07/06/2012 Newsnight


Mark Urban analyses the latest massacre in Syria and asks if it is a turning point in the reaction of the international community to the Assad regime. Presented by Gavin Esler.

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We cannot allow mass killing to become part of every day reality in


Syria, the words of the UN's envoy, Kofi Annan, decribing exactly what


now seems to be happening. In the latest outrage, 78 civilians, many


women and children, apparently slaughtered with the finger again


being pointed at pro-Government militia. We will hear from the


women in the UN mission that was shot at, and ask if Syria is


descending into civil war. It is raining, the British weather is


with me. David Cameron meets Angela Merkel in Berlin, but can Britain


avoid the political weather in the two-speed Europe. We will discuss


if it is right to pursue a eurozone with Britain on the outside. Forced


marriage, tomorrow the Government plans to make it a criminal offence.


Will this help the women victim, or quite the reverse. We will debate


with two campaigners who take opposite sides on the new law.


The European country, where being a midwife at a home birth can get you


arrested, a personal report from Hungary.


Good evening, if words were bullet, the Syrian regime would already be


full of holes. At the United Nations, the secretary-general, Ban


Ki-Moon, spoke of the unspeakable brutality of the latest massacre.


Dozens were killed, 19 of them reportedly women and children. With


the UN's own investigators coming under fire. President Assad and his


Government have lost all legitimacy, Ban Ki-Moon said. With 50 countries


now planning to meet in Paris next month, to discuss how to get rid of


the Assad regime, what is particularly shocking in this


report, is that so many of the victims are indeed women and


children. The scenes which follow are quite horrific.


Two weeks ago it was Houla, now the Hama province. Here, as there,


reports of shelling and then claims that militia men from Alawite


villages, that surround Sunni populated Qubair, went in on a


killing spree. It all speaks to a growing tide of violence, and the


breaking down of the structure of a multiethnic state. The question is


now how far out of control is it going to get. Are the regime


secretly directing everything? It is unlikely, there are certainly


some groups operating independently on either side. In the same way the


opposition themselves are not controlling all the opposition


activity. Today, Syrian state television


blamed this latest act on terrorist groups too. Last week, President


Assad went to parliament to deny any official role in the Houla


killings. TRANSLATION: We will remain ashamed every time we


remember Houla, and I remember that the Houla massacre will not remain


engraved in the eyes of the children. Are the denials credible,


even if these latest incidents were perpetrated by rogue groups, the


Syrian Government still has a general responsibility for arming


certain militias, and indeed, adopting sectarian tactics. It has


been the regime's tactic, right from the word go, since the


uprising began in March of last year, to really play on the fears


of sectarian violence. To make people in Syria afraid that what


happened in Lebanon and Iraq could happen in Syria, moing the


different ethnic and sectarian communities that exist there. Even


though it looks quite bad from the outside, internally it continues to


play into this wider narrative the regime is spinning, that they are


the only defence against Syria defending into sectarian violence.


Today's pictures have shocked, but equally the escalation of violence


by opponents of the Assad regime, for example, using car bombs, has


also caused accusation and denial. It all suggests a train of violence


increasingly out of control. So is a picture of suicide bombing,


militia groups that operate as death squad, and warring ethnic


factions credible? Well, certainly, that is the position that Iraq


found itself in seven or eight years ago. It is quite possible


that Syria is well on the way there too.


The question now, is whether anything can be done to check that


slide towards oblivion. Reporting to the United Nations in


New York today, its former boss, and now Syria envoy, Kofi Annan,


painted a bleak picture of events on the ground. With his six-point


peace plan being widely ignored, he urged a new initiative.


The longer we wait, the more radicalised and polarised the


situation will become. And the harder it will be to forge a


political settlement. The international community has united,


but it now must take that unity to a new level. We must find the will,


and the common ground to act, and act as one. Individual actions, or


interventions, will not resolve the crisis. But Mr Annan is hemmed in


on all sides. China and Russia, whose leaders have met today, have


rallied allied countries to their position that the Assad regime


cannot be changed by outside military intervention. TRANSLATION:


We do not think that Annan's plan is dead, or it does not exist any


more, and there is no need to implement it or to fulfil the UN


Security Council resolutions. These attempts to say it is dead are


unacceptable. Civil strive is already widespread


in Syria, and never mind the debate about whether this is civil war or


not. With violence escalating and diplomatic options narrowed, it


will be a brutal summer. The Annan Plan, as we heard, may or


may not be dead, but it is certainly not working, is there


anything else they can do, a Plan B? Kofi Annan has been in with the


Security Council tonight, briefing them. He's tried to put some flesh,


I think, on the bones of that suggestion he made in the General


Assembly there, that the international community needs to


raise its level of involvement here. He has talked about clear


consequences for Syria, if it doesn't fulfil its part of the


Annan Plan. Which is to do with ceasefire, withdrawing heavy


weapons, allowing humanitarian access, that type of thing. Now, is


that possible with Russia and China holding the positions they do?


