Honour Killings and the Story of Banaz Mahmod.

 

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The most shocking thing about Banaz’s death is that she had been in the UK with her family for 10 years when her uncle and father decided that she should die for shaming the family. They were Kurdish, originally from Iraq, and one would think that once an oppressed girl-child had reached the UK, had attended high school in London, that she would have reached a place of safety.

Banaz contacted the police 5 times during the years that her husband, a much older man in an arranged marriage, raped and beat her, and during the years afterward when her family had her followed and attempted to kill her twice in order to bring honour back to the family. As shocking, dozens (perhaps more) people in the ex-pat Kurdish community in London knew of the violence coming to Banaz, and did nothing to help her, In fact, they colluded to obstruct the police investigation into her death and protect the murderers. The police themselves are also clearly at fault for not helping her- a video of one of her police interviews is in the film. (See the photo above.) I don’t understand why she wasn’t taken to a shelter that very day.

For me, this film pounded home the truth that although women have reached a country of safety, they may not be safe at all. I recall a student in our ESL school who admitted to me that her father beat her, locked her in her room and took away her cell phone. This was happening in Ottawa, Canada, although he’d been in Canada for many years. She was new to our country and when I informed her of her rights as an adult here, her jaw dropped and she cried. It was hard for her to comprehend the many choices she had to remedy the situation. I put her in counselling with a professional woman from her own culture, in her language (no, not Kurdish).

I thought she was safe- the counselling occurred during class-time once a week. Her father escorted her to and from school, and there was no way she’d have been able to get counselling any other way. In the end, a member of her community, another student in the school, informed her father, and we never saw her again.

There was nothing more I could do. I consoled myself that in the year she’d been with us, her English had improved and she’d been schooled in her options as an abused woman… she had every phone number she needed for the day she was ready to make her move.

Deeyah Khan, the director of Banaz: A Love Story, was careful to include members of the London Kurdish community protesting at the trial of Banaz’s father and uncle who ended up in prison for their crime. The protesters, holding pictures of the 20-year-old, were verbally attacked by the father as he was escorted past them in handcuffs: “You betray the Kurdish community,” he accused them. A courageous woman answers that he is the one without honour.

Banaz was considered by many to have shamed her family by divorcing the man who raped and beat her from the age of 17 when she was forced to marry him. She later fell in love with a man her age and the family learned of this by following her and having her watched by many in the ex-pat community. She kissed this man in a public place. I won’t reveal too many details here as you may decide to view the documentary yourself. (I will say that it starts with an account of her circumcision at the age of 8 in Iraq- no anesthesia or pain killers, just a knife and her father.)

I was told of honour killings when I was in North Kurdistan in 1996- my husband was trying to impress upon me how very traditional the area was in order to get me to modify my behaviour and appearance. The account is in The Word Not Spoken. Leigh has come to Ahmet’s home village to be married. Jess, a South African already married to a Turk, has come along. She is pregnant, but it is Ramadan and no smoking, eating or drinking is allowed during daylight hours.

“What do you want to do?” Leigh asked Jess.

“If we sit here more than half an hour, guests will come, guaranteed,” said Jess.

“I wouldn’t mind if I could understand them.”

“Hey Leigh, maybe I should warn you.” Jess was pawing through her bag, looking for smokes. “Aha!” she pulled out the soft package.

“You can’t smoke!” Leigh braced herself. “Warn me about what?”

“You have to shave everywhere for your wedding night.”

“What do you mean, ‘everywhere’?”

“Men and women shave their underarms and their pubes on their wedding day. It’s a rite of passage for virgins,” said Jess, taking out a sigara and running it through her fingers.

Leigh tightened her mouth and considered this news.

“I really want a sigara. I don’t have to fast because I’m pregnant, but I shouldn’t smoke for the same reason. A quandary.” Jess paused and looked around. “The answer is to hide and smoke.”

The rain had slowed. They decided to go for a walk to find a corner somewhere. The two women slipped out the front door and turned toward the main street. The village was indeed tiny and remote; it had been only five years since the electrical and phone lines had arrived.

The main street, lined with flat-roofed buildings, was mud. Smaller streets branched off it haphazardly. Leigh and Jess headed down one of these, but it seemed to lead out into an open field—nowhere, to Leigh’s way of thinking. They walked back and across an empty village square. Leigh wondered if a pazaar came there once a week. Somehow she doubted it. Life looked simple. Many people had a garden in their yard. Ahmet had told her that most families had farm land in the area and travelled out by horse and wagon to work on it, but today, few people were working in the rain. A couple of children ran through puddles on the mud street.

