Last week, when my teenage daughter came back from school, she proudly showed me her newly bought t-shirt. This t-shirt had an intriguing slogan: "The invisible children."
After asking her few questions and to my incredulous look, she told me the following: "An organisation from the U.S. came to our school and spoke to us about child soldiers in Congo and other African countries. This organisation is on a school tour in North America. It sells crafts and other items in order to help raise money that will be used to award these kids scholarships... Isn't that great?" She was very enthusiastic.
The recent arrest of four young men in Ottawa has been portrayed by the media and by some security analysts as a brand new threat: the radicalization of youth. The typical terrorist is no longer a sombre looking foreigner or an immigrant with a heavy accent immersed in martial arts -- instead he is a middle-class family man, funny, "well integrated," and well educated that you can never detect or almost never...
In my October rabble column, I spoke about the horrible treatment of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, one of the Guantanamo detainees who was abusively force-fed by his American guards to dissuade him from continuing his two-year-long hunger strike. In that article, I wrote that Abu Wa'el Dhiab was another example of the collateral damage of the War on Terror, and indeed he was, as U.S. officials proved recently.
This column is adapted from a speech delivered by Monia Mazigh at the conference "Arar+10: National Security and Human Rights a Decade Later" on October 29, 2014.
Let me start with a quote from George Bernard Shaw. The Irish playwright once said:
"Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time."
The Arar+10 conference is important for three main reasons.
Related rabble.ca story:
On October 6, 2014, a U.S. judge decided to make information public about the horrific force-feeding of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Guantanamo detainee.
The news didn't make the headlines on CNN or Fox news. The treatment was not denounced over and over by every big or small Muslim organization, as they have done when it comes to the treatment of minorities and journalists by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In some media outlets, the news was portrayed as a victory for transparency and government accountability.
While I was visiting my family and friends in Tunisia this summer, I came across a new feeling, or maybe it is an impression -- a feeling or impression that I never encountered before in the country that is proud today to be called the sparkle of the "Arab Spring."
I grew up there in the '80s. I remember seeing in people's eyes the fear of authority, humiliation, loss of dignity, the sorrow of poverty, suspicion, but I didn't see the "fear of terrorism." Even in the darkest hours of the country, during the '80s, when there were violent incidents attributed to Islamist militants, I didn't hear from people around me that they were afraid.
After reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I couldn't stop comparing myself to her. After all, Sheryl Sandberg is almost my age. We were both born in 1969. We grew up in a middle-class family and went to business school.
But perhaps the similarities stop there.
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I never liked the term "Arab Spring"; it has a connotation of over-optimism that can't be rationally understood in a region that painfully emerged out of French and British colonialism to quickly fall into a new era of cultural and economic colonialism where foreign soldiers were replaced by TV satellite dishes, Coca-Cola and Star Academy-like shows.