Clear consequences would seem to mean sanctions, or further


additional pressure, maybe, just possibly, it is going to be


achievable, because those two countries did sign up to the Annan


Plan. But any sort of more energetic intervention doesn't seem


credible. Mr Annan has also pushed this idea of trying to form a


Contact Group, that the permanent five members of the Security


Council, and one or two other regional powers, Turkey, Saudi


Arabia, but also Iran, the UK and the US are sceptical that could


achieve anything. We sense the diplomacy meandering about trying


to find purpose and meaning and not succeeding. Even if he does get


somewhere in that little space between what the Russians and


Chinese are prepared to agree to, and the western powers want, the


big question still unanswered, in trying to bring about an orderly


transition of power in Syria, will the opposition go along with that.


So far, they haven't. A little earlier I spoke on the


phone to Mikhail Gorbachev in -- Sausan Ghosheh in Damascus, I asked


her what happened when the UN monitors tried to enter Qubair.


dispatched patrols to go to al- Qubair, they have spend the whole


morning to try to get into the village to try to figure out what


happened, to verify the reports of large scale killings in that


village. Until sunset they weren't able to go in. They returned back


to our base in Hama. They will go back again tomorrow morning.


Ki-Moon was saying that gunmen shot at the UN monitors? We can confirm


that our car was hit, our UN vehicle was hit with small calibre


bullets. Have you any idea who was doing the shooting? No, as a UN


mission on the ground, we only report what we see and what we can


verify and what we can see with our own eyes. Is it possible for you to


do your job, given the terrible difficulties you face? We are


actually very, very concerned about the restriction imposed on our


movement, this is the first time we have seen it in such a large scale.


For this, this impedes our work, our mandate is to monitor, observe


and then report. If we can't have access to these place, this sort of


stops us from fulfiling our mandate, that is concerning for the UN as a


whole. Thank you very much for taking time


to talk to us from Damascus. Your welcome.


Two Syrians are with me here, Malcolm Tucker, who opposed


President Assad's ray -- My guests are here with me now.


Are you convinced, as Ban Ki-Moon is, that the Assad Government is


behind these killings? The Assad Government is in charge of the


country, they are in responsibility for the killings, even if they are


not behind it. All the information tells us so far is that the Assad


forces were nearby, and they allowed the shabiha to enter and


commit the crimes. That is the problem for those in favour of the


regime, either the regime is carrying out the killings or has


lost control of the country, in which case it is finished? I have


to disagree with the other guest. The investigation is still under


way. So you can't. The point is they are not in control of the


country, they could have stopped it, they could have stopped the


killing? The Government is trying to gain control. It is not in


control of the country? Because of the opposition, it is gaining more


weapons, more funding. They are getting more unconventional weapons.


It is very hard for the Government. They are killing themselves, I


simply don't follow your argument, neither do most of the viewers. The


Assad Government is not in control of your country? It is not keeping


it together? They are trying. it is not working? They are trying


to work, they are trying to gain control, it is trying to establish


law and order. Because the Government is still the only


official speaker for the ...Do feel your country is turning into


Lebanon? It is, and I blame the regime for it. First and foremost.


In certain parts of Syria it is already like Lebanon. To stop this,


of course the regime needs to go. But we need the regime to go in the


safest way possible for Siria. We need the international community to


-- Syria. We need the international community to behave in a more


responsible way. Don't settle their old scores in Syria, don't turn it


into an arena for international conflict, it is Russia versus Iran,


America versus Russia. We want to solve the Syrian crisis, not just


manage it. They are behaving in a way of how to manage the crisis,


not how to solve it. Did you accept that the Annan Plan is


fundamentally dead, it begins with a ceasefire, and there isn't a


ceasefire, it can't move on, it can't go anywhere? It is not dead,


but we need Annan nan Plus. It is very weak. First of all we need an


entire team of mediators, not just one person. We need a tough mandate


and higher number of monitor, and a stronger international consensus,


we didn't need the nations to fight over Syria. There isn't a


consensus? Absolutely not. Some countries say they support the


Annan Plan, and then they arm certain parts of the opposition,


that doesn't work. Beyond killing Syrians, has the Assad Government


got any other plans for bringing stability? First of all, let's gain


control, or let's have a ceasefire first. The elections have started.


