Happy New Year!

The Journeys to the Edge team of Roberta Staley and Tallulah Photography would like to thank the incredible supporters who helped make the multimedia show, Afghanistan Rising, such a success in 2013. We’ve got lots planned for 2014, including bringing the second recipient of the J2E Emerging Journalist Scholarship award to Canada to obtain advanced digital filmmaking and journalism skills. The first scholarship recipient was Sebastian Petion of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who is back in his home country working for various international media outlets.

To close our New Year’s message, J2E would like to give special thanks to the following individuals who, without their help, neither J2E nor Afghanistan Rising would have been possible: über web designer John Ngan, intern Kari Barret, technology wizard Bryce Ferris, Chapel Arts Club owner Nathan Weins, musicians Levi and Elliott of Parentheses, as well as the following businesses: Lace Embrace Atelier, RMT Massage from the Electra Health Floor, Rawket Chocolate, Finlandia, Paranada, The Eatery Restaurant, Mystic Masala, Creampuffs, Rayne Longboards, Hair Cats, Fairview Plastic Surgery, Renaissance Spa, Queensberry Flowers and Three Birds Bodycare and Massage.

May you have a happy and fruitful New Year!Burka. Afghanistan

Farewell to Nelson Mandela – Peacemaker

Several years ago, the Journeys to the Edge team of Roberta Staley and Tallulah Photography travelled to Soweto, South Africa to report upon the efforts of a palliative care organization that supported slum dwellers who were suffering HIV-AIDS alone, immobilized and unable to feed themselves or travel to obtain their antiretroviral drugs.

Soweto, which was the heart of the anti-apartheid movement, is also the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, which killed 1.7 million people in 2011 alone, and has killed about 35 million since 1981, when statistics were first compiled.

In 1981, Nelson Mandela, also known by his Xhosa clan name ‘Madiba,’ was still behind bars in his prison cell on Robben Island. But the tide was turning against the apartheid regime that imprisoned him in 1964. International pressure helped secure Mandela’s release in 1990 and Mandela, who became president in 1994, dismantled apartheid.

One of the places that Journeys to the Edge visited was Regina Mundi Church, which held a rousing and moving memorial service for Mandela on Dec. 8. If Soweto was the heart of the antiapartheid movement, then Regina Mundi Catholic Church was the centre of its heart. Within the embrace of its red brick walls, touched by rays of yellow, white and pale blue streaming through simple stain glassed windows, anti-apartheid activists would communicate their clandestine plans by signing the time and location of covert meetings. The church was the only place that people could assemble without fear of arrest for breaking a state edict forbidding gatherings of three or more people.

We were all touched by Mandela’s remarkable statesmanship. His legacy is one that—we hope—will endure, for it was founded on love, forgiveness and the courage to live a moral and ethical life.

Peace and healing to the people of South Africa. Rest in peace Madiba.


Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day

Today, December 10, is International Human Rights Day. Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan are calling for assurances from the Government of Canada to ensure that accountability measures are taken to prevent any Canadian funding to the Government of Afghanistan from inadvertently contributing to legal or judicial changes in Afghanistan that will be a setback for human rights, writes Madeliene Tarasick, President of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.

In November, a working group on sharia law within the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan proposed draft revisions for punishments for “moral crimes” in its new penal code, including stoning to death. The draft provisions specified that married women and men who engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage would be stoned to death in a public location, and whipping of 100 lashes would be proscribed for those unmarried men and women who engage in sexual intercourse.
Fortunately, in response to international media coverage and outrage from human rights and women’s organizations, President Hamid Karzai quickly announced that stoning to death would not be included in the new penal code.
Nevertheless, it is great cause for concern that elements within the Afghan Government were advocating for the return of a barbaric practice that clearly represents an egregious and blatant violation of human rights. Officially sanctioned and routine stonings to death were emblematic of the pariah Taliban’s infamously crude and brutal “justice” system, the end of which was celebrated by the people of Afghanistan.
It hardly needs to be said that stoning to death is an inherently cruel practice that no human being should be subjected to under any circumstances, for any crime. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century this practice continues to occur in several countries, an affront to the spirit and intent of international human rights law and the establishment of an enlightened community of nations committed to valuing and protecting human life, in the aftermath of the Second World War.
However, it is even more atrocious that stoning to death could be proposed in a country where the government is financed almost entirely by members of that community of nations, including Canada.
The Government of Afghanistan has been on the receiving end of billions of dollars of aid, one of the most ambitious and broad-based efforts of international cooperation ever mounted. Yet, the Karzai-led administration has frequently and flagrantly violated its own international legal commitments, domestic criminal and civil law, and human rights policy objectives. The country’s own Constitution (Article 7) stipulates that “the State shall observe the United Nations Charter, inter-state agreements, as well as international treaties to which Afghanistan has joined, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Afghanistan is also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others.
In response to these violations, donor countries have often raised objections through diplomatic means, but have failed to enforce any robust accountability measures upon the Afghan Government.
In particular, Canada and other donor governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on legal and judicial reform in Afghanistan. The Afghan Ministry of Justice is almost entirely financed by international donors, and yet a working group within that ministry advocated for a return to the punishment of stoning to death.
Women are particularly at risk in the face of laws that target “moral crimes” and seek to regulate and repress the sexual behaviour of citizens. The justice sector is systematically failing to protect the rights, dignity, and lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, and this most recent example demonstrates that the current Afghan administration is not serious about its promises to improve the dismal status of women, to protect human rights, and to reform the justice sector.
While Afghanistan is indeed a sovereign country and must gain the capacity to legislate its own laws, its Government, including its legal system, is financed by the taxpayers of foreign nations. Donor governments must ensure that their funds are not used to support legal and judicial practices that violate international human rights law. Norway has now cut its aid to Afghanistan on the grounds that it failed to meet its commitments to protect women’s rights and fight corruption. Indeed, Human Rights Watch is calling for donors to withhold funds if the proposed provisions in the penal code are passed. The Government of Canada should consider the same.
Our organization is committed to promoting and protecting the basic human rights of Afghan women and girls. We will continue working towards this task regardless of what 2014 brings, and we urge the Government of Canada to continue its support for gender equality and human rights objectives in Afghanistan. To this end, Canada must insist that the government of Afghanistan uphold its international legal commitments to human rights protection, and should make all existing and future funding commitments that flow through the Afghan government contingent on strict accountability measures to this end.
It is essential that Canada stand by the people of Afghanistan to ensure that their government works to reform and progress its legal system, rather than regress it. We owe nothing less to both Afghans and Canadians.

J2E presents “Afghanistan Rising” at Dec. 6 event in Nanaimo, B.C.

J2E principal Roberta Staley will present “Afghanistan Rising” Dec. 6, 2013 as part of Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) annual Activism Against Gender Violence, commemorating the 24th anniversary of the slaying of women students by Marc Lépine at École Polytechnique de Montréal.

The event will take place at Mon Petit Choux, 120 Commercial St, at 6pm.

“Afghanistan Rising” is a multimedia presentation combining video, still photography and live narration that showcases Afghan female politicians who brave Taliban threats to fight for gender equality, an Afghan-Canadian cardiologist who treats patients for free, and many others working to restore civil society in a nation devastated by three decades of civil war. The presentation will also highlight the work of Young Women for Change, a youth organization in Kabul that raises awareness about women’s rights. A Q&A, mingling and a chance to donate to the J2E Emerging Journalist scholarship will follow.
Visit: http://www.facebook.com/VIUStatusOfWomen For more info contact: Joy Gugeler, Chair VIU Status of Women joy.gugeler@viu.ca 250-797-2623.