A few people waited at the door of a small bakery for the unleavened bread to be ready. No baguettes here. Two old men in line shared a broken but functioning umbrella. Their shoes sunk into the mud, and they seemed stuck there, waiting silently for the next batch. When the steaming bread came to the window, there was sudden activity. The old men were served first, and they shuffled away.

A young boy triumphantly drove by on a bike. He steered with one hand and held bread wrapped in newspaper out with the other. The rain plopped loudly on the newspaper as he peddled by, and Leigh caught a warm whiff.

Chickens wandered in and out of yards and roosters crowed. Women were nowhere in sight, but men shadowed the doorways and street corners. Without exception, they wore takkes, white religious skullcaps. The men returned the women’s stares.

“I don’t think they see tourists here,” remarked Jess.

Leigh felt the men’s stares and shivered. “Don’t they look lost without their sigaras and tea?”

The main street was lined with dark men in baggy clothes. Many wore traditional Kurdish pants, the crotch hanging to their knees. A wide band of material was wrapped at the waist. Mud clung to pant hems.

Some men sat at tables in front of the teahouse; others stood in the street and stared. More men came to see what had quieted the others. No one pretended to be doing anything but staring at the white women: a tall blonde, the other with long loose hair.

Kunda,” said one man.

The women smiled politely and increased their pace. A few children were following them. Every eye in the street watched their progress.

“I don’t think we’re going to get away with a sigara,” Jess deadpanned.

“The baby is happy about it anyway,” said Leigh.

They headed back to the little house, having seen almost every edgeless brown building in the village on their twenty-minute walk. As they approached, Ahmet rushed out to meet them.

“Where have you been? Everyone is worried about you!”

“Really? Where do they think we’re going to go?” asked Jess.

“Jess needs a sigara,” said Leigh.

“You can’t break the fast here, front everyone,” said Ahmet.

“Where can I go then?” asked Jess.

“Here.” He gave her the car keys. “You and Ismail go for a ride.”

“Good idea.” She was immediately cheered and went to find Ismail.

“Ahmet,” asked Leigh, “how do people know which chickens belong to them, when the chickens wander all over the streets like this?”

He laughed. “The chickens know.”

“Oh…the chickens know. What’s kunda?

His eyes opened very wide. “Where did you hear that word?”

“On the street. A man said ‘kunda’ to me.”

Ahmet shook his head, perturbed. “It means prostitute.”

“No!”

He frowned. “I don’t want you to walk alone on the street again.”

“But I was with Jess. What could happen?”

“My Angel. Nothing will happen. But they see a woman who is uncovered, and they think you are a prostitute. Good women cover. That’s what they believe. You can’t change it.” He took a breath, “Will you cover while you’re here?”

“But I’m not Muslim!” Jess said her refusal to wear a headscarf was a fight against becoming invisible.

“Leigh, it is very hard for people here to understand. They don’t see Western ways like they do in Istanbul. They spend their whole lives here, and they are proud of the old ways.”

“But I can’t change myself for them. They will learn from me that some people are different. A good Muslim will not think ill of me if I am Christian. It says in the Quran they must accept all the children of Abraham.” Leigh was tired and her mouth was dry.

Gel.” (Come.) He brought her into the house. They settled by the heater on orange and yellow striped cushions. “Listen me. It is difficult for people in Nevsehir to accept Jess, and she has lived there one year. You will be here only a few days. What will you teach them? My family is here all the time, and you must not shame them. Do you understand?”

“Sort of.” Leigh avoided his eyes.

“Would you walk down the streets of London with no clothes?” asked Ahmet.

“Of course not.”

“Why not?”

“That’s a ridiculous question. It’s against the law first of all.”

“It’s against Islamic law to reveal your legs, arms and hair.”

“But Turkey doesn’t have Islamic law.”

“We are very close to the borders of Iran and Iraq here. The law does not matter. The only important thing is what people believe. You know what Kurds think of the government and polis.”

“Yes, many people in Turkey like to take the law into their own hands, you included.” She was referring to his ex-partners. She traced the cushion stripes with her finger: orange then yellow. The fabric was thick as a kilim.