We want stability back to our country. That was my original point,


which is, you want stability in your country, the Assad regime is


unable to guarantee stability, it is falling apart? Yeah, but because


of the international pressure, because of the international


pressure. That's the main point. it is only foreigners that are


causing the problems in Syria? not saying only foreigners. Of


course not. I'm not saying the Government is an angel, no it is


not. They have lost all legitimacy, according to Ban Ki-Moon? No they


haven't. That is according to the United Nations? No they haven't


lost the back-up of the majority of the Syrian people. They didn't lose


legitimacy, they never had it to start with. I'm sorry.


legitimacy they never had popular legitimacy. I disagree with that.


Any solution has to involve the Syrians, agree there has to be a


Contact Group, but Syrians should be in the solution. They should


talk to all parties, they should involve every part of Syria not


just certain parts of the opposition. You agree the


opposition is divided amongst yourselves? Parts of the country


where the country opposition is not divided, the regime itself is not


united, but that is not the point, we need the international community


to rally around one solution, and you will see the Syrians rallying


behind it. Talk to all groups, talk to the armed groups but also the


Syrians, the rational voices coming from inside Syria as well.


Now the American armed robber, Willie Sutton, was once asked why


he robbed banks, he replied that that is where the money is. Berlin


is clearly where the money is in the eurozone. One way or another,


every European leader, including today, David Cameron, is full of


ideas for how Angela Merkel should spend it. We report on whether the


Prime Minister has signed up to a two-speed Europe, with Britain in


the slow lane, or perhaps on the hard shoulder.


Tomorrow sees the start of the quadrennial gathering of Europe's


elite. And like recent EU summits, there will be plenty of


misopportunities, offsides, and maybe some fancy foot work. England,


not seen by many as favourites, watches with itchy feet from the


sidelines. But who will win eurozone 2012. David Cameron was in


Berlin today with Angela Merkel, hoping to fill the platform shoes,


vacated when Merkozy ceased to be last week, anyone for CaMerkel.


Judging from the Town Hall chat with students, it was all about


accentuating the positives between two strong leaders. We are strong


allies and strong supporters together, with the positive steps


that we live within our means, free trade and enterprise, and the


structural reform needed to make Europe grow again. For her part,


Angela Merkel was even playing down the gulf that might result from a


two-speed EU, which might arise if she pursues with her idea of more,


rather than less Europe. TRANSLATION: We have always had


different forms of integration in Europe. So this is not a new


development for us. And the decision taken on the part of some


countries, like Great Britain, and Denmark, who made their position


clear at the beginning when we introduced the common currency,


they made it clear they would not join. It became obvious, it has


been obvious that we can co-exist quite well and work together quite


well. If we don't take each and every step at the same time and all


of us together. Since using his veto in last December's summit,


does anyone listen to David Cameron in Europe any more. Cameron has


become a little bit of a nuisance for eurozone leaders, he might be


told very clearly to shut up, because his remarks may be less


helpful than they should be. The eurozone may want to sort out their


problems without the constant advice from parties that don't want


to get involved any way. Angela Merkel, seen meeting German players


ahead of their opening match at the weekend, was also softening her


stance on solutions for the eurozone crisis. She would,


afterall, go along with banking union, and even eurobonds, but only


if Europe achieved full political union, no less.


TRANSLATION: We need more Europe, not just the common currency, but


we also need more common bugetry policies. We need a political union.


Step-by-step we need to hand over power to Europe. Because the


financial services sector matters so much to the UK economy, Britain


has been one of the main winners are from the single market, that


guarantees the free movement of people and money across European


border, if there was a two-speed Europe, and Britain remained in the


single market, of course, then the City of London's reputation as a


financial hub could be retained and even enhanced. The problem arises


after a banking union or fiscal union, when Berlin and Paris give


their banks an ultimatum, which basically says stay in Britain and


be dependant on the Treasury here if things go wrong, or pack your


bags and bring them all back to Germany and France. What would a


two or three-speed Europe look like, who would be in which camp. The


inner core would be all the economically robust countries, like


Germany, Finland and Austria, but may include Estonia and Slovenia.


