tv Focus on Europe PBS May 15, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
♪ michelle: hello, and welcome to "fokus on europe." we're glad you could join us. across the continent, all eyes are on france, where rallies for one of the country's most unpredictable presidential elections are in full swing. will the country drift to a populist system hostile to the eu, or will moderate forces prevail? many voters are still undecided, but here, in the sprawling suburbs, some with a mostly migrant and muslim population, many simply do not want to choose. "i distrust the politicians because in the end they are against us muslims," says this young woman. more on that later in the program. according to official announcements, the turkish
people have decided. in their recent referendum, a narrow majority voted for president erdogan to have more power -- a lot more. while his supporters celebrate, the rest of the country is in shock at the outcome. many, like neslihan, an activist from istanbul, cannot -- do not believe the results. they are so incensed by claims of election fraud, they are no longer afraid of the longstanding government crackdown on critics and are taking to the streets to protest. reporter: outraged by their loss in the referendum approving more and sweeping powers for turkish president recep tayyip erdogan, protesters march in the streets of istanbul. they feel cheated. engineer neslihan karatas spontaneously joins the march. she can hardly believe the opposition lost. ms. karatas: i'm 28 years old. i've never done anything more
sensible for democracy and freedom as i have in the past three months. i've hit the streets with friends. we've been informing people and campaigning for a "no." and we got so much encouragement. we're not going to accept this result. we're certain we won at least 55% of the votes. reporter: before the referendum, karatas had been thinking about leaving the country, as had many other young turks. but she felt encouraged by the support shown for the opposition. now, she and her friends plan to keep demonstrating until they force a recount of the vote, hoping to repeat their success when they helped to save gezi park from the government's plans for demolition. i.t. specialist sibel yilmazer likes to come to gezi park on her lunch break. she also seriously doubts that a majority of the population voted for the amendment to turkey's constitution.
she had even volunteered to be an election worker. during the referendum, we met her outside her polling station. she knew all too well what was at stake. ms. yilmazer: this is a historic vote. if it produces a "yes," it'll mean lots of changes for turkey. reporter: officially, it did produce a yes -- though by a very narrow margin. but president erdogan and his supporters cheered their victory, unfazed by the many reports and videos indicating voting irregularities. this one allegedly shows dozens of ballots getting validated after voting. sibel yilmazer is bitterly disappointed, even shocked. she saw with her own eyes many things being done improperly in the voting process.
ms. yilmazer: when they went to drive the bags of already counted ballots to the election commission, they wouldn't let any of us observers go along, even though it's mandatory. only after we protested did they let us. and now i hear that, in other districts, apparently invalid votes were added later. what can you say about that? reporter: neslihan karatas has no intention of keeping silent, especially since her home city istanbul voted "no" with a clear majority. in recent months, she's seen a number of her former high school teachers get dismissed or even arrested. and with the economic situation steadily worsening, many of her friends are out of work. ms. karatas: i've had it up to here. and so, they can't scare me any more. they've tried everything.
