Bonjour mes belles Athenites,
If my entry feels a little thin this week I apologize, but I have a good excuse, I swear! I am currently cramming to prepare for an unexpected interview for a journalism assignment.
I decided on a whim that I would try to get in contact with the wife of suspected al-Qaeda sleeper agent Mohamed Harkat. He has been under strict house arrest conditions for the past three years. Her name is Sophie Harkat. I never expected to hear back, thinking that as a student, I would be last in a long line of professional journalists who would want to interview one of the subjects in such a high profile case. But she called me back within half an hour. So I am preparing for the interview tomorrow. I want to know; what does it mean to be the wife of a "terrorist"? I am planning on posting part of the transcript in my next entry.
Although this case is local, as the key players, Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie live in Ottawa, the issue itself goes beyond our town, province and country. That is, the issue of this post-9/11 hysteria. Mohamed Harkat is an Algerian immigrant who worked as a pizza delivery man and gas station attendant when he was arrested in 2002. Canada’s intelligence agency CSIS believed that he had links to al-Qaeda. He has been held under the controversial security certificates which allow the Canadian government to detain immigrants who are considered threats indefinitely without charging them and without providing the evidence that would be used against them. Harkat spent three and a half years in prison and the following three years or so under house arrest. His wife or mother-in-law must be with him at all times, he cannot use a computer or telephone, he has a GPS attached to his ankle, and if he wants to leave the house, he and his wife are followed by CSIS goons.
But as of Monday’s decision by Judge Simon Noel, most of these restrictions have been lifted, much to the relief of Mohamed and Sophie Harkat.
Here we see Canada, a country who has always claimed to be a champion of human rights, falter. How can a country who believes that its place is to go abroad and impose its moral causes on others, not respect the civil liberties of its own people? The Harkats lived under constant surveillance for over three years. No privacy. No freedom to do as they pleased. And why? Because the government “suspected” he was a terrorist. But provide the public with the information? Nope. Charge the suspect? No way. Allow the suspect to see the evidence against him? Are you kidding?
The fear of terrorism is legitimate. But to what lengths will we go to protect ourselves? All of these cases need to go through due process. If they’re proven guilty, fair enough. If they’re proven innocent, let them free. But just because terrorism is such a hot topic right now does not mean that we can overlook the justice system that we as Canadians are proud of.
Now, I know I have strayed from the issue of women in the world, but I feel that women’s rights are human rights. A story like Mohamed Harkat’s affects so many people in different capacities. I hope that my interview tomorrow will bring light to what it means to be the wife of a so-called “terrorist”. Sophie called herself her husband’s jailer, in that it was up to her to make sure that her husband adhered to all of his bail conditions. Did she ever falter? Did she ever doubt his innocence? It must have been difficult to hear the government and court rulings repeat over and over again that your husband is guilty, when he tells you he is not. How does such an individual cope? She is an example of a strong woman who has stood up for her beliefs and she continues to do so. I want to know how she does it.
For more information on the latest in the case visit: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Harkat+revels+found+freedom+vows+clear+name/2020368/story.html
To find out how you can get involved, check out: http://www.justiceforharkat.com/news.php
Wish me luck tomorrow!