Those with deep economic difficulties like Ireland, Italy,


Spain, Greece and Portugal, what like to join the inner core, but


the austerity required may be difficult. Then there is those


countries within the EU who aspire to join the euro, Poland, Hungary


and Romania, it is unclear at this stage whether they would even want


to join the fast-track club, let alone be allowed to do so. That


leaves the outer core of countries, including Britain, Sweden and


Denmark, who may wish to be part of the EU single market, but little


else. They might decide to align themselves much closer to non-E


United Nations, like Europe. future of Europe has to be more


integrated, banking union, an economic union, or eurobonds,


collective borough. All the changes will require new treaties. New


treaties will require a British signature, so the institution of


the EU, like the commission, can manage the new systems. And they


are borrowed that Mr Cameron will do what he did before, block the EU


treaty, and they will have to work outside the framework of the EU


bookies think the eventual winners of Euro 2012 will be either Spain


or Italy. Greece is certainly not tipped. Their politicians were busy


attacking each other on TV, ahead of next week's second general


election. That could decide the economic fate of an entire


continent. Is a multi-speed Europe inevitable, is it a good idea for


Britain. The my guests are here. Was this actually quite a big day,


here was the Prime Minister of our country, and the Chancellor of


Germany, broadly agreeing that we have to have a multi-speed Europe?


There is lots of agreement, including that you have to deal


with your deficit, reform your economy, whilst at the same time,


try to get growth into the European economies on the wider scale. For


example, delivering on the single market in the digital abreen that,


in services and so -- arena, and in services and so on. We have done


all that before, this was a big day in terms of moving at different


speeds towards European integration, or not, perhaps, in the case of


Britain? This rown't maic idea that Europe -- romantic idea that Europe


moves at one speed, as it has unravelled it is a multi-speed


Europe, it is a patchwork of problems at the moment. We are on


the outside whatever speed you are talking about, from the graphic we


saw, it is clear we will not be in the decision-making core? Most of


the British public would be thankful we are outside the


eurozone. He has a point there, most of the British public would be


thankful for it. It is a reality, we have a multi-speed Europe right


now? We have a multi-speed Europe, the question is do we have a two-


tier Europe, and can Britain actually have some say over the


future of its economy. Because we might not be in the euro, I don't


think we should be, immediately. But eight out of ten of our top


trading partners are in the euro, the City of London depends totally


on the euro, that is why George Osborne and David Cameron have


overcome their Euro-scepticism and are promoting integration. Isn't


the argument the exact opposite of what you are making, if we were in


the euro, we would have less say on the economy, it would all be run


from Berlin any way? There is a real-life example of what will


happen if we carry on down the policy we are adopting at the


moment, which is Norway. Which benefits a huge amount from the EU,


it is their biggest single market, but they have absolutely no say


over any of the regulations that get made, they don't get a seat at


the table and have no say. Britain haven't joined every project, there


was one principle that we should get a seat at the table and shape


the future of the European Union. What is happening here is we are


not being pushed out, we are marginalising ourselves. We are


marginalising ourselves, and we will be another nor I wa, perhaps


without the oil? The difference is -- Norway, perhaps without the oil?


The difference is we are part of the single market and will continue


to protect that. David Cameron using the veto is exactly that.


Nobody cares about the veto? reason he's in Germany, I would


argue, is we are a very important country, if there is going to be


closer political, and by the way, I would go further, emotional union.


The German people have to emotionally feel they can support


Greece or other countries that are going through the pain they are


going through. Part of the reason we have a seat at the table is


because we can block those closer political unions coming together.


Unless we are offered protections. It is an entirely negative power?


We are in a pretty strong position, because we are a pretty powerful


economy. We are not a nor I wa, we are a strong economy. That is fair


point, we are much more like the German economy than any other


economy in Europe? We have a lot in common with the Germans, we support


liberalising open markets, we want the same as many countries within


the European Union. And yet, we are forcing ourselves into a position


where we are in a minority and not shaping things. Because of an


ideolgical Euro-scepticism. Look at what the other countries that are


not in the euro are doing, look at Sweden, Poland, countries that


agree with us. They are not joining the euro, but they want to be part


of everything else. We are actually sitting on the outside. I'm only


smiling because that argument that we will be left behind, in some way,


has been going on for deck kaisd. The Europhiles have been re--


decades, the Europhiles have been resoundly defeated on that issue.


