1 billion initiative that was announced here in Warsaw this morning is designed to do just that, reassure the allies of the United States in eastern and central Europe that the United States plans on and intends to stand by its alliances.

I think it was telling this morning that President Obama's first stop here in Warsaw was to an aircraft hangar to meet with U.S. and polish troops. The United States currently has 150 paratroopers here in Poland on a temporary rotational basis. They're here at the specific request of the Polish government in the face of the Ukraine crisis seeking that reassurance.

And Poland, for its part, following suit. This morning, President Komorowski announcing that this country would also increase its defense spending, something that it says it hopes other NATO allies will also do, that collective response, the two presidents really emphasizing and no doubt will be a theme that they'll carry through today as they meet with other leaders from central and eastern European countries -- Jim.

CLANCY: A lot of people looking at this trip, Erin McLaughlin is on it following President Barack Obama as jittery allies are looking to him for perhaps a little bit stiffer response to Moscow.

We'll see what comes out of all of this. We've got a way to go on this visit to Europe.

Erin McLaughlin, great to have you there.

Meantime, as we turn our attention to Spain, a country that is now preparing to usher in the next era of its monarchy. The cabinet meeting today to discuss the formal transfer of the throne from King Juan Carlos to his son, Crown Prince Felipe.

Now, he's been embroiled in scandal. There have been economic scandals, vacation scandal, if you will, that was linked to the king himself, his daughter and son-in-law, linked to financial scandals. But Prince Felipe has been largely clean in all of this. So he's the perfect one to replace Juan Carlos.

The 76-year-old monarch announced that he was going to be abdicating on Monday. The news triggered some anti-royalist protests in Madrid. It's not a huge movement. But thousands of demonstrators did gather in A simpro (ph) square. They were demanding a vote on what will be the future of the monarchy.

Al Goodman joins us now with the latest from Madrid live -- Al.


The latest is we have seen after this abdication announcement by the kind yesterday, for the first time a public appearance by the outgoing kind and what's widely expected to be the future king, his son, Prince Felipe, age 46, at an elaborate military parade at El Escorial monastery where the past Spanish kings are buried.

Clearly, these two men want to keep this monarchy alive and they're trying to save this embattled monarchy.

Also today, we saw the prime minister's cabinet pass the bill and send it over to parliament that will set in process the legislative mechanism to actually make this take place over the next couple of weeks.

But, as you've mentioned, we have also seen in recent hours last night in Madrid, in Barcelona, in many Spanish cities across the nation, thousands of people coming out. They don't want to see a transition, Jim, they want to see an end to the monarchy -- Jim.

CLANCY: How much is that propelled by the financial crisis that has really buried many Spaniards today?

GOODMAN: Well, the various scandals that have hit the royal family and that have lowered the popularity of the royal family -- analysts say the one that's hurt the most t the royal family is the financial corruption scandal involving the king's daughter Princess Cristina and her husband, the king's son-in-law, over allegedly taking public money and moving it into their pockets, which they deny. But there is an ongoing judicial investigation.

And also we have seen some of these people who are out protesting against the monarchy on the left have also been supporting some leftist parties that have suddenly done very well in European parliamentary elections just a week ago. So there are signs of change, but the two big parties, the conservatives in power, the socialists in the opposition, may have a lot more competition. There may be a little bit of urgency to get this transition done now while the votes are there in parliament, some analysts say -- Jim.

CLANCY: Al Goodman with us there live on the future of the monarchy, the transition underway. Thank you.

Well, still to come tonight, while his family prepares a heroes welcome for a U.S. soldier released by the Taliban, some men who served with Bowe Bergdahl are telling a much different story.

And both Israeli solider Gilad Shalit (ph) and American Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl were freed after spending years in captivity, but their freedom in both cases comes at a cost.


CLANCY: Welcome back everyone. You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Jim Clancy. Welcome back.

The leader of NATO is calling Syria's presidential election a farce. He says he is confident that no NATO ally will recognize the outcome of this one. Free and fair elections are not exactly a hallmark of Syrian politics, especially in the midst of this civil war.

