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Week of March 2, 2004

Program 0409


Russia Election Preview | Transcript | MP3

Inside Chechnya | Transcript | MP3

Global Chechen Policy | Transcript | MP3

Singapore Tourism | Transcript | MP3

Iran Earthquake Update | Transcript | MP3

Global Citizen: Princeton Lyman | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

SERGEI MARKOV: Russia now is in the process, not from communist dictatorship, but from the stage of Yeltsin anarchy to the functioning democratic institutions.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Russia’s president campaigns for another term in office.

KEITH PORTER: And, an inside view of Russia’s war on terrorism in Chechnya.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AKHMAD KADYROV: [via a translator] Security is the most important issue. If the republic is secure then investors can come home. If the situation here is normal then people will come back. That’s why the main task today is to provide security.

PORTER: Plus, the peace proposals to end the conflict in Chechnya.

ILYAS AKHMADOV: [via a translator] I understand observers who can’t figure out what’s going on there. We ourselves don’t understand it. Neither Russians nor us. I can tell you this openly. There’s no logic there.

7MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

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Russia Election Preview

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. The votes have not yet been cast in Russia’s March Presidential election, but already it’s abundantly clear that Vladimir Putin will enjoy a second term in office in the Kremlin. There are eight candidates in the March 14th ballot, but with the Russian President enjoying an approval rating of 73 per cent and with many of the country’s top politicians choosing to sit out the race, the only real drama hinges on whether turnout will reach the 51 percent required to validate the electoral process. So will the elections prove the strengths or limits of Russia’s democracy? Common Ground‘s Simon Marks reports from Moscow.

[Sounds from a busy Moscow café]

SIMON MARKS: In a downtown Moscow cafe not far from the Kremlin, a new portrait of Vladimir Putin is being unveiled. It is made entirely of rich, dark Russian chocolate, and almost seems at risk of melting under the lights above it. It’s on sale to members of Russia’s nouveau riche for around $700 US dollars. The artist, Vitaly Ponomaryov, insists it’s a tribute to Russia’s leader, not part of a growing personality cult around him.

VITALI PONOMARYOV: [via a translator] I don’t think I am contributing to this. What I like about Putin is that he can unite so many people around him. We’re not drawing this just to sell it. This is to express what we feel.

MARKS: But the chocolate portrait is—say some Russians—by far the sweetest thing about the Russian President. Over the past year, while the world’s attention was focused on Iraq, he has moved aggressively to consolidate his power base here and increasingly surround himself with advisers who, like the President himself, once worked for the KGB. And no one felt the power of the presidency more than Russia’s most successful businessman—oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the conglomerate Yukos.

[The sound of Mr. Khodorkovsky being arrested]

MARKS: On October the 26th last year, Mr. Khodorkovsky was suddenly arrested and bundled into a police car during a routine business trip to Siberia. He has been in jail ever since, accused of fraud and tax evasion—charges he denies. Attorney Karina Moskalenko, who spent the past three decades representing victims of human rights abuses, first in the Soviet Union, now in Russia, today is also representing Mr. Khodorkovsky.

KARINA MOSKALENKO: [via a translator] I’ve worked as an attorney in this country for 26 years. In the ’70s, the ’80s and the ’90s. And I want to tell you that my clients never have the feeling of hopelessness that they have now. People feel more and more unprotected from the tyranny of the authorities. And you know this is a very unpleasant signal to society.

MARKS: The Russians argue that Mr. Khodorkovsky is simply a crook. They say he became Russia’s richest man by expropriating state assets during the Yeltsin era free-for-all. Then many of the nation’s riches were parceled out at giveaway prices by a Kremlin that desperately needed to raise cash. But Mr. Khodorkovsky’s arrest has become an important punctuation mark in the history of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, because he had gone to great lengths in recent years to legitimize himself and his business operations. He had also slowly been expressing political ambitions and funding some of Russia’s reformist opposition leaders—men like Grigory Yavlinsky, who might have run for the Presidency this spring had his Yabloko party not been thrown into a deep financial freeze following Mr. Khodorkovsky’s arrest.

GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Simply that event threatened the business to such extent that they are even afraid simply to speak to you after that.

[The sound of a busy Moscow street]

MARKS: And it isn’t just big business that is feeling the growing reach of the Kremlin. Over the past decade, pollsters working for an organization called Vstiom—the Russian Center for Public Opinion and Research—have become a familiar sight on the streets of Russia, canvassing public opinion in a nation where it never used to count. Headed by sociologist Yuri Levada, whose work in the ’70s was banned by the Communists, Vtsiom was suddenly reorganized by the current Russian government last year and brought under direct Kremlin control. Others encountering difficulties in the new Russia include defense analyst Igor Sutyagin—he’s been jailed for the past four years on charges of espionage, though insists the information he revealed was already in the public domain. The Open Society Institute, funded by financier George Soros—its offices were raided and records seized when Mr. Soros accused the Putin government of persecution. And Otto Latsis, a prominent reformist journalist who was mysteriously mugged last November, and now says old-style fears are stalking the Russian press.