Is it going to be, as George Osborne is hinting, an in-out


referendum on Europe, would that be a good thing? If you make


Chancellor Merkel at her word, that you need more not less Europe, with


politic kal and emotional Europe, there will have to be new treaties


-- political and emotional Europe, there will be new treaties. It


wasth this was a historical act, the Sovereignty Act, as I call it,


where there is an automatically referendum. You are not only


relaxed, you want that and bring it on? We need closer Europe


integration, more Europe not less Europe, we have to bring it to the


people because we have an act in place. You would prefer that, an


in-out referendum? If we have that I will campaign for a yes vote,


because it is massively in Britain's interest to be part of


the European Union. I don't see why we are distracting people with


these kinds of things, when the future of the euro is at stake. The


big debate everywhere else is actually about realishs use, about


how you shape the future of our continent -- real issues, about how


he you shape the future of your continent. This is clearly an


urgent matter about saving the euro, would you see it before the end of


the parliament? We have to wait for the dust to settle. There is so


many problems and pain, whether it is Spain with the bank problems,


that will affect the sovereign, or visa verse in Portugal, which is a


sovereign problem that affected the banks. In this parliament a


referendum wouldn't be kwhrond the bounds of pos -- beyond the bounds


of possibility? We will have to see what the bigger and deeper


political union will be. We have already passed an act that


automatically requires the British public to have their say.


Parents who force their children to marry will face going to jail under


new laws expected to be announced by the Home Secretary, Theresa May,


tomorrow. The Home Office consultation which closed at the


end of March, was launched at the request of David Cameron. Last year


the Prime Minister said forced marriage was little more than


Anwar makes from the British High Commission in Pakistan's capital,


Islamabad, raising awareness of forced marriage. It tells the


fictional story of Sara, a bright schoolgirl sent to Pakistan, where


she's forced to marry a cousin, 15 years her senior, there she is ayes


buesed and left to do the house -- abused and left to do the household


chores. The Home Office estimates that between 5,000-8,000 forced


marriages take place every year. But in 2011, only some 1500 cases


were reported to the Government's Forced Marriage Unit. The majority


of victims are of south Asian origin, with children as young as


five, known to be coerced into marriage.


We have the chair of the Ashiana Network, a charity that provides


refuge for victims of forced marriage,. There is an agreement


that there may be a problem here. What do you think of the prospect


of criminalising it? I think it is another tool that will help young


people protect themselves against being foreed into marriage. Why?


think -- forced into marriage? Why, I think it will give them a more


clear understanding of what their rights are. At the moment we have


the civil legislation, a very positive way, but actually having


the weight of the judiciary behind young people, and women, and boys


and girls that are forced into marriage, will make it far more


powerful. Presumably, if it helps one 14-year-old girl not be forced


to do something she doesn't want to do, it is a good thing? We welcome


any measure designed to strengthen the armoury against forced marriage.


But we have real concerns about whether or not this is actually the


most useful measure. The reality is, that it's unnecessary, it is


surplus to requirements. Existing criminal offences are more than


adequate to deal with the problem. What sort of things? What is forced


marriage, it involves assault, rape, kidnap. To date, those have not an


actively prosecuted. Those are already on the statute book, we


don't need more legislation. Doesn't this all bring it all


together, saying you can't do this, you as a parent cannot force


somebody to do something they don't want to? It will provide some


symbolic value, we are concerned as to what practical measures it will


provide, what assistance on a pragmatic level it will provide for


victim. It will confuse victim, we are concerned it will drive the


issue underground and possibly overseas. Do you think there is an


argument there, if you are a very vulnerable teenager, in this


position, and you are forced, not just to disobey your parents, but


actually to say to the police, look my mum should go to jail, or my


father should go to jail, or my uncle, whatever it is, that is


pretty difficult to see that? a very difficult thing to do. But


what we are talking about is the prevention of abuse. In the case of


young people it is child abuse. So, actually, if this legislation does


come in, it will prevent the rape, the serial rape, the domestic abuse,


the torture. Suicide rates amongst Asian girls is three-times the


national average. We need to look at all the consequences of not


having this as a criminal offence. We looked at the figures and quoted


them today, do you see a lot of this, because the figures seem to


be a bit flexible, depending on who you talk to? Nobody really knows


the amount of people foreed into marriage. We have a 24/7 helpline,


we have numerous calls in from young people every day. We go into


schools and deliver assemblies, every school I have visited, there


has been at least one person who has come up who has a friend or


somebody they know. Every school? Every school we have been in to.