The elections are widely expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to power, but there are two other candidates in this week's vote, now that's a first. Maher Hajjar, an entrepreneur and a member of parliament. An independent, he's done little public campaigning and little is known about his platform other than that his campaign posters declare Syria is with Palestine.

Hassan Nouri, also an independent, is a former economics professor and cabinet minister. He says he had to resign because he was too critical of Assad's government Nouri studied at the University of Wisconsin in the United States. He says he's for market liberalization and fighting corruption, but when it comes to fighting Syria's civil war, Nouri says he wouldn't do anything differently.

More meaningful opposition can be found in the extremist groups that are still operating in the streets of Syria. In fact, one set of militants now using social media to target new recruits. Let's get more on this and cross over to a town near the Turkish-Syrian border where we find our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, what can you tell us about this recruitment and this group?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly we had a rare insight into how these recruitment groups work.

One, in particular we spoke to was a defector from a particular group working outside of the town of Raqqah, this was a stronghold where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have made their base and described to us in detail a kind of rare insight into exactly how social media is used to entice and explain the process of how life works in al Qaeda controlled radical Syria over the internet before these western recruits travel to Syria.


WALSH: If you want to be one of these, an al Qaeda fighter filmed secretly here in this stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqah, it can be a long and complex road. But if you're a westerner, the journey to this radical utopia where women must dress like this can start here on Twitter.

This man is now in hiding, but he told us he helps recruit westerners using direct messaging on the Twitter accounts of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

There was special treatment for the Europeans, he says. One British guy said he was called Ibrahim, then told me he was from Manchester.

One asked my boss if he should fight in his own country or come to Syria. He was told, if god doesn't give you martyrdom in Syria, then he could wage war in his own country.

Syria now has a new horror. Will western recruits take their jihad back to their home countries? Some won't.

Like Abu-Salha, the first American to die in this blast as a suicide bomber in Syria.

He was well known in Raqqah, said our source, adding their foreign recruits were first vetted carefully in their home countries, part of an office that ran a welcome online chat about life under ISIS two weeks for future recruits. There were very strict rules.

"There are some questions I am allowed to answer," he says. "And things I must ask my supervisor about. Specific questions about religion. I have to get their permission to message anyone. I can't talk on Skype. Everything is written down so they can monitor everything."

He fled this city when ISIS murdered two relatives, was jailed when he spoke out of turn, and was rarely allowed to meet the recruits.

Chats could last hours, but some of the questions were strange.

"I remember one guy asked me for a video of a public execution," he says, "but one that hadn't been put online before."

"Strange ones, too, about marrying Syrian girls. I got made once when I was asked if someone could marry three or four girls."

Motives often selfish, the goal violent, and its most radical offspring turning their sights on the west.


WALSH: Now, in that restricted environment the defector talked about, he could only pick up on a few instances of people discussing sending people back to the west. But one he did overhear involved someone perhaps being sent back to the west to act as a recruiter themselves, like you mentioned there. Often it's in the home country where the first approach is made, the first kind of assessment made of whether someone is suitable to go to Syria to fight alongside ISIS.

But in a broader picture, Jim, this instance, this revelation here that what we're hearing from this defector fits slightly more into the Assad narrative here where years ago he was suggesting he was fighting terrorists. As the rebels have become increasingly fractured, increasingly messy, parts of them have been radicalized and in many ways western officials deeply concerned, almost as concerned about the potential for attacks against the home country by westerns who have to Syria to fight alongside radicals returning as perhaps they are about the broader impact on the Syria and the region itself of the fighting inside Syria.

So as it goes on, we just see an increased deterioration in the ability for this not to be felt right across Europe, Jim.

CLANCY: You know, I don't know how wide ranging your discussions with this defector were, but I'm just wondering whether he laid out any kind of a scenario, any kind of a plan -- does ISIS, do some of these other groups consider their battle be won just to set up an Islamic emirate on their own, or do they expect to battle Bashar al-Assad til the finish?