Ahmet raised a finger. “In this village, last year, a teenage girl had sex. She was not married. Our tradition is Islam. She must be killed by a man in her family to give the family honour again.”

“That’s awful!”

“Her brother sat her in a chair, and he sat in a chair across from her. Then he shot her in the heart.”

“Oh my God!” The bit of pink in Leigh’s cheeks faded. “Did she know what he was doing? Why?”

“Of course! He must do it to her face. There are a few of these murders in Kurdistan every year.” He had her full attention.

“But they are subject to Turkey’s laws!”

Hah. The brother went to jail for seventeen years. He was sacrificed on the family honour.”

“Brother and sister were sacrificed.” She swallowed and wanted water.

“And most people here believe it was right thing.” Ahmet clasped and unclasped his hands, missing his sigara. Leigh watched his hands.

Hey- and I’m not being sarcastic- happy International Women’s Day.

Anniversary gift

Today is my wedding anniversary. I married my Kurdish husband on Valentine’s Day which would be too corny for my taste except that in Turkey the day is not celebrated, and I had lost track of the date.

Benim Bey died many years ago, but he always brings me a gift on this day. I am clairvoyant and those gifts are often energetic- bouquets of roses usually, sometimes a song on the radio. He always visits. I smell him first- cigarettes and body odour. Then I feel him giving me hug from behind, a kiss on my neck. More often now as the years go by, I am able to see him- usually pacing, sometimes dancing with his arms out from his sides, fingers snapping, wrists turning. Such joy pours out of him that it is easy for me to share. I can only laugh. Sometimes I dance with him, and it is as real to me as if he were physically in front of me.

This year my gift arrived a day early. My nephew and I found each other yesterday. “Halil” in my book is an adult now. What a thrill to connect with him! He was just a boy, but he remembers me. I had lost touch with the family, and I always regretted not maintaining contact during my travelling years.

From The Word Not Spoken- this short excerpt is from the end of the book when Leigh visits the family years later. Although names have been changed, the experience is true:

Later, in the front room drinking tea, Leigh understood that although she’d been quickly accepted by this family, she represented more now. She was someone Ahmet had loved, and so she became cherished. She knew how they felt because she felt the same way. Shana’s high cheekbones were Ahmet’s; Berna’s curly smile was Ahmet’s. Anne’s love, Azize’s toughness… Ahmet was in all of them.

Halil was ten and had thinned out. His way of laughing hard while clapping his hands was Ahmet’s; the way he squatted next to his cousin and the evil eye he gave her later–it was all Ahmet. Sometimes Leigh couldn’t keep her eyes off Halil, and she wished (that she had borne Ahmet’s child).

She couldn’t have felt more welcome or more loved. Turkey had always felt like home. She was satisfied down to her bones that it was still so. She had considered Turkey might have been impossible without Ahmet, but now she knew her relationship with the country was a separate enduring thing. She missed him intensely though. She yearned for his face, his voice, his “everything”…laugh, fingernails, carelessness, optimism. She knew he wasn’t coming; she knew she wasn’t waiting for him as she so often had. There was no anxiety, no phone that would ring or not ring, no Ahmet who would bounce through the door laughing at her worry, because the worst had happened, and he was under the ground.

Choose love

Choose love

Healing Sexual Abuse

Recently, I used energy healing to help a woman who was sexually abused by her father ages 2 – 9.

Mary Magdalen stood across from me, and we worked on “Annie” together. I saw her lying under deep water. I unplugged the bottom like a tub and it drained tears and sadness. When the water was gone, I saw a little girl – pale, tiny, naked except for dirty panties. Mary Magdalen told me to cover her. “Not a dress,” I said. Annie did not want to be pretty or accessible. Mary Magdalen said, “Any clothes you want.”

So, I put a thick shirt on her and buttoned it up to her chin. Next- a big bulky sweater, a hood, and then new underwear with yellow ducks, thick jeans, big red wool socks and red kids’ sneakers. (Red for grounding.)

After the procedure, I told her it was not just to cover her, but I felt the clothes protected her somehow.

Annie said she used clothes as protection from her father. She used to wear four pairs of pajamas to bed.

I almost lost it then, thinking of that tiny body and child logic and 8 years.