they've threatened us, they've chased us through the streets, and now they know they can't govern against the will of half the population. they can't scare me any more. reporter: the opposition lost the referendum on more power for president erdogan by a very small margin. but neslihan karatas and many like-minded turkish democrats feel they are the real winners, and are more determined than ever. michelle: germany has welcomed more than a million refugees over the last two years. and among them were thousands of child brides. some married for love, many as a way for a family to guarantee safe passage of a young daughter, while others were simply married out of tradition. inevitably, the refugees' customs clashed with german law. our reporter met with hevi, who at 15 was torn between being a dutiful daughter and choosing
how she would like to live. reporter: hevi is a kurdish girl who now lives in a secret location somewhere in germany -- anonymously, and in fear of her own family and a forced marriage. she talks about how, on her 15th birthday, her life took a sudden and radical turn for the worse. hevi: the violence i experienced at home was really brutal. to me, the physical violence wasn't the worst part -- it was the psychological part. to get spat on so often by my father -- and not just a little bit. that was hard. i felt so humiliated. a lot. reporter: hevi comes from a devout muslim family. her father is an imam in hamburg. the family started to isolate
hevi more and more. they didn't allow her to get together with her friends. then, her father picked out a husband for his underage daughter and was going to make her marry him. hevi: i thought about killing myself. that was my first idea to solve my dilemma. i didn't know anything about any organizations i could go to to get some kind of support. they made me feel so small. i had no idea i could get help anywhere. reporter: hevi's case is no isolated one, says terre des femmes. the human rights organization has produced a video calling for action. more and more young girls are coming to germany as refugees. some of them have been forced to marry in the camps on the way. around 1400 married underage girls were registered last year in germany -- one out of four under the age of 14. the true number is thought to be
even higher. mahmoud and his wife fled to germany from a village in syria. they don't understand what the debate is about. mahmoud's wife was underage when they married. mahmoud is reluctant to speak openly about it. mahmoud: getting married young is unusual in germany, but it's normal for us. my whole family -- my mother, aunts, grandmother -- they all got married very young. that may be unusual here, but we want to live with our traditions. reporter: but the refugees' traditions clash with german law. human rights organizations argue that protecting children takes precedence over religious or cultural traditions. ms. bohmecke: traditions are important, but they mustn't violate human rights. if they do, the german state has to invoke the law and take adequate measures to protect these girls.
concerning underage marriage, we treat this as a human rights violation. in many cases, girls have been forced into marriage -- especially the ones under age 16. reporter: german lawmakers are responding with a bill that prohibits marriages under age 16 and annuls those in which either partner was not yet of age at the time, whether or not it was originally a forced or consensual marriage. ahmed massoun fled syria for germany. he explains that it's also a subject of heated debate in his home country. he says every second girl in the refugee camps in jordan, lebanon, and iraq is married while underage so they'll have someone to protect them during the journey. tightening german laws is, for him, the wrong approach. massoun: for the people who come here and arrive here, like, getting married already, and the girl's about 15 or 16, i think,
the german government has to make some exception. reporter: but the bill scheduled for a vote this summer has no provision for reviewing individual cases. it requires the annulment of all marriages between minors under age 16. ms. bohmecke: the legal provisions have to be combined with various preventive measures. the girls have to be given adequate support by various youth welfare services, and where there's potential endangerment of the minor, they have to be removed from the family. they must have access to integration programs. they have to be able to learn german and get job training and go to school. reporter: terre des femmes says this is the only way these girls can integrate into german society. hevi knows all too well how it feels to be torn between tradition and the need to live her own life. hevi: i always thought if i said anything, i would be betraying my family, and i felt guilty and cried. then a teacher asked me what was
wrong with me. the tears started flowing, and that was a relief. if it hadn't had been for that teacher, i probably wouldn't be around today. reporter: hevi is glad she got the help she did. now, she plans to study and build a life of her own. michelle: a quarter of a century after the fall of communism, two distinct views have emerged in central and eastern europe on the way to build a democratic future. should countries once behind the iron curtain adopt the open liberal society of the west, with its embrace of gay marriage, muslims, and multiculturalism, or, as governments in hungary and poland believe, should an authoritarian state enforce conservative values? a liberal university founded by hungarian-born american billionaire george soros in hungary's capital budapest has found itself on the front line of this culture clash.