WALSH: That's, I think, something that's hard to divine from their actions. Certainly, he always talked about the need, I think, the focus of ISIS always being about creating a caliphate where they are. I think that has always been the core to their mission.

Of course, fighting Assad, that's something they've always talked about, but practically, too, a lot of the fighting we're hearing from him and hearing from other observers is the fighting in northern Syria is against other rebel groups, particularly in some cases ISIS fighting another al Qaeda linked group Jabhat al Nusra, also fighting the Islamic Front who pushed them back away from the city of Aleppo recently as well.

So an extraordinarily messy picture between rebels.

But certainly what happens with this level of divisiveness between rebels themselves is given ample space for ISIS to create an increasingly small, but extraordinarily potent enclave for these kind of radicalism.

And bear in mind, too, Jim, you know, this is NATO. This is a NATO country I'm standing in that Syria borders. An implicit threat so close to Europe, but really in many ways is being overlooked as so many western governments try and keep a policy for Syria kind of on the outskirts of their broader foreign policy -- Jim.

CLANCY: Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us there inside Turkey right along the Syrian border. Nick, as always, thank you.

Well, a few big numbers from Syria that we should all keep in mind. The three year conflict has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people. Now of course some opposition groups say the death toll is higher than that.

Nearly 3 million people have fled the country outright due to the continuing violence, but another 6.5 million have been internally displaced.

There were more than 5 million registered voters in Syria in 2012, but large parts of the country are not under government control and there will be no voting held in those areas.

So the total number of displaced right now is about a quarter of the country. It has a population of 22.5 million people.

You can follow all of our Syria coverage online at and in Arabic as well at CNN

You can find Nick Paton Walsh's exclusive reporting on these jihadists, more on that inside Syria as well as much more from the Middle East and north Africa. It's all waiting for you at CNN

Well, live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. And coming up straight ahead, sold in the city, how one new building in the South Korean capital could boost its culture of cool.


CLANCY: You're watching Connect the World. We're live from CNN Center. Welcome back everyone. I'm Jim Clancy.

It's time for us to take you to the Global Exchange where we introduce you to the people, the places, paving the way forward in the world's emerging economies.

Seoul is in many ways the center of Asian pop culture today. The South Korean capital is renowned as a launchpad for contemporary arts and music. Well now, a new state of the art building could act as a cultural hub for the whole country. John Defterios has more in today's One Square Meter.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a flashy and stylish open for Seoul Fashion Week in March. Fashionistas gather in the Korean capital's new design temple -- Dongdaemun Design Plaza, or DDP.

BAIK JOHN-WON, HEAD, SEOUL DESIGN FOUNDATION (through translator): Seoul is known for its long, rich history and has its tech oriented industries, but it lacks places for creative industries. So if there is a new product, there isn't a place for people to come together and exchange ideas. I think DDP will be a cultural hub and will play that role.

DEFTERIOS: A former baseball stadium was transformed into a design education and exhibition hub. The aim is to give 24 hour access to Korean arts and culture as well as nurture young, creative talent.

NAM YOONJAE, DESIGNER (through translator): For an individual designer to showcase their collection, it takes a lot of effort and money. But because of the support from the city of Seoul and DDP, it's opened new opportunities for designers like me.

DEFTERIOS: The building is a spectacle in itself. Architect Zaha Hadid's signature curvaceous structure is unique for Seoul, more akin to a spacecraft than modern skyscraper.

The 85,000 square meter site with 30,000 square meter park was completed at a cost of over $450 million.

DDP was commissioned by former Seoul mayor Oh se-hoon before the global economic crisis back in 2008. There is pressure on current mayor, Park Won-soon to ensure it was money well spent, especially in an election year.

Once the press tour and fanfare ebbs away, can the DDP really deliver on what it promises?

PARK WON-SOON, MAYOR OF SEOUL: Seoul has been the captor of (inaudible) dynasty for 600 years. So there are so many, you know, traditional treasures. There is our duty, the responsibility how to preserve or revitalize the traditional elements and legacies.