I did more healing work on her that session. (I generally remove old emotions and stuck energy from organs and chakras.) Her email the following week said that she felt better than she had ever felt in her life. She was euphoric. In the following weeks, she started a new job and a new romantic relationship, feeling safe with a man “for the first time ever.”

A month later, “Danielle” showed up at my door with a wrist that still hurt 9 months after breaking it, with aches that travelled up her arm. The doctor had dismissed her pain as imaginary, insisting the wrist was properly healed.

Muscle testing led me to this equation: Root chakra + father + sore arm / wrist = resisting sexual attack (putting out her hand to stop him and failing to do so).

I balanced the root chakra by removing a metal rod (penis) and a steel box (of secrets).

When I shared this information, Danielle told me that her father had abused her.

Mother Mary came in with blue and white light. She flooded us with intense love. I feel her love as a gentle hand on my left cheek, my heart bursting and goosebumps from head to toes. Mother Mary held Danielle and rocked her as she sobbed. This was a secret she had carried many many years, and just speaking it was a great release.

Next, Mother Mary and I worked on Danielle together. I saw Danielle covered in deep water – overwhelmed. I pulled the plug, and it drained slowly. Then I saw a naked little girl, about 8 years old. She thought she was ugly and worthless. I played with her long blond hair. “Such pretty hair,” I told her. I put a pink bow on one side.

“Such a pretty girl,” I said. I touched her face with love. Mother Mary was doing similar things- washing her, erasing the hurts. This deprived little girl wanted pretty clothes: a lavender dress with pockets and a necklace with a heart charm. I gave her frilly white socks and shiny red shoes.

The above 2 procedures on Danielle took about 15 minutes, but I worked on her for 50 minutes in total. Danielle said that memories had flooded her during this session- things she had forgotten- a rape in the woods, molestation by a teacher. This beautiful woman said that she had felt ugly all her life and had often wondered why men pursued her at all.

Her wrist and arm stopped aching within a day.

_____________________________________________

Shorter version first published in Tone Magazine, Jan. 2017. Email me at thewordnotspoken@gmail.com for a healing session- long distance or in-person (Ottawa) $65.00

Taurus

art

 

 

 

The king’s anger quakes the earth,

buries men alive, splits women open.

Soil-scented pleasures

inflicted by him, mud-wet

treasures and swords belong to him.

He figured it all out as a boy

on a pile of dirt

in his friend’s driveway.

-Laurie Fraser

Strawberry moon and summer solstice

 photo credit

The sky was lightening at 5 am as I hurried to the river’s edge, worried I’d miss the special moment: sunrise on summer solstice. I was warm in shorts and t-shirt as I came to the Ottawa River and stopped short.

There it was! A strawberry moon! Perhaps a little more peach than pink, but oh…. huge, close to the horizon, bright in the morning sky and reflecting on the grey water.

We haven’t had a full moon on the same day as summer solstice since 1967. Today sunrise was at 5:14 am and sunset will be 8:50 pm. It’s a long day for those who are observing Ramadan- 15 1/2 hours without food, water or cigarettes. “Strawberry” refers to June- time to start picking- but also to the colour of the moon, caused by the great distance between the earth and the moon today.

I enjoy exploring the extreme edges of this day. Usually I stay awake all night, awed by how short it is. Tonight as the sun sets, that great pink moon will flood us with light. If it is cloudless, the sky may not darken at all.

I revel in the light, loll about in the warmth, leave sunglasses in the car. My sunrise appreciation was simple- throwing out thanks to the sky listing the many blessings in my life. Then just doing Qigong in the peace – you might think it was quiet, but oh, the quacking ducks, the chorus of birds and my exploding heart…. it was a noisy celebration.

Happy solstice! Light be upon you.

Newroz and the Haft-seen table

Haft-seen table at Saffron Restaurant celebrates Newroz.

Haft-seen table at Saffron Restaurant celebrates Newroz.

Oh happy day: the day we first feel spring in the air. The first day that shoes replace boots- the light feet, the utter joy. That’s the Canadian’s late March experience, but in Mediterranean countries, they are seeing spring blooms by now, discarding jackets, eating the first local greens.

Newroz celebrates the arrival of spring and is usually celebrated around March 20, coinciding with the Northward Equinox. It has been celebrated for centuries in Iranian, Armenian, Azerbaijanian and Kurdish cultures; it was first mentioned in Kurdish poetry in the 16th century.

