Saturday, May 21, 2022

Dr. Monia Mazigh Calls on Trudeau: Free Jack Letts, Free ALL the 44 Canadians Detained in Northern Syria

"Twenty years ago, my husband, Maher Arar, was also detained in Syria. He was never charged with any crime and still the Canadian government didn’t help him to come back, and similarly they put all the obstacles to stop his repatriation. If it wasn’t for the will, determination and activism of people like the ones who are standing here, my husband would have died in his Syrian prison."  – Dr. Monia Mazigh, May 19, 2022

 

Text of a speech by Dr. Monia Mazigh in support of repatriation for Canadian Jack Letts and 43 other Canadian men, women and children arbitrarily detained in Northeast Syria.

 

May 19, 2022

 

 Today I am standing here in the stairs of the Prime Minister office with a group of Canadian citizens who are worried about the rights of other Canadian citizens.

 

We are worried to see the rights of Jack Letts and 43 other Canadians being disregarded ignored and abandoned.

 

Since 2017, there are 44 Canadian citizens who are held in Northern Syria by the Kurdish forces. They are held in conditions similar to torture. It is  estimated that there are two dozen Canadian children, most age 7 and under, unlawfully detained in these camps and prisons.

 

This is what Human Rights Watch said in their report: “Canada has an obligation under international law to take necessary and reasonable steps to assist nationals abroad facing serious abuses including risks to life, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment. International law also grants everyone the right to return to their country of nationality, without their government throwing up direct or indirect barriers.”

 

Why is the government of Canada doing nothing to bring back its own citizens home? Worse, why is Canada putting obstacles for families of Canadians who are trying to bring their loved ones back home?

 

Where is Madame Mélanie Joly, Canadian foreign affairs minister? Why doesn’t she stand up for the rights of Canadian children?

 

Where is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who once declared “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”? Why doesn’t he stand up to bring home Jack Letts and 43 other Canadians detained in Northern Syria?

 

Twenty years ago, my husband, Maher Arar, was also detained in Syria. He was never charged with any crime and still the Canadian government didn’t help him to come back, and similarly they put all the obstacles to stop his repatriation. If it wasn’t for the will, determination and activism of people like the ones who are standing here, my husband would have died in his Syrian prison.

 

In the last twenty years, Canadians Muslims have been surveilled, spied upon, harassed in their workplaces and campuses, put under house arrest, had to wear electronic bracelets in their ankles to watch their movements, rendered to torture, kept for more than 10 years in Guantanamo, sent to prisons to disappear.

 

Canadian legislation was brought to criminalize Canadian Muslims. Very few courageous politicians and engaged citizens stood up against this systemic Islamophobia.

 

Today, we have 44 Muslim Canadians detained in Northern Syria. They were never charged with any crimes. Their Canadian families want them back home but the Canadian government is stopping them.

 

How come an American former diplomat, Peter Galbraith, is able to do more than the whole Canadian government? And still the Canadian government refuse to cooperate with him?

 

Today as a Canadian Muslim woman who went through Islamophobia and still suffer from what the Canadian government did to my husband, my children and myself, I am asking Prime Minister Trudeau to walk the talk and fulfill his promises of fighting hate and Islamophobia:

 

-       Bring Jack Letts home to his mother Sally Lane and his family.

-       Bring all the 43 other Canadians detained abroad including the children who can’t go to school, learn and live in healthy and safe environment.

-       Listen to what  organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had mentioned in their report about the urgent need to provide consular services and repatriation assistance to these Canadians detained abroad.

-       Listen to Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, who put Canada on a "list of shame" because it won't take active steps to repatriate its foreign nationals trapped in Kurdish-controlled camps in northern Syria.

 

 

As a country, we have no credibility when on one hand we champion the rights of Uyghurs detained in Chinese concentration camps but on the other hand we leave other Canadians detained by Kurdish forces.

 

Prime Minister Trudeau is probably scared of losing any political capital in returning home Muslim Canadians.

 

But this is not leadership.

 

Leadership isn’t a popularity contest.

 

It is about applying the laws and stopping the arbitrary detention and the abuse of human rights of ALL Canadians.

 

Free Jack Letts, free all the 44 Canadian detained in Northern Syria.

