6.16.2005

censoring the dead

Naomi Klein and Aaron Mate, a journalist and researcher from Montreal, have a written an excellent and disturbing piece for Common Dreams.
Even after her death, it seems the attacks on Zahra Kazemi will not end. It was only two months ago that Canadians were stunned by new evidence that the Montreal photojournalist was tortured to death while in Iranian custody. Kazemi was arrested in June 2003 while taking photographs outside of a prison in Iran, the country of her birth. To punish her for this transgression, Kazemi's captors raped and beat her, according to a doctor who fled Iran to tell the story.

Close to two years later, there are new attempts to cover Kazemi's lens, to prevent her photographs from reaching public eyes only now the censorship is happening inside her adopted country of Canada. Last week Montreal's Cote St. Luc Library removed five of Kazemi's photographs from display after Jewish patrons complained of alleged "pro-Palestinian bias"; they left up the rest of the exhibition, which had already been displayed in Paris. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, called the removal of the Palestinian photographs "a violation of my mother's spirit" and rightly demanded that the library show the entire exhibit or nothing at all. So the library took down the entire show.

. . .

It's not too late to make things right. Kazemi's work must be immediately remounted, but on a much larger scale. It would be a particularly powerful gesture if members of the Canadian Jewish community, who are well known supporters of the arts, stepped forward to help hang Kazemi's photographs - all of them - on the walls of a major Canadian museum.

This would demonstrate that Canadians are capable not only of condemning censorship when it happens in far off countries, but are committed to defending the principles of freedom of expression and a genuine diversity of views and opinion here at home.

It would be a fitting, if modest, way to pay our respects to a Canadian hero who was murdered because she believed that these ideas are more than theoretical.
Similar issues arise - with similar results - in New York, where often, anything not from a 100% pro-Israeli point of view is attacked. And of course it happens on a much larger scale to any exhibit seeking to portray another side of any US war.

I'll try to follow this one, but if anyone sees an update, please feel free to send me a link. Klein's and Mate's story here.

15 comments:

G said...

Here's the update you were looking for. A Jewish group has stood up to the censorship. Only in Canada would they do that ... political games have little hold on our belief in rights ... yay for Canucks (and soon-to-be Canucks also for bringing attention to such important stories as this)!!

Jewish Group Wants Kazemi Exhibit Restored

This is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful article that speaks a truth we all hope for, but rarely see ... people on one side of a conflict who WANT all sides to be heard, and WANT debate to be fostered!!! Where oh where has that been lately??? God, I love this country!!!

On a side note, I'm glad the CBC caught wind of this and posted it. Speaks highly to Canadian values ... once again they held true to their mandate and didn't sell out to partisan politics. Wish more news did that.

RobfromAlberta said...

Tension between Jews and Palestinians in Montreal is very high. By an odd coincidence, those two ethnic communities are unusually large in the city. A couple of years ago, there was a riot at Concordia University over a planned speech by Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian student society and some of their sympathizers basically trashed the place and Netanyahu was unable to give his speech.

Lone Primate said...

What Rob says is true, which I think makes this gesture by a segment of the Jewish community all that much more powerful and healing. The potential for rapprochement is inestimable.

Lone Primate said...

Hmm, here's something sort of quasi-semi-related...

Quebec private schools must allow religious headwear... A decision by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

L-girl said...

Thanks, G! Very cool. However, I must quibble.

Only in Canada would they do that

We would do it in New York, too. There is major Jewish support for precisely that kind of thing here in the bluest of blue cities.

There's also a lot of tension of the kind Rob mentioned, especially in the universities (like Columbia or NYU).

Anyway, it must be nice to love your country. *sigh*

G said...

Well, that's just why I put it that way ... while I know it's not entirely accurate (many in the US would do that also - though perhaps not as many as would turn a blind eye), sometimes it does feel that way when watching the news lately ... so I do stand by it as it (to me) is perfectly evocative of the feeling.

L-girl said...

Well I wasn't asking you to retract it. :) Just know that progressive Americans are fighting the good fight. You don't see us on the news, but we're all over the internet.

G said...

As I have happily noticed.

And I wasn't hinting at retraction, just being an overly-apologetic Canadian. Well, here, at least. Not so much in other postings today though. :-)

L-girl said...

just being an overly-apologetic Canadian.

I have to get used to that. Maybe lose a little of the New York attitude and get in touch with the niceness within. I know it's in there somewhere. :)

Lone Primate said...

Only in Canada would they do that

We would do it in New York, too.

Well, that's just why I put it that way ... while I know it's not entirely accurate (many in the US would do that also...


Oh, hey, it's okay, G. How many times in our lives had we had to listen to "ONNNLY IN AMERRRRRICA would... [insert comment on prosperity, democracy, freedom, excess, stupidity, etc., common to most of the Western world if not humanity in general, here]"? You see a chance to crow, go for it. We've earned it. :D

L-girl said...

Ha ha, I thought of that, too. To make matters worse, here in NYC we love to say "only in New York" about, oh, any crazy thing. It's true, why not give Canada some.

G said...

Thanks.

And for my part I will consider taking some of the LB persona into my comments on other sites. This multi-layered thing gets confusing after awhile. ;-)

L-girl said...

Well, now I'm truly confused. Ah well. This communication thing - absent facial expressions and voice cues - is hard. Even with smileys.

G said...

A dry joke that didn't quite pan out. Worry not, my friend.

L-girl said...

K. Thanks. Smiley.