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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  October 8, 2021 11:30pm-12:00am PDT

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>> three dissidents from around he world with a common goal -- freedom -- this week on "firing line." >> [ speaking spanish ] >> leopoldo lópez is in exile, escaping venezuela after his chalnge to nicolás maduro landed him in solitary confinement for years. >> he was always calling for better conditions for people in his country. >> hatice cengiz is fighting for justice for the murder of her fiancé, journalist jamal khashoggi, whose assassination was approved by the saudi crown prince. >> through us, over 1 million people detained in camps can be heard. >> jewher ilhan is shining a light on the genocide of the uyghurs after her father was taken into chinese custody in 2013. she doesn't know whether 's alive. they're together this week
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with fellow freedom fighters from across the globe... >> the leadership of the u.s., europe, and the free countries, they need to be part of the solution. >> ...to get the attention of the united states and beyond. what do these human-rights activists say now? >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible in part by... ...and by... corporate funding is provided by... >> hatice cengiz, leopoldo lópez, jewher ilhan, welcome to "firing line." i so appreciate you being here with me. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> you are each here in miami because of your own personal connection to some of the most pressing human-rights challenges in the world right now. you're here in person, even amidst a global pandemic, and i'm deeply humbled
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to see all of you and have the privilege to talk to each of you. thank you for being here. hatice, it's been justhree years since your fiancé, jamal khashoggi, was brutally murdered. at the saudi consulate in istanbul, in an operation that, according to united states intelligence, was approved by crown prince mohammed bin salman. first, i don't want to even proceed without saying i'm sorry for your loss. for you, what is justice for jamal? >> actually, it is not easy to answer this question because it has been three years and it has not been justice. even though we know the killers and who ordered the killing, we couldn't hold them accountable. and even the united states
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did not do anything against them. but we are still fighting for justice. what justice for -- for me, for crown prince, he shouldn't be crown prince. he shouldn't be king. >> mm-hmm. >> it is justice, but it's for start. and then we will see. >> leopoldo, gracias por estar aqui. and you are one of venezuela's most renowned and recognized opposition leaders. you famously presented yourself for arrest in 2014, holding a white flower. you're now living in exile in spain, where you escaped after more than six years. and you have said, quote... what did you learn?
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>> well, i learned that frdom can be tangible, that democracy is very fragile, that freedom is very fragile, and that freedom, in a way, is like the oxygen that we are breathing right now. you really understand what freedom is about when you don't have it. my country, venezuela, the lack of freedom didn't happen from one day to the other. it was a gradual proce in which we started losing different types of freedom. so they started against journalists like you, tv stations. then they went against the union leaders. then they went against the entrepreneurs, the businesspeople, the politicians. and it was a gradual process that, when we turned back and said, "what has happened?" we knew that we were not a free country. and that is why we are here, looking for allies, because the authoritarianism
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and the rise of authoritarianism is a global phenomena that we need to counterweight with alliances of leadership movements and with the commitment of the united states and the free countries in the world. >> jewher ilham, you were a student of 18 years old when you were traveling with your father, who is uyghur scholar, when he was detained in beijing. he received a life sentence, and it has now been more than 8 1/2 years since you saw him. tell us why your father was considered a threat. >> i ask this question -- i ask myself this question every single day for the past 8 1/2 years, since i came to the u.s. i assume perps it's because my father, um -- he's a symbol of the voice of the uyghurs. and he has been using his pen as his only weapon to defend himself
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and to defend his people, my people, the uyghurs, tried to defend us, to protect us, to have the rights that we were granted as our birthright. the rights to -- the right to worship what we want to worship, the right to believe what we want to believe, the right to speak what we want to speak. as mr. leopoldo mentioned, freedom is so fragile -- fragile, and living in the u.s. still doesn'give freedom to a lot of uyghurs who are now living in this free land. we're still worried for the freedom of the lives for our family members who are living in china, who are still -- we're still afraid for their safety. >> and you don't know the state of your father. you don't know if he's alive. >> i haven't heard anything of my father since 2017. we don't know if he's still located in the same prison or if he is even alive. >> hatice, before he was murdered, jamal was a vocal critic of the saudi regime.