 

 

https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/un-rights-watchdogs-urge-canada-to-save-its-arbitrarily-detained-children-in-syria-1.5313818?cache=a+href%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue

 

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/13/submission-committee-rights-child-concerning-canada

 

Dr. Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. She speaks Arabic, French, and English fluently and holds a Ph.D. in finance from McGill University. Dr. Mazigh has worked at the University of Ottawa and taught at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia.  In 2004, she ran in the federal election as a candidate for the NDP, gaining the most votes for her riding in the history of the NDP.

Dr. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year.  During that time, Dr. Mazigh campaigned vigorously for her husband’s release and later fought to re-establish his reputation and sought reparations. In January 2007, after a lengthy inquiry, her husband finally received an apology from the Canadian government and was offered compensation for the “terrible ordeal” his family had suffered. 

Dr. Mazigh has since authored a book called Hope and Despair, published with McClelland and Stewart in 2008. The memoir documents her ordeal after her husband was arrested and how she campaigned to clear his name.  Hope and Despair was shortlisted for the Book Award of the City of Ottawa. In 2014, her first novel, Mirrors and Mirages was published by House of Anansi. It was the finalist of the City of Ottawa Book Award and of the Trillium Award in its original French version. In 2017, Dr. Mazigh published at House of Anansi, her second novel, Hope Has Two Daughters. It was the finalist for the Champlain Book award. Dr. Mazigh presently lives in Ottawa with her husband and two children.

 


Monday, May 9, 2022

Ottawa Mother of Son Detained 5 Years in Syria Seeks Meeting with Prime Minister

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day, 2022 

 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

 

I am writing to request a meeting with you concerning the life-threatening situation of my son, Jack Letts, a Canadian citizen, who has been arbitrarily detained by the Kurdish authorities in NE Syria for the past five years. It was the fifth anniversary of his detention five days ago, on May 3, 2022. I have not seen Jack for eight years. 

 

To mark those five years, I will be outside your office in Ottawa for five hours on Thursday, May 19, hoping to meet with you and Prime Ministerial staff to discuss how we can free not only my son but also 43 other arbitrarily detained Canadian women, men and children. As has been made abundantly clear, Canada holds the keys to their freedom, yet refuses to unlock their cages. I would like to speak with you directly about how your government can stand up for and repatriate these 44 citizens.

 

For five years, Jack has endured conditions which the United Nations have described as meeting the “threshold for torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.”  He has been held in a severely overcrowded cell, with little food or water, often in long periods of solitary confinement, with no access to the outside world or legal assistance. He has been charged with no crime. The only contact he has had with us, his parents, in five years is a handful of Red Cross letters, which are censored of any information his detainers do not wish publicised. We know that his physical and mental health have been severely damaged, and that medical attention in captivity is extremely poor or non-existent.

 

Five years ago, the Canadian government assured me that it was ‘doing everything it could to secure the release of [my] son.’ However, since then, Global Affairs Canada has provided a number of spurious excuses as to why they are unable to act. It is inconceivable to me, and to the family members of 43 other Canadians, including 23 child captives, why the Canadian government is unable to secure the release of its citizens from its allies, the Kurdish authorities. On numerous occasions over the past 5 years, these Kurdish authorities have declared that all they need for the repatriation of Canadian citizens is a simple request from their government. 

 

Their call for repatriation has been echoed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, the US State Department, Save the Children and, in a rare show of cross-party unanimity,  a Canadian Parliamentary Committee. 

 

Countries from Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Netherlands, Albania, France, the USA, the UK, Germany, Iraq and Russia have repatriated their citizens from these camps.

 

So why not Canada?

In March 2020, at the height of the covid pandemic, then Foreign Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne claimed that his department had achieved the ‘largest repatriation effort in Canada's history in peacetime’. Forty thousand Canadians, who had been stranded abroad by the pandemic, were returned from 100 countries on 356 flights. In contrast, Jack and the other 43 Canadians - a total of 13 women, 23 children and 8 men - have been completely abandoned by their government in conditions described by Human Rights Watch as “filthy and often inhuman and life-threatening.”. Moreover, they have been given no indication as to how long this disgraceful situation will continue. 

 

Your government recently celebrated the second anniversary of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention, but neglected to act on the fact that it is actively complicit in the arbitrary detention of 44 of its citizens. Your government also announced the imminent appointment of a special representative on combating Islamophobia, but said nothing about the fact that those detained in NE Syria are all Muslims. Would that account for the very different treatment they have received in contrast to your vocal advocacy for the two Michaels while they were arbitrarily detained in China? 

