If you made a compilation video of one second of every day for a year, what would it look like? A campaign video to raise awareness of the political strife in Syria wanted to show you what it would look like for a child stuck in the middle of a war zone. It follows a little girl from blowing the candles out on her birthday cake to exactly one year later. She goes to school. She reads books. She hangs out with her parents. Then small things start to change and rapidly her one one second a day shows her being scared, being shuffled from place to place, her neighborhood being bombed, refugee camps and hospitals.
The tagline of the video is “Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening somewhere.” It’s an eerie message as the world watches the current situation unfolding between Ukraine and Russia. Will those children lead similar lives to the girl in this video? How many candles will they blow out on their next birthday cake? It is naive to think that any singular one of us can have an effect on those less fortunate than us or that we have the power to save all of those stuck in tumultuous political climates. We can’t save them, but what we can do – and are encouraged to do with videos like this – is look at ourselves and bring more empathy into our every day lives. When all of us start looking at our actions as having ripple effects then we create a more compassionate global community.
The world doesn’t change with one person but we can start making a small difference with one intent at a time. Thanks to this video I intend to live with more empathy. What can you do to make the world a more compassionate place?
Last fall, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman who apprehended her on a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She was 15 years old.
Miraculously, Malala survived the attack, and today, she turns 16. The United Nations has named July 12 “Malala Day” in honor of the young activist’s astounding courage in the face of violent forces that would try to silence her. What, you might ask, is the teenager’s cause and why would the Taliban feel threatened enough to prey on one so young?
Malala is not your typical high schooler. She has inspired the Taliban’s rage by publicly advocating girls’ education and generating a mass petition calling for fully-funded, compulsory education for all children in her country and around the world. Because of her efforts, Malala was included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in 2013, and today she gave a speech at the UN reaffirming her cause.
Watch Malala’s inspiring speech here:
Are you inspired by Malala’s words? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani student and education activist, was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Like people around the world, I was stunned. My shock quickly turned to outrage at such horrific violence against a young girl courageously speaking out for girls’ right to education.
I thought about the significance of education in my life, and my very early recognition of its significance. When we migrated to Canada from Kenya, I missed my nursery school so much, I begged my mother to take me to school. I was below the cut-off age to start Junior Kindergarten, so my mother was unable to enroll me. That didn’t stop me. I kept pleading until my mother begged the principal to let me start. He did. I wouldn’t be the person I am without that opportunity; without my right to education being honoured.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Gardiner Museum for a preview of “Bullets to Butterflies”, an interactive art exhibit by Canadian artists Unaiza Karim, Saba Syed, and Huma Durrani, inspired by Malala Yousafzai. I was deeply moved by the artists’ passion for the issues underlying Malala’s story, and their determination to transform violence into peace and positive change.
I felt strongly that the exhibit was an ideal fit with the mission of my agency, Farahway Global, that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health. In the process of planning with the Centre for Social Innovation – Regent Park, where Farahway Global is based, Artscape requested that we host the exhibit in the Daniels Spectrum South Lobby for Asian Heritage Month. In anticipation of our Closing Reception on Thursday, May 30, 2013, I interviewed Huma Durrani about the show.
FNM: What inspired you to create this exhibit?
HD: After the shooting of Malala, there was a strong desire to do something more about the education problems in Pakistan. Saba and Unaiza have children who go to Sunday school together, and while their children were in class, they discussed putting together an art show about Malala’s courage, to raise awareness and funds for schools in Pakistan. When Unaiza told me about the project, I immediately asked to join forces with them.
FNM: Tell me about your professional backgrounds that enabled you to come together and create such a beautiful, powerful exhibit.
HD: All three of us are artists, and were referred to each other by other friends who insisted we needed to connect.
Saba Syed is a Canadian artist specializing silk screening based in Port Perry, Ontario. Saba completed her Fine Arts education at York University in Toronto, Canada. She runs her own silk-screen printing studio and teaches art to local children.
Unaiza Karim graduated with her Masters degree from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. She has specialized in the Art of Illumination from the Islamic tradition and was professionally trained in Turkey.
I am a Canadian artist based in Mississauga. My work is inspired by Islamic art, geometrical patterns and a modern contemporary aesthetic. The majority of my work is done by hand cutting delicate Japanese papers into intricate and precise designs.
FNM: How does your exhibit address girls’ right to education?
