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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Amanpour Reports: Generation Islam
Aired August 16, 2009 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are just children, but they are the prize in a fierce competition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mullah said go to Afghanistan for a suicide attack.
AMANPOUR: They are poor, vulnerable and ripe for recruitment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These kids are fueling the insurgency.
AMANPOUR: Caught in the crossfire of war, they can become America's friend or its enemy.
(on camera): I'm Christiane Amanpour in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is ramping up its war against the Taliban. But there's another war the U.S. can't afford to lose. President Obama says America cannot have yet another generation of Muslims who see it as the enemy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward.
AMANPOUR: (voice-over): So come with us to two places -- Afghanistan and Gaza, where the battle for young Muslim hearts and minds is the most intense.
In the mountains of Afghanistan, a young boy is cast out. And this is how the battle begins.
NASIM (through translator): My stepmother was beating me a lot and then she forced me to leave the house.
AMANPOUR: Nasim (ph) was just 10 years old when he fled the beatings and the abuse at home.
(on camera): You're just a little boy. It must have been so hard.
NASIM (through translator): Yes. It was very difficult. I was spending my days and nights here and there.
AMANPOUR: (voice-over): For months, Nasim wandered from village to village in search of food and shelter. He became a virtual slave to the townspeople.
NASIM (through translator): I collected firewood from the mountains or building materials for their homes.
AMANPOUR: (on camera): Did you feel sad?
NASIM (through translator): Very sad. I shouldn't be in this condition.
AMANPOUR: (voice-over): But things changed for him when he arrived in the town of Chaghcharan and met Yassin Fareed (ph), who works for an American aid group called PARSA.
NASIM (through translator): He introduced me to the orphanage.
AMANPOUR: Here, 150 boys sleep two to a bunk. They wake up to face each day trying their best to bring some semblance of order to their lives amid the desperation that is Afghanistan.
(on camera): Do you think that you're cracking the back of this beast?
(voice-over): My guide inside this world is Marnie Gustavson, an American who grew up in Afghanistan.
MARNIE GUSTAVSON, PARSA: We've been permission to go on in.
Do you want to see?
Do you want to see?
AMANPOUR: Marnie, who runs PARSA, has been rebuilding broken shelters in this broken country shattered by 30 years of war and hobbled by a government that's financially strapped.
GUSTAVSON: They were going to shut down this orphanage and send the children back out into the villages.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Really?
GUSTAVSON: Or into the streets or into the madrassas. They were going to do that in November because they ran out of money.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But now, Marnie has given these children at least a roof over their heads and a chance to choose a life that keeps them off the street and away from the extremists.
(on camera): There's about, what, they told me about 15...
AMANPOUR: ...14, 15 people to a room.
AMANPOUR: And they get -- for -- for breakfast they get...
AMANPOUR: Yes, bread and some tea.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Before, there was nothing to eat but watery gruel and no glass in the windows.
(on camera): There are places in many, many parts of the world where conditions are equally poor, equally run down.
Why, though, do you think it's so important here to try to rescue these kids?
GUSTAVSON: I have it connected with if Afghanistan is stabilized, my country will be protected. I have that connection.
AMANPOUR: You do?
GUSTAVSON: Absolutely, without a question. This country needs to be stabilized for our safety.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): That's why Marnie struggles one family at a time. She took me to a desperately poor neighborhood on the outskirts of town to meet Nasim's mother. She was also kicked out of the house when Nasim's father, an opium farmer, took a second wife.
(on camera): Tell me why you can't have your kids live with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): His father doesn't let me keep them. When he forced me out of his house, then he became like a wolf and my sons had to run away to two different places.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nasim's older brother, Aladard (ph), may be in even more danger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He's 15 to 16 years old. He has a small beard because Talibs don't shave their beard.
AMANPOUR: The only thing Marnie and her staff learned when they managed to call Nasim's brother is that he's studying in a remote, unsanctioned madrassa where the Taliban is active and he now calls himself Mullah Aladard (ph). She fears that along with food and shelter, Nasim's brother is being fed a steady diet of fundamentalism.
(on camera): Have you tried to get Nasim's brother out?
GUSTAVSON: No. It would be very dangerous for me to attempt.
AMANPOUR: Do you think this is prevalent, that there are kids all over this country who, for lack of a helping hand, for lack of something to eat, are driven into these madrassa?
GUSTAVSON: Absolutely. I don't think it was religiously motivated. I think it was motivated by poverty.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Poverty that hits you in the face at every turn. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is the food that they've brought back.
GUSTAVSON: Animals wouldn't even eat this. This is dinner, you guys. It's garbage.
AMANPOUR: This extreme poverty threatens Afghanistan's future because it denies the children a future -- children like Nasim, who can often be found on the streets begging to help feed his mother. Marnie wants to keep him in school, so she's working on a long-term rescue plan -- a cow for his mother, so that she can sell the milk and Nasim can stay in school.
GUSTAVSON: The main thing is that if we help her with the cow, can she then promise to make sure nothing goes to school?
AMANPOUR: But she says no, her ex-husband's family would steal the cow and eat it.
(on camera): Is the two boys' struggle -- one in a madrassa, the other in the orphanage or begging on the street -- is that something that you think is -- epitomizes what we're going through here in Afghanistan?
GUSTAVSON: I really do. I really think it does. I can only speculate. But it is certain madrassa, particularly in the southern regions, they're recruiting them for the insurgency. These children will go into the insurgency in some way or another.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we come back, one of those children recruited for a suicide attack.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): "You will find my body in little pieces," says one young boy in this Taliban propaganda video. It's targeting children -- celebrating suicide. The Taliban recruits its young martyrs from madrassas on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Shaki Rullah (ph) was one of them.
SHAKI RULLAH: My dad was teaching me a couple pages of the Koran, then he couldn't do it and he sent me to a madrassa.
AMANPOUR: His father sent him to a madrassa when he was just 10 years old for a free education, but they didn't realize what else lay in store for him.
RULLAH: I was studying in a madrassa when I finished reciting the Koran. My mullah told me I should go to commit a suicide attack. When I said no, I'm not going, he forced me.
AMANPOUR: When he was 14, Shaki Rullah was smuggled into Afghanistan through an underground network by people he had never met to a destination he didn't know.
RULLAH: I still don't know what type of suicide attack they had planned for me. I still don't know whether God says it was good or bad.
