August 23, 2008

On Wars and Occupations...

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper

Dear Honourable Stephen Harper,

I am mourning the death of a friend and a colleague, Dr. Jacqueline Kirk. Jackie and two other women international aid workers were slain by Taliban forces. The lives of these courageous women, like thousands of Afghan women, were wasted in a senseless conflict where your government is playing a major role in prolonging and perpetuating it. It was only a few months ago where students in my graduate course "Women, War and Learning" were reading Dr. Kirk's work on "Promoting a gender-just peace: The roles of women teachers in peacebuilding and reconstruction." Dr. Kirk and I planned to work, upon her return from Afghanistan, on the impact of war on women's education; she will not be back and I am devastated and deeply saddened.

Prime Minister Harper, it is more than a decade that I am teaching and practicing peace. As a Canadian educator and scholar on the topic of women and war, I have come to the conclusion that your decision to prolong and expand a war that your predecessor had participated in is against the interests of both Afghan and Canadian peoples. Your government is robbing us from resources which should be devoted to the immediate needs of our people; just consider the situation of appalling living conditions of the aboriginal communities, the rise of violence on our streets, the matter of homelessness, poverty, or joblessness. Add to this list the loss of Afghan and Canadians lives.

As my students engaged with the scholarly work of my dear colleague Jacki Kirk, they also heard first-hand from American War Resisters about their decision to abandon the army and not to take part in any military action when a group of them appeared in my course as guest speakers. Their act is as honorable and courageous as the act of Jackie and her colleagues who decided to join the International Rescue Committee in order to bring some sense of normalcy to a war-torn society. Now, I am also mourning the loss of a nation which once was at the helmet of international peace initiatives. Your government has planned to deport Mr. Hinzman and his family after more than four years of residing in Canada and trying to rebuild a life outside the military. You know that upon his return to the United States, he will face severe punishment. Your government has made this decision against the will of the majority of Canadians who oppose the involvement of our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti.

Prime Minister Harper, I have mourned the death of Canadian women and men that the previous government and you have sent to the war zones of Afghanistan and Haiti. The death of a dear friend or the deportation of a family whom I know, bring much pain and agony upon me. The occupation of Afghanistan by the NATO and Canadian forces has strengthened the Taliban. Let's not forget that the Talibans are the enemy of Afghan people first, therefore, listen to the voices of women of Afghanistan who demand peace and security and the departure of foreign troops from their homeland. My dear friend, Jackie was responding to this call and wanted to provide training opportunity for future women teachers in Afghanistan. Her dream for peace, her vision for a better future for the people of Afghanistan was brutally shattered.

In the name of Canadian citizens such as Jackie and American war resisters who have taken refuge in Canada, I call upon you to put an end to Canadian involvement in this war, and allow American war resisters to stay in Canada and contribute to the building of a peaceful future. People of Afghanistan, be assured, know how to dismantle the oppressive Taliban regime; they need our human support not military force.


Dr. Shahrzad Mojab
Professor and Director
Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
OISE/University of Toronto
Room 7-116
252 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 1V6
Tel.: (416) 978-0829 or at the WGSI (416) 946-5383
Fax: (416) 926-4749

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