OTTO LATSIS: [via a translator] There’s no formal censorship but I know how my colleagues are now writing their articles. Their inner censor has woken up. It’s something that I’ve been seeing for 50 years in my journalistic career. When you edit yourself, even before you start to write and you know what you cannot write because it will never be published anyway. This is all working again now.

[Sounds from a loud campaign rally]

MARKS: But supporters of the Russian President, who have been dutifully attending campaign rallies even though the March elections are a foregone conclusion, insist that Vladimir Putin is misunderstood. The President himself is vowing to stay true to a reformist path. He recently told a group of Italian journalists that Russian democrats and foreign investors have no cause for concern.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [via a translator] What I can tell you for sure is that we will continue to firm up the institution of private property, we will work on protecting the rights of property owners and investors, we will continue market reforms, and cement democratic institutions—parties, elections, the electoral system and so on. All of that, together with the determination of the state to fight corruption and crime, will finally create a normal investor-friendly climate.

MARKS: It is that mixture of capitalism with a determined, strong state—a dictatorship of law Mr. Putin once called it—that is proving so popular here. Many Russians seem prepared to trade away a few liberties in exchange for the economic stability that Mr. Putin has brought. They don’t penalize the government for the ongoing Russian military occupation of Chechnya. Indeed, the war in the breakaway region is scarcely a public issue in the presidential election campaign, despite recent terrorist attacks in Moscow linked to the war in Chechnya. Managed democracy the Kremlin calls it—and Putin adviser Sergei Markov defends it.

SERGEI MARKOV: Managed democracy, it means a combination of democratic institutions and authoritarian institutions. Of course, it’s clear. Russia now is in the process, not from communist dictatorship, but from the stage of Yeltsin anarchy to the functioning democratic institutions. To make situation stable, Kremlin has to use both democratic and not democratic methods.

MARKS: Others argue that Russian democracy doesn’t need managing and that a nation emerging from 70 years of authoritarianism doesn’t need any more. Lilia Shevtsova, a political analyst with ties to some of Russia’s opposition political parties, says managed democracy is democracy delayed.

LILIA SHEVTSOVA: When you don’t give society an opportunity to mature, society will never mature. And in the end frustrated unhappy society can become a real threat for the authorities, and we again will come to the same political cycle that Russia has become accustomed to—bloody revolutions.

[Sounds from the Russian Parliamentary elections commission meeting]

MARKS: In December, shortly before the parliamentary elections took place and with a degree of fanfare, the Russian government officially welcomed reporters to the Election Commission which oversees the country’s electoral process. Last year it too underwent a management change. The agency that will run the March presidential elections is now directly accountable to the FSB, the secret police agency that in former times was known as the KGB. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Moscow.

[Musical interlude]

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Inside Chechnya

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PORTER: Vladimir Putin was elected, in part, four years ago his promise to take a tough stand against separatist rebels in the breakaway Russian Republic of Chechnya. Chechnya is once again on the radar screens, as more terrorist attacks in Moscow are attributed to the insurgents from this war-torn region. For many years Chechnya has been a hot spot and a subject of controversy between the Kremlin, which has recently installed a presidential rule in the republic, and human rights groups, which insist the federal forces have crossed the line too often. Our Moscow correspondent Denis Levkovich spent a week with the Russian military in the region.

[The sound of a Russian military helicopter]

DENIS LEVKOVICH: A military helicopter is taking off from KHankala airfield near Chechen capital, Grozny. This, once a collective farm field, hasn’t seen a crop in over a decade, since the republic’s separatist movement led to the bloodiest conflict on Russian territory since the Second World War. Today KHankala is the largest military base in the region and the headquarters of what Russian officials insist is Russia’s war on terror. The conflict in Chechnya started over a decade ago, when then-President Boris Yeltsin sent troops in a desperate attempt to maintain Russia’s territorial integrity.

[The sound of a loud, angry crowd]

LEVKOVICH: The so-called First Chechen War , which was largely perceived by the international community as the separatist’s fight for independence, ended in 1996. It was a humiliating defeat of Russian troops. Their hasty withdrawal came under pressure of enormous military losses, as well as the de facto independence of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria. In 1999, when lawlessness ruled the republic and armed brigades of Islamic extremists crossed border with the Republic of Dagestan, attacking Russian check-points, and, allegedly, blowing up apartment buildings all over the Russian territory, the current President, Vladimir Putin, ordered armed troops back to Chechnya. The second campaign was brisk and soon enough the victorious president dispersed the resistance and declared the end of the war in Chechnya. That was in 2001, three years ago. Since that day, experts estimate, over 5,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.