AMANPOUR: The Afghan police arrested him before he could complete his mission. And now, sitting in an Afghan jail, he wanders if he'll ever see his family again.
RULLAH: I miss my mom and dad.
ASHAL HUSSEIN: It is a very vulnerable group of people, mind you.
RULLAH: It was a huge step for me.
AMANPOUR: Ashal Hussein is a Pakistani-American whose mission takes him from home in Washington, D.C. To madrassas in the dangerous frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
HUSSEIN: They don't allow students to read newspapers. They don't allow them to watch television. They don't allow them to listen to the radio. So everything else is third or fourth hand and everything else that they hear is from their teachers.
AMANPOUR: Many madrassas teach a version of Islam that's locked in the past. Students are rarely taught math or science. Some students have never even heard of Barack Obama. But they have been taught that America is the enemy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the new president of friend of Pakistan or an enemy?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Enemy.
AMANPOUR: Azhar (ph) is on the forefront to the battle to modernize Pakistan's madrassas. He conducts secret workshops that offer the mullahs a more secular curriculum and for those who sign up, a chance to upgrade their image from extremist to moderate, by teaching them a more tolerant form of Islam.
AZHAR: We do go into some of those verses of Koran about jihad. And if you take the heart of the verse, of course, it is very clear that -- what it says. But if you take the full verse, it does changes the meaning.
AMANPOUR: He gave our cameras exclusive access to one of his closed door sessions with madrassa elders like Mullah Fazlo Rahman (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This Arab hatred has been created by America.
AZHAR: He used to emphasize quite a bit to youngsters that they are under threat. So a very big part of his teaching was developing an identity in these young youth as fighters. AMANPOUR (on camera): And now he teaches them what?
AZHAR: He says you should never fight -- that should not be an option in your head, as far as an Islamic leader.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A lot has changed. The limited thinking that we had has expanded and stretched.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The latest polls show the people of Pakistan have turned against the militant extremists and overwhelmingly support the government's full scale war against the Taliban. Azhar says the demand for his workshops is now so high that he's received requests from 5,000 madrassas in Pakistan. But the local Taliban don't like what he's doing.
(on camera): Have you had threats?
AZHAR: Yes. Yes. Oh, many. And our partners get threats all the time. If you go through these programs, they will harm you or kill you.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): In this battle for young hearts and minds, Azhar faces another hurdle -- the U.S. has targeted Al Qaeda and the Taliban with unmanned drone attacks, but that's also killing innocent civilians.
AZHAR: I was talking to a madrassa leader in Fatagh (ph) who said, actually, your project was doing well. We had a very hard time recruiting people to fight Americans. And after the drone attack, we have literally hundreds of fighters now.
AMANPOUR: Although most madrassas don't themselves provide military training, their students are easy targets for the recruiters and Azhar has seen them in action.
AZHAR: These insurgents come out in a prayer area. The students stand up and start screaming with excitement. It is just so organic when a teenaged student is looking up to an insurgent. He wants to be like one.
AMANPOUR: Like this young Afghan militant who studied in a madrassa and now calls himself Mullah Abdullah (ph).
MULLAH ABDULLAH (through translator): I became a Taliban after the infidels occupied our country. When your country is occupied by force, jihad is an obligation.
EBOO PATEL, AUTHOR, "ACTS OF FAITH": I think, in some ways, we have forfeited the terrain to the Al Qaedas of the world, who are messaging to those young people in sharp and direct ways.
AMANPOUR: Eboo Patel, a Muslim who grew up in America feeling like an outsider, understands the path to extremism. He's now a White house adviser on Muslim youth.
PATEL: It's not a question of them being ideologically attracted to the message of extremism, it's simply a question of that's where the jobs are, that's where the school is, that's where the free lunch program is. I think that's one of the central issues of the 21st century is that we will rise or fall on them rising or falling.
AMANPOUR: Shaki Rullah is one who has fallen. His madrassa education landed him behind bars, where he's now facing at least five years for his attempted suicide bombing.
Up next, I tracked down one of America's least likely, but most successful counter-insurgents.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): We're on a dangerous back road in Afghanistan, heading toward Taliban country to meet one of America's most successful fighters against extremism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
(on camera): Hello.
How are you?
(voice-over): Greg Mortenson is famously hard to track down. He's surrounded by armed men. But that's not how he fights his battles.
GREG MORTENSON, AUTHOR, "THREE CUPS OF TEA": An old village chief once told me if you really want to do something here, you need three cups of tea.
AMANPOUR: "Three Cups of Tea" is the title of Greg's best- selling book, based on his real life adventures in Pakistan and here in Afghanistan.
MORTENSON: The first cup, you're a stranger; the second cup, a friend; and third cup, you become family. And for a family, they're prepared to do anything -- even die.
AMANPOUR: Greg's own brush with death gave him a life-long mission. Fifteen years ago, this American from Montana attempted to scale the world's second highest peak, Pakistan's treacherous K2. But he failed, stumbling down the mountain, starving, sick and exhausted. He was nursed back to health in a remote village in the foothills.
MORTENSON: I saw 84 children sitting in the dirt doing their school lessons. Most of them were writing with sticks in the sand. And it was that very rash moment I -- they asked for help to build a school.
AMANPOUR (on camera): And did you?
MORTENSON: I built a school and then 78 more and I'm still doing it today.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Bob and Jen are old friends.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Working with local villagers, Greg's Central Asia Institute now educates 30,000 students, mostly girls, in places where outsiders dare not venture -- places like Lalander Village (ph), last stop on today's very rough journey.
(on camera): What's going on?
It can't be blocked, is it?
The police are all out. Look.
(voice-over): Once we get there, Greg finds good friends waiting for him, like Fazal Ahmed (ph). Before visiting the school, they'll pray together at his son's grave.
MORTENSON: He's the brightest student in the school. He's 11. He was herding goats after school. He stepped on this old Soviet mine here. It blasted him. He died about 10 hours later from shock.
AMANPOUR: When Fazal got over the shock of losing his son, he decided to do two things -- dedicate his life to removing Afghanistan's land mines and making sure that his daughters got the education his son never did.
FAZAL (through translator): I want all of them to be educated and become whatever they want to be -- doctors, engineers or teachers. If they have education, they can do it. But without it, they can't do a thing.
AMANPOUR: His 13-year-old daughter Sayeeda (ph) studies in this home school that Greg organized because the Taliban often target girls' public schools.
(on camera): Sayeeda, do you like learning?