 

“There’s a really clear and compelling positive obligation on Canada to prevent serious harm to its nationals, which it is in a position to prevent,” UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin told MPs last year, adding that it was lack of political will, and not diminished capacity, preventing Canadians’ return. She pointed to Kazakhstan, among many much smaller and less-resourced nations, that have been able to do bring home their citizens with ease, noting: “There are a lot of countries doing it and doing it well. There isn’t a deficit of examples out there.”

 

I am not asking too much to demand that we meet to discuss how your government can immediately make the repatriation of Jack and all Canadian detainees – women, children and men alike – an urgent, high-level priority. In fact, all I am doing is what you urged us to do some three months after Global Affairs Canada learned that my son Jack had been tortured. In October, 2017, you clearly stated: “I hope people remember to demand of governments, this one and all future governments, that nobody ever has their fundamental rights violated either through inaction or deliberate action by Canadian governments. Nobody ever deserves to be tortured. And when a Canadian government is either complicit in that or was not active enough in preventing it, there needs to be a responsibility taken.” 

 

Does my son have to be brought back to Canada in a body bag before the Canadian government takes responsibility and recognizes that his life is in imminent danger? Jack’s life – and the lives of the other detainees – is worth so much more than the scant attention that’s been paid to him so far.

 

I, and all the other family members who have suffered for many years now, call upon the government of Canada to uphold its commitments under domestic and  international law, as well as the principles of morality and common decency, to immediately take charge of this situation and repatriate their citizens without further delay. The lives of 44 Canadians are dependent on it, and so is the faith of all citizens in the state of democracy in this country.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sally Lane

Mother of Jack Letts

 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Mother’s Day to Father’s Day Chain Fast to Free the Canadian Captives

 
Bring Home Jack Letts and all Canadian Detainees From NE Syria
May 8 to June 19, 2022

(Details on how to join the fast for a day are below, as are actions you can take even if you are not fasting!)


INTRODUCTION
Please pick a day to fast in support of freeing and bringing home arbitrarily detained Canadian Muslim Jack Letts and four dozen other Canadian Muslim men, women, and children. All of them are illegally held without charge in northeastern Syrian prisons and camps.  A March, 2022 United Nations report described their conditions as meeting the “threshold for torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.”

In late January, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared: “States must repatriate their own citizens. Not just children. Children, women and men.” At the same time, Abdulkarim Omar, foreign office co-chair of the Kurdish administration that holds the detainees, reiterated what the Kurds have been saying for years: “Every country should take its citizens back.” On January 31, 2022, the US State Department called on its partners to “urgently repatriate their nationals and other detainees remaining in northeast Syria.” 
 

BACKGROUND
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and even a House of Commons committee have called for repatriation of all detainees. But a Canadian government long complicit in the torture of its Muslim citizens held abroad has refused to lift a finger to help, even as far smaller and less resourced countries from Kazakhstan to Bosnia and Herzegovina have had no trouble bringing their nationals home. Ottawa’s only response has been to create a bureaucratic “framework” marinated with insufferable bafflegab that makes it impossible for anyone to come home.  

As a result, it’s up to those of us who can speak up to do so with public actions like this chain fast.  

The chain fast will run Mother’s Day to Father’s Day because among those imprisoned are mothers and fathers, as well as the sons and daughters of parents and grandparents who have worked for years to bring their loved ones home. In addition, the Canadian government, taking a page from its own history of genocidal violence against Indigenous people, is engaged in an insidious process by which it seeks to separate the imprisoned babies and young kids from their moms and dads. Family separation – especially based on racist notions – is never acceptable.


WHO IS DETAINED?
All of the Canadians who went to Syria have been unjustly tarred with the same “national security” brush. None have been given a chance to defend themselves against these false accusations. As is happening with Canadians flocking to resist the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a small number of young Canadians travelled to Syria during the Assad regime’s war against the Syrian people. Some went to fight; some, like Jack Letts, went for humanitarian reasons to help people suffering as a result of the civil war; and some went on a ‘grand adventure’ or to escape racism and Islamophobia at home. Most believed they were going to help build a non-violent, utopian, Muslim society – a dream that proved both false and lethal for many. Many, like Jack Letts, opposed ISIS in the streets and were prosecuted for opposing them – a fact the Western media refuses to acknowledge.