[The sound of a Russian helicopter]

LEVKOVICH: As we fly over the plains of northern Chechnya, pilots fire off flares—a necessary precaution from a likely missile attack. Russian commanders say, although the war has ended, the new threat, the threat of terrorism is looming over this land. Lieutenant-General Valery Baranov is in charge of all Russian forces in the Republic.

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL VALERY BARANOV: [via a translator] We should not be mistaken about international terrorism, that it’s only directed toward the United States. The first steps were made here, in the territory of the Chechen Republic. Therefore we should avoid thinking that international terrorism is only aimed against the US and that it is not aimed against the Russian Federation in Chechnya.

[The sound of Russian tanks]

LEVKOVICH: Terrorists, Russians say, utilize all means to destabilize the situation in the region. Every morning dozens of separate patrol groups embark on de-mining missions. Several hundred miles of roads must be checked for improvised explosive devices every day, before caravans with supplies, building materials, and civilian transports can safely travel.

[The sound of a whistle]

LEVKOVICH: A whistle is the signal to the patrol that a suspected explosive device have been spotted. The patrol group stops and sets up a defense perimeter.

[The sound of rifle fire]

LEVKOVICH: Several sniper shots destroy the bomb, before it can do any damage. Lieutenant-Colonel Vasiliev, who is leading the de-mining patrol, says most of the explosive devices are placed by amateurs.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL VASILIEV: [via a translator] Mostly young people set up these bombs. They are attracted by money. Some of them are not even qualified for this work. We’ve had occasions where people who have set up these explosives get blown up themselves. They’re just recruited from the local population.

LEVKOVICH: The explanation, Russian military say, is simple. With the Republic’s economy destroyed by years of continuous fighting, those few Chechens who survived the war or who came back from neighboring Ingushetia where they were refugees, have very few chances of finding jobs that would pay enough to feed their families. The younger generation—largely uneducated, with a better idea of how to handle a gun than a pen—also became an easy target for terrorist cells, so called Jammats. By playing partly on religious feelings and partly on desperate poverty, the Jammats convince youngsters to cooperate. The financing of these terrorist cells, Russian commanders insist, comes largely from the terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Pakistan. Large sums of cash are smuggled from abroad and distributed among terrorist leaders inside Chechnya, many of whom, like Hattab, who was recently eliminated, or notorious Abu Al Valid, who is still operating on Chechen territory, are of Arab descent. Recently elected President of the Republic, Akhmad Kadyrov, says until these terrorists are caught, the situation will not improve.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AKHMAD KADYROV: [via a translator] Security is the most important issue. If the republic is secure then investors can come home. If the situation here is normal then people will come back. That’s why the main task today is to provide security.

LEVKOVICH: President Kadyrov, a former rebel fighter himself, is now Russia’s biggest bid for improvement of the security situation in the Republic.

[The sound of Ramsan Kadyrov talking]

LEVKOVICH: His son, Ramsan Kadyrov, is now running a 1,000 plus strong private army, compiled mostly of his fellow ex-rebel fighters, that, according to Kadyrovs’ plan, should eliminate any terrorist activity in Chechnya, and in future take over policing responsibilities from the Russian armed forces.

[The sound of a Chechen rebel being arrested by Russian security forces]

LEVKOVICH: The Kadyrov’s new security force has already claimed a few loud victories. We were taken to witness the security force in action, when they’ve traced and arrested a bandit who was selling drugs in order, we were told, to fund future terrorist attacks.

[The sound of Russian soldiers finding a weapons cache]

LEVKOVICH: And when they unearthed a weapons cache—rocket propelled grenades, ground-to-air missiles, several pounds of plastic explosives, Kalashnikovs, and Claymore mines, allegedly hidden by terrorists. The new security force’s commander, Ramsan Kadyrov, says the terrorist threat in the republic, no matter how diverse, will be eliminated in no time.

RAMSAN KADYROV: [via a translator] We’re going to finish with the bandits very soon. Terrorists like Barayev or Maskhadov will either surrender or die and we’ll definitely clean this place out by the end of the winter.

[The sound of Russian tanks]

LEVKOVICH: The Chechen republic now, Russians say, firmly on the way to recovery from years of wars and lawlessness, still remains one of the hottest spots in the region. It is another frontline of the war on terror, a land of constitutional rule under military supervision, and a land of peace where soldiers continue to die every day. For Common Ground, I’m Denis Levkovich near Grozny, Chechnya.

MCHUGH: The prospects for peace in Chechnya, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Global Chechen Policy

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MCHUGH: The situation in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya remains seemingly intractable, but people are considering solutions to bring peace. The conflict began as a bid for independence in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. But in recent years, new factors have emerged which are complicating the process of figuring out a solution. Priscilla Huff examines some of the ideas that are on the table to resolve the Chechen issue.