What would you do about this, you said that there is an armoury of


things available now. Presumably you are not content. If it is as


widespread as we have been talking about? The figures, as you say, are


flexible. We would question figure of 5,000-8,000 a year, it is


certainly a very significant problem, but those figures are


conflated with other issues of honour-based violence. We need a


proper study into how many cases there are out there. What this


criminalisation will do, the creation of a specific criminal


offence, will undermine existing civil remedies, they have been in


place for the past three-and-a-half years, it has served to protect


about 400 victims. It provides very fast and effective remedy. Would


you just sit back and say there is a prob embl, but it is fine. For


instance -- problem, but it is fine. First Minister, we make it an --


for instance, we make it an offence to speed on the motorway, society


doesn't like it and we shouldn't do it, criminalising it is symbolic?


have axed that already. We are concerned it -- acknowledged that


already, we are concerned it will drive it underground or overseas.


We don't have a specific offence of domestic violence, that doesn't


stop us effectively prosecuting cases of domestic violence. The


concern we also have, and the noises are coming from Government


on this already, as anticipated, that there may be cuts to Legal Aid.


And so where it is deemed to be sufficient protection, which virtue


of criminal bail conditions, then there will be no Legal Aid


available for the civil remedy. would hope the remedies already


there will remain. We are told there is additional funding


available to help with education in schools, we will run a big


programme. We are hoping that will make a huge difference. It won't


undermine things? One would hope the Government would see what is


already there, and the Legal Aid we would hope would be in existence.


If there is money available in these times of austerity, it should


be provided to support those essential lifelines, which are the


support organisations for these victims. As you know, that is a big


if, in these times. The practice of giving birth at


home, is as old as human history. In recent years it has enjoyed


renewed popularity here in Britain, and some other parts of the world.


In Eastern Europe it is not so easy. In fact, it is actively discouraged


by the medical establishment and authorities. In Hungary until


recently, home birth was almost illegally. Agnes Gereb, an


independent midwife, was taking huge risks attending women at home.


She spent time in prison and is under house arrest.


Nick Thorpe, a long time friend of Agnes, has sent this personal view


A film about the birth of my second son, Matthew. He, like all my five


sons of born here in our flat in Budapest. Each birth was such a


good, safe, positive experience, that is why we have so many


children. That was very much thanks to the work of one brave pioneering


midwife, Agnes Gereb. Like many other couples, who have given birth


with her, we regard her as something like the second mother to


our children. But, 15 years on from Matthew's birth, the hands that


delivered our baby are tied. She's been ostracised from the medical


profession, sentenced to two years in prison, and banned from doing


the work she loves. When Agnes Gereb appeared in the courtroom


behind me, the judge in justifying her sentence said this was a woman


that Hungarian society needs to be protected from. So, what did she do


wrong? And how will her fate effect the future of birth in Eastern


Europe? Agnes Gereb has been under house arrest for the past 16 months,


awaiting trial on further charges. She has successfully delivered over


3,000 babies. But whenever a home birth ended up in hospital, an


investigation was launched. And when tragedy struck in September


2007, and a baby died in childbirth, she was found guilty of negligence.