Canada must stop relying on the media-generated, Islamophobic myths about Jack Letts and the other detainees as an excuse to perpetuate their misery (see a detailed analysis of Jack’s case at http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.com/2022/03/canada-must-stop-monstering-jack-letts.html)

 
 Compare the way in which Canadian officials mistreat this group of emaciated, tortured souls with the Two Michaels, Canadians who were also arbitrarily detained, but in China. Despite being charged with serious (though clearly bogus) offences, the Two Michaels enjoyed (as they should have) a presumption of innocence in the eyes of Ottawa and the media. But when it comes to Canadian Muslims detained abroad under conditions of torture, Canada has always assumed guilt and been a complicit partner in criminalizing and torturing them. Two judicial inquiries and numerous Federal and Supreme Court decisions have found Canada complicit in the torture of Canadian Muslims abroad. 
 

 

WHY A FAST?
Fasting has long been a tool to raise awareness both in our communities and within ourselves. When you fast, and your body asks when nutrition will eventually arrive, it is a reminder of a cruel reality. Unlike those of us who fast for a day – and know that what we need for our health is coming soon – for many who hunger for justice, they simply do not know when the decision that will soothe their souls and provide peace of mind will arrive. That uncertainty, which can be indefinite, produces anxiety and trauma. When you fast in support of the Canadian captives, it provides moral support to the families of the detainees and reminds them that they are not alone. It also sends an important message to the Canadian government that you recognize the humanity and the rights of those detained (the very things Canada wants us to dismiss). It also helps spread the word about an injustice that needs to be remedied as soon as possible.


HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CHAIN FAST
a) Pick a day (or a series of days) to fast during the Mother’s Day to Father’s Day  time period and email your name and town to tasc@web.ca 

b) A list of open dates and names is available at http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.com/2022/04/mothers-day-to-fathers-day-chain-fast.html
 
c) More than one person can fast on the same date.

d) Fast according to your preferred tradition (a full 24 hours, liquids only, sun up to sun down).

e) The fast is open to anyone (you can join even if you are not living in Canada). Even if you cannot fast, we encourage you to do these actions below!


On the day they fast we encourage you to:

1.  take a selfie with a simple message (ie, #BringBackJackLetts, #FreeThe44, Free the Canadian Captives, Canada Complicit in Arbitrary Detention, Free the 40+ Canadian Captives, etc.) and share that image via social media, explaining why you are fasting on that day. Email us the image at tasc@web.ca so we can share it too.



 
b. Write an email (sample below) to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Global Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to explain why you are fasting and reinforce the demands listed above. 
 
c. Write a letter to a local newspaper about why you are fasting.
 
d. Fast for an hour in front of your MP’s office.

e. Share this petition: You can copy and paste this link on your social media and email it to your friends as well! https://www.change.org/p/i-forgot-what-the-sun-looks-like-free-jack-letts-and-all-canadian-detainees-in-ne-syria

Thanks for your support!

The Canadian Coalition to Free Jack Letts &
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture 
 
Sample email SAMPLE EMAIL (be sure to include the CC-ed MPs and add your own MP if they are not already listed below!)
 
(Feel free to personalize with your own statement imagining what it would be like to know your loved ones are condemned to these brutal camps and prisons and the Canadian government is refusing to lift a finger for them. Use a creative subject line as well that does not make your email look like it is computer-generated!)
 

 

Dear Minister Joly,
 
I am fasting today in support of the call to repatriate four dozen Canadian Muslim men, women, and children from NE Syrian detention centres and prisons known as “Guantanamo on the Euphrates.” 
Canada is an international embarrassment, as noted by the United Nations, for its failure to do what so many other countries have been willing and able to do: bring their nationals home.
 
Countries from Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Netherlands, Albania, France, the USA, Germany, Iraq and Russia have repatriated their citizens from these camps.
So why not Canada?
 
Last month, Canada celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While it’s an important document, it is too often applied unevenly in this country depending on one’s heritage or religious belief. In this instance, four dozen Muslims missed yet another Ramadan with their loved ones here because you are refusing to honour and uphold their Section 6 Charter right to return home. 
 
As you know, some four dozen Canadians remain arbitrarily detained largely because Global Affairs Canada has refused to take the necessary steps to bring them home. How can the government of Canada, which played a lead role in drafting and signing a global pact on ending arbitrary detention, refuse to take immediate action to end the arbitrary detention of Canadian men, women and children enduring conditions that the United Nations has described as meeting the “threshold for torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.”  
 