PRISCILLA HUFF: Tribal rivalries; Islamic fundamentalists; secular Muslims; mystic Sufi’s; Orthodox Christians; Russian soldiers—their lives, beliefs, and interests make up the human side to the Chechen conflict. Jerry Fowler is the Staff Director for the Committee on Conscience at the Holocaust Museum.

JERRY FOWLER: The complexity does not relieve us of the obligation to try to learn more when the ultimate reality is that there is a civilian population at risk. A unique society that is in danger of disintegrating from the constant grinding pressure from competing forces. Nor does it relieve us of the obligation to search for peace.

HUFF: The complexity of the situation also provides a confusing array of possibilities of where to start the search for peace in Chechnya. Mansoor Maciej Jachimczyk is the author of what’s called the traditionalist peace plan. He’s a scholar and political advisor with the International Research Institute of the People of the Caucuses.

MANSOOR MACIEJ JACHIMCZYK: The plan envisages dividing Chechnya into lowland, Northern Chechnya, which should be part of Russian Federation, where those Chechens who’d like to be citizens of Russian, should have an opportunity to live civilized life, and the Southern Chechnya, in the mountainous part, where those Chechens, probably a minority, who’d prefer to live an independent life within the framework of a tribal society—and the Chechens are the tribal people, consisting of nine tribes—living on the basis of the customary laws of that, could do it in peace without any necessity for a state or statehood in order to be independent. So one would call it an enclave, another would call it a reservation, another would call it a sort of free tribal territory. But it is a way forward now before waiting until Russia becomes an ideal democracy and before Chechens become ideal citizens.

HUFF: The root of the conflict over Chechnya begins in earnest with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Leaders in Chechnya at the time decided to declare independence and it wasn’t until 1994, some three years later, that then President Boris Yeltsin decided to respond militarily. After two bloody years, during which an estimated 30,000 civilians were killed and 600,000 turned into refugees, the Russian military withdrew in 1996 and a peace treaty was signed in 1997. The problem was that the actual status of Chechnya as a province or an independent nation was not determined. Some continued to fight, making incursions into the neighboring Russian Republic of Dagestan, while others exploded bombs in Moscow. The Russian military invaded again in 1999, this time claiming it was on an anti-terrorist operation after a series of suspicious apartment bombings in Moscow. Leo Aron Is a Resident Scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

LEO ARON: At the hear of this conflict is the Chechen’s legitimate desire for self rule and the repeated and savage historical injustice dealt the Chechen people by Russia and the Soviet Union. No solution is likely until this injustice is acknowledged and corrected.

HUFF: The history of Chechnya complicates the picture. The Chechens battled the Russians for independence repeatedly during the reign of the Czars. In 1944 Joseph Stalin deported the entire Chechen population. Khrushchev finally allowed the Chechens to return to their homeland in 1957. All that in a region about the size of Connecticut up in the mostly mountainous region east of the Black Sea. Today the Russian government sees Chechnya as part of the global war against terrorism. Aleksandr Lukashevich is a Senior Counselor at the Russian Embassy to the United States in Washington.

ALEKSANDR LUKASHEVICH: When the catastrophe of the 11th of September occurred we extended the hold and the hand of friendship and solidarity. We can hold the same and the similar hand on our behalf. But we don’t hold any suggestions to negotiate with the terrorists, with the bandits who are trying to oppose reconciliation of the Chechen society.

HUFF: Elections were supposed to be a step towards peace and reconciliation. In March 2003 Chechen voters overwhelmingly approved a Kremlin backed constitutional referendum that clearly states Chechnya will remain an autonomous region within Russia’s borders. Five months later Akhmad Kadyrov was elected President, although the validity of that vote has been questioned. Ilyas Akhmadov served as Foreign Minister in the government of the previous president turned rebel leader, Aslan Maskhadov. Akhmadov spoke through a translator.

ILLYAS AKHMADOV: [via a translator] I understand observers who can’t figure out what’s going on there. We ourselves don’t understand it. Neither Russians nor us. I can tell you this openly. There’s no logic there. Kadyrov is a typical gangster and today he is the leading light of democracy. I saw this calendar someone brought during the elections and this guy was on it wearing this hat, and the slogan said, “The leader of the 21st Century.” Poor 21st Century and poor us if we have leaders like that.

HUFF: If Chechens despair of the quality of their own leaders then the question remains, who else is there? The conflict has evolved as Islamic militants, versed in Wahabism, the same Muslim sect as Osama bin-Laden, have risen to power. Scholar Leo Aron.

ARON: Clearly the Islamization of the conflict has proceeded too far. We cannot now return it to its original secular war for independence. It is too late.

HUFF: Just as in Iraq and the Middle East, the Chechen conflict has been marred by suicide bombings, many by women, some of whom are widows of the Chechen fighters who had battled for independence. Lord Frank Judd has been a leading mediator in the Chechen conflict for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He sees the lack of hope as the key to the emergence of suicide attacks.