reporter: "why do you fear education?" their banner asks. gaspar bekes and his fellow students have organized some of the most vocal protests in years against victor orban's right-wing populist government. in budapest, tens of thousands demonstrated against a new law which threatens the very existence of the ceu, the joint hungarian-american university. mr. bekes: it is very special and i am very humbled that so many people came to support this cause. it is obviously more than the ceu -- about academic freedom in general. and i am really happy that people consider knowledge to be something worth protecting, and worth taking to the streets and worth protesting for. reporter: gaspar really should be studying and writing term papers. but right now he's more concerned about the fate of his university. mr. bekes: i feel very much infringed upon, my basic rights to have a quality education. and this university is a very close-knit community, as i've said. so if they pull our university
from us, it is a very, very personal matter. reporter: in downtown budapest, signs seek to garner support for the central european university. here, students like gaspar earn degrees that are accredited in hungary and in the u.s. founded after the iron curtain fell, the ceu is an international postgraduate institution. mr. bekes: i feel this is a very, very esteemed institution, it is the best in hungary objectively, and not just by its academic standards, but also by its humanistic value. here, you can actually feel that you are treated as a partner in learning and you are treated as a young generation who will hopefully do great things and aspire to great things, and the professors, the faculty, administration and all other students are very much supportive in this. reporter: the ceu encourages and educates students for the future to lead a free, democratic, and westward-looking hungary. but the new law threatens to shut down the university if it
doesn't establish a campus in its home country -- the u.s. -- by next year. laszlo palkovics, hungary's education secretary, defends the legislation. he disapproves of the fact that students can also receive american diplomas, and that hungary has no control over the criteria. mr. palkovics: we want that the ceu, and also the hungarian version works very well. basically that was always a sort of debate from the very beginning that such a construction like a university, which does not have any activity in his home country, what is it going to bring here? so why don't we have another solution. reporter: human resources minister zoltan balog was even more outspoken when the hungarian parliament voted on the new law. mr. balog: it is not in our interests to have players in the background who, on behalf of and financed by foreign interests, have been trying to disable our democratically elected government. george soros' organizations in hungary and worldwide are such agents, pretending to be ngo's. we will therefore use any legal means necessary to block such
attempts. reporter: george soros is the hungarian-born u.s. billionaire who donated money to found the ceu in 1991. his goal was to create a liberal, western-style educational institution in formerly communist hungary. now, victor orban's government is resorting to radical measures to combat this independent university and its famous backer. but the students here don't plan to take that lying down. at the university cafe, gaspar bekes is already planning the next demonstration. he says this is about more than just the ceu. mr. bekes: in my opinion, it's a part of a bigger plan -- part of a geopolitical play by illiberal democracies -- or just illiberal states -- such as putin's russia or erdogan's turkey. we know that there were closures at universities in st. petersburg and in turkey.
so, i feel this is part of a bigger plan to close down independent academic institutions which foster critical thinking and independent thought. reporter: for the central european university's president michael ignatieff, the new legislation is a frontal attack on his university, launched in a dictatorial manner. mr. ignatieff: in a democratic society -- germany, for example -- if they wanted to change the regulations relating to a university, in a democratic society you bring it forward to the university, you talk, you give them advance warning, you have discussions. we had no advance warning, no discussion, no bilateral exchanges. in fact, they refused to meet us, and so, that's had the effect of making this much more difficult. reporter: so gaspar bekes heads off to another demonstration to drum up more support for his school.
it's one of the loudest protests against victor orban's government in years. mr. bekes: this is a very hopeful sign for democracy. especially hungarian democracy, which has been eroded over the years and has, by many, been labeled as something that's a lost cause. but look around -- it's not a lost cause. people are here, people are protesting, and we will achieve our results. reporter: more than 60,000 have turned up to protest. the hungarian government may have gone a step too far by threatening the existence of a world-famous university. michelle: hanane and her family moved into social housing on the outskirts of marseille 12 years ago. she dreamt of becoming a lawyer. despite working hard and getting good grades, she says that being poor and from a migrant family are barriers to such careers. some of the politicians running in the upcoming election have promised reforms, but hanane is not sure anything will change,
whoever is the president of the fifth republic. reporter: frais vallon in northern marseille has a reputation for high unemployment, crime, and drugs. hanane has lived here with her mother for 12 years. they're originally from algeria. when hanane's father died, her mother could no longer afford the rent where they were living more centrally. she only found an apartment here, where there's a lot of social housing, mainly for immigrants. hanane says that she felt uncomfortable here from the very beginning. hanane: i experienced things i'd never seen before. girl gangs who would insult people for no reason. i didn't know anyone. it's not the sort of environment i imagine my children growing up in. i want them to be in a much more open and tolerant environment. not this one at all. reporter: hanane and her mother
are not banking on france's politicians to help them much. they think that those in power mainly want to further their own positions. for example, the conservative presidential candidate francois fillon is accused of paying his wife and children for fake jobs, and he's under investigation over the misuse of public funds. hanane: this is legal fraud. can't he put any money aside on a salary of 8000 euros a month? we're hardly rich ourselves. i earn minimum wage. my mother doesn't work. but we manage to make ends meet, to help others, and to put money aside. reporter: hanane feels that she has been prevented from climbing the social ladder. and yet she really tried to -- she was good at school, went to university, studied to become a lawyer. hanane's now a social worker.