HD: All of our pieces address different issues related to the story of Malala Yousafzai – her courage, her mission to speak out for all children to be educated – and also to the education crisis that currently exists in Pakistan. Many people, including Pakistanis who are living abroad, are not even aware of how serious the situation is. We wanted to bring attention to this emergency, and do something about it. The beauty of this exhibit, is that all three artists have different specializations that they are bringing to this show. With the combination of detailed illuminations, silk-screen prints, and delicate paper cuts, the show brings together different art forms and ideas addressing a single issue.
FNM: Can you tell me more about each of your unique pieces in the exhibit?
HD: In Saba Syed’s piece, ‘See Me’, the young veiled child provokes ideas of gender and religion. ‘See Me’ challenges our assumptions that this is an image of a veiled girl but is in fact of a veiled boy. Saba explains, “I wanted a piece that would remind us that we should always question our ‘truths’. Often understanding only comes when we are open to the realization that all may not be as it seems.”
In relation to the Taliban, the veiled boy represents their inability to see themselves within the feminine. Encumbered by this mindset, this creation of ‘The Other’ creates a separation that justifies the use of violence on those who are ‘different’. The butterflies symbolize metamorphosis; that although Malala’s was shot down for her views on the rights for girls to an education, she survived. Her message actually spread and has gathered many supporters.
Unaiza’s piece, ‘The Invitation “Dawat”‘ is based on traditional book arts. In this style, each page is carefully decorated to prepare the reader for what is written on the page they are looking at and what is to come. Many medieval Qurans begin with the ‘garden page’ – a visual feast of natural world themes, symbolism and geometry that sets the tone and serves as an invitation to continue.
Unaiza elaborates, “I offer a similar ‘dawat’ (invitation) in this traditionally ornamented page, inviting the onlooker to read, to learn and to grow – every child’s right.”
My piece, ‘The Butterfly Effect’, is made from hand cut Japanese paper. It speaks to the importance of education for all, regardless of gender. The first revelation of the Holy Quran is this verse: “Read, in the name of your Lord” – Qur’an (Chapter 96, Verse 1). Reading is an act of worship and has been encouraged in Islam for all people. The holy verse is hand cut into the wings of the butterfly. This piece presents that when the feminine power takes hold and implements the command to read, the power that she will hold and share with the world will have an impact on all that surround her. The extent of the effects of women having knowledge is boundless.
FNM: How have you made the exhibit interactive?
HD: We wanted to engage people coming to the exhibit, and make them a part of the art. Our bullet-ridden wall was designed by Saba Syed. In our first exhibit, we invited attendees to answer the question “If you could trade all the bullets in the world for something else, what would you trade them for?” and insert their responses in the bullet holes.
One of the most thoughtful responses was from 7 year old Zain Rashid:
“I would trade for more schools. Because if there are more schools, people will learn more, and when people will learn more about peace. When there is more peace, there is less fighting.”
FNM: You say you wanted to “do something” about the education crisis in Pakistan. I am sure that your exhibit inspires the same desire in others. How are you integrating the potential for such action into your exhibit?
HD: At the show, we sell prints and other items of merchandise to support schools in Pakistan. For our first show we supported Developments in Literacy (DIL) Canada, and for our second show we are supporting the Hope Uplift Foundation. Both of these organizations are doing incredible things to address the education crisis in Pakistan. In December, we were able to raise $500 for DIL Canada. We have also set up an Etsy page where people can buy prints with partial proceeds going towards schools in Pakistan.
Schools, museums, libraries, and other organizations and spaces can host the exhibit to continue reflection, discussion and action on these critical issues.
FNM: Thank you so much for sharing your powerful work and thoughts. I hope this piece will encourage people to join us at the Bullets to Butterflies Closing Reception: May 30, 6-8pm, South Lobby, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, ON. I also hope people will participate in the exhibit on Facebook and Twitter.
UPDATE: The exhibition has been extended to June 10
We just heard two inspiring, heart wrenching, gut churning, funny, amazing life stories, from two Ugandan women, Joan and Teddy, who lifted themselves out of dire poverty and suffering by making and selling paper beads.
The poverty is huge. For example, Millie lives on $1 a day earned from crushing rocks in a quarry, and she has asthma. This is enough money for one meal every day for her whole family. She lives in a 4×7 hut with her six children, two of whom are AIDS orphans she has adopted. They have no water, no electricity, and no possessions. It is so small that one person is appointed to say when everyone should roll over at night.