Are you glad you're being educated?
SAYEEDA (through translator): Yes, I'm happy to learn so I can have a good future.
AMANPOUR: What do you want to be?
SAYEEDA (through translator): A doctor.
AMANPOUR: Do you think girls can be future leaders of Afghanistan?
Can you be a leader?
SAYEEDA (through translator): If you're educated, of course.
AMANPOUR: Why is it so important to educate girls beyond the obvious equality? MORTENSON: When I see girls learning how to read and write, they often teach their mother how to -- how to read and write.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Not only does this improve the lives of their families and communities, but Greg has also found that educated women can be a firewall against extremism.
MORTENSON: When someone goes on jihad, they first should get permission and blessings from their mother. And if they don't, it's very shameful or disgraceful. And I saw that happen after 9/11. They were primarily targeting illiterate, impoverished society because many educated women were refusing to allow their sons to join the Taliban.
AMANPOUR: The Taliban have targeted schools. In the last two years, 640 have been closed. They tried to do it right here in Lalander.
MORTENSON: About a dozen Taliban came in at night. There was some shots fired. And the next, they said if anybody comes to school, we're going to kill you. But the community basically got the Taliban out of here.
AMANPOUR: Greg believes the villagers are willing to fight for their schools because they provide the land and the labor.
MORTENSON: The guards here have orders from the commandant that if anybody harms any student or shoots or anything, just kill them. Don't -- don't ask questions.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Really, commandant?
It's a shoot to kill order?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes. Absolutely. One hundred percent.
MORTENSON: Asalam alaykum.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Today, they give Greg a hero's welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Mr. Greg. You welcome again after a long time.
AMANPOUR: And together they celebrate the Feast of Nowruz, the Afghan new year.
(on camera): Should I sit down?
Is that appropriate?
MORTENSON: Well, sure.
AMANPOUR: I'll sit down here?
MORTENSON: Yes, you can you sit there.
AMANPOUR: Is that funny?
Is that funny?
(voice-over): Funny because I was the only woman sitting on the ground with all these men. But despite all the smiles, Greg and the village elders share a serious mission -- winning the battle for the next generation.
(on camera): You used to be U.S. military.
MORTENSON: I'm a veteran, yes.
AMANPOUR: Does your sort of civilian effort -- how does it contribute to counter-insurgency or does it?
MORTENSON: When I talk to any of the commanders here, they'll say that what we need, we don't need guns, we don't need bombs, but what we need is education. Before the school was here, about 60 to 70 percent of the boys did go to the extremist madrassa here. Now, that's pretty much nonexistent.
AMANPOUR: Guys, what does Dr. Greg mean to you?
What has he done for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now, we will be educated and our future will be good.
AMANPOUR: And what do the teachers think?
Do you think because these kids are now in a proper school, will they be friends of America in the future?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Absolutely. All these kids are all studying in this school. Otherwise, they'd be studying in that madrassa.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's one more victory in Greg Mortenson's 15 year battle to give these children a future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, this stuff is for the teachers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is for everybody.
AMANPOUR: ...American soldiers trying to fight a war Greg's way -- with books, not bombs.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Aboard a Blackhawk helicopter, we're traveling with the US army to Eastern Afghanistan, towards the Pakistan border, where the war against the Taliban is raging.
But today, we're going to see a different kind of battle.
(on camera): Obviously because of the danger, the roadside bombs, the suicide bombers, protection is very heavy. All of this, however, when it comes to winning hearts and minds, puts a lot of distance between the soldiers and the people.
LT. COL. STEVE KABASKI, US ARMY: You could ride in my vehicle, but I wouldn't recommend that.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Steve Kabaski is the unit commander.
(on camera): What is the security threat as we head out?
KABASKI: There are a lot of folks out there that don't like us. And they'll kill any Americans they can find.
AMANPOUR: But these soldiers aren't fighting the Taliban with bullets and bombs. Borrowing a page from Greg Mortenson's playbook, they're on a reconnaissance mission, looking for the best place to build a school.
And they found it, right here in the middle of nowhere.
It's an incredible site, row upon row of school children organized into neat outdoor classes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three --
AMANPOUR: Several thousand students counting in English. Even at this age, they know they want to communicate with the rest of the world.
(on camera): I've never seen anything like this, all these children outside, almost like classes open air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's difficult for them to study when their brains are boiling.
AMANPOUR: Haji Azim Khan (ph), the education director, says that in his district alone, 33,000 students are now studying outside in the sun. Amir John is an Afghanistan interpreter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have schools, it is very important. Our kids, they can get education in the future. They will understand who is our enemy and who is our friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell them that these supplies are from American students much like themselves.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Doling out pens and pencils, dressed in full combat gear, Major Gay Klaws (ph) is trying his best to meet the needs here. He believes the children are the key to winning over their parents, and eventually this war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can sway the civilian population and show them that we're here to support their children, then they are going to, in turn, not support the bad guys that are coming in here.
AMANPOUR: Just days before we arrived, the bad guys had attacked.
(on camera): Tell me what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We encountered the IED. It destroyed one of the vehicles. Two of my men expired on site. The other two got care at the hospital, but they didn't make it.
AMANPOUR: So is this working? Is winning hearts and minds, the battle for hearts and minds -- is it working for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to carry on the mission for the guys that aren't here anymore. Otherwise, they'll have died in vain.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But they didn't die in vain. And these girls are the living proof.
(on camera): What do the girls think about the Americans being here? What does she think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like them, because they've come to help us.
AMANPOUR: You're not scared of them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
AMANPOUR: But they are afraid of the Taliban, who attacked almost 300 schools last year, and severely burned a dozen girls with acid, just to keep them from going to class.
(on camera): If your school was threatened and somebody wanted to close it down, what would you do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want our school to be built, not destroyed. So we don't want the Taliban.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): We asked Mullah Abdullah, the young Taliban fighter who we met earlier, why they would deny girls an education. He set out his harsh version of Islamic law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll give girls permission to go to school, but only if they're accompanied by a close male relative. And boys and girls are not mixed in one school. But for now, that's not possible.
AMANPOUR: But these children are not willing to wait.
(on camera): Can you read this for me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a book.
AMANPOUR: This is a book. Very good.
(voice-over): Isanollah's (ph) dreams are no different from any children.
(on camera): What would be your dream school?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A building should be built with good books and computers.