LORD FRANK JUDD: Why are young people prepared to do this? Now, I’m sure they’re manipulated. I’ve no doubt about that at all. But why are they open to manipulation? And it’s when there’s no hope, when there’s a situation of despair, a situation of repression, that people in their desperation become vulnerable to manipulation of that kind or even to spontaneous action of that kind. And therefore it seems to me that we all have a responsibility. Because part of the absence of hope in Chechnya is the way in which the world has failed effectively to focus on the Chechen issue as it should have focused. If there was a feeling that the world was focusing, was taking the situation seriously, there would be more hope for the younger generations within Chechnya.

HUFF: The brutality of the Russian military occupation and the lack of any apparent political initiate leads some to believe Moscow just wants to crush Chechnya. Aleksandr Lukashevich of the Russian Embassy participated in talks with Chechnya’s leaders in the ’90s.

LUKASHEVICH: Everybody asks, “Why do we care?” I can’t explain for this distinguished audience, but as a person representing the Russian Federation and the person who was personally involved in all this drama since 1995, I care. And majority of the Russian population care.

HUFF: Critics of President Vladimir Putin, such as , of the Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow, say there’s a very basic problem.

ANDREI POINTKOVSKY: The problem is not the end state. The problem is this—talking about, the problem is how to begin to talk.

HUFF: As the Chechens look to Moscow for the initiative, Russians look to the Panksis Gorge, where many rebels find refuge, for a cessation of the terrorism that has left hundreds dead—at the Nordov Theater, at a rock concert, outside a hotel, just in Moscow alone. Lord Frank Judd is convinced Chechnya is a key piece in a much larger picture.

LORD JUDD: On one thing I think President Putin is absolutely right. President Putin says that Russian is in the front line of the struggle with militant Islam. Well, if Russia is in the front line of the struggle with militant Islam, it’s crucial to demonstrate that political processes and political solutions are possible. If there’s a refusal to embrace a political solution in a meaningful way the only people who are going to put our issues on the table, on the agenda, are the tough guys, the militants, the people who are prepared to use the fist. And for that reason, I believe Chechnya has a significance way beyond Chechnya itself. It has a significance for the whole issue of global security as it faces us in the coming decades.

HUFF: For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

KRISITN MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Singapore’s plan to draw tourists to its ethnic neighborhoods.

KERSHING GOH: We’re not going to do too much to it. And we’re not going to touch it too much. Because, if it’s doing well the way it is, let’s just try to see how we can market it better, let people know more, especially foreign tourists.

MCHUGH: Plus, the future of Iranian earthquake survivors. And, this week’s global citizen profile.

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Singapore Tourism

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Starting in the late 1960s, the government of Singapore engaged in massive urban renewal that tore down large parts of its famous—and famously chaotic—Chinatown. At first the government wanted to clear out slums; later it wanted to establish the area as a tourism center. But the tourists weren’t impressed, and officials hired planners and architects to restore the old-world charm. As part of Worlds of Difference, a series on global cultural change, Reese Erlich reports that it’s one thing to rebuild buildings; it’s quite another to rebuild a community.

[The sound of Chinese music and people speaking in Chinese]

REESE ERLICH: S.W. Fong sits behind a counter in his Spartan shop practicing the ancient art of mat weaving. Yellowing photos show that he is carrying on a long family tradition.

S. W. FONG: [speaking English] My ancestors—my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father.

ERLICH: And all of these people all have the same business, is that right?

S.W. FONG: [speaking English]Yeah, correct. It’s been passed on generation to generation. We have been doing this business for the past four generations.

[The sound of a woman sweeping]

ERLICH: Fong grew up just a few blocks away from here. Speaking Cantonese, he recalls Chinatown as a tumultuous, crowded commercial center.

S.W. FONG: [via a translator] Chinatown was an exciting community. At the time there wasn’t any shopping mall. People depended on the roadside hawkers to get their goods.

ERLICH: But Chinatown was extremely overcrowded. Twenty-five percent of Singapore’s people lived on one percent of its land.

S.W. FONG: [via a translator] At the time we had 10 members of my family all living in the same house. We lived on one floor, a living room and two bedrooms. Some of us slept in the bedrooms, some in the living room. We rented out other floors to some old ladies. It was very crowded.

ERLICH: The old shop houses—narrow buildings with stores on the street level and living quarters above—had become slums. The government tore many down, sending residents to high-rise apartments out in the suburbs. Part of Chinatown was taken over by office buildings. Small businesses like Mr. Fong’s were pushed to the periphery.

S.W. FONG: [via a translator] Chinatown’s excitement has disappeared. Many of the old shop houses are now offices. In the past they were meant for residences.