At least, that was how Millie was living. Now she has a small house of her own, financed by a brick-making business she runs. And this was made possible because she learned how to roll beads out of strips of recycled paper.
How did this happen? Some years ago friends of ours went to Uganda, Africa. Dr. Charles Steinberg was there to teach the local doctors how to use AIDS medicines. Before the family left the US, he, his wife Torkin, daughter Devin, and friend Ginny sat together in prayer. “We said we were tired of talking about how hard the world is, and asked for something to do. This very clear intention was voiced within the context of prayer and sacred commitment,” Torkin told us. “We never dreamt it would manifest through paper beads!”
A few months later, the four of them were in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. On a chance encounter in a Kampala slum, on their way to visit an AIDS patient, the women met Millie who was rolling paper beads. She told them that she had no real market to sell them. They bought a few of her necklaces and, as they wore them, found that many people admired and wanted them. “So we went back to find this woman and discovered a group of her friends who also made beads. We bought about a 100 necklaces. We came back to the US for the summer and began to sell them to friends and at craft fairs.”
The beads began to generate interest, including a magazine article. They realized there was a market, but that most importantly it was about the story and the heartfelt desire to help those in need. One man, who loved the beads so much and wanted to give money to the beaders, offered $200 for a necklace that was on sale for $20.
The women who become beaders all live in slums in Kampala. Many of them are HIV positive, malaria is rampant, and nearly all are raising, alongside their own children, other children they have adopted from some of the 1.4 million AIDS orphans in Uganda. At least 95% of the beaders are women and 40% are refugees, living in huts as small as Millie did with just enough room for them to lie down. All have multiple life challenges. As Torkin says, “It was very humbling to work with these people who struggle so deeply yet also know how to lift themselves up, to laugh, sing and have joy. In a song they wrote there is one line that remains in my heart: ‘We dance while we are suffering.’”
A beader who joins the BeadForLife program gets paid twice a month for their beads and they have to open a savings account. The program is 27 months long and the beaders all receive health care, optional family planning, and business training. By month 20, BeadForLife tops up their savings to $800, enough so that each one can begin their own business to support themselves after the bead-making program has finished. One woman, who used to wash prostitutes’ clothes in a nightclub, now owns a nightclub; there are restaurants, chicken farms, dry good stores, and clothing stores, all begun this way.
Beads can be bought on line, but because of the power of the beader’s stories, most beads are sold through BeadParties hosted in people’s own homes. This is how EVERYONE can help. Many times 2-3 women do this together and it is really FUN. And most importantly, the beads are BEAUTIFUL—vibrant colors and different shapes.
This week and next, between April 9-23, Beadforlife is hosting The Opportunity Tour, with events in Washington D.C., Pittsburg, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Join Joan and Teddy, hear their stories, and buy beads. Get all the details at: www.BeadForLife.org
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I used to be a competitive rifle shooter for my University in England. I have several Oxford ‘Blues’ as a result, and was the captain of several teams. We’d shoot at paper targets, nothing else. And that’s why I feel I can say something about guns now.
A newsletter I received today stated that since Obama came to power gun shops have been unable to stock enough ammunition to meet the demand. It seems that gun owners are so afraid the Obama administration will take away their right to own weapons that they’ve bought up as much ammo as they can carry.
Now that makes no sense. If the government were about to ban cars, for example, would you go out and blow the housekeeping money on spare tires to hoard?
Which brings us to the point. Gun ownership is for many people not about logic. As we saw with Phil Spector, quite a lot of people own guns who shouldn’t, and some of them have fantasies about them that are not healthy. The bottom line seems to be that guns become the focus for a huge number of neuroses for many people, and added to that is the strange feeling that seems to come across some people that I can only describe as the ‘if you’ve got a gun you’ve got to use it’ urge. I speak from experience of many years around guns and gun owners, some of whom are my friends. We’ve talked about this unhealthy tendency in gun owners, even when they’re law-abiding, decent, and sane.
And perhaps this is where the gun ownership debate runs into trouble. We’re not talking about these objects that go bang. We’re not talking about what the Constitution says. We’re using both of these facts to try and talk about something more visceral, even when the discussion gets masked as ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ and ‘history’. That’s where things get bogged down, of course, because on the other side people talk about ’safety’ and ‘law’ in similarly clouded ways.