AMANPOUR: Computer. You want to learn computers?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
AMANPOUR: All right. All right. Get on the Internet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank them for being very patient with us.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Major Klaws tells Haji Khan, the education director, that he won't abandon this project.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing I learned from Iraq-Afghanistan, unless you have something to set down in front of the man, you do not promise him.
AMANPOUR: But all the good will these American soldiers are building with their books may come to nothing because of their bombs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where I found her body. Yesterday I buried a leg.
AMANPOUR: This man lost ten members of his immediate family when an American bomb fell in the middle of his home. An air strike aimed at the Taliban leveled his village. It was one of the worst incidents of innocent civilians killed in the war so far.
The U.S. admits to 20 or 30 people being killed. But Afghan human rights groups say that it was nearly 100. The U.S. military pays up to 2,000 dollars for each victim. But the money seemed inadequate in the face of such grief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the foreign forces gave me the whole world, it wouldn't replace my son.
AMANPOUR: Over the last four years, the mounting anger over the civilian death toll has contributed to cutting support for the American mission here from 84 percent to nearly half that. Now that anger is being heard loud and clear at the Pentagon, where I spoke to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.
(on camera): People are very angry about the aerial bombardments that you say gets the militants, they say kills their civilians. ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I accept that. For every Afghan civilian we kill, we back up. We can't move forward if we keep doing that.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): In June, the Pentagon announced major restrictions on air strikes. That, along with the push to rebuild damaged towns and build new schools, is part of a growing recognition that what's at stake here is much more than a military victory.
MULLEN: It's all about education. And if you can educate young people who have no background or no possibility of being educated up to that point, you create options for them for the rest of their lives. All of us have to figure out how to create better alternatives than essentially signing up for an insurgency.
AMANPOUR: This is what the alternative looks like. This brand new school was also built by Major Klaws' unit. His commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kabaski, has come to call class into session.
For the first time in their lives, these children will sit at proper desks. The looks on their faces say it all.
(on camera): I want to ask them, what do they think of this class? Are they happy about the classroom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say yes, of course!
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But before these Americans pull out, Lieutenant Colonel Kabaski wants the villagers to understand the high price his men have paid.
KABASKI: Three days ago, I lost four men who were killed because they were trying to build a school just like this one. All of you here will face a choice, a choice between your government who asked us for help, to help build this school., and the enemies of Afghanistan, who offer only destruction.
AMANPOUR: Up next --
(on camera): Is America your friend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A battle that America may be winning without a fight.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR (voice-over): Twenty one year-old Nawid Farroh (ph) is the front-runner in an election, a different kind of election that has captured the attention of young people here. It's the battle to win "Afghan Star," this country's version of "American Idol."
Nawid is out campaigning in what could be called an exercise in democracy, because the Afghan people will elect the winner, casting their votes by mobile phone. But the real contest here is between the vast majority of Afghans, who want to embrace a new future, and a violent minority, who want to drag it back to a medieval past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what our enemies do, we won't lose hope. Because Afghans want to go forward.
AMANPOUR: They want to go forward against the fundamentalists, like the young Taliban fighter we met earlier, named Mullah Abdullah. He disapproves of "Afghan Star."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling themselves stars is a title they have invented for themselves. That's how they turn something that is sinful into something they think is good.
AMANPOUR: When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they banned all music. Now they can't even stop the women.
Elahir (ph) is this year's top female contender.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Are you surprised that can you actually sing? You're a woman and you can sing pop rock here in Afghanistan?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy things have changed for the better, and that a woman like me can finally perform.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): For the "Afghan Star" finals, police are out in force, along with Kabul's trendiest crowd. Their fashion sense may be locked in a time warp, but they don't sound any different from young people anywhere.
(on camera): Is it important to Afghan young people to be cool?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a cool mind, we are trying to be like America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step by step, it will be.
AMANPOUR: Who did you vote for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nawid. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nehran (ph). We are in conflict.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nineteen-year-old Nehran is the other finalist.
In a previous round, he was pitted against Elahir, who was favored to win. But in an upset, Nehran got more votes. She was devastated.
(on camera): This isn't "American Idol." It's "Afghan Star." Nonetheless, it's very similar to a lot of Western reality programs.
What do you think this means for Afghanistan in the big picture?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows that in four years you can do a lot.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Jahed Mussaini (ph), an Afghan who grew up in Australia, created "Afghan Star."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at us, they've never run production. They've never done lighting. Within a very short space of time, they've all been able to pick that up. We have a population that is 60 percent under 21. They can do things. They have a future. We just need to give them the opportunity.
AMANPOUR: Backstage, I watched the procession of talent in Jahed's extravaganza, drummers, dancers, acrobats, child jugglers; a mad fusion of traditional Afghan culture and Western style pop.
The audience and the country loved it. Finally, the moment of truth. Nawid is the new "Afghan Star." He won votes from all corners of this divided country.
(on camera): What do you want to say to all the people in Afghanistan who supported you and voted for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, because I am singing for them all, no matter what their ethnic background.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But the western fare on Afghanistan's most popular TV station has angered the religious conservatives. So to appease them, station owner Jahed Mussaini came up with another popular program.
You could call it "Koran Star." These are the three finalists. They're judged by how well they sing verses from Islam's holy book. This year's surprising winner is a young woman who takes home the biggest check.
(on camera): You got the Koran competition, which is a big hit. Here you have "Afghan Star," people dancing, singing, in an Islamic state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. I don't see any contradiction in that. I think that's just an opening to say that we need to look at these things. We need to go through a discussion with people about what they really want, if you're in a true democracy.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Are you in it for the long haul?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in it for the long haul, whether we want to or not.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we come back, a boy finds a little happiness in a city where it's hard to come by.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's rush hour and 13-year-old Anwar darts to work through downtown traffic in Kabul. Today, he might earn a dollar, waving incense over drivers, to smoke out the evil eye.
When it's not raining, Anwar shines shoes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This brush is polish. This one is for coloring. This one is for red shoe polish. This one is for black. And this one to get the dust off.
AMANPOUR: With a father too ill to work, Anwar is his family's sole supporter. He never had any time for fun. But today he's about to have some.
This is skate-istan, a program that lets children just be children, and gives them a break from their bleak lives. It's the brain child of a young Australian named Oliver Percovich.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the kids that are on the street virtually have no time for any sort of recreation whatsoever, because they're working all the time from an early age.