DEFTERIOS: According to property specialist Mae Plus (ph), three weeks after DDP opened its doors one million people have visited. Increase footfall is pushing up shops sales. And there is hope this can be sustainable, driving property values higher over time as well.

John Defterios, CNN.


CLANCY: Quite a building.

The latest world news headlines are straight ahead. Plus, many critics in Washington questioning the legality of swapping an American soldier for five Taliban militants. We'll have an in depth discussion straight ahead.


ANDERSON: All right. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Your headlines this hour here on CNN. New video released by the Taliban shows the final moments of captivity for US army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Army fighters surround the area as he's transferred to a Black Hawk helicopter. Now, he was handed over in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Today marks 25 years since China's brutal crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square. These images from the height of the massacre, when soldiers and tanks stormed the crowd of demonstrators. It is not clear how many were killed at the time, but estimates range from the hundreds to the thousands. Today, China blocking any mention of the crackdown online or on television.

The European Union is tonight calling Syria's presidential election illegitimate. It's urging President Bashar al-Assad to reengage in political negotiations. Al-Assad is widely expected to win a third seven- year term after Tuesday's vote. Opposition groups and many Western countries say the vote was rigged.

We got wildly conflicting reports on the violence in eastern Ukraine this day. The self-declared mayor of Slaviansk has told CNN that ten separatist militants, or pro-Russian militants, were killed in the region on Tuesday. A Ukrainian government spokesman, on the other hand, says more than 300 pro-Russian militants died in a big offensive aimed at rooting out separatists.

Meanwhile, the US president is expressing support for Ukraine's new leader, Petro Poroshenko. They met in Warsaw, where Mr. Obama gave a speech at celebrations marking 25 years since the fall of Communism in Poland.

Mr. Obama reiterated NATO's obligations to defend its allies. He then flew to Brussels, where he arrived for the G7 -- G8, as it were -- summit without Russia. Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Brussels and joins us now, live. Obama in Poland and Brussels. What's his message?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ukraine's topping the agenda here for sure. Look, this was supposed to be a G8. It was supposed to be held in Sochi in Russia, and President Putin was supposed to be the host. But after the annexation of Crimea, it was decided by the G7 members that they would hold their own, Putin wouldn't be invited. They say he has excluded himself.

So, Ukraine is going to be the topic of discussion, how to support this new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko. How to support his plans for the future of the country, militarily as well, shore up the army there.

President Obama will be looking to his European allies for support if President Putin doesn't heed their warnings and concerns, that he continues to back the armed militias in the east of the country, the separatist militias. Then he'll want these European allies, his G7 allies, to continue and up economic sanctions, potentially. They'll be looking at energy security.

But really, there will be emerging from here very likely a very clear message for President Putin, and that was a message that President Obama delivered very clearly in Poland earlier today. This is what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand together because we believe that upholding peace and security is the responsibility of every nation. The days of empire and spheres of influence are over. Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun, or with masked men taking over buildings.


ROBERTSON: Now, the global economy, the high -- global high unemployment rates, these will also be issues that get discussed, along with Syria, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan. But it really is Ukraine, President Putin, that's going to dominate a lot of the discussion, Becky.

ANDERSON: Right. Meantime, in Germany, the chief federal prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation against US intelligence services. What do we know about that? And how is Ms. Merkel reacting to Obama's presence, as it were, at this meeting?

ROBERTSON: Well, of course, President Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel will be at the G7 together, they will be sitting down for dinner together today, and at lunch, again, tomorrow.

What the public prosecutor is saying in Germany is after a lot of investigation, they do think there's enough evidence and information to launch an investigation into whether or not US intelligence agencies were spying on the German chancellor's mobile phone. And also whether or not their British and US intelligence were eavesdropping on German telecommunications of German citizens.

So, this is something very much of concern. The issue of cost faith last October when the NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden first leaked this information that the US intelligence agencies were allegedly spying on Angela Merkel's mobile phone, and it caused consternation at that time.