In Northern Kurdistan (East Turkey), Newroz is almost always celebrated with a picnic. When I visited family there, we lugged a hibatchi-type BBQ out to the woods by a stream, played hide and seek games among the trees, sang songs and feasted on tomato salad, flat bread and chicken (killed in the backyard that morning). Sometimes whole communities celebrate together with dancing and music.

In The Word Not Spoken, Ahmet uses Newroz to divert Leigh’s fears when he tells her on their wedding night that he is a freedom fighter, part of the PKK:

Ahmet hesitated. “We tell tourists and journalists about the human rights abuse and the democracy problem here.”

Leigh was relieved. “You just talk to people?”

“Yes. We are non-violent group.”

“What do you do?”

“I go to meeting every month. Right now we are planning Newroz celebrations and demonstrations.”

Ahmet explained that Newroz was celebrated on the first day of spring in Kurdistan, comparable to a New Year’s celebration in the west. It had never been celebrated by Turks, and so, over the past decades, Newroz had become an opportunity to assert Kurdish culture and identity. Only three years previous, a crowd dancing in a village square in Mersin had been fired upon by watching Turkish tanks.

“Ahmet, you don’t go to the Newroz celebration do you?”

“No. I plan it just, but I cannot be there.”

Leigh gets more information later in the story. By this time, she has met Kurdish refugees dying in tents, and she has started to write their story. Here Ahmet is telling her about his cell’s meeting the night before and what they discussed:

“We are planning Newroz. It is very important, a very strong day for my people.”

March 21st was only a couple of weeks away. Ahmet explained that this would be, as always, a celebration of spring and the new year for the people of East Turkey and parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran. The anti-government groups sought to protect the Kurdish people so that they could dress in traditional costume and dance in village squares without the army harassing them.

“Write this,” dictated Ahmet. “Ahmet says, ‘Freedom is not cheap. It is better for a Kurd to die dancing than in a burning house.’”

“Like that. With his finger in the air,” said Leigh, writing.

Newroz would happen no matter what, Ahmet pointed out. The people would be out. The only variable was what the army’s reaction would be. Some cities planned massive peaceful demonstrations. Others planned simple celebrations. Ahmet said the important thing was the Kurdish people would be seen asserting their identity and culture. The truth was Newroz had become a propaganda vehicle. It was an assertion of Kurdish identity, encouraged by pro-Kurdish groups. Ahmet said the largest demonstrations were organized in cities with weak Kurdish undergrounds. This would occupy M.I.T.’s (the secret police) attention. As well, none of the important leaders would attend. The goal was complete safety for the demonstrators.

“What else did you talk about?” asked Leigh.

This was my reality when I lived in Turkey in the mid-90s. Newroz was a time of fear and supreme courage. I preferred delightful family picnics to public gatherings; I hated the feeling of ducking my head, checking my back, walking in front of soldiers with guns in hand.

I cannot adequately share my shock when during later visits to Turkey I learned that the Turkish government had done an about-face and declared Newroz to be a Turkish holiday! If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I guess.

“The Turkish government suddenly announced that the Kurdish new year’s holiday Newroz, was in fact a Turkish holiday commemorating the day the Turks first left their ancestral Asian homeland, Ergenekon. The day was renamed Nevruz since the letter ‘w’ was not in the Turkish alphabet.” (Nationalisms and Politics in Turkey by Casier & Jongerden)

In Iran, a table called Haft-seen is displayed at Newroz. Haft-seen means 7S because seven items beginning with the letter ‘s’ must be on the table along with other more personal items. The seven items are: “Sumac (crushed spice of berries) to symbolize the sunrise and the spice of life, Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree) for love and affection,Serkeh (vinegar) for patience and age, Seeb (apples) for health and beauty, Sir(garlic) for good health, Samanu (wheat pudding) for fertility and the sweetness of life, and Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass) for rebirth and renewal of nature.” Huffpost Religion

Personal additions to the Haft-seen table may include poetry, books, a mirror (reflection on the past year), a bowl of real goldfish (new life), colored eggs (fertility), coins (prosperity), flowers (spring), and candles (light and happiness).

I photographed this Haft-seen table at Saffron Restaurant, 462 Rideau St., Ottawa. The owner was so pleased with my interest that she explained every item on the table to me.

Haft-seen table at Saffron Restaurant celebrates Newroz.

Haft-seen table at Saffron Restaurant celebrates Newroz.