Have you skated before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never skate-boarded before? You're picking it up very fast. Jump on.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Anwar's a quick study. Imagine what he might have done at school, if he hadn't had to drop out to help feed his family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the bottom of my heart, I'd like to go back to school. Is there anything better? I want a skill and I want to learn how to read.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're looking for a new identity. They don't particularly see the same things the way their parents do. They're not as biased towards foreigners or foreign influences. They want the opportunities for themselves. The way to reach them is through recreation, is through sport, is through music, things that we all have in common.
AMANPOUR: Sharing what we all have in common with young Muslims here might be the best way of winning them over, according to White House adviser Eboo Patel.
(on camera): There is a perception among Muslims and young Muslims out there that America sees them as the enemy, as a pest, as terrorists or potential terrorists.
EBOO PATEL, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think the first thing is to say we do not see you as the enemy. Then the second thing is to say, we have common goals. And a common goals is to create a world where people have opportunity to grow and prosper.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Yet, nearly everywhere we turn in Afghanistan, these children are on the ropes because of poverty. Anwar clings to the dream of an education. So far, his only outlet is a skateboard. But it is a small opening to a larger world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I thought it was just play, but then my friends said to come and play and you will learn.
AMANPOUR: It's the first day of school for Nasim (ph), the young boy we met at the beginning of our journey. He's finally getting his chance at a future. His uncle has agreed to take care of him and not to force him to go to work, as long as Nasim (ph) promises to be good. Both have signed a contract.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I promised my uncle that every morning, I will go to school, do all my assignments, and have a good future.
AMANPOUR: A good future, it doesn't seem like too much for a child to ask, a future that Greg Mortenson, the American who's helped educate so many Afghans, still believes is possible.
GREG MORTENSON, AUTHOR, "THREE CUPS OF TEA": Perhaps this is a moment of darkness in this country's history, but I think what education does is, it gives people hope. And there's a Persian proverb. It says, when it is dark, you can see the stars. And those stars, I think, are education.
AMANPOUR (on camera): As tough as it is to win over the young people in Afghanistan, it may be even tougher here in Gaza, where the vast majority views the U.S. unfavorably.
Young people are not just caught up in a war that's not of their own making, but in a fierce competition for their hearts and minds.
(voice-over): When we return: the battleground that's been draining goodwill for America for over 60 years.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Across Gaza, young people are anxious. It's their last week of exams. What they don't know is that their whole world is about to explode.
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched an offensive, a war provoked by both sides. Three years ago, the Palestinian people on this small strip of land elected the Islamist group Hamas, which promised reform.
But Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Europe, and Israel. Militant groups in Gaza had fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel and stepped up the attacks once Hamas took over.
Israel responded by closing Gaza's borders, making it a virtual prison. As the siege continued, so, too, did the rocket attacks. Israel went to war. It lasted 22 days. Thirteen Israelis and more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of Gaza's children.
The images of dead and injured children inflamed the entire world, especially the Muslim world. Many Muslims resent the U.S. because they see it as siding with Israel in the conflict that has ripped apart this region for the last 60 years.
Unless there's a resolution here, America's image among Muslims everywhere is unlikely to change. At the height of the war, Israeli reporter Shlomi Eldar got a panicked and desperate phone call from his Palestinian friend, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No one can get us. Oh, Shlomi. Oh, God. Oh, God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They killed his family. Over the past few days. I think I'm a bit overwhelmed, too,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It was a cruel irony. For 12 years, the Dr. Abuelaish had worked side by side with Israeli doctors in Israeli hospitals, devoting his life to medicine and to making peace between ordinary people on both sides.
Now paramedics race to save his surviving daughter, Shata, and his niece Haida (ph) after the Israeli shelling that killed three of his eight children. The wounded were rushed across the border to Sheba Medical Center in Israel, where Dr. Abuelaish's distraught colleagues tried to comfort him and to save the girls.
Two months after the war, the Dr. Abuelaish brought me here to meet his niece.
(on camera): How do you feel? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH, PALESTINIAN: Feel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING ARABIC)
AMANPOUR: You getting better?
ABUELAISH: (SPEAKING ARABIC) you know.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I do. I know what that means. Thank God.
ABUELAISH: Thank God.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old Haida (ph), who lost her mother to cancer two years ago, has lived through what no little girl should ever have to face. Badly wounded by shrapnel from the shelling, she was found lying alongside the doctor's dead daughters.
Haida (ph), do you remember anything from that day?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was with my father. I took tea down to him. They struck. And they struck me here. And, after that, I don't know.
AMANPOUR (on camera): I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
ABUELAISH: We don't want others to have that pain. And we should work hard to prevent it from happening.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): In much of his shattered homeland, that hope seems a distant dream. We travel with him back to Gaza. The border crossing between Israel and Gaza was eerily quiet.
ABUELAISH: That's the Palestinian side.
AMANPOUR: We walked by dozens of cameras and a watchtower.
(on camera): Do we have to show papers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
AMANPOUR: Let's get in, and then we can go.
ABUELAISH: It's a crazy life here. Gaza is stigmatized by a long list of no.
AMANPOUR: A long list of no?
ABUELAISH: Everything which is passed by, no -- no water, no electricity, no fuel, no work, no life, no hope.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): We have entered a world where the U.N. estimates unemployment, at 45 percent, is the highest anywhere. Eighty percent of the people here are dependent on humanitarian aid. Gaza's economy completely collapsed when the borders were sealed in 2007, after Hamas was elected. And Hamas' hard-line stance further isolated its people.
I found that young Gazans have hopes and dreams, like young people anywhere. But they are also poor and cut off from all opportunity. Life here is completely abnormal. There are no movie theaters, no sports centers, few parks, and virtually nothing for young people to do. They are easy prey for the militia.
For this 21-year-old Hamas militant, the call to arms amounts to a simple equation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This child wakes up in the morning and cannot find his or her father, mother, brother, uncles or the family. He or she finds out the Israeli war machine killed them. How do you think this child will grow up in his life?
AMANPOUR: Dr. Abuelaish, who's been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has his own answer to that question. He's determined that his children will not grow up to hate or to fight.
And that's all the more exceptional, now that we're here to see what happened inside his home.
(on camera): Oh, my God. What a mess. Can you tell me what happened?
ABUELAISH: When my daughters were building their future and their hopes and their dreams inside this room, in a sudden -- everything was destroyed. Look what kind of weapons they have, the educational materials.
AMANPOUR: This is art, culture, and entertainment, and shopping.