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it has been reported that he confided in you that he was worried going to that saudi consulate that day, but he didn't think the saudi government would go through with hurting him in a foreign country. >> yes. he wasn't want to go to the saudi consulate, but, one, he make -- he made sure that he needs that document to complete our marriage in official way. and he said, "maybe they will ask me a lot of questis and why you are writing or why you are criticizing or they will ask me maybe something, my job in washington." he was saying these things. "i don't want to face these questions," you know? he didn't say me, "they will do something to me," like killing, you know? anyway, he was very worried
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about just wants to complete his marriage with me. and he was -- really want to get these papers, and we planned that, after marriage, would maybe we move to washington because he was living in washington. and now everyone knows what happened to him, not just me. it's -- it is -- this pain was in my heart, in deep, deep, deep my heart, and then became the responsibility on my shoulders as a person, as a woman. and now everyone knows what happened, even though nothing happened. >> or what you mean is there have been no consequences for what happened. >> yeah. >> if his life hadn't been cut brutally short, what was next for him as a human-rights activist? >> he was planning to get more a strong voice in the united states
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to change some bad things in the middle east, particularly in saudi arabia, because a lot of people put to jail and journalists and jamal's friends and even the businessmen. so he was saying it is time to change for saudi arabia, and we don't -- we don't have to accept this pressure from the saudi government. it's a time of change. we have to change. jamal loves his country. jamal worked for his country. so that's why he said to me, in person, "when you take everything from me, i have family and friends or money, job, it's okay. but when you burn my pen, i can't -- i can't be in silence." >> do you feel, in inheriting, the fight for justice for him that you also take on
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that same fight yourself? >> and a good question. but as you see, i am not really that much, let's say, the fighter or -- i don't know -- no activist. i didn't ask being fighters or human-rights defenders or activists. i was an academic and writer and specialist on gulf countries. but what happened changed my life 180%. i am not the same person before jamal. at the same time, i become, unfortunately, in a way, unfortunately, his voice. because i remind the people what happened to jamal. >> yeah. do you feel safe now? >> i'm not sure. there is -- there is a big possibility i am in danger. even though it is a possibility in danger in my life,
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i don't scare. i don't scare because, you know, you cannot live with scare. you cannot. if you are doing what you are doing and believe what you are doing, you shouldn't scare. >> leopoldo, in an interview that was made for last year's oslo freedom forum when you were under house arrest, you told the actor ethan hawke, whom you went to high school with, that the trump administration had actually taken venezuela, quote, "very seriously." >> i can't imagine that the trump administration has been helpful, but maybe they have. >> well, to be very honest, they have taken the case of venezuela very seriously, and they have been very, very active. >> ethan hawke was a little surprised when you said that the trump administration had put a lot of pressure on the dictatorship. >> [ speaking spanish ] >> we saw president trump mention guaidó in his state of the union speech, but then we also learned
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from national security adviser john bolton after he left the white house that russian leader vladimir putin persuaded president trump to back away from his support for guaidó. was trump's turning away from the opposion movement decisive? >> well, i think the case for venezuela, it's a very rare exception in u.s. politics because it's a bipartisan issue. the first person that took a very strong step against the dictatorship of nicolás maduro was president obama. then, during the trump administration, there was a great level of support, and that support has continued with the biden administration, and there has been support at the level of the senate. we are very grateful of the leadershipf two senators, senator bob menendez, who's a democrat, and senator marco rubio, who's a republican. so we are very grateful that the case of venezuela
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is a case that everybody supports, and we are also very cautious not to politicize internally the issue of venezuela because we need the support of everybody. >> i understand that, and i understand from your perspective that has to be bipartisan. but the reporting on the back end makes it seem like president trump could have done more. is there any merit to that? >> well, i think, yes. i think everybody could have done more. i think obama could have done more. i think trump could have done more. i think biden can do more. and what more can be done? more pressure, more sanctions to the corrupt, more sanctions to the violators of human rights. and i think that -- that there needs to be an important conversation about what is happening with social media. in 2014, when we called for street protests in venezuela against the dictatorship of nicolás maduro, we didn't have mea, we didn't have tv, we didn't have radio or free press, but we had social media.