[The sound of heavy street traffic and construction]

ERLICH: By the 1980s, with tourists complaining about the city’s overwhelming blandness, the government realized it had made a big mistake. So it scrambled to refurbish what was left. Dinesh Naidu is an architect and writer.

DINESH NAIDU: This used to be a street, so similarly there they pedestrian zed it. And except there, it’s completely sealed, so it’s air conditioned. So it’s really like a mall. And in the process of building that one, they accidentally tore down a lot of the shop houses. So it isn’t even real old shop houses that you’re looking at. It’s really a new mall.

ERLICH: Naidu says Chinatown still tries to attract tourists. But it mostly features tacky stores selling tacky items, like mechanical talking parakeets.

NAIDU: The majority of the ones in this area especially are tourist knickknack shops and stuff like that.

[The sound of a mechanical parakeet sound]

ERLICH: So you clap your hands and then the, you get the mechanical chirp?

NAIDU: Yeah.

[The sound of a mechanical parakeet sound]

ERLICH: Accompanying Naidu is another architect, Ho Wing Hin. [now interviewing Mr. Hin directly:] Do any Chinese people live in Chinatown?

HO WING HIN: Uh, Chinese people.

[Both Mr. Erlich and Mr. Hin laugh]

HO WING HIN: That’s a strange question. Well, actually, that’s an interesting question because people do still live in Chinatown but not in the shop houses anymore.

ERLICH: That’s because a remodeled shop house can cost as much as $1.75 million. Victor Savage, Chair of the Geography Department at the National University of Singapore, says the government’s attempts to re-establish an authentic Chinatown have largely failed.

PROFESSOR VICTOR SAVAGE: So only certain types of people who could bankroll the enterprises could actually take over the shop houses and they were not really the people that you wanted there anyway. You know, the more commercial types as it were. I mean, the plus side obviously is that you have now shop houses that are respectable and look as close to the original kind of things. But the downside obviously is that, you know, you’ve got a whole lot of people of commercial and entrepreneurial bent who have now invaded Chinatown. So the “Chinese-ness” is not fully realized.

ERLICH: Savage says the redevelopment of Chinatown goes beyond economic issues.

PROFESSOR SAVAGE: It’s also the question of embedding Singaporeans to Singapore. When you tear out old areas, you know, people have less sense of place attachments, as it were, to an area, to a place. The more you tear out, old areas that people grew up with, you are tearing out their, very much of their heart and soul. And it makes it more easy, easy for them to migrate elsewhere because they don’t feel a commitment to Singapore anymore.

[The sound of Indian music being played at a music store]

ERLICH: Geraldine Koh is a tour guide in Little India, a part of Singapore that largely avoided the wrecking ball.

GERALDINE KOH: [giving her tour] Good morning, everybody. Welcome. My name is Geraldine. On behalf of Journeys, let me welcome you to dohbi, saris, and a spot of curry. This of all the places in Singapore is my favorite place because you really don’t know what awaits you round the corner. It’s a place full of sights, sounds, smells, and color.

[The sound of a busy street, with Indian music in the background]

GERALDINE KOH: [over a loudspeaker, giving her tour] These shops houses date from 1830s right up to the 1930s. These are what we call our traditional shop house. And they have a very eclectic architecture. You have influences of all the different races found on the front of your shop houses.

[The sound of busy traffic]

ERLICH: [speaking to a Little India shopkeeper] What do you sell?

UNIDENTIFIED SHOPKEEPER: Curry. We have different spices. Nice curry powder, saffron, lentils, black pepper, white pepper. Everything got.

GERALDINE KOH: When you go into the place, you feel that this is what the whole Indian community is about. You see it living, breathing in its natural surroundings. It’s not something that has been planted inside artificially.

ERLICH: Chinatown no longer acts as a hub for the Chinese community, but Indians still throng to Little India. Indians, who make up only seven percent of Singapore’s population, have few other places to buy traditional goods. Rajakumar Chandra heads the Little India shopkeepers association.

RAJAKUMAR CHANDRA: Sundays if you are in Little India after 5 about 5 o’clock or so you see about roughly 200,000 people. They are from Bangladesh and they are from India. They actually are the construction workers who are working in Singapore. And this actually is their meeting point. They actually meet in groups. They discuss about what’s happening in their village. Is it raining there. Has your wife given birth? Boy or girl? How is your mother or your sister?

ERLICH: Chandra says the government has mainly kept its hands off Little India.

CHANDRA: They really like the place as what it is today. Okay, and the only infrastructure that they would like to change is maybe the road first. It is the drainage, the lightings and all that. But when it comes to tearing down buildings and all that, I don’t think it’s in their mind now.

ERLICH: Do you think they’ve wised up?

RAJAKUMAR CHANDRA: Yes, definitely they do.

ERLICH: Things here aren’t completely laissez-faire. The government opened a new subway stop in Little India in 2003. Zoning laws insure that shops sell traditional merchandise. No computer software companies or lawyers need apply. Kershing Goh is with the Singapore Tourism Board.