The relationship has been rebuilt a little bit, Angela Merkel visiting Washington in May earlier this year. They're diplomats, they're politicians, they'll get on with it. But clearly, the timing of this, can we take it as coincidence? Certainly it will be a reminder for the United States the relationship is not entirely rebuilt, Becky.

ANDERSON: Sure. I'm sure Angela Merkel doesn't spend all her time looking at her phone, but we were just showing pictures. There was a remarkable amount of time that she does. Nic, thank you.

As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the square itself looked much like any other day today. No official observances are allowed in mainland China, and international coverage of the anniversary being censored by the Chinese government. CNN's signal, for example, in China is being blacked out, and always is whenever we cover the story.

But it's a different story in Hong Kong. Tens of thousands gathered for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. Anna Coren was there for you.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Chinese regime may refuse to acknowledge the Tiananmen Square crackdown, but the people of Hong Kong are refusing to forget 25 years after the bloody massacre.

As you can see, tens of thousands of people, possibly as many as 200,000, according to organizers, have gathered here at Victoria Park for this candlelight vigil. Well, they are here to commemorate the deaths if hundreds if not thousands who died on that fateful day on the 4th of June, 1989.

Of course, Hong Kong is the only place in China where people can gather and remember the massacre, and from the people that I've spoken to, they believe it's their responsibility to remember this tragic part of China's history and to remind the Communist regime that the people of Hong Kong and mainland China will never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every year, people should remember this date. No matter how much economic development and how rich people in China become, money does not bring back the victims. Money does not buy you freedom. So, in that sense, 25 is just a number. But this is a lifelong dream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm merely doing what I think I should do. That's all. And I'm proud of the young people. There are so many young people that are coming every year. And recently, there's many people from China. So, we are -- I'm pleased.

COREN: Ironically, the message of freedom, democracy, human rights, and an end to corruption that protesters were calling for 25 years ago is what the majority of people in China want today. And while people on the mainland cannot take to the streets and voice their dissent, the people of Hong Kong are hoping that their message is being heard loud and clear.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


ANDERSON: All right. Well, our next guest was a protester who survived the crackdown in the square 25 years ago. Rose Tang joining us now, live from New York.

And as we take a look back at some of the video and images of that day, of policemen in Tiananmen Square, of teargas, that iconic image of the man standing in front of the tank. Take us through what you remember. Why were you there?

ROSE TANG, TIANANMEN SQUARE PROTESTER: I was there to die. I -- in the afternoon of June 3rd, I dressed in black and took a dagger, cycled for 25 kilometers to Tiananmen Square, and I thought it would be a moment to die for democracy.

And I was interviewed by a CNN crew, actually, minutes after I climbed over a tank to get out. I was among the last group to leave Tiananmen Square at the crack of dawn on June 4th.

ANDERSON: That's remarkable stuff. How long had this been building? Just remind our viewers what had been going on ahead of what we're looking at now, which is this iconic image of the protester in front of the tanks.

TANG: Well, the build-up was more of -- I would call it a Woodstock without the mud, but with plenty of blood. All -- millions of people were out in the streets in Beijing and the other cities in China in a thirst for democracy, which they had very little idea about.

I was asking around, "What is democracy?" Nobody really knew what it was about, but we knew we wanted something very new and very open, and we wanted freedoms.

ANDERSON: This is remarkable stuff, Rose. I want our viewers just to be taken back to that period of time that you're talking about. When US president George H.W. Bush said of the bloody crackdown in Beijing this. Have a listen.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During the past few days, elements of the Chinese army have been brutally suppressing popular and peaceful demonstrations in China.

There's been widespread and continuing violence, many casualties, and many deaths. And we deplore the decision to use force. And I now call on the Chinese leadership publicly, as I have in private channels, to avoid violence and to return to their previous policy of restraint.


ANDERSON: Didn't talk about democracy there. But today, the White House, 25 years on, issued a statement on this anniversary, Rose. It says it supports the basic freedoms protesters in Tiananmen Square were demanding, and calls on China to release a full account of those who were killed, detained or missing.