ABUELAISH: Management, social, cultural, demographic, and the environmental.
AMANPOUR: This is what your daughter was studying?
ABUELAISH: Yes, yes. She is studying. A few months later...
AMANPOUR: Oh, God. Her blood is still on it.
What answer did you get from the Israelis when you asked them what happened here, why they did it?
ABUELAISH: They admitted their responsibility about shelling my house and killing my daughters.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Israeli army claimed there were snipers in the area, but Dr. Abuelaish denies it.
(on camera): And when we're standing here, where your children were killed, how do you teach your surviving children, your friends, your family not to hate? ABUELAISH: I teach them to learn from what happened and how can this tragedy be translated into positive actions and to achieve the dreams of their lost beloved sisters.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): He's teaching that to 17-year-old Shata, who survived the attack that killed her sisters. She still dreams of becoming a computer engineer.
(on camera): You still want to keep studying?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mm-hmm.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel any hate in your heart?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hate for whom?
AMANPOUR: Hate for whom? It's a good question.
(voice-over): When we return: one mother who now does have hate in her heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If we could get our hands on a Jew, we would kill him. We would kill them all.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Her schoolmates are playing all around her, but Aya Tambura (ph) is still as a statue, numb to the laughter in the playground.
Her classmate, Hamza Maruf (ph), pretends to be a warplane dropping bombs. He likes to imitate what he sees.
(on camera): Do you think these children are going to learn from what they have seen and lived through, and become more violent?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course they acquire some violence being subjected to this violence. And, you know, this -- it is a circle. That's why we have to -- to act quickly.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Born and raised here in Gaza, Mona Abu Ramadan (ph) is waging her own war against extremism. Her weapons are milk and cookies, her target, children like Aya and Hamza.
Mona works for an American charity called Anira (ph), whose mission is to give these children a positive future and interrupt the cycle of violence here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, if we don't help them out, they will be not open to the world. They cannot progress in their education or in their world. I don't think they will become beneficial members of the society. AMANPOUR: These vitamin-enriched milk and cookies are often the only meal the children get all day. So, for Mona, this is a way to keep them in school.
During the war, heavy shelling right next door to the school damaged classrooms and destroyed the homes of 35 of these children. Today, there are fears and tears, even in the playground.
(on camera): Do you think he's frightened of us? He's frightened of us?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He lost his house, also.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Children usually love to crowd around our cameras, but war has terrified them. And, at first, they stayed away because we were strangers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR (on camera): You're welcome.
(voice-over): We brought them stickers and toys to try to put them at ease. But it was hard work with some of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want it? They're convincing him.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Deeply suspicious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: There you go.
(voice-over): He would only take the ball after I had left it on the ground. And, even then, he needed comforting.
(on camera): They're sweet to each other, the children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they are.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Anira's (p) art therapy program help these children express their emotions. It's clear war has changed them.
(on camera): Each and every one of these children are drawing homes...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: ... that are being attacked?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attacked, yes. And these people...
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Since this latest round of war, teachers have noticed not just sadness, but anger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hamza. AMANPOUR: Hamza hits a boy with the ball that we have given him. When an adult tells him to share, he makes an extraordinary threat. He wants to bring in the Hamas militia. For him, they are the strongest authority.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are the strong ones.
AMANPOUR: Hamza's reaction is not unusual.
According to prominent child psychologist Dr. Arad Saraj (ph), war has taught them that not even their parents can protect them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A young boy will look for another symbol of power to identify with. And the replacement was the militant. And that was the way in into the militant groups.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Saraj now sees a disturbing trend. When he asks them what they want to be when they grow up, a third of them say:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I would like to be a martyr."
AMANPOUR (on camera): Really? That's very harsh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very hard.
When you have an abnormal environment, you're going to create abnormal reactions.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): We followed Hamza and his sister on the long road back to the refugee camp where they live. Damage is everywhere. Hamza, his nine siblings, and his parents live here.
(on camera): Oh, my God.
(voice-over): They tell me their home was hit by missiles -- twice. It's so frightened their 90-year-old grandmother that she now spends her days sitting outside in the dust.
Unprompted, Hamza launches into a tour of his devastated home, complete with sound effects and a stream of explanations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): That missile is small. This is a big one.
AMANPOUR (on camera): And this was your mattress?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Hamza's family survived in a shelter. Now they cannot afford to move, because the family business is ruined. The men are wedding musicians, but their instruments have been destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A tank was shooting at the house. It hurt the drums, but I did not die.
AMANPOUR: Hamza's mother had wanted something so different for her son, for all her children.
(on camera): What do you want to be when you grow up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When I grow up, I will be a doctor and have money.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Right now, Hamza's prospects are bleak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want to live like other children.
AMANPOUR: But Hamza and his schoolmate, Aya, are not like other children.
On the first day of the war, Aya's life changed forever. Her father was at his work processing passports. It was the only work this Western-educated engineer could find when Israel closed Gaza's borders. A bomb hit his office and killed him instantly.
Mona took me to meet Aya's mother. Just 26 years old, she's now a widow with four children to raise alone. Aya's grandmother tells us that she has raised her family to want peace. But now Aya's mother is filled with anger and hate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If we could get our hands on a Jew, we would kill him. We would kill them all.
AMANPOUR: She says she will teach her children to hate, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They took their father away, so I will teach them to kill, to kill all of them, and not to leave any of them alive.
AMANPOUR: Next: the making of a militant.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The hot summer sun beats down on 5-year- old Hamza Maruf (ph). He and his family are now living in complete squalor.
AMANPOUR: He sits in the rubble of his bombed-out home playing with a broken mirror. It's all he has. The preschool where we first met Hamza is closed for the summer. With little to do, Hamza can only dream of a place to play.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have no camp, and no one brings me toys. How am I supposed to get them on my own? My father doesn't work. I sit at home alone.
AMANPOUR: Even if he could go to camp, summer in Gaza is a long way from campfires and canoe rides.
The Hamas government runs religious and recreational camps for more than 100,000 children. The boys participating in this one call it boy scouts. But it's more like boot camp.
Twelve-year-old Mohammed (ph) is honing his skills. Without boy scouts, he says, there wouldn't be much to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'd be bored, not having fun at all, and hate our lives. We'd be sitting at home, reading the Koran.
AMANPOUR: Mohammed (ph) and many of the other boys here lost friends during the war. This may be a welcome release for him, but even at this young age, he's absorbing a message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We come to the camp to have fun. And train for boy scouts so we can build up our bodies, have power, so we'll be able to fight the Israelis.
