On March 9, 2017 Vancouver Island University welcomed Monia Mazigh, author and human rights advocate to speak with students about Islamophobia, human rights and her two novels, Hope & Despair, and Hope Has Two Daughters.
Monia, a Canadian Citizen, didn’t set out to be a human rights advocate, though she was catapulted into the position after her husband, Maher Arar, disappeared on route to Ottawa, Ontario from a family vacation in Tunisia on September 26, 2002.
The fight to bring Maher home would take over a year, and required significant work to unravel the red tape that kept him from his young family in Canada, a battle which is outlined in Monia’s book, Hope & Despair.
While fighting to bring her husband home, Monia took on the role of single parent, a role that many Canadians know is a difficult place to be in. Being a single parent myself the story of Monia resonated with me as I understood first hand the difficulties that she would have faced, though the parameters of her battle, and the circumstances that she faced are outside of the realms of my wildest imagination.
For myself going through life on a day to day basis as a single parent has become fairly routine, we have our share of struggles and hurdles to overcome, but adding onto Monia’s position was the fact that it was unknown whether she would ever see her husband again, or if he was even still alive. Having the strength to carry on, do what was needed for her family and still fight for her husband’s return is what makes her story so remarkable.
Monia’s story is important as it “isn’t something that happened over there,” Marie Hopwood, anthropology professor at Vancouver Island University says.
We like to believe that human rights are guaranteed, yet Monia’s family “had the blanket pulled out from underneath them,” Hopwood says.
In Maher’s case his Canadian citizenship did nothing to prevent his human rights from being violated. Instead of protecting him, the RCMP provided information that was shown to be false to the US Customs Department that provided probable cause enabling his deportation.
After being deported from New York, Maher arrived in Jordan, and was later moved to Syria, during which time his location was unknown.
More than a year later, news surfaced that Maher was finally coming home, a fate that many detainees in Syria will never experience.
I had the opportunity to discuss with Monia what their experience was like, and the message that rang loud and clear in our communication is that Monia believes that all women have the power inside of them to do amazing things.
While for many women the strength that Monia exhibited in fighting for her husband’s return may seem unobtainable Monia believes that all women are capable of accomplishing more than they believe they can.
“Many women around the globe feel unworthy and underestimate the work they do. It is important to raise strong highly motivated girls by supporting their choices and making them believe in themselves,” Monia says.
Monia’s statement shows that the power to succeed exists within everyone, they just need to be shown that the power is there. As a single mother to two girls, Monia gives me hope for the future and encourages me to help bring out the strength that each of them already carries inside.