We need a better discussion. Perhaps our love of guns is a type of addiction, like alcohol or tobacco. I’ve lost friends to both substances, and yet I don’t want to ban them – which makes no sense, either. What I’d like to do is prevent the people who become dangerous around any of these things – guns, alcohol, or tobacco – from wreaking havoc and killing themselves or others.
If we are to have peace in our world we’ll have to wrestle with such difficult and murky problems at some stage. We have to bring people towards the lightness of non-violence, of course, but it may be necessary to understand the dark of the destructive urge as well. We cannot pretend it isn’t there. It’s in all of us to some extent. The Hindu pantheon shows us Kali, for example, who is a powerful god of death and destruction – and also of re-birth – and she is a reminder that we can’t turn our backs on the chaotic part of ourselves without shutting out the very core of our energy.
Perhaps it’s time we embraced gun owners, too, by asking them what we can do to help them feel safer without weaponry, and by facing our own fears of what the world may bring to us. It would be a step, if only a small one, towards reducing the warfare on the mean streets of our cites, for example. And if we are to eradicate war with a capital W, then we have to start somewhere.
Being in a relationship is a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, not all wonderful experiences are meant to last. In fact, more often than not when a relationship ends it is typically over faster for one person than the other. The worst relationship breakups occur when one person just wants out and the other person desperately wants to stay in.
No matter how hard you to fight to keep the relationship going if the other person is out they are out. There is no amount of pleading, begging, crying, chasing, bargaining or threatening that will make them come back. But, for some reason, you are not willing to let go. Have you ever thought about why you can’t let go? Why are some people unable or unwilling to accept the end of a relationship, even if it wasn’t that good for them in the first place?
Often the reason that people cling to a bad relationship or a dead romance is because they have a real internal fear that they can never achieve another interpersonal relationship connection. Sometimes this thought has evolved over time and with influence from the other person in the relationship. If this is the case the last thing you need is another relationship at this time. You are already a prime candidate for finding a partner that is at best likely to be very controlling and at worst abusive.
The best way to get over a bad breakup or a relationship that you desperately wanted to save is to get out of the dating game and focus in on yourself. To do this try at least one of the following tips to controlling your own destination and getting your life back on course.
Tip 1: Set A Personal Goal
This needs to be a non-romantic or dating goal. Pick one area of your life that you want to improve and set a “do-able” goal in that area. Maybe you want to learn how to skydive or you want to take a ballroom dancing class. Maybe you want to run a 10k or take a photography course. Whatever it is make it something you want to accomplish for yourself.
Tip 2: Determine What Makes YOU Happy
Stop and think about all the things in your world that make you happy. What do you enjoy doing, what is important in your life and what makes you smile? Then, start to think about how your want your next partner to represent those things that make you happy. Make a list of what the new partner needs to have as their personality traits and characteristics.
Tip 3: Think Positively About The Future
Stop focusing on what didn’t work and what you wished had happened; that is all in the past. Instead, focus on a positive future with the right partner that is as in love with you as you are with them. See this relationship as a truth in your world. See your future as positive, happy and, when you are ready, full of the love that you desire.
Only by making these personal changes will you be in the right emotional and spiritual space to make the most of a new relationship. You will have dealt with the past and moved into a new era of making choices based on your own positive future.
Sometimes when people are walking their pathway toward recovery from an addiction they tend to look only towards the big picture. This means that they miss out on the small details that can help in the day to day issues that everyone faces when making life changes. One of the most overlooked aspects of personal care in recovery is managing the stress, anxiety and inner tension that can be triggered by any number of given events and situations.
Let’s look at this in a step by step fashion. Understanding your options to relax using controlled breathing is a major breakthrough for most people and it all starts with being mindful of changes that occur in your body when you are put in a stressful or anxiety provoking situation.
Step 1 Understanding Relaxed Breathing
The first step in being able to know when you are reaching a level of stress or anxiety that is problematic is to first know how your body acts in a relaxed and stress free state. To do this take a few minutes when you are not frustrated, worried or tense and close your eyes. Feel the way that your breathing pattern naturally occurs. Visualize the air moving into your nose, through your airways and into your lungs. Notice how your lungs expand in inhalation and contract when you exhale. Your breathing is deep and long and very soothing.
Step 2 Learn How To Take A Complete Breath
In “The Law of Sobriety” I provide a detailed explanation of taking a complete breath, also known as Pranayama. Start by lying down with your eyes and mouth closed one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose and feel your lungs and chest expand. Hold the breath for a moment and breathe out feeling the lungs empty. Hold this for a second and then breathe in again. By increasing the duration of inhalation with relation to holding and exhaling you can increase your energy levels. Exhaling slowly and longer will increase your feelings of relaxation.