AMANPOUR: Amad (ph), the camp leader, insists that they're not teaching violence. But in war-torn Gaza, they are teaching self- defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We try to change their perspective from one that is vicious or war-related, to one that encourages them to be kids, to play.
AMANPOUR: When they are older, he says, they can then join the fight for a Palestinian homeland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): After you grow up, you can be recruited to liberate the land.
AMANPOUR: When we asked the boys what they wanted to be when they grow up, not surprisingly, they all said the same thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want to be a defender of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want to be a policeman and defend the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Someone who is disciplined and a defender of my country.
AMANPOUR: For years, Hamas has openly promoted a culture of violent resistance, presenting masked gunmen and suicide bombers as heroes. I asked Hamas political leader Ahmed Yousef about this, why their message to kids is so militant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they have the Israeli belligerent approach all the time, they see all the time the Apache and the tanks, what do you expect the people to do?
We expected that the world would help the Palestinians to achieve their dreams of having a free, independent state. Until we achieve that, it will continue; nobody will surrender. It's our culture.
AMANPOUR: Since the war, Hamas has toned down the rallies and the marches, but there are a number of other militant groups in Gaza that target young people.
This video taken last December, before the war, shows young teenagers training with real guns. Angry and isolated, these are the young Muslims who White House adviser Eboo Patel is worried about.
(on camera) What does it mean to be alienated in places like Gaza or Afghanistan, where there's quite a lot to be alienated about if you're young and Muslim?
EBOO PATEL, AUTHOR, "ACTS OF FAITH": Not only do you not belong, but you will never belong to this thing called the human community. You will never have the opportunity to live a full life of dignity.
And so it's not surprising to me that some of these young people would be receptive to the message of creating an alternative community, a destructive community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's more extremism in Gaza today than there was last year.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): For three years, John Ging (ph) has watched the situation deteriorate. He, too, worries about the children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a battle going on here for the hearts and minds of the people.
AMANPOUR: Ging (ph) directs the United Nations relief effort and runs its schools here. He's launched his own war against extremism. With a competing summer games program to keep kids off the street and out of the hands of the militants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of the people here are decent, civilized people with good values. We're about making sure that that generation resists the temptations of the extremists' orientation, outlook, actions and activities and so on and so forth.
AMANPOUR: For two short weeks, these children from some of Gaza's poorest neighborhoods can escape the stress and boredom of their lives, with sports, games, art and music. There are other lessons, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I learn how to deal with others, like my teachers, with respect and love. Like, we play a game that's not violent. We deal with each other with good manners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a value system. And they learn why they should behave and respect each other. What they will be when they grow up is very much shaped by what we do or fail to do.
AMANPOUR: At every one of these places, children were lined up outside, hoping to get in. But the program only reaches a third of Gaza's 700,000 children. Other than the Hamas-run camps, there are few options. Many boys and girls are sent to neighborhood mosques for what they call Koran camp. Fourteen-year-old Yasa (ph) excels here but feels trapped inside Gaza.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All there is to do is to read the Koran.
AMANPOUR: His neighborhood was hit hard by the war. Already this young boy's speech is peppered with politics and with anger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If the Israelis want peace with us, than an olive branch is in our right hand. If they do not, then the book of the Koran and a rifle is in our right hand.
AMANPOUR: Coming up, two Palestinian Americans fighting for peace.
AMANPOUR: A teenager with a gun. A boy who straps a bomb to his body. These are the images that many in the west have of Palestinian youth. Hamas, the party in power in Gaza, makes no excuse for preaching violent resistance to children.
Hamas television runs this weekly program for kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: How will you sacrifice your soul for the sake of Al- Aqsa? What will you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: I will shoot.
AMANPOUR: Ahmed Yousef (ph) is one of Hamas' political leaders.
(on camera) With the Mickey Mouse and the Jihadis and the suicide bombers and the clash (UNINTELLIGIBLE), what lesson are you trying to teach the children?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to be well prepared for the future. And that's why the Palestinians are showing seriousness to keep our dignity and our independence. We have to sacrifice our lives. We either get victorious or we die for the good cause.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Hamas message is everywhere. But we heard about two Palestinians who happen to be American with a different message for children, a message taken from the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
To meet them we had to leave Gaza and travel to the occupied West Bank.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a long, strong voice, we denounce all forms of violence.
AMANPOUR: Sami Awad (ph) and Gaoud Kata (Ph) are cousins. Both, in their own ways, have joined the battle for hearts and minds here, armed with nonviolence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no chance to win with Israelis using violence. Militarily, strategically, we have no chance.
AMANPOUR: Gaoud (ph) and Sami (ph) are convinced that Palestinian attacks only bring on stronger Israeli military responses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Israeli government and military have always used the security excuse as an excuse to continue its occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people.
AMANPOUR: Both men were educated in the United States but returned to the West Bank to teach their people how to fight a different way. They focused on the youngest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds. And if we don't catch them at that early age, you know, we do risk losing them.
AMANPOUR: Gaoud (ph) reached the children with an American invention, Muppets.
(on camera) Why did you choose the Muppet as the figure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything that the Muppets do, anything that they say, any ideas that they transmit, the children accept.
AMANPOUR: Gaoud (ph) produces "Shara's Simsim," the Palestinian version of "Sesame Street."
Elmo from the American show speaks Arabic in "Simsim." He teaches children their alphabet and their numbers.
But the Palestinian Muppets, Hanin, a 5-year-old furry girl monster, and Karim, an energetic rooster, have a very special role: Muppet diplomacy. Listen to what they're saying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: When you are afraid, without asking why. All people are the same.
AMANPOUR (on camera): So Muppet diplomacy it says here in the "Sesame Street" book. Is there such a thing? Is it really possible to win hearts and minds and change behavior through a puppet show?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boys are a problem in our society. They see their parents being humiliated. They think they're the man of the house, and they have to do something, but they can't do anything. So we're trying to tell them your energy is OK, but let's channel it in a different way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: But you could not control yourself, Kareem. You promised me that you would not do the cuckoo noise.
AMANPOUR: And girls?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want girls to feel proud of themselves and their culture. We had a problem at one time of children not feeling proud of being Palestinian.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): And unlike real Palestinian boys and girls, Muppets can travel anywhere: into Gaza or into Jerusalem's old city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: That's the Dome of the Rock!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: That's right. Bravo, Hanin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot teach children pride and respect for anybody else before they have pride and respect for their own society.