KERSHING GOH: Our positioning at this point toward Little India is that we’re not going to do too much to it. And we’re not going to touch it too much. Because, if it’s doing well the way it is, let’s just try to see how we can promote it better, how we can market it better, let people know more, especially foreign tourists, about such a jewel we have in Singapore.

[Sounds from a busy shopping mall]

ERLICH: Meanwhile, Singapore’s Chinese have developed their own new communities. Architect Ho says his generation of twenty-somethings hang out at this shopping mall just outside Chinatown because of its trendy restaurants and clubs.

HO WING HIN: People now congregate in new areas, yeah like this. Actually we, as the new generation, identify as the Chinatown today. Which may not be so marketable by, seen from the eyes of the tourism board, but very much real and quite vibrant.

ERLICH: Singapore’s original Chinatown wasn’t designed to be a vibrant community. It just evolved over the years. That process may be happening all over again—and this time, the government is keeping its hands off. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich, Singapore.

[The sound of Indian music]

PORTER: Worlds of Difference is a project of Homelands Productions. For more information about Singapore or Homelands Productions, visit our website at

MCHUGH: Coming up next, the worrisome future for Iran’s earthquake survivors. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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Iran Earthquake Update

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MCHUGH: The UN estimates the cost of rebuilding the quake-stricken city of Bam, Iran could reach $1 billion. The December earthquake killed more than 40,000 people, and tens of thousands more were injured or left homeless. Many survivors have said they’re thankful for the aid they’ve been receiving, but they’ve also been wondering when, how, and if, their lives will return to normal. Roxana Saberi reports from Bam, Iran.

[The sound of grief-stricken earthquake survivors]

ROXANA SABERI: A few seconds one night last December was all it took for an earthquake to take the lives of thousands in the city of Bam.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN REPORTER: [summarized by Ms. Saberi] This man cries for his dead father: “You were not here last night so I could embrace you. Oh, innocent heaven, why did you go?”

SABERI: Answers for these quake victims are elusive. Thousands of Bam’s 100,000 or so people lost their homes. Eighty to ninety percent of the city’s buildings collapsed in the quake. Now survivors are wondering how they’ll rebuild their lives.

[The sound of Taahere Barqi speaking, listing all her relatives killed in the quake]

SABERI: Taahere Barqi easily lists the relatives she lost in the quake—her sister, brother—around 100 people in all. She’s thankful for the aid her family has been getting. Indeed, aid workers from Iran and abroad have been handing out supplies, removing rubble, and tending to the injured. But she asks, how long will they have to eat canned food, and why does her baby have to tremble at night in a tent, camped outside what was once a home she was proud of.

TAAHERE BARQI: [via a translator] We expect the Iranian nation and government and foreign countries to build two rooms for us. We no longer have a home, we don’t have money, we have only this set of clothes and all the help like tents they have given us.

SABERI: The UN says quake survivors now living in individual tents or tent camps that have been set up are to be transferred to pre-fabricated houses, where they will stay for at least six months. The question of long-term housing is also being studied. UN relief worker Ted Pairn says time is a key factor.

TED PAIRN: And we must look at the longer-term requirements to, particularly the requirement of shelter, because the weather is now changing, it’s becoming extremely cold. And we wouldn’t want people to suffer any longer than they have to.

SABERI: Many here say one thing’s for sure—the future homes here shouldn’t be like the old ones, which were made of mud brick that easily crumbled during the earthquake, trapping people underneath with no room to breathe. Iranian officials say quake-prone Iran has tightened building codes in recent years but these rules have been largely disregarded, adding to the death toll in and around Bam. Even state buildings, such as two hospitals in Bam, collapsed in the quake.

[The sound of Tehran vehicle traffic]

SABERI: What happened in Bam has even reignited a proposal to move the country’s capital from Tehran, which lies on a major geological fault line.

[The sound of heavy excavation equipment in Bam]

SABERI: The government has promised to rebuild Bam in one to two years and to restore its ancient citadel, now in ruins, to its former glory. Authorities have said the cost of rebuilding Bam could reach up to $1 billion dollars. The UN says most of that will likely be provided by Iranian authorities, though it has anticipated the international community will provide additional help. And the World Health Organization says around $30 million more will be needed to restore the city’s health service.

[The sound of grief-stricken earthquake survivors]

SABERI: It’s been too much to cope with for many survivors, who have left to stay with relatives in other cities. It’s not clear how many will return.

[The sound of grief-stricken earthquake survivors]

SABERI: But several others, like these mourners in Bam’s cemetery, say they have decided to remain.

UNIDENTIFIED EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: [via a translator] One thing is that this is my city, my birthplace, a lot of our young people are sleeping here. With all of those memories, we can’t leave.

SABERI: And others, like Taahere Barqi’s 12-year-old daughter, Aasemaan, say they have big plans for their future here.