Step 3 Breathe With Mindfulness
Once you have practiced complete breaths in a quiet location you can start to use the technique anywhere. When you notice your breathing patterns change to become quicker and shallower you will recognize that is a sign that you are starting to feel anxious, nervous or stressed. When this happens you can immediately practice complete breathing to provide natural stress relief. This, in turn, allows you time to stop, think and relax, assisting you to continue on the positive path to recovery from any type of addiction.
The summer is finally here! As we welcome the warm weather, the sunny sky and the thought of vacations and exciting times with our friends and family, we need to take a small step back. Even though your mind may be racing with positive thoughts and energy because the sun is shining, not everyone is abundantly blessed. For most of us, the summer time gives us a few more hours per month to kick back and relax. Have you thought about investing that time and energy into something that will reap benefits far beyond what you would normally expect? When you invest a few hours of time into a charitable activity you are volunteering your way towards personal abundance.
We know that The Law of Attraction tells us that the energy we release to the universe comes back to use many times over. When we volunteer for a cause that is near and dear to us, without the thought of personal gain, you will experience that energy in return. How does this work? It works because giving generously and without thought of self is one of our obligations to the planet and our fellow people.
When we experience great hardships such as being homeless or not being able to eat healthy because groceries are too expensive, people quickly lose hope. The loss of hopes fosters negative energy. Individuals become jaded, upset and extremely angry that they are living hand to mouth. What bigger gift can you give to a human being that is suffering than a renewed belief that people do care?
Our volunteer efforts not only give material resources to those in need, they also give them the spiritual and emotional resources they may not know they need. In my case, I support treatment centers that provide services to those that do not have the financial resources to enter addiction recovery treatment.
I work one-on-one with many clients who need help but simply don’t have the money or insurance that cover addiction recovery treatment. Many are not aware that there are a large percentage of individuals struggling with addiction that want help, but they are turned away. Many treatment centers won’t take insurance, even if the insurance covers the treatment services. These struggling individuals are turned away right when they need help the most.
I’ve spoken and worked with many people in recovery whose drug and alcohol use escalated because they couldn’t receive the help they needed. By investing my time and energy towards helping these individuals, without the thought of self-promotion, I have gained an abundance of positive aftereffects. This is a prime example of how giving positive energy, along with material resources to those in need is rewarded. The reward of abundance by volunteering is the way the world says thank you.
Simply put, the summer often allots extra time. Use those hours to give back and experience an abundance of positive energy.
Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your free E books at http://thelawofsobriety.com/store/ Contact Sherry at for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Listen to Sherry on “A Moment of Change with Sherry Gaba”on CBS Radio
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows. Buddha
With six months to go before the election, President Obama has officially launched his campaign. This is an important time for him not to take anything for granted, but also to stay true to his beliefs and ethics.
It is extremely hard to stay balanced during difficult and challenging times, as there are always those who want to bring you down, who disagree, criticize, or act like they know better. It is obvious that it will be a nasty presidential campaign. Both Obama’s religion and his birthplace are constantly questionedyet he holds his head high, speaks calmly and intelligently, and seems to have no malice. His reaction to such dissenters has simply shown his determination to keep going forward. As he said: “What we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.”
When people speak badly about you, you should respond in this way: Keep a steady heart and do not reply with harsh words. Practice letting go of resentment, and accept that another’s hostility is the spur to your understanding. Be kind, adopt a generous standpoint, treat your enemy as a friend, and suffuse your world with affectionate thoughts, far-reaching and widespread, limitless and free from hate. Buddha
The Buddha’s teaching is based on our interdependence and interconnectedness. In a very broad sense, the role of the president is similar — to recognize how we all affect each other, which is our basic interconnectedness. Obama’s recent announcement of his support of gay marriage is an example of this, as it reflects the desire that all beings be treated equally. As Obama said four years ago: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
We are delighted that Obama has recognized gay marriage as a fundamental right, for the soul is neither male nor female, gay or straight. The cover of Newsweek features an image of Obama with a rainbow-colored halo above his head. The main story is: “The First Gay President.” We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat, sleep, and want to be happy. Love is not determined by gender. Why should anyone be denied the right to live the life they want, as long as they are not creating suffering for another? When we first met with the Dalai Lama at his residence in northern India we prostrated before him, as is the custom. He quickly lifted us up saying, “We are all equal here.”