Happy Spring! Happy Newroz!

Refugee 613

I was teaching “housing” to a literacy class one morning, and I passed around a pile of photos. The photos were of places I have lived: a tiny Japanese apartment with tatami mat floors, a windowless room in Kathmandu, a cave in Turkey, the Canadian bungalow I grew up in. I had photos of residences I have visited: a villa in Istanbul, Windsor Palace, an orphanage in Bhaktapur, a yacht in the Mediterranean, a hut in Kerala… a floor-less tent in Kurdistan.

Kurdish refugee tent, March 1996, Kurdistan

Kurdish refugee tent, March 1996, Kurdistan, photo: Laurie Fraser

A shout rose, “Laurie, my house! My house same!”

Other students joined in- “Yes, same my house! Refugee camp!”

A number of the students were refugees from Bhutan who fled to Nepal 2 decades ago. I was shocked at the recognition- this tent, this shocking poverty- was getting grins of recognition.

Photos credit

I suppose refugees’ homes are similar whether they are great groups of tents (more than 35,000 lived in the Nepali refugee camps at their peak) or 54 people in 3 tents on a great plain (the Kurdish refugees that I met in 1996). Some camps are big enough to attract aid; some are isolated and without aid. But home is home and even in refugee camps I hear of pets, sickness, births, friends, jobs, domestic abuse, alcoholism and weddings.

Bhutanese refugees banner.jpg

Lately I’ve been hearing a good many refugee stories- at fundraisers for Syrians, on the radio and in the newspapers. I heard a Vietnamese refugee speak of her experience as a “Boat Person” in 1978: piracy on the open sea, arrival at Malaysia who turned them away (“We’re full”) and the heroic captain who took his over-filled boat of 300 desperate, sick and twice-robbed passengers back to the Malaysian coast in the middle of night and destroyed the floor of the boat so that it would sink forcing them all to swim ashore where the Malaysians had no choice but to accept them as refugees. And then finding a way out of there and on to Canada, learning English, settling and integrating.

A refugee from Iran told of sitting on her couch ducking as the bombs whistled overhead, yearning to go to school and then the bombing of her school. Just 10 years old and haunted by the school superintendent who had lived there with his family- all were killed as she sat her couch. Now she is a successful professional in Canada- a physician, a mother who sometimes doesn’t want to sleep and see that family in her nightmares.

A young man from Congo who was captured and forced to be a soldier at age 11. He escaped and ran through the jungle for three days. He is a student now at an Ottawa university. He apologized: “My story is short because my age is short.”

And this week a CBC Radio interviewer will come to my school to interview refugees and broadcast their stories. Well, there’s no shortage of stories at my school of 166 students, a third of them refugees. We have a Syrian family already: the mother and father in English class, a preschooler in the childcare. I met the woman in September. “From Syria?” I asked. “Yes”, she understood. “Welcome,” I said, “I am happy you got here.”

The stories are similar. They are of loss and fear and desperation. There is terrible grief for the people left behind. The refugees are similar too, in that they are all wounded. (We have a student who lost her eye when her neighbour’s house was bombed in Baghdad- she considers herself lucky. We have students with bullets in their bodies, students who limp….) They are wounded emotionally and mentally- sometimes they cry and tell the teachers they are like their mother, their sister who died, only because we give them kindness and attention. They can’t focus when they first arrive at school, often still in shock at the changes in their lives.

What do they say about Canada? “I love Canada because Canada is safe.” “Canada is peace. I miss my country but no peace in my country.”

I will never forget a woman who came to school one morning absolutely ecstatic: “My husband go jail! Police come! My husband hitting, hitting. Neighbour telephone 911. Neighbour! I don’t know neighbour- she call police! She help me! My country no one help me. Everyone know refugee camp- my husband hitting, hitting, me crying, crying. No one help me. Canada help everything. I love Canada. I love Canada people.”

I was teaching opposites one day: hot- cold, tall-short, rich-poor. I asked my student, “Are you rich or poor?”. This refugee with a spouse and 2 children receives about $2,000/month from social assistance. Her rent is $1,200. It doesn’t include utilities.

“I am rich,” she answered, smiling.

“Really?” I asked. “Little money, little shopping, small apartment- one bedroom.”

“Yes, rich. Thank you Canada.”

To help the Syrian refugees coming to Ottawa please contact Refugee 613.