AASEMAAN BARQI: [via a translator] We’ll go to school, get jobs, and things will get better.

SABERI: The earthquake, many here say was a test, the work of God. The next challenge—rebuilding their lives and this city—is only just now beginning. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi in Tehran.

[Musical interlude]

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Global Citizen: Princeton Lyman

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PORTER: Princeton Lyman has a long and varied career in helping to shape the US government’s foreign policy. Lyman has served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. He’s also been director of the State Department’s Bureau for Refugee Programs. And, Lyman is a former US Ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria. Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman recently talked to Princeton Lyman as part of our occasional series on Global Citizens. Lyman says his foreign-born parents fostered an early interest in foreign affairs.

PRINCETON LYMAN: I did grow up in San Francisco, California. My parents were immigrants from Lithuania. Ran a small grocery store in San Francisco in which I spent much of my youth. They were very much concerned with world affairs. My father read all four newspapers that we then had in San Francisco every day and the house was full of discussion with political affairs. And San Francisco being a somewhat cosmopolitan city I was always interested in global issues. And of course our parents pushed us very hard to education and higher education.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: What about books? You mentioned the newspapers. Were there a lot of books in your home?

LYMAN: There were a lot of books in the home. My father had quite a literature connection so I was reading Tolstoy stories and things like that around the house.

BROCKMAN: Are there any recent books that you would recommend to our listeners?

LYMAN: I just finished this very interesting book, Franklin and Winston, the correspondence and relationship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. A great insight into how these two interacted and how of course the whole post-war world was shaped.

BROCKMAN: You’ve had a varied career. You were trained as a political scientists and then you worked in government foreign service. What places have you lived during your career?

LYMAN: Well, I’ve lived in three overseas places. My first assignment was in South Korea. In the 1960s I was in with the US Agency for International Development, the aid program. And then later I switched to African affairs and have been more or less associated with African affairs since. And served in Ethiopia, lived in Nigeria, and finally in South Africa.

BROCKMAN: How would you define global citizenship?

LYMAN: You know, I think the term “citizenship,” one has to deal with very carefully. Because one has a juridical sense of citizenship. I’m a citizen of the United States and that gives me certain rights and privileges in the United States and that’s very important and important to me. And I’m proud to be an American citizen. But I also think that to be a global citizen in a broader sense is to recognize that we are part of the world. The world affects us, we affect the world. Once you do that you’re opened up to an enormous set of interesting, stimulating ideas and experiences as well a better sense of what it is to be an American. Because you have a sense of how American interacts with the world and how the world sees America.

BROCKMAN: And would you consider yourself a global citizen?

LYMAN: In that sense very much so.

BROCKMAN: Let’s turn to foreign policy if you could for just a moment. On foreign policy how would you characterize the United States’ current foreign policy?

LYMAN: I think the United States has gone into a period where we are testing out an ideology that has lingered within particularly the Republican Party for a number of years but had not been implemented. It was part of the first Bush administration but never the dominant part. And it’s been dominant in this administration up to now. And that is a philosophy that says basically, “If you’re the only superpower you ought to be able to tell the world what to do. And if you need to demonstrate that with military power, military power says a lot.” And I think that attitude affected the way in which we responded to 9/11—a quick campaign in Afghanistan that looked almost too easy and then a use of force in Iraq. And only now a recognition of the limits of that ideology. That yes, we have overwhelming military power but it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to get at all the things that are really important to us, even security.

We need allies. We need partners. Take the war on terrorism. You can’t really get at the terrorist threat without extensive cooperation in intelligence activities and law enforcement activities around the world. And without that kind of cooperation all the military might in the world won’t get at it.

BROCKMAN: Finally, it seems that the world is becoming more and more connected. What advice might you have for people in terms of seeing the connection between their lives and the broader world.

LYMAN: I think it’s very important that people understand that. I think we’re seeing it more in the American community from trade issues and the great debate about jobs and the future of jobs. And you know, we always thought of ourselves as so competitive that, that trade was just good for us and good for others but never would hurt us. Now we’re finding it’s a very competitive world and it raises some tough issues. And at the same time, one of the reasons that we have had low inflation for the last decade is because of open trade and the competition and goods from abroad. So we’re already connected very much economically. And I think most Americans when they think about it recognize that we’re very connected environmentally. That those are issues that cross borders, etcetera. And terrorism has brought home the fact that we are connected in security ways.

I think that for many Americans these connections are not well defined, particularly by the news outlets and news media. They report catastrophically about the world but the connections and the contexts are often missing. And I think that makes a challenge for the American public. But I think that everybody has to think about our connection with the world and what role they personally want to play in that regard, whether it’s as a citizen, as a voter, or as an active participant in a variety of programs.

BROCKMAN: Princeton Lyman is currently a Senior Fellow and Director of Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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