But the differences between us can be huge. Although Obama pledged bipartisanship, in the last four years we have seen the worst partisanship ever, with the Republicans determined to say “no” to whatever Obama proposes. To find unity, we have to go beyond those differences; we have to surrender our own needs for the benefit of all. In the process, our enemies can teach us great patience and even compassion!
It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways. Buddha
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. Buddha
There have been some great achievements in the last four years as well as promises that haven’t been kept. But perfection is knowing ones own imperfections, which gives us the ability to get up each time we fall.
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. Buddha
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The first political prisoner campaign I got involved in after Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were released on September 21, 2011, was the Free Saeed Malekpour campaign. Saeed is a 36 year old Canadian permanent resident, who was arrested in Iran in October 2008, a few days after he had arrived from Canada to visit his ill father. Saeed’s father died from a brain tumor shortly after Saeed was imprisoned.
Saeed was sentenced to death on October 2010. The only evidence used to condemn Saeed to death are false confessions he gave two years ago while subjected to physical and psychological torture. Iran’s Supreme Court subsequently repealed his death sentence due to discrepancies in his case file. The Supreme Court mandated the Revolutionary Court to conduct a full judicial review into the discrepancies. Despite that ruling, the Revolutionary Court reinstated Saeed’s death sentence in November 2011, and the Supreme Court upheld it.
According to Ann Harrison, Amnesty International‘s interim Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa,
“By confirming Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence after an unfair trial, the Iranian authorities are sending a message to Iranians not to freely express their views, or even to help others to do so, including on the internet.”
I learned of the renewed urgency of Saeed’s case from Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed, based on her experience of being arrested in Iran at age 16 and imprisoned for two years. I met her at a moving talk she gave in Toronto about “living through trauma, and the power of telling one’s story.”
I bought her first book during the imprisonment of Josh, Shane and Sarah, but could not bring myself to read it. I was traumatized enough knowing that Josh was being held hostage in Evin prison that I feared what knowing the details of his imprisonment would do to me. I feared being in so much pain that I would be unable to fight for his freedom.
It was very healing for me to feel such an instant connection with Marina because of our overlapping experiences, and to hear her great joy about the final freedom for Josh, Shane, Sarah and all of us who fought so hard for them through our intense pain. She urged me to get involved in the campaigns of Canadian citizens and permanent residents on death row in Iran. As a Canadian citizen myself, speaking out for fellow Canadians, felt like a necessary next step.
Marina connected me with Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a human rights activist who coordinates the campaign to free Saeed. Maryam and I also connected very easily through our overlapping experiences and shared passion for justice. She too was compelled to fight for Saeed as a fellow Canadian. She told me that she was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from my experience with the Free the Hikers campaign. It was heartwarming for me to hear that something constructive could come from such a traumatic time for me. It was even more heartwarming for me to hear her say,
“The release of Sarah, Shane, and Josh from Evin gave me hope that we could do the same for Saeed and the hundreds of others unlawfully imprisoned in Iran.”
When I asked Ardeshir Zarezadeh, Executive Director of ICHR, to explain what compels him to fight for Saeed, he cited the false accusations and grave injustices against Saeed, along with his grossly unfair trial and false confessions made under torture. It was clear that he has grown accustomed to defending Saeed. I sensed that he was driven by something much more personal, as so many in the Iranian diaspora are. I asked if he was comfortable sharing his personal motivations. He told me that he knew what being imprisoned in Iran felt like. He was arrested 12 times and spent two years in solitary confinement there.
“I was in jail and I know how hard it is staying in solitary confinement and being tortured for false confession. When a prisoner gets tortured while in a cell without any connection [to the outside world], its the end of their world.”
I fought with every cell in my body to ensure that Josh, Shane and Sarah knew they were not alone and I am compelled to do the same for Saeed. As I said in my statement outside the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa,
“Like Josh, Shane and Sarah, Saeed needs us to be the voice that is being stolen from him. He needs us to fight for the human rights he is being denied. He needs us to fight for his life. The life that will be taken from him if we are silent.”
This post is the second in a series of seven posts to mark 7 months of FREEDOM for Josh, Shane, Sarah and all of us who fought so hard for their freedom. Each post will feature one cause that I am currently working on through Farahway Global and encourage you to support the cause with concrete actions. Stay tuned for the rest of the series focused on human rights and mental health issues.