she and her colleague go about the neighborhood, trying to keep order and sort out disagreements. she says that she didn't have the right contacts for a law career. hanane: some people won't give you a chance. it's a vicious circle. whether you have an education or not, you don't get work. i needed a good contact, but i didn't really know anyone. so i ended up cleaning houses, working in sales, even though i had a degree. reporter: hanane is an exception, in that she really tried. many here don't even finish school. sometimes it's easier to start selling drugs to make money than to get a job. ramzi is a case in point -- he almost went off the straight and narrow. hanane: i don't know if i should really say it. let's say, he didn't have anything legal in mind -- to
keep it vague. but i felt that he had potential because he was a real leader at school. reporter: when the building in which ramzi's family was living had to be pulled down, they moved to a better district. hanane says this was a real godsend for ramzi, who's now training to become a truck driver. ramzi: there's no one to say let's do this or that, let's go out -- which is better because i'm very easily influenced. reporter: although the social problems in france's suburbs are serious and very visible, they have played little role in the presidential election campaign. the elections could have served to integrate french citizens of immigrant descent, many of whom are muslim, but instead they feel more and more ostracized.
hanane thinks that most politicians have rejected the muslim community, especially since the terrorist attacks on paris and nice. hanane: i really don't trust politicians. so, i won't vote for them. that's because i am afraid that they will approach the muslim population with ideas or actions that could be even more divisive. everyone here knew my father. i grew up in that building. reporter: the family used to live here in the arab quarter in the center of marseille. today, it is one of the city's most coveted districts. if she had more money, hanane would move back immediately. but she doesn't think that will be happening any time soon.
michelle: modern conveniences are supposed to make our lives easier. but kate and allan burrows, a couple in england, say they made their lives harder and sicker. so they decided to simplify their lives by embracing a more organic way of living -- by returning to nature -- literally. reporter: kate and allan burrows have taken their passion for nature to extremes. they've built a house in the middle of a forest in devonshire in west england. from wood, straw, mud, grass and other organic materials. it's back to nature -- in every respect. ms. burrows: it's our compost toilet. we also share it with a chicken who sleeps in that crate there and lays an egg every morning. so when i'm having my morning business, i pick up my breakfast egg at the same time. [laughter] reporter: for the past two years, this has been their home. no heating, no running water, some solar power. kate earns a few pounds as a
part-time carer -- enough to survive on. with a little extra from her hand-made baskets. after her three children left their very normal home, kate was desperate to abandon the modern world with all its disadvantages. ms. burrows: i caught whooping cough, i had glandular fever. and every time one of these things happened to me, i developed more and more allergies along the way and became allergic to all chemicals. until we moved here and i suddenly, within a month or two, just, like, was so well. reporter: weeds make the grass-roof leaky, says allan. the former electrical engineer has learned a lot since they got here. the couple now survive almost exclusively on goods from their small-holding. fire under an old oil barrel, a tube, and there's your hot tub.
but the paradise is under threat. local authorities want the mud hut torn down. they say it spoils the view. ms. burrows: that's something that would just kill me, basically. i can't live a normal life anywhere else. reporter: some say the burrows' are crazy and kate's illnesses a delusion. but the couple don't care. they've collected 6000 signatures against the decision to demolish their home. until the authorities back down, they'll be no resting here. michelle: i respect what they're doing, but i would miss my creature comforts. that's it for today. thank you for watching. see you next time. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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