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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 19:17

Malala could be the tipping point: Senator

I recently met the parents of Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. Malala, who should be learning and laughing and doing what teenaged girls do, is instead lying in a British hospital, recovering after being shot and wounded in Pakistan by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.

Malala and I are both Yousafzai Pakhtun women, from the same town and the same clan. We are a generation and two continents apart, but the 15-year-old girl’s courage, determination and maturity has triggered hope and inspiration in me at a time when I felt that all was waning in the land of our birth, Pakistan.

When I was 15 in the historic city of Peshawar, in the province of Pakhtunkhwa, my sisters and cousins could never have imagined a day when simply going to school would jeopardize our lives. We were brimming with confidence and optimism. Girls and young women were emerging to take positions of responsibility in government, social development and politics. Our colleges and universities were centres of learning and debate. I studied at a convent run by Irish nuns, and we spoke English and wore Western-style uniforms.

Women felt safer in Pakhtunkhwa than anywhere else in Pakistan. Our people lived by the Pakhtunwali, a moral code that came into existence before Islam and that articulated the protection and honour of women and children. My family would travel to the Swat Valley, where we and many others kept summer homes to escape the heat. Swat was then a peaceful area, and women were well-respected.

The Cold War was in full swing, and across the border where our other Pakhtun cousins lived was Afghanistan. The people on both sides were one, but a colonial border had placed us in opposing camps.

Believe it or not, Afghanistan was a step ahead of us in embracing modernity and women’s rights. I remember travelling to Kabul through the Khyber Pass and seeing cafeterias and discos where American hippies and the local people would rub shoulders.

Then, in the late 1970s, three regimes changed and the world would never be the same. In Kabul, the pro-Soviet Afghan nationalists were overthrown by the Communists. In Islamabad, a U.S.-backed general overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And in Tehran, a revolution saw Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini take power. By the time it was New Year’s Day 1980, my childhood optimism had come to a crashing halt. War, chaos and Islamic extremism slowly began its ascent, while women’s dignity, democracy and human rights went into a free fall.

Malala Yousafzai was not yet born. But by the time she would open her eyes, almost nothing that I, as a Yousafzai, had witnessed or hoped for would be there to welcome her.

Malala, however, could be the tipping point that will cause the pendulum to swing back to its centre. Millions around the world have risen to her call. Women and girls carry signs in the streets that claim “I am Malala.” In the words of her father, “Malala has drawn a red line between barbarism and civilization.”

It’s for this reason that I have signed a Canadian petition asking the Nobel Committee to award the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, and I appeal to all Canadians to do the same.

I have not lost hope for Pakhtunkhwa or Pakistan. From my visits there, from seeing Malala and girls like Malala, I know the women have not lost their voice. They won’t let anyone take away what they have.

Salma Ataullahjan is a Conservative senator representing Ontario. This opinion is re-published with her permission.

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Sunday, 02 December 2012 09:43

PULSE: Eastern Europe

Canadian media targeted at East European immigrants covered a broad array of topics over the last month, ranging from Remembrance Day events to the harassment of a teacher in Brampton via Twitter. 

Most of the East European media reported on immigration issues and immigration policy. Bulgarian Пламя (Flame bulgarianflame.com) and the Nový Domov(The New Homeland, Czech and Slovak newspaper blog.novydomov.com ) inform readers about Ontario’s new immigration policy. In the Canadian section Estonian World Review (www.eesti.ca/estonians-in-canada/list1) reported on the Canadian Government launch of the new ePassport that will be more attractive and more secure. EWR also reported on the 2012 Citizenship Week which was marked by special citizenship ceremony commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 at the Lundy’s Lane Historical Museum in Niagara Falls.

Many of the media reflect upon the Canadian commemoration of the Remembrance Day and how this Day correlates with their homeland history and memory.  Puiu Popsescu wrote an article in the Romanian Observatorul (the Observer www.observatorul.com), on Remembrance Day and its meaning for Romanians in the context of this country’s history. In story “Pain Factor”published in Наша Канада (Our Canada, newspaper for Russian immigrants www.nashacanada.com), author explains that Remembrance Day was not celebrated in the Soviet Union because it was associated with the victims of the wars and the pain and explains that Russians in Canada need to remember it in order to build better future.

East European immigrant papers devote articles to topic of beauty of language and verbal expression. Editor in chief of the Bulgarian Пламя(Flame) Viara Dimitrova, wrote about the beauty of Bulgarian language. She was inspired to write her commentary after watching video of Rafael Agilar who was born in Manila, lived in California, and teaches English language in Bulgaria, singing Bulgarian traditional song in a talent show. In the Romanian Observatorul (the Observer), Vavlila Popovici wrote a commentary about decency in appearance and in language and why vulgarity is not acceptable.

The Канадский Вестник (Canadian Courier, Russian weekly) reports on an incident in Brampton in which students of St Marguerite D’youville Secondary School made inappropriate remarks of sexual nature about their teachers on Twitter. Two students were suspended for seven days and three of them for two days. Website also reports on the case of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who was ordered out of office by Superior Court Justice in a conflict of interest case.

 

Many introduce successful members of their community. Пламя (Flame) presented successful Bulgarians in Canada Igranka and John Balkansky and Serbian Новине (the Newspapers  www.novine.caviolinist Aleksandar Gajic who played at the opening of the charity event organized by Canadians for Children at Health Risk. Новине (the Newspapers) also portray traditional Serbian Slava Day (Patron Saint Day). 

 

Russian website Наша Канада(Our Canada) provides opinions and commentaries on current topics wit h a touch of humor. In one of the commentaries, Leonid Sik wrote a satirical note “Sleep Country” about the acquittal of a man who violated a woman, because he was able to prove that he was asleep at the time of the commitment of the crime. In another text, author Victor Topaller wrote in a specific satirical style about relations of western countries with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

 

Ivana Bjelic Vucinic holds an MA in Journalism and Communication studies from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. In the period from 2000 until 2004, she worked at radio Politika, University radio, and gained experience in television journalism in Belgrade. In the previous five years, she worked in media development, implementing various projects to support local and regional media and strengthen media associations. She is a newcomer to Canada - she moved to Canada in July 2012.

Published in Eastern Europe
Page 14 of 14

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