TRANSLATION: I did not commit malpractice, but I could have been


much more skillful. I wish so much I had been better. Until now,


whenever that particular complication occurs in my practice,


I could solve it, that time I failed. It is a huge trauma for me,


as well as the little girl's family. I will always think of them on the


15th of September. Why were you sentenced then, if you made no


mistakes? TRANSLATION: Their approach to me was not benevolent


from the start. The Hungarian medical experts who gave evidence


at the trial looked at what happened exclusively from the


perspective of hospital practice. They tried to transplant an


obstetricians' behaviour in the ward, on to a midwife at a home


birth. You can't do that, these are two completely different


professions. More than 99% of Hungarian babies are born in


hospitals. Simply assisting at a home birth could result in


prosecution, until last year. And the leading body of the profession


remains totally opposed to it. Hungarian doctors are proud of low


neo-natal death statistic, comparable to those in western


Europe. I personally think that to deliver a baby at a hospital is


much safer for the baby and even for the mother. 90% of deliveries


go on without any complication, but if there is any complication, if


there is a serious comply kaiing, then it is much safer if --


complication, then it is much safer if you are in a hospital. The all


important thing for us, as obsstrigss in hundred guarantee, is


the safety of the baby or the mother. Neither Dr Acs, or any


members of the Board of Obstetricians, would be drawn on


the case of their former colleague, Agnes Gereb. She was once a part of


this world, an obstetrician in a top university clinic, before


quitting to set up as an independent midwife, attending to


mothers and delivering babies at home. TRANSLATION: I can best


explain my switch from being a doctor to a midwife, with two words,


"equality", and "presence". To be really there for the woman and


really share in her joy. When a woman thanks me after her birth for


my help, I always want to say, no, thank you, for letting me be here


with you. There is something intimate and so universal, which a


midwife shares with a mother and her baby.


Joli Szaz gave birth to Eliza two years ago, at home, etended by


Agnes Gereb. The baby had a strepkok cuss infection, which can


cause -- strepkok cuss infection, which can cause brain-damage or


death, an ambulance was called, they sued Agnes Gereb for


negligence, not the parents. The baby and her parents are fine.


TRANSLATION: The main thing for me was not the place of birth for my


children, but I was treated as an adult throughout the pregnancy and


birth, that I was intelligent enough to choose the birth for my


child. I received that from Agnes Gereb. Everywhere else they gave


the impression that they wanted to save the baby from me.


Hungary is deeply divided over Agnes Gereb. Many share my view,


that this is one woman's battle for a gentler philosophy and practice


of birth care. Others regard her as a dangerous and reckless witch. The


Government has already taken one important step, last year they put


home birth on a legal footing for the first time. Now the President


is considering whether to absolve its leading practicer of the crimes


for which she was convicted, and grant Agnes clemency. Last year


your Government regulated home birth for the first time in Hungary.


Would it not be strange to first allow something and then send to


prison the best known practitioner? TRANSLATION: We have to make a


strict division here between what a court of law decided and what the


Government did. As a Government we recognise that there was a legal


vacuum, so we regulated it. While that obviously has no retrospective


effect on the criminal proceedings, it is true, if Agnes Gereb had not


drawn public attention, first the possibility of fathers being


present at birth, and now to out of hospital births, then our


regulation might not have been born. In hospitals, though, opposition to


home birth is deep-rooted. Hungarian parents expect to pay at


least a month's wages to an obstetrician, in gratitude, for the


safe birth of their child. Midwives are sidelined, that gives a strong


financial incentive to doctors to maintain the status quo.


TRANSLATION: Statistics show the public regard the healthcare system


as the most corrupt. You can't change it overnight. One cause is


that doctors' wages are so low, and the health budget is simply not


capable of doubling or tripling their wages. Four times a day the


police check on Agnes. After 32 years attending births, half that


time in hospital, half at home births, it has been a


claustrophobic, deeply frustrating experience, to be couped up here,


not even allowed out in the yard. Why are you fighting, and what are


you fighting for? TRANSLATION: I'm fighting for anything, then I'm


fighting for peace. If children are born in an undisturbed way, they


will be more peaceful. What do I want to achieve, that everyone be


allowed to do what they are good at. I think I'm good at attending home


births. And I want home births to be available for everyone who wants


Without Agnes, the first children we had would almost certainly have


been by Caesarean, and then we certainly would not have had five.


So I can say, without exaggeration, that Jack and Casper, owe their


lives to Agnes Gereb. For more families, not just here in Hungary,


but across Eastern Europe, to get the kind of support during birth,


that we had, would mean something akin to a revolution, but are the


authorities willing to shake up the maternity wards, and take on the


medical profession? That decision lies in the hands of President


Janos Ader, any day now, he will have to decide whether to grant


Agnes Gereb clemency. The present Hungarian Government has a poor


image internationally, freeing her would look good for its human


rights record. But it would be a blow to the doctors and the justice


system, which found her guilty. Let's have a look at the front


pages tomorrow morning. The Guardian has the Syrian


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 54 seconds


Mark Urban analyses the latest massacre near Hama in Syria and asks whether it will prove a turning point in the reaction of the international community to the Assad regime. Presented by Gavin Esler.

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