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and we were able to mobilize the entire country. tens of thousands of people went out to the street for three months on end, every day, protesting. and all of that was done through social media. the situation has dramatically changed. today, what was before an area of free speech, today, social media has been contaminated and has been taken over by the machinery of authoritarian regimes. we are target of attacks. all of us, all of the freedom fighters, we are morally assassinated by the social media every day, every hour. and that is something that is not happening spontaneously. they have been using trolls and bots. they have been creating a fake
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conversation in social media. so i do believe that this requires not just policy, but i also think it requires a commitment from the companies and the leaders of the companies that have a responsibility for social media. >> jewher, what can you tell us about how the chinese government and the chinese communist party is using social media to control the uyghur population and the chinese? >> i mean, in china, there's not only no free press, there's no free social media, either. and every day, i wake up to hundreds of tags on my twitter account where i see videos of beautiful uyghur girls in beautiful uyghur dancing costumes, and the chinese government use social media, use those platforms as their tool for propaganda and to fool people that the uyghur region is a peaceful place, that is -- everybody's living happily and there isn't --
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like, over 1 million people are going through vocational trainings, are being tortured in eradication camps, concentration camps, and they're trying to fool people that there aren't people like my father. scholars, intellectuals like my father are charged and sentenced to life or even death sentence. >> you were raised in beijing, not xinjiang, where the atrocities against the uyghurs are occurring. and for several years after your father was detained, you focused on trying to secure his release but less on the plight of the uyghurs until 2018. and that changed. why? >> it wasn't an easy decision. from 2014 to two-thousand late '17, i was only, as you said, i was focusing, only advocating on my father's behalf. but i realized it's not only about one person anymore.
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this is about not a hundred people, not 1,000 people, it's about millions of people. there are -- there are over 1.8 million uyghurs are going through similar or even worse treatments that my dad has been going through. and i cannot -- i couldn't just sit back and stay silent. >> the specific reports of abuse in xinjiang are jaw-dropping -- forced sterilization of uyghurs to reduce the population, forced labor. what can you tell us about the conditions in these internment camps? >> as you mentioned, jaw-dropping. lots of women who had been to the camps can no longer be pregnant. and for men, they could go through -- they have experienced tiger chairs and being electrocuted. all sorts of horrible, horrible conditions. and, unfortunately,
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this is still happening. i still have one cousin who is locked up in a prison because having one photo of my father in her cellphone. many, many of my family friends who have been detained, some of them died through kidney failure, some of them paralyzed, all sorts of things. some of them en nt blind. and this is still happening. uyghurs are still suffering. >> hatice, fivweeks into the biden administration, secretary of state antony blinken announced what he called the khashoggi ban, as you know, restricting visas for 76 saudis. but the u.s. has not imposed sanctions on crown prince mohammed bin salman. you wrote a piece for the washington post just last month. the headline was "biden and other leaders absolved mbs of jamal khashoggi's murder. that should alarm us all." president biden campaigned on human rights and claims that it remai a central feature of his foreign
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policy. in jamal's case, is it your feing that that was a false promise? >> yes, of course. unfortunately, it is a huge, huge disappointment for me. he promised that he has to hold accountable as a person in the election day, before the election. and he become president right now, and he did not do anything, real things to change what happened. he is a presid in the united states, and he has a chance right now to change his political decision through saudi arabia and to get justice for all of us. >> last week, biden's national security adviser, jake sullivan, was in saudi arabia, meeting with the crown prince to discuss the yemen conflict. so respond to those who appear to be saying that keepi the relationship with saudi arabia is more important
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than holding it accountable for jamal's death. >> but if you -- if you say that you and another country, there is no difference, but you keep saying you are dierent. the relationship is a reali-- it's a reality. okay? i don't -- i am not asking about you cut your relationship with saudi, but you should -- you should do your turn, your role. >> you know, leopoldo, that the term socialism has become a term in the united states that is leveraged by republicans against democrats. explain to the viewers what socialism and authoritarian socialism looks like on the streets in your country. >> socialism in venezuela is poverty, is hunger, is lack of opportunities. socialism in venezuela is the exodus of millions of peopl socialism and authoritarianism in venezuela is darkness
