Friday, November 20, 2009

We Are Omar Khadr

On November 15 a rally to support the repatriation of Omar Khadr was held in Churchill Square. The event was organized by several groups, including the local chapter of Amnesty International, students from King's College, and Muslim young adults. Around 300 people listened to songs, speeches, and took part in a short march around Jasper Avenue and back to Churchill.

I normally report on these events without leaving much comment. This time, I have a few words based on feedback I have received for taking part in the rally. One such comment is that Khadr is a criminal and thus should not be welcome back in Canada. However, he has not been tried or convicted of anything. He has been held in Guantanamo for the past six or so years - a prison which, according to international law, is illegal. But these same people who criticize Khadr are not calling for steps to be taken against the United States for its war crimes.

Khadr was also a child when the alleged crime took place (the allegation being that he threw a grenade that killed a medic - according to Amnesty, witnesses have since recanted). He was fifteen, for those who may not know. There are special provisions for child soldiers.

Others have criticized his entire family, saying they are enemies of Canada because of their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. I am not saying we have to agree with their religious beliefs. I am not even saying they are necessarily nice people. What I am saying is that Khadr is a Canadian citizen and as such, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens abroad. "We are Omar Khadr" because it is our government and our rights at stake. Once people start being stripped of their human rights, there is the risk that those rights will never be returned and that these violations will be extended to others.

And now, here are the photos from the event.

The videos:

Charlene Scharf with Amnesty International (6:01)
Peter Johnston of the former Alberta Green Party (8:25)
Paula Kirman sings "I Only Ask of God" (4:52)
Marching (3:04)
Rally back in Churchill (1:14)
Closing with "Oh Canada" (0:45)

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