Queen Rania of Jordan

Interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour - Sep. 22, 2016

Queen Rania of Jordan
September 22, 2016— Washington, D.C.
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AMANPOUR: Your Majesty, welcome to the program.

RANIA: Thank you, it is a pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: So you’re here at a time when the refugee crisis is literally spilling out of control. First let me ask you your reaction to a really heinous act that’s been likened to a war crime: the bombing of a convoy of aid trucks into Aleppo, and the aid warehouse 20 civilians dead, the convoy totally mangled.

RANIA: It’s absolutely unacceptable, and I think it just shows the depths to what this crisis has descended to. I mean, the whole point of the ceasefire was to try to give some relief for a little while so that we can give some aid to the people who have been stuck in this conflict, and to see such a terrible crime take place just shows how much we have failed in Syria. You know I think the situation in Syria got to this point because initially there was a political paralysis when it came to do with Syria and a failure of international diplomacy to try to reach a political solution, to have a unified vision for Syria. And that has led to similar paralysis when it comes to do with refugees. You know I think that something has to be done about this. We can’t let this pass because it just sets a terrible trend for the way we do business in the world.

AMANPOUR: The refugee crisis has affected the whole of the Western world. Democracies are at stake in the Western World. Angela Merkel, who was the most welcoming of all Western leaders to refugees, has paid very dearly at the polls for it, and has now said that perhaps she should have managed it better. You’ve seen what’s happened in Brexit, all these politics of identity and division. You see what’s happening here in the United States. What would you say about the impact of the refugee crisis on the politics of the nation’s that are the only ones who presumable can deal with it? It is causing so much fear and loathing.

RANIA: What I think that we need to desperately recast the debate on refugees globally. You know the word ‘refugee’ has become politicized and the narrative around refugees has become so polarizing that we’ve lost sight of the actual suffering and human tragedy that’s at the core of this whole issue. I find it completely heartbreaking to see how something that is so fundamentally humanitarian has been transformed into something political and used in order to garner votes and popularity. When at the end of the day, these are people who have lost everything, through no choice of their own. Sadly, it took images of the lifeless bodies of children washing up on shore, or that child, that five-year-old in the back of the ambulance who was so shocked that he wasn’t even fazed by the sight of his own blood. It took these images to bring the suffering into blinding focus and to strip away the politics. But even though these images have shocked the world, they fail to mobilize it. We thought that the public outcry would actually represent a political transition the way we deal with this issues, but instead we’ve seen a weary resignation to the plight of refugees and almost a global numbness to disaster. Like you said, you know people have been capitalizing on the fear to revive the divisive politics and isolationist policies in the world and that’s something that stands to harm all the rest of us because at the end of the day, this is about humans and it is about values and they’re at the center of it. We all stand to lose, you know, when you think of what the extremists want. At the end of the day, they dream of a world that is divided and weakened. They dream of a world that is dominated by xenophobia and fear and suspicion and apathy. We should not be playing into their hands.

AMANPOUR: And yet so many politicians are. I wonder if you would comment on this. This was tweeted, it is a retweet by Donald Trump Jr., basically if I had a bowl of skittles—which is an American candy—and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee policy. Of course Skittles turned around and said Skittles are candy, refugees are people this is not an appropriate analogy.

RANIA: That’s a very unfortunate analogy and against it speaks to the levels that we have gotten in terms of dehumanizing this issue. I always say that you know nobody chooses to become a refugee. Refugee is something you becoming when you run out of choices. You know, at the end of the day, these are people who have lost everything from no fault of their own.

AMANPOUR: To that point, you have been meeting with Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who had bucked the trend certainly on the North American continent and immediately invited 25,000 plus refugees in and I’m told by my Canadian friends that there are still a clamor by Canadians for their government to bring in more refugees. All provinces in towns seem to want their Syrian refugees. The difference between what he is doing and what he’s achieved compared to some of the other countries we talk about, notably this one, how do governments tell the story, a positive story?

RANIA: Well you know, his enlightened leadership means that he views this responsibility as a global responsibility. He understands that it can’t be left to the countries closest to the conflict to shoulder this burden. It is something that affects all of us and we all have a role to play. As you know, Jordan has a country of 6.5 million has taken in 1.3 million refugees. We’ve punched way above our weight when it comes to this issues. I think Jordan has done more than its, multiple times more than its, fair share in terms of taking in refugees. But we have been stretched to the limit.

AMANPOUR: Are you getting the aid you need, the support, the money?

RANIA: Only 35% of the cost of hosting refugees is covered by the international community. As you know, Jordan is not a rich country and so it’s really stretched us to the limit. I could not be prouder of the Jordanian people. The generosity and the compassion that they’ve shown, sharing what little they have, in terms of housing, in terms of classrooms, hospital beds, jobs, but they can’t do more. I could not be prouder of our military who would, when you look at some countries who are putting up walls to stop the refugees from coming in and using soldiers to prevent them, there have been instances when our soldiers on the boarders have had to dodge bullets from the Syrian regime in order to let refugees into our country. But this is an international responsibility. This is a new global reality that we need to deal with.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about that potential consequence in Jordan. Today you have elections in Jordan. For many years it looked like the experiment of political Islam, after the Arab Spring, was dead, it’s now resurging and these people are not going to be boycotting the polls, as they have done. Analysis say that the Muslim Brotherhood group in Jordan could become the single strongest party after today’s elections. What do you say to that?

RANIA: Well let’s actually recast that question by saying that it is quite incredible that Jordan has been stress tested like no other country in the past 15 years through multiple wars, through financial crisis, and now you know we have wars on our boarders and the aftermath of the Arab Spring, that we are still able to remain at the forefront of peace and moderation. That we are still able to continue with our reforms, and these elections are another step in the right direction when it comes to reform. And we are welcoming the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is participating because we want them to be inclusive elections and everybody has to participate and have their fair share. Because we do want Jordan to set an example in the region of a county that is trying to do the right thing. Trying to do the right thing by its people. Trying to do the right thing by fighting the extremists and by holding onto peace and moderation.

AMANPOUR: Your Majesty Queen Rania, thank you very much for joining us.

RANIA: A pleasure. Thank you.