It concludes with this, quote, "The American people and government applaud China's extraordinary social and economic progress over the past three decades and value good relations with the people and government of China." It goes on to urge the government to guarantee universal rights and fundamental freedoms.

When -- Rose, when you take us back 25 years and consider what you and your friends went through and how many people died and what the US administration said at the time and what they've said today, does it disappoint you, firstly, where China is today?

And then, the sort of -- the rhetoric, as it were, from the West, which can be quite supportive and sort of leave the human issues, to a certain extent, to the end, doesn't it, often, these days?

TANG: I don't think the Western governments have been supportive of Chinese people or Tibetan people, Uighurs, their fight for democracy and human rights. I'm very utterly disappointed. I voted for Obama two years ago. It was my first time to vote in the United States, and now I think he has disappointed us, the Chinese and the Uighurs and the Tibetans.

Actually, for the last 25 years, massacres in China have never stopped. And daily killings, now, and lots of violence in all corners of China. And judging -- look at in Tibet, more than 130 Tibetans have self- immolated. And look at the people being fired upon in East Turkestan. They call it Xinjiang.

And Xi Jinping has made China a police state and has cracked down on dissent harder than ever. It's much worse than before 1989. It's because of the lack of the Western governments' pressure.

ANDERSON: When you say it's much worse, how?

TANG: OK. So, for example, as I said, more than 130 Tibetans have self-immolated. And the so-called riots, actually, it's people's resistance movement in East Turkestan, they call it Xinjiang. And the police fired upon, for example, a few days ago, fired upon protesters who were protesting a government ban on women, now, wearing -- Muslim women, now, wearing head scarves.

At least -- before 89, the Chinese government was not doing that. The massacre really started, made a very bad start. And now, because of the lack of Western governments' pressure and their thirst for Chinese market and the money, they forgot about Tiananmen Square massacre.

They forgot about 89. They forgot about those people who died in the square. We don't want those people who died for nothing.

ANDERSON: With that, we're going to leave it as we look back on some of those images from 1989, so seared in your memory, so seared in so many of our viewers' memories as they would have viewed that event, of course, on live TV. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you tonight,, have your say about anything that we're reporting tonight. You can tweet me, as ever, @BeckyCNN. That's @BeckyCNN.

Live from Abu Dhabi, you are with CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Just ahead, camel owners in the Middle East often have a special bond with their animals. Could, though, the threat of a deadly virus shake that relationship? That coming up.


ANDERSON: All right. We are, unfortunately, seeing a sharp rise in deaths from the so-called MERS virus, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry said on Tuesday that 282 people have now died from the virus since 2012, and that is a significant jump from its earlier toll of 190. That same day, the government announced it had sacked the deputy health minister, but it did not say way.

So far, the WHO, the World Health Organization, says it's confirmed 633 cases of the virus around the globe. Although it's not clear where the MERS virus comes from, many researchers believe it is linked to camels.

There are more than 28 million domesticated camels worldwide, that is according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's figures from 2012. They are concentrated in Northern Africa -- Somalia has the most at 7 million, followed by Sudan, Kenya, a very large population of domesticated camels, around 3 million.

You do get large populations outside of North Africa, there are 438,000 in India, I'm told, and more than a quarter of a million on mainland China.

Well, they are also an integral part of life in the Middle East, as I'm sure you know, especially here in the UAE. Many owners don't seem concerned about the possible link between the virus and their animals. Amir Daftari on the story for you.


AMIR DAFTARI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a farm an hour outside Dubai, a very clear demonstration of the link between camel and owner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very nice.

DAFTARI: It's a bond that even a potentially deadly virus cannot shake -- for now. Mohammad bin Homadon (ph) tells me his family has bred race camels for generations.

MOHAMMED AL FALASI, CAMEL OWNER: My father used to to take me every day to the camels, and I grew up with the camels.

DAFTARI: Scientists believe camels are a possible source of MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Quite how it's transmitted to humans remains unclear, but the virus has already killed more than 280 people. And it's spreading, moving from its roots in the Arabian peninsula through the Middle East, and now into Asia, Europe, and the US.

