Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The Tamil Tigers have spent the last week protesting in front of Parliament Hill. Now, they have announced plans to launch a hunger strike and continue their protests for as long as it takes for the Canadian government to intervene.

The Tigers were recently condemned for extorting money from Canadian Tamils in order to raise money for their war against the Sri Lankan government, whom they claim are slaughtering innocent Tamils.

This is the same group who has been labelled as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government for their use of child soldiers (UNICEF has said that they have recorded 6 000 cases of child soldiers used by Tamils between 2003 and 2006). This is the group who begs the Canadian government to intervene, waving posters that record the number of "innocent women and children" that are being killed by Sri Lankan soldiers. Meanwhile, the Tigers are notorious for their use of women and children in suicide attacks. I am curious as to how many of the women they count are ones who strapped a vest around their body and blew themselves up.

While the civilians who protest at Parliament Hill are not bad people, I worry about the fury that will be indoctrinated into Canadian-Tamil youth as this ethnic war rages on. The protesting Tamils are blaming the Canadian government for not acting to stop the Sri Lankan government, yet they continue to engage in warfare. It is one thing for a group to be attacked by government forces as is the case in Darfur. It is another one completely for the group to have taken the first step towards militant aggression and then ask for help when they realize that they are losing what they started.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


One of Afghanistan's top clerics has said that the controversial marriage law cannot be changed because it has already been passed by both houses of parliament and signed by Hamid Karzai.

He then proceeded to comment on why women deserve to be sexual slaves to their husbands, saying "it is essential for a women to submit to the man's sexual desires...this is the right of a man."

Disgusting though this statement is, his next comment was even more disturbing.

"The Westerners claim that they have brought democracy to Afghanistan. What does democracy mean? It means government by the people for the people. They should let the people use these democratic rights."

The horrifying reality of this statement strikes home amidst the controversy surrounding Western reaction to the Afghan marriage law. Leaders who are claiming to be liberators must now face the fact that Afghanistan is like a rebellious adolescent; having been provided for by the big Western parents, it is now declaring its right to act on its own. While there is no debate that the Taliban is a brutal and horrific regime, the fact is that Afghanistan had stability under said regime. Our mission in Afghanistan has done nothing more than serve to ignite nationalistic fury.

When a nation and way of life is threatened, its people often feel the need to revert to traditional behaviour in order to preserve their culture. By invading Afghanistan and waging war against their culture, we have served to push Afghans, particularly rural families, back towards traditional and radical patriarchal practises.

It is important to keep in mind that in Canada, until 20 years ago, a husband could not be charged with rape for forcing his wife to have sex with him. Even during the feminist movement of the 1960s, domestic abuse was rampant and even feminists like Betty Friedan admitted to having been abused by their husbands. Until the middle of the 20th century, a women could not divorce her husband without proof of his adulterous behaviour.

Who are we to condemn a way of life that until 20 or 30 years ago was very much in practise here in Canada? Yes, we do not forcee our women to wear burqhas, but the gains that women have achieved in Canadian society have been achieved by women who were unsatisfied with their positions in life. The North American feminist movement was not a movement of men fighting for women's rights; it was women who organized to demand better for themselves and their daughters.

We cannot force change and liberation for Afghani women when they are not willing to demand it for themselves. Change must come from a revolution of ideas within the Afghan culture, not from militaristic pressure from a room of old warring men. Any attempts to force cultural change in Afghanistan will only push men into trying to reassert masculinity in the traditional patriarchal way that they understand it. It will not serve to better the lives of women. The women themselves must stand up, take off their burqhas, and organize to fight for their rights. We cannot force our standards of gender equality and feminism upon them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

legitimizing the 'war on terror'

When news of Afghanistan's recently created legislation regarding the rights of women hit Western media, political leaders were quick to condemn it and newspapers across Canada called on Harper to pressure Hamid Karzai to withdraw the law. Editiorials sparked up in newspapers as people flooded the media with their concerns over our mission's 'purpose in Afghanistan. Lord Malloch Brown argued that protecting women was "one of the first reasons why the UK and many other Western countries threw themselves into this war."

No, it is not.

Canada entered Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, and so that we could avoid Bush's demands that we fight in Iraq. Right or wrong, we are there to fight against those who would do harm to the West, not to force Afghans to adapt to our way of life. While I fully despise and find despicable this law which would make women imprisoned to their husbands, I absolutely disagree with the way that women's rights are being exploited to provide justification for a failing war.
Harper and Western leaders knew when they invaded Afghanistan that the Taliban was treating women horribly, and that women's rights were being violated. Yet this did not matter when there was a bigger, more looming threat; bin Laden. Only when they realize that we cannot defeat bin Laden did politicians try to shift justification to the protection of women's rights. If the protection of women's rights is such an important cause for Harper and Western leaders, then why have they not invaded Pakistan or Turkey, where honour killings and crimes against women are an enormous problem?
The answer? Because Western leaders are not truly concerned with the rights of women in the Middle East. Harper needs to justify a war that a vast number of people are opposed to. The invoking of women's rights has only served to confuse Canadians as to what our actual purpose is in Afghanistan; this is something which can only be pleasing to Harper and other leaders involved in this war. Human rights are a much more emotive and volatile issue than simply embarking on a manhunt, and is more likely to garner the support of Canadians.
Canadians, already mystified by the Arab world, are more likely to support the goals of Western democratic imperialism if it is disguised as being a fight for women's rights. In reality, this war is quickly turning into nothing more than a way of destroying that which, right or wrong, is different from the way that we live our lives.