Even worse, why is Canada actively fighting a legal challenge in court and trying to prevent these families from seeking an order to have Global Affairs Canada do its job and bring their loved ones home?
 
A group of retired diplomats wrote in the January 31, 2022 edition of the Hill-Times that the Canadian “government’s reasons for not helping are specious and are meant to disguise its complete unwillingness to help this specific group of Canadians.” 
 
It is beyond unacceptable that your government claims it is unable to assist these arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens when so many governments have been able to repatriate their own citizens with ease. In fact, you are constantly putting up roadblocks that interfere with their Charter-guaranteed right to return to Canada.
 
If you are unsure what to do, perhaps pick up the phone and call the ambassadors of Kazakhstan or Albania or France for pointers on how to repatriate citizens. Better yet, simply respond to the repeated requests of Kurdish authorities to come and claim your citizens. They are, after all, Canada’s ally!
 
On February 22, 2022, Human Rights Watch declared the following: “Canada has an obligation under international law to take necessary and reasonable steps to assist nationals abroad facing serious abuses including risks to life, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment. International law also grants everyone the right to return to their country of nationality, without their government throwing up direct or indirect barriers.”
 
I agree with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which in January 2022 clearly called on Canada and other nations to do the right thing: “States must repatriate their own citizens. Not just children. Children, women and men.”
 
I am calling on you to take immediate action to save the at-risk lives of these Canadian citizens. Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned on a platform that declared, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” These arbitrarily detained Canadians are no less deserving of human rights than anyone else. Your government said it stood with the two Michaels when they were detained in China. It’s time, now, to stand with the Canadians who, like Jack Letts, remain imprisoned without charge under appalling conditions akin to torture.
 
I expect better of the Canadian government when it comes to respecting the rights of Canadians detained abroad, and demand that you end this nightmare immediately.
 
Name
Town/City
 
 
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 Names and Dates of Fasters
(Sorry, we don't have the ability to click on the date to fill it in, but you can email tasc@web.ca with your name, city, and date!) 
 
  
Sunday, May 8: Tasneem Fazel, Calgary, AB
Monday, May 9: Mary Cowper-Smith, Charlottetown, PEI
Tuesday, May 10: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, May 11: Julie Lovely, Martin, GA, USA
Thursday, May 12: Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON; Nasreen Alani, Calgary, AB
Friday, May 13: Matthew Behrens, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, May 14: Matthew Behrens, Ottawa, ON
Sunday, May 15: Sally Lane, Ottawa, ON; John Letts, UK
Monday, May  16: Mary Cowper-Smith, Charlottetown, PEI
Tuesday, May 17: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, May 18: Rebecca Platt, Vancouver, BC
Thursday, May 19: Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Friday, May 20: Irina Hoffer, Berkhout, the Netherlands
Saturday, May 21: Jane Powell, Aberystwyth, Wales
Sunday, May 22: John Letts, UK
Monday, May 23: Irina Hoffer, Berkhout, the Netherlands
Tuesday, May 24: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, May 25: Wendy Goldsmith, London, ON
Thursday, May 26: Gail Lorimer, Hamilton, ON
Friday, May 27: Brian Tillory, Vancouver, BC
Saturday, May 28: Connie Pike, St. John's, NL
Sunday, May 29: John Letts, UK
Monday, May 30: Wendy Goldsmith, London, ON
Tuesday, May 31: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON  
Wednesday, June 1: Lynn Pascente, Aurora, IL
Thursday, June 2: Irina Hoffer, Berkhout, the Netherlands
Friday, June 3: Jim Gallagher, Regina, SK
Saturday, June 4: Anonymous, Toronto, ON
Sunday, June 5: John Letts, UK
Monday, June 6: Kate Lonsdale, Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK; Gill Collins, Brierfield, Lancashire, England
Tuesday, June 7: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, June 8: Ray Kline, Toronto, ON
Thursday, June 9: Nasreen Alani, Calgary, AB
Friday, June 10: Bill Knight, Edmonton, AB
Saturday, June 11: Talia, Montreal, QC
Sunday, June 12: John Letts, UK
Monday, June 13: Ray Smith, Halifax, NS
Tuesday, June 14: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, June 15: anonymous, Toronto, ON
Thursday, June 16: Leila Mon, Toronto, ON    
Friday, June 17: Jim Leatherstone, NY
Saturday, June 18: Matt Campos, Minneapolis
Sunday, June 19: Tasneem Fazel, Calgary, AB