In Asia, authorities regularly cull poultry to prevent the spread of the SARS virus. But for many here, killing camels is unthinkable. In Saudi Arabia, some are taking to social media to defend their animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They say you're the reason for the virus, but they don't know what they're talking about. Sneeze on my face.

DAFTARI: Mohammed says he's not worried about MERS either.

AL FALASI: They have never visited here around, around as we are, camels all around, camel neighbors, and our family are there. They're all with the camels. No one gets infected of the corona.

DAFTARI (on camera): Fears of the MERS feel a million miles away from this place, and in fact, the people I've spoken to today say they're not concerned in the slightest. And if anything, it's going to take a lot more to break the special bond they have with these beautiful animals.

DAFTARI (voice-over): As the day draws to a close, a camel is not for the evening meal.

AL FALASI: We'll go eat inside.

DAFTARI: Joined by other family members, we drink the heated milk. The talk this evening will no doubt be of camels, but not of MERS.

DAFTARI (on camera): That's delicious.

AL FALASI: Yes, very -- it is very nice, yes.

DAFTARI (voice-over): For now, at least, the virus remains an abstract and distant concern.

Amir Daftari, CNN, Dubai.


ANDERSON: Coming up after this short break, as the clock winds down for the first kick in the World Cup, Brazil's president gearing up for the excitement to begin. More on that after this.


ANDERSON: Just before 8:00 in the evening here in the UAE, welcome back. If you've got some spare time and can afford a ticket to Brazil and you've still got a bit of short change, get ready. Extra tickets for all 64 matches went on sale on the FIFA website at midnight Brazilian time, sort of about 12 or so hours in.

But who needs tickets when you are this man with this little beauty. On Tuesday -- sorry, on Monday, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff had a chance to hold the trophy and imagine seeing her side win it for the host country next month.

We're just eight days away, now, of course, from the opening match. Iran's team anxious to get down to business. They hit the ground in Sao Paulo Tuesday and should have ample time to adjust, now, to the time difference. Iran's first match, of course, against Nigeria on June the 16th. This should be seared into your mind, these group stages already.

We've been talking to many Nigerians on the streets of Abuja to see what they think about who will win the World Cup and why. Guess what they said. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nigeria will win the World Cup because we have the quality players to win the World Cup. We are the champions of Africa right now, so we can do represent that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are playing very, very well, now. We have midfield. We have the best. We have attackers who can go out there and make something good for Nigeria and make Nigeria proud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brazil 2014, Keshi is going to take our boys down there, and we should be in that semi -- now for the semifinal, if not by final, we should be in semifinal so that we can bring more Africa into the World Cup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Brazil will win the World Cup because they are playing nice, most working hard to get the cup, Brazil is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nigeria is going to win the World Cup simply because Nigeria has great and talented player.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want Nigeria to make Africa proud. I want Nigeria to play for the World Cup, to win the World Cup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime I watch my team scoring goals, I started predicting the one that will win.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, Nigeria! Goal! It's a goal!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love that. I love that.


ANDERSON: I'm not sure you need a Parting Shots after that, but tonight, in your Parting Shots -- we return to Tiananmen Square, or more accurately, to the way the international community is marking the 25th anniversary of the atrocities that took place there.

Commentary and criticism take many forms, don't they? But few are as eye-catching as the one that we are about to show you from one of Beijing's leading detractors.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Tanks flowed through Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, crushing the hopes of Chinese democracy just as it was beginning to flower.


ANDERSON: This cartoon is the work of the Taiwanese animators famous for satirizing so many news events in the past. Taiwan, of course, considers itself a sovereign state, independent of China, although Beijing would beg to differ on that.

The cartoon calls the masking of the Tiananmen incident one of history's biggest cover-ups, and uses the friendly persona of a panda to demonstrate how the Chinese government presents a virtuous face to its people and to the wider world.

I'm Becky Anderson, with CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.