AMANPOUR: Gaoud's (ph) cousin, Sami (ph), is trying to reach children in a different way.
(on camera) Bonjour. You're teaching them French.
(voice-over) He's testing his program, Peace Builders, in schools around Bethlehem. He teaches children from kindergarten through high school how to practice nonviolence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very important for the child to see that there are other ways of dealing with things.
AMANPOUR: With the help of a grant from the U.S. Institute of Peace, Sami's (ph) organization hopes to bring Peace Builders into all Palestinian schools.
In theory, the little ones who are taught nonviolence seem to get the idea.
(on camera) If somebody was not nice to you, what would you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'll tell him that God will forgive you.
AMANPOUR: That's nice.
(voice-over) In practice, these future leaders may need a few more pointers. A boy's reduced to tears after one class. (on camera) What happened to you? You just had the class with Ahmed. What did Ahmed say about how to treat other kids in this class?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We mustn't hit each other.
AMANPOUR: Is there something you can say to him now to help him not cry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said sorry.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. OK. That's good.
(voice-over) Older boys in Peace Builders are putting their lessons into action. They've joined weekly protests to stop Israel's construction of the controversial separation wall in the West Bank.
Israel says it's to keep terrorists out. The Palestinians complain, it runs through their villages and their farmland.
Every Friday, they chant and flash peace signs behind the barbed wire. Sometimes they're pushed or dragged or even arrested by Israeli security forces. But never do they fight back.
Yasim (ph) is 13.
(on camera) What has your training taught you about dealing with the soldiers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To not let my anger get the best of me.
AMANPOUR: Is it difficult?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The soldiers scare me with their big guns. They have power over me.
AMANPOUR: How do you convince the next generation of Palestinians not to be angry, hateful, violent people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say -- I say we don't convince them not to be angry. It is how to again convince them to use the right tools to deal with this anger.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A message both Sami (ph) and Gaoud (ph) are sending to the Palestinian people through their children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if we're able to succeed at the smallest level, just imagine when an entire nation decides to commit to engaging in nonviolence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just takes a long time. It takes a lot of discipline. And our people are very impatient.
AMANPOUR: And some are tired of waiting. (END VIDEOTAPE)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): In this crowded and violent piece of land, more than half the population is under 18. It's these young people of Gaza who must make sense of their future.
I meet two young men who are at critical turning points in their lives. Both are 21. Both are seniors at Gaza's Islamic University. But while they walk the same campus, they're following very different paths.
One young man, hiding his identity with a mask, heads up a Hamas sniper unit. The other, Nasser (ph), is studying for his degree in business. Both are angry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we are not getting any chances and any opportunities. The world is closing everything around us at the same time, judging us that we are becoming extremists.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Why the fighting? Why have you joined the military wing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I joined the military wing in order to defend our cause, to defend the honor of our people and against repeated attacks. I worked hard to be a part of this.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): His family is struggling. His father, who worked in Israel, has been unemployed for nearly two years because of the blockade.
His parents fully support his role in the Hamas militia. In fact, his mother made his face mask.
(on camera) You're at university, and you had a choice. You could go one way or the other. And you chose the way of violence fighting. Why did you do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Who said that when I chose the road of militant resistance I gave up on university life? We are everywhere. We're present in all fields from science to the military struggle.
AMANPOUR: What do you want for your future? What do you want to be in your future?
(voice-over) His answer is surprising.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I applied for a media position two days ago, and I was hired.
AMANPOUR (on camera): You want to be a journalist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, God willing.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But he tells me he'll remain with the sniper unit for now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How can I leave our struggle and fighting the enemies?
AMANPOUR (on camera): This is your office?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: Nasser Baracot (ph) has chosen a different weapon. At 21, he's the CEO of a small startup documentary company.
(on camera) Why is a university education important to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Gaza we don't have any resources. Our lives are only business and education. So I have to study and learn in order to become something.
The whole neighborhood was destroyed.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): He takes me to what was once one of his favorite places near Gaza City.
(on camera) And this was all farmland here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Some olive trees and some lemon trees also. Now we can see nothing. This area and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was really a nice place. Because in Gaza, we don't have a lot of natural places because of the dense -- of the population. And after the war has ended we just came directly to see what's happened here. And it was like a surprise. There was nothing.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): After the war, Nasser (ph) returned to his studies here at the Islamic University, founded by Hamas, and seen now by many as a training ground for Hamas political leaders.
(on camera) Israel, people in the United States, they think that this university is a hotbed of radicalism, of Jihadi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: Tell me really what it is like here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We study English language. We study human rights also. There is nothing related to radicalism, nothing related to discrimination. That's what I have seen in my eyes.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nasser chooses the path of nonviolence.
An American aid organization, Mercy Corps, helps. It gives these students a safe place to hang out. Its mission is to identify and nurture Gaza's future leaders.
We talked to a group of students here. Mercy Corps's helping them break out of their feelings of isolation by connecting them with American students.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, guys. My name is...
AMANPOUR (on camera): What do you talk to your online friends in America about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We share a lot in common between us. We have the same problems.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They know that we're not terrorists. They know -- they know me personally. So they know that my dreams are scholarships, just like any of their friends in America.
AMANPOUR: You just said you're not a terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: You know, many people outside think of young Palestinians as potential terrorists or lovers of terrorism. How do you feel about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, we are not terrorists. We are definitely so against violence. We are not with war. I want to live my life like any other -- I want to have the same opportunities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your response, OK.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Cassandra Nelson (ph) works with Mercy Corps.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our hope is that we can help these young people really realize their dreams, because pretty much across the board their biggest dream is for peace and stability and a better life for themselves and their families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want to have a simple life, a simple and peaceful life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not having it. This is the problem.
AMANPOUR: In my travels through Gaza and Afghanistan, again and again, I found people more interested in a future than a fight. Parents who want the best for their children, children who know there has to be something better. And their allegiance will be to whoever helps them get there.
(on camera) What does America and Americans, what do they need to know about what's happening there, really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the first thing they need to know is there is this large group of young people that wants to be part of the global community. That wants to contribute their skills, their heritage, their identity, to creating a world that all of us can be proud of.
The al Qaeda message is actually increasingly less attractive. That means if we offer a different message and real opportunities for these young people, we can win. We simply have to issue an invitation.