Thursday, December 18, 2008

a Ghada kind of woman

Ghada Mohamed and me

This is the 2nd Ghada that I know; she is Egyptian Canadian, and had come to Thunder Bay to teach Economics at Lakehead University, but she has since left. The 1st Ghada that I met was also Egyptian, and like the 2nd Ghada, her forte was holding huge dinner parties for women, the more food and the more women, the merrier. These women had a natural talent for organizing and getting people together. I miss those women-only fantastic parties; there was much laughter, dancing, talking, and eating. This photo was taken Feb 15, 2003. Ghada no. 2 and I attended and spoke out at the march and rally here in town when there was a worldwide call to protest against the upcoming US invasion of Iraq. It was freezing that day; about -25c, terrible windchill, yet there was a big turnout of local people--even moms with babes in arms--who walked against the winter winds to add their bodies to the mass that believed then and believe now that invading and occupying Iraq was and is wrong.

Ghada Hussein Al-Almy from Iraq. Rand Corp. photo

This is another Ghada. I don't know this Ghada, but it seems to me that the name, Ghada, is a very strong name. The Ghadas I have known have been intelligent, strong, determined, efficient, friendly, open, warm, and no-nonsense women. The Ghadas I have known did not let an inhospitable climate or adverse unfamiliar surroundings dampen their determination to get things done--in fact, they were the first ones to say, hmmm, what can I do here?

This 3rd Ghada seems like a Ghada kind of woman. Much of the news from Iraq, whether tv, newspapers, blogs, or personal reports, pounds us on the head with the death, destruction, tragedies, ongoing horrors, injustices and irreconcilable problems. This, of course, is crucial to know, to keep in mind, to try in our own way to speak out against, to do something about. Turning a blind eye, moving away with a click of the mouse, or excusing oneself by saying "it's too complicated to understand" or "it's not my problem" or "what's the use?", makes one part of the problem, not the solution. Taking the stance to not be informed of the terrible happenings done in our name is a place of privilege.

Yet, as someone who takes her politics to heart, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of hope. Especially, in these times of the normalization of war, oppression and occupation. Like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, Canada in Afghanistan also is normalized in our media and in our cities, and speaking out against our country's military presence there gets one painted as not "supporting our troops". And too many folks would "just rather not talk about it"; 'it' being those things that are contentious, that can cause disagreements between and among neighbours, families, friends and colleagues.

So, hope is sometimes an illusive thing.

But today, an unexpected feather of hope blew in. Today, one of my friends forwarded to me a recent article on the tradition of Iraqi women's resistance, and I have to say, I felt elated after reading it! These Iraqi women are inspiring! They refuse to be beaten down by despair and are out there making a difference. I love their idea of taking culture as a weapon! They, too, are taking back their streets:

"Almy is a Baghdad University professor-turned-"theater resistance leader," as her fans call her. In the wake of some of Iraq's worst suicide bombings, she and her troupe decided to use culture as a defensive weapon, producing and staging plays that mobilize the audience against violence and killing.
The open-air dramas typically run for two weeks at locations around Baghdad where bombs have been exploded by extremists. Almy's statement to the extremists is simple: "You will not take away our way of life, or our culture."

'We are trying to use culture as a weapon," Ghada told us. "We want to make the terrorists feel the strength of our culture.'"


Merche Pallarés said...

Wonderful post! Yes these Arab women are quite something... such great fighters... If they weren't so much stepped-on in their countries and had access to education, the whole region would experience enormous change.
By the way, I went to school (Holy Rosary, I believe, because I went to several before reaching high school) in Toronto with a Finnish-Canadian, maybe she's your mother??
Just in case, you never know... Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year once again. Love 'n hugs, M.

Merche Pallarés said...

By the way in Canada everyone knew me as either "Mary" or "María". Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

that is interesting; that a Finnish Canadian woman went to a Catholic school--as I am presuming that Holy Rosary must be a Catholic school, with a name such as that. I don't think I've ever come across a Finnish Catholic but perhaps she was originally from eastern Finland and her family is from the Russian Orthodox Church? No, she is not my mother. My mother went to school in Finland, she is Evangelical not Catholic, and besides, she is 75 years old (today!) so she cannot, on 3 counts, be this woman you are remembering.

Mary is a very powerful name. Each summer I think to make a Mary garden, all flowers only white.

Merry Christmas to you, too, and hope for a peaceful new year. I will drop by your blog and leave an English language comment! My Spanish, despite the private lessons I took before I went to Cholula, Mexico, is terrible. I love Spanish, though. I hope one day to learn it, as well as Arabic. And brush up on my Finnish.