On the Syrian refugee issue

By Dr. Sima Goel on November 25, 2015

In light of Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent announcement that Canada will integrate over 25,000 Syrian refugees into our democratic and free country, I, a former political refugee have a message that I would wish to share.

In 1983 as an 18 year old I found asylum in Canada. I endured a harrowing escape from Iran and many months of life as a refugee in Pakistan. I was scarred by a lifetime of racism and political instability. 

I was obliged to go into hiding when I was sixteen, after a series of seemingly unrelated events brought me to the attention of the Islamic Revolutionary government, with the result that my name was put on a blacklist. My crime? Some years earlier I had come to the assistance of a Baha’i classmate when she was the victim of a racially motivated verbal assault. My spontaneous defence initiated a cascade of events that eventually led me into hiding, and then to the desert escape that changed my life.

I first shared my story in 2007 when I was the subject of a small documentary. From there, I was invited to speak at a gala fundraiser where the mesmerized audience urged me to document my life in a memoir. It was then that I sat to write my story, thus fulfilling a vow I had made to myself during the dark night of my terrifying desert escape.

With Canada recently opening the door to a wide influx of political refuges, specifically from an unstable Arab country, I feel that it is important for them to understand where they are coming and that although we are embracing them with open arms, they have to be taught to respect not only our freedom but the Canadian constitution and all that it stands for. 

As I describe in detail in my memoir, Fleeing The Hijab, a Jewish woman’s Escape From Iran, transitioning from the Islamic government oppression to Canadian freedom can be overwhelming, however its transition is necessary in order to adhere to the freedoms we Canadians enjoy. 

I have had the good fortune of being on both sides of the fence and I know all too well what is at stake. I urge you to read my story and reflect about whom we choose to grant entrance to, into our great nation. Yet more importantly make it clear, as it was made clear to me, that integration and tolerance is the base of our constitution and that we Canadians we guard our freedom.


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