Canadian Citizen Still Missing
Almost three months after being detained, Maher Arar's family is still trying to make sense out of the allegations against him. No clear answer has been provided to date and Monia Mazigh, wife of the detained Ottawa resident, is frustrated with a process that does not provide an opportunity for an accused to defend himself.
She still maintains that her husband is innocent and is firm in her resolve when she says "my husband is Canadian so I don't know why the Syrian government is keeping him. I think the pressure is on the Canadian government to get one of its citizens back to Canada".
On September 26th, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin was detained in New York on his way to Montreal. He was subsequently deported to Syria on October 10th by the United States. In Ottawa, his wife and two children anxiously awaits his return.
So far Maher Arar's case has attracted media attention in Canada and overseas. Coverage in the media focused on the allegations and actions of various countries and authorities. Since September, his wife Monia has been a pillar of strength for their two young children and has been persistent in keeping her husband's case alive. Throughout this ordeal, she has surfaced as a woman of tremendous inner strength and fortitude. She continues to deal with all aspects of the case; she comfortably deals with the media, government authorities, and individuals and groups who are willing to lend support to her cause.
"The case has become a political issue, but one must not forget that there is a human side to the issue, where a happy family is being destroyed", said Monia. Life is getting more and more difficult for her as she tries to cope not only with all the challenges surrounding her husband's detainment but also the daily chores to care for her two young children; daughter Baraa, age 6 who is in grade one, and son Hud who is just 10 months old.
Monia has had the difficult task of trying to explain to her daughter what has happened to her father. She indicated that Baraa did not understand what was going on and was confused about the whole situation. For an adult it was also difficult to comprehend what had happened amidst the allegations, lack of information, secrecy, and media reports, much less trying to explain this to a child. "I thought that it would be a couple of days and we would see Maher back", said Monia reflecting back to September. "I tried to explain to my daughter that her father was sent back to Syria and about what had happened", stated Monia.
Baraa asks for her father and misses his presence. Just a week ago Baraa was watching a television program in which she saw a jail and asked her mother whether her dad was in a jail like that. Monia related "I said yes, it might be. It is maybe harsh but she must at least understand what a jail is. It is the human side of the story. It seems to me that nobody pays attention to that because the case is more political than anything else, but who cares about a small girl asking about her dad".
In describing her husband, Monia said "Maher is not the kind of guy who comes back from work and go and watch T.V. - he was so devoted to his family; he took Baraa to the park, the playground, everywhere. She misses all these things and all the affection a father can give, she is missing his presence at home".
The month of Ramadan (month of fasting) just came to an end and Muslims around the world and in Canada celebrated one of the important festivals in Islam, Eid Al Fitr. For a Muslim, it is one of the most important social and family event. For the Arar family it was a difficult period to deal with, but it was also a time to live the discipline and patience learned during the month of Ramadan. Baraa prepared an Eid card (greeting card) for her dad to express her affection for him. The card was given to Foreign Affairs to deliver to Maher Arar in Syria; to date Monia Mazigh has not received any confirmation that the card was delivered.
With limited resources at her disposal, Monia Mazigh is hopeful that the Canadian government will continue to press her husband's case. Maher Arar was the sole breadwinner for his family. With his absence, it is becoming increasingly difficult for his wife to support the family. "I am looking for a job but in addition to the slowdown in the job market, I am faced with the additional challenge of negative attitudes toward the appearance of a Muslim woman who shows her conviction. I hope I will find employment soon because it is not easy to support a family without any financial support".
Monia Mazigh sees her personal situation as just an example of what is still yet to come for others. She hopes that the Muslim community, other ethnic communities, and Canadians at large will wake up and realize that the society is changing and that reactions by various governments and agencies can go to extremes when dealing with their citizens and in introducing new laws. "Everybody must be aware and involved because it's our freedom here that is being attacked", she remarked.
Monia Mazigh's struggle has taken on a broader dimension. She sees her efforts as contributing to the greater good of other people as well. She stated "my situation asks a lot of important questions here in Canada; about the role of Canada, about the Muslims in Canada, and about our children's future. All of these questions have been important in the past but now they are more and more pertinent as they have another dimension now".
Monia expressed her appreciation to her friends who have been "wonderful and have given her the moral support" to deal with the crisis. She was also impressed with the friends and work colleagues of her husband who were very anxious about the whereabouts of her husband from the very beginning. She was still in Tunisia when many of them were sending email.
When asked about how others can help, she said that she hopes that ordinary Canadians and politicians would continue to place pressure on the Canadian government to keep the issue alive and as a priority. She said "I am expecting a better understanding of the case and firm action and a clear explanation from the Canadian government".
She was very pleased with statements from Foreign Affairs and support from politicians such as Alexa McDonough and the NDP who lent their support from day one. Monia was extremely angry with the comments by the Canadian Alliance Party and certain media outlets. "They have attacked my husband with very dangerous allegations and rumors without any clear proofs or substantiated facts. The Canadian government has not made available such information or accused my husband of any wrongdoing. I don't know how they came to such conclusions", remarked Monia.
Monia Mazigh had greater expectations of the Muslim community in embracing her husband's case. Whether it is a lack of organization or fear, the Muslim community has not been sufficiently aggressive in applying pressure on the Canadian government. "The Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada (CAIR-CAN) has been following the case from the very beginning and so far I am very happy with what they have done", said Monia Mazigh.
With respect to the Muslim community at large, Monia said "I think they are so scared by what is happening around the world that they want to keep their distance". She hopes that the Muslim community will be more active because what has happened to her husband can happen to another person in the community and that everybody should take an interest because our freedom, as Canadians, is being attacked. Monia emphasized that "the issue is important enough since it has implications for all Muslims and the future of our children".
Monia Mazigh summarized her feelings by saying: "I don't know how long my husband's case will continue. All I am requesting from the Canadian government is to bring Maher back to Canada and give him the rights he deserves as a Canadian citizen. Right now I am concerned about his safety and I hope that he will be offered the assurance to continue living here with his family in a safe environment. I don't think I am asking too much".
WIFE OF MAHER ARAR TO HOLD CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
Monia Mazigh to call for monthly vigil until her husband is released.
On Monday, December 16,2002 Monia Mazigh will be attending a candlelight vigil on Parliament Hill to call for the release of her husband Maher Arar. Monia Mazigh will attend the vigil with her two young children. She will ask Canadians to hold a monthly vigil until her husband is released.
Source: OTTAWA MUSLIM NETWORK
Topics: Canada, Family, Syria
Unless, I fear, the Canadians don't care if it came to a "Muslim" citizen. I pray to God that's not the case. I lived in Canada for 2 years and enjoyed the goodness of the Canadians.
Please start a petition where its voice can wield clout powerful enough to rouse the courage of the Canadian government. Time is of the essence.
The arrest of Mr. Arar and his deportation to Syria without due process of law as a Canadian citizen is a violation of his rights as a citizen as well as violation of his human rights according to the United Nations Charter.
I call on all the people of conscience to support Mrs. Arar and other individuals and organizations who are working to obtain the release of Mr. Arar by the governement of Syria and his safe return to his family and Canada as soon as possible.
remmember Allah is most just and merciful.may you see the day soon when your husband comes home.