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because there is no electricity is no access to running water. those are all realities that a a consequence of socialism, the way in which it was implemented in venezuela. and i believe that what we have gone through in venezuela needs to be a lesson for many other countries in latin america, because the way in which th authoritarian regime developed into a criminal dictatorsh was using the means of democracy. they were elected to public office. they used the institutions of democracy to crumble from within the democratic institutions. >> if you had the opportunity to retn to venezuela as a leader of your country, what kind of government would you hope to achieve? >> well, i would -- i would be part of a government that, firsof all, sees democracy as a commitment, and that means that there needs
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to be plurality, that there needs to be tolerance, that there needs to be adherence to the rule of law, respect to human rights. so in this time of age, i think there is a huge challenge. authoritarianism is on the rise. democracy is -- is -- it's falling behind. there are more dictatorships today than there were 25 years ago. but something that really worries me is that the excitement, the commitment to this concept of democracy and freedom is no longer there. the united states is going through an identity crisis that leads to insecurity about the model of democracy itself. and i find it very shocking that now that wh i -- when i visit my friends in the u.s., it's a country that's completely polarized. and i thinthat's -- that's very dangerous, because if the united states, the people and, of course, the politicians, don't assume
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they fight for freedom as existential for what this country is all about, the entire planet is going to be under the threat of authoritarian regimes. >> final question -- this is for the three of you. what is the most powerful tool that other countries around the globe who support human rights can use to respond to the violations occurring in each of your countries? you first. >> in my humble experience, show me or teach me that we need more human-rights defenders and activists. so improving this side is more important than anything. >> well, i personally, as i said before, i believe that there should be more sanctions to the corrupt and to the violators of human rights. >> jewher, what do you think? >> i really hate to politicize it, but, unfortunately, my perspective, the only way that can change chinese government's behavior is through political power, through political sanctions and economic sanctions,
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and passing a legislation such as the uyghur forced labor prevention act. it's extremely important to change this cause. >> in his autobiography, "a long walk home," nelson mandela wrote... each of you has many reasons for despair, but you keep going. explain what gives you hope. >> jamal's soul and jamal's beauty, jamal's love. and the days that we were dreaming and the days that lived with him. so sometimes i believe that i'm living just for these ts. >> our mightiest enemy is the lack of hope.
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if we lose hope, we lose the fight. if we don't have the capacity to wake up every day and to decide that it's worth it to risk ourselves to give away even our freedom, there will be no possibility for success. >> what gives you hope, jewher? >> i'm an optimist by nurture and nature, and the way my father raised me was to be optimistic every day. and he once told me that there is an end to everything, and there's a solution for every problem. and now, every morning, i still can wake up, and i still can see the sun shining, and that keeps me hopeful, too. and i hope so many other uyghur people can see sunshine just like i am able to do this nowadays. >> yeah. that's beautiful. hatice, leopoldo, jewher, thank you so much for your time, for sharing your views here on this program. thank you. >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made
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possible in part by... ...and by... corporate funding is provided by... >> you're watching pbs.
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d'agostino. hello, everyone and welcome to "amanpour and company." here's what's coming up. >> from destructive wildfires to devastating floods, who should be held accountable for the cost of global warming. minnesota attorney general keith ellison points the finger at the fossil fuel industry in the courtroom. then, a second straight month of disappointing u.s. jobs numbers, has american economic recovery hit a roadblock? also ahead. >> no more masks. >> what is the pandemic doing to our humanity? covid and our behavior with sociology eric kleinenberg, then. >> we continue to acquiesce and be submissive to these hul

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