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Posts from the ‘International Affairs’ Category

Remembering the fallen

The Fallen

Tonight is the eve of Remembrance Day and I’m struck by how grateful I feel to be sitting in the warmth and comfort of my own home – unafraid and with ample freedoms. Our country is one of the fortunate ones where people are not actively persecuted for their ideas and opinions, religious beliefs, political dissonance, or under constant threat of war and death.

It has been just under eight years since I was in Afghanistan. I wasn’t there as part of military service, but as a civilian. Upon meeting some of our Canadian troops at a Canada Day event the Consulate was putting on one year, the question I was asked over and over was “how can you be here as a civilian? I can’t even imagine”. Because you see, they couldn’t believe how people like me could go about our days working and living without protection (armed with firepower) – particularly in light of the things they saw and were exposed to on a daily basis. They were all too aware of the constant dangers that faced us all. However, the reality was that people like me were protected… by them. Because they were out patrolling, I got to sleep at night. As one of the protected, I never had to see or be exposed to the kinds of things our military personnel did.

One incident that remains vivid in my memory was a suicide bomber attack on an ISAF troop vehicle right outside my work compound, which resulted in us going into lockdown for over ten hours well into the night. It was the military personnel who cleared the roads, completed two more controlled detonations, and had to deal with the threat of additional suicide bombers who might take advantage of the situation. It was not me. The people like me were inside our compound in lockdown, waiting. Waiting for safety, and eventually, the escorts to take us home. And they did.

I’ll never forget.

And on this eve of Remembrance Day, it seems right that we think back and remember the current and other wars before us and all the men and women who gave their lives for our current future. I was so moved when I came across the news of the project “The Fallen” created by British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss, along with hundreds of volunteers earlier this fall. Read more

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Lest we forget: Time lapse video of Korean flag illustration

This time lapse video shows the progression and completion of an incredible freehand illustration of the Republic of Korea’s flag, done by Korean artist, Kim Jung Gi.

The evocative image carries an equally powerful message: “Never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of Korea’s independence.”

Seeing Kim Jung Gi’s illustration and video, I can’t help but think of the people around the world still fighting for their freedom, democracy, and voice. In these times for those of us living in a democracy, it’s important not only to remember, but also not to take it for granted.

Corruption, parliamentary deadlock… Karzai’s impeachment?

Photo credit: NY Times

When I opened my computer this morning and started puttering around my morning news routine: email >> Twitter >> now Google+ >> blogs >> Facebook… Facebook (double-take), I was surprised to find New York Time’s headline staring back at me. “Afghan Parliament debates impeachment of Hamid Karzai“. Could it be? President Hamid Karzai is now facing the very real possibility of impeachment?

My immediate reaction: Really? It’s finally happening.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nearly five years since my time in Afghanistan. Because of my time there, Afghanistan has always had a special place in my heart — and for my attention, but despite all the news reports that fly towards us from around the world, the true heart of the matter is always hard to gauge unless you’re on the ground. I haven’t been on the ground for nearly five years – so take my opinion with, you know as they say, salt. I’m certainly no analyst or expert.

So with that caveat out of the way – why “finally”?

When Hamid Karzai was first elected into power in 2004, the Afghan nation and the international communities had high hopes. He was the choice candidate for the west, with his iconic dress code and articulate diction, Karzai was famously commented on by then Gucci’s Tom Ford as “the most chic man in the world”. He was also Pashtun, a prominent Afghan tribe from the southern regions like Kandahar and Jalalabad – great as it was expected that he could make big strides in building greater bonds with those regions where the Taliban were known for having a stronghold. Afghanistan was on the brink of change. Progress, development, reconstruction – everyone was excited. Money was pouring in from the international community, and all eyes were watching – none more so than the local Afghan people so hopeful for the bright future ahead of them. Everyone had high hopes. Read more

The Taliban’s growing stronghold

Photo credit: © Vivian Gagliano

 

I was dismayed to read this morning of the recent public execution carried out on Taliban orders this past Sunday. (The full article is on NYTimes.com.) The stoning is significant because it was the first confirmed public execution that has been carried out by the Taliban in Afghanistan since they were in power nine years ago. It also happened in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz where, until more recently, the Taliban presence has seemed almost absent. Although reports suggest that they have always been strong and present, and were merely operating behind a weak central government presence in the area, and are coming out in a demonstration of their strength now.

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G20 visits Toronto. Democracy put on hold.


Clowns and Police
, originally uploaded by MCXL5.

Yesterday marked the first day of the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada. Traditionally, the G20 Summit is met with heavy protests, and a degradation towards violence, and the justification of police brutality. As a result, in the months that led up to Toronto’s G20, the Canadian federal, provincial and local governments joined forces to plan for and prepare for the worse, bringing in security from all over the country, and turning the downtown core, where the Summit would be held, into what has now been coined “the Fortress”. The pricetag: $1.2 billion CDN. Plausibly the most expensive 3-days in Canada’s history, and a historical record for the highest security cost incurred for any Group of 20 Summit.

Government officials have justified the costs as being necessary due to the anticipation of violence.

Canada also took steps to activate temporary laws that enabled police to search, detain and arrest people in and around Toronto’s downtown G20 security zone without cause: laws that fly in the face of Canada’s Constitution.
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