Speech on behalf the South Asian Women’s Community Centre (SAWCC)
Spoken in front of CIC, January 31 2014 solidarity picket
I hate this.
I shouldn’t have to do this.
I don’t want to do this.
I hate being scared and frustrated all the time.
I hate that I have to defend my love for and desire to be with the people I call my family. I hate that I have to tell you my story over and over again hoping that this time you’ll listen.
But wait. This isn’t my story.
This is Mrs. Awan’s story, and she couldn’t be here today. In August 2013 Mrs. Awan rejected her deportation and has since been living in sanctuary. She has limited access to health care and lives under constant stress and fear.
Mrs Awan is the courageous woman whose incredible love, rage and strength keep her fighting for the bond she has with her family every single day. Today we stand here as supporters. We recognize that no one has the right to speak for her, especially not the government of Canada.
We’re here to send a message to Minister Chris Alexander. Take advantage of the new year – make a resolution to stand up against the racist and violent immigration policies you have supported in the past. No one should have to experience the stress and trauma Mrs Awan and her family go through.
The injustice must stop. Grant Mrs Awan status.
Spoken at the January 31 picket in front of Citizenship and Immigration offices
A letter of love, rage and commitment
This is a love letter, it is a letter to tenacious human beings who occupy our hearts, it is a letter expressing deep respect for Khurshid Begum Awan, for Tahira Malek, for Ali. These are words attempting to meticulously stitch each moment of injustice confined within the walls of a church, these are sentiments attempting to channel collective fury…in thinking about the indignity faced by this family. This is a love letter for all the moments we share amidst the violence you live, moments of care, moments narrating stories, Khurshid, and of feelings so boldly shared, Tahira. This is a letter of herstories, of intricately chosen words to depict the survival that is you. Living through past wars, the trauma of living at the hands of ethnic violence and that of an abusive son-in-law, or an abusive x-husband. This is a love letter attempting to reciprocate all that it is you bring to us, Awan family. Phonemes can only reverberate so much of what is in us. How do we collectively channel our rage?
And so, this letter also becomes a letter of outrage. This is a letter of anger, of unrestrained anger, against a system that wreaks havoc in the lives of Khurshid, of Tahira, of Ali, of Mohamad Khalil Awan. This is a letter of rage against this building, of all that it has come to represent for those who have been criminalised, criminalised for migrating. This is a letter denouncing the Immigration Minister. A letter denouncing his callousness in failing to grant status with a stroke of a pen. This is a letter against a system based on power. A system that incites violence in the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants. This is a letter of us choosing to never forget. To stop and take a breath. This is a letter attempting to understand the heart-break, the news about the treatment and death-suicide of
Lucia Vega Jimenez at the hands of CBSA. This letter is that of lexicon fragmented. Of hearts-broken,
Of crossed borders, Of stress, Of fears, Of tears. This letter is one of encapsulating moments of sorrow,
of honouring a human being, moments of rage and anger.
And so, this letter of love and rage, becomes a letter of ongoing commitment. One to the Awan Family
and migrants simply desiring to live a life of freedom. As the Awan Family Support Committee we will continue to scream, to shout, to denounce, we will be with you, hum aap keh saath hein. With each fibre, we see you struggling, we feel you fighting. We will continue to fight alongside you. We acknowledge your defiance, Khurshid, in resisting your deportation. Brave Woman. We will chant alongside you, Tahira, strong and beautiful as you rebel against a system that is inhuman, and unjust.
Resilient Woman. Until status is gained, until the family is reunited, we will continue.
Azaadi Azaadi Azaadi.
With much love, full of rage, and conscious commitment to you dearest family.
COME by Malek Yalaoui
a poem to honor the very brave Khurshid Begum Awan
We came because they said it would be better. Said it was all open opportunities and dreams fulfilled and children educated and cities where you were free to roam and to speak.
We came here because home is hostile. You sent billions to men who did not represent us, who only sought to oppress us. And with your money they bought mansions and machine guns. Armies with artillery as far as the eye can see. You blamed us for the corrupt governments you yourselves installed and supported. Winking at false elections and ignoring our protests as paranoid speculation.
We left because we were afraid to speak in our homes. We left because they stole our businesses from us. We left because our children deserve better than scant education and no hope of work for those few that make it.
We did not want to leave but we had no choice. Not after you came in ships, dressed for war. Not after drones and slave-stealers and divide-and-conquer tactics and a neoliberalism that empowered our oppressors to shut down the schools and defund the hospitals. Not after your relentless all-white media campaigns coming and convincing us that even our own skin was shameful. Thant speaking our language was the mark of miseducation. That our men were brutal and our mothers ugly.
And so we came. Convinced of better across the ocean. You came to us and so we thought it opportune to come to you.
We came because they said it would be better but now better has turned bitter as we discover that you don’t want us.
You ask about our educational background and financial capacity. About the languages we speak and the politics we hold. All the questions we weren’t able to ask you when you came to us.
Why these questions we wonder but of course we already know. Now as then resource extraction in your game. See you mined the land, ripped out the rivers, decapitated the mountains until nothing was left. Nothing but us. Yes, us. After all, there’s still blood flowing in these veins, sweat slick on face – there is still gold of some sort to be mined.
WORK! you scream. Work. Work until there is nothing left in you but to sit silently and watch on the television screen the lives of those who have “leisure time.”
And for those of us who cannot work? Cannot fill your factories and farms and feeding houses – you have no use for us. No patience, no papers. No patience, no papers.
See we came because we thought it would be better but now better has turned bitter.
But listen to me – you should have cut out my throat, torn apart my vocal chords because as long as there is breath in this chest I will fight. We will fight.
We will fight and we will scream and we will unit and we will dream. And we will win.
This poem is dedicated to resistance. To the airport you did not build in Mexico and the mines you did not install in India. For the pipeline that will not be built on Turtle Island and the lives you have not yet destroyed despite your very best efforts.
So come. Come into the hospitals and steal the sick. Come into the schools to intimidate the children. Come with your riot gear and your best attempts at assimilation. We are ready to meet you. We are not afraid, we will not compromise, we are willing to resist until all of us die and know even then that we have poured into the hearts of our children the cause of justice so that, when it is their turn, the next generation will be prepared to fight.
So come. Come.