Fri Jan 27, 2012, 08:47 AM
iverglas (38,549 posts)
Afghan schoolgirl Roya faced down police in Kandahar airport [View all]
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN— ... Star editor Michael Cooke and I were close to completing a sometimes perilous mission to get Roya Shams, 17, out of Afghanistan and to Canada so she could continue her education free from war and oppression.
... To fulfill the wish of her father, a former district police chief killed by the Taliban during a July raid in Kandahar city, Roya is working to become a politician, to wage a peaceful struggle for basic rights and democracy.
The cops wanted to block her escape to freedom this week, but she handled them with such poise that Roya looked like a political veteran in a country where threats and violence come with the job.
... But the policemen leaning on us weren’t just doing their jobs.
Like most of the men — and no doubt many of the women — in the airport lounge, they found us morally offensive and wanted us to know it.
And they were eager to humiliate a young woman who had earned her right to pursue a better education abroad.
The article from Saturday I was looking for isn't on line -- her (assisted) first-person description of her first days in Canada, of walking around Toronto, meeting girls on the street and in schools. The unfortunate thing is that she's attending Ashbury College, a private school for the privileged in Ottawa that fairly recently became co-educational. How much nicer it would have been if she had had the experience of Canada's terrific public education system, and the genuine multiculturalism (and genuine problems) in our schools.
She is obviously privileged herself, as Afghans go, but she's a determined and dedicated young woman. Here's a picture:
Roya Shams steps off her flight at Pearson and into her new life.
Often during the five months it took to get her here, the mission seemed impossible.
In all the pictures accompanying her first-person story, she was wearing a hijab. She certainly seems like someone who marches to her own drum in every other regard, so I think we should assume that if she makes that choice while in Canada, it's her choice. Perhaps she will change her mind on that, living in a society where it isn't a religious or cultural requirement for women. Perhaps not. I wonder what practices of mine I'd change just because things were done differently where I was living.
There are many aspects to women wearing the hijab (and even more extreme coverings). For many, and of course lots of first-generation immigrants in the west fall into this group, it is no more nor less than the way they do things, the way they have always lived, the way they are comfortable. There are of course other aspects to the practice that are more open to challenge (when it truly is imposed, or when certain statements are being made by the women doing it). But for the average woman, it most often is a matter of how she is comfortable, for one reason or another. It may get up my nose, given my own views on religion in general and women's status in society, but I don't think it's my job, nor is it productive in any sense, to make women who make this choice feel uncomfortable.
Roya has her eye on the University of Toronto law school. It will be some years before she's achieved what she wants here in Canada and can return to Afghanistan to take up the causes she believes in. I guess we should hope for a lot of change to have happened by that time!
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