Illustrious Life of a Migrant9 / March 2017 | 0 Comment
In October 2015 Canada’s Liberal Party won the country’s Parliamentary Election. It was then when Afghanistan along with other countries became a well-known name for many Canadian citizens. In the meantime Afghans were also attracted to the policies of new government of Canada.
The new positive views and attention built between the two countries that are at least 12 kilometers away from each other is because of a girl who was born of Afghan parents and who in her young age could reach one of the highest political positions in the Government of Canada.
This girl is Maryam Monsef, an Afghan Canadian politician who was born of Afghan refugee parents in 1985 in Mashhad Iran. After 20 years of residence in Canada unlike many other immigrants, she could obtain an important political role as a minister in the new liberal dominated administration that has the best policies and views on immigration in comparison to the US and many EU members.
Appointment of Maryam Monsef as Minister of Democratic Institutions in Canada was a highly regarded worthy news for Afghans. In the months after the appointment, many social, political, civil circles and Afghan media were talking about Minister Monsef, Canada’s fair democratic structures, and the efforts of an immigrant woman that was raised up in an open society. This news turned Monsef to a celebrity in Afghanistan.
Maryam Monsef is an Afghan Canadian woman who in Afghanistan is considered as one of the most influential and well-known politicians in Justin Trudeau’s government. In 2015’s election she became the first female member of the Peterborough electoral district and made it to Parliament through the Liberal Party while getting appointed as minister of democratic institutions.
Maryam Monsef is the youngest member of Trudeau’s Cabinet who became a minister in the start of her 30s. She is also the first Afghan Canadian with such a high level of political background and the first woman in the region of Peterborough Canada who represents her people in the parliament.
This Afghan-Canadian politician is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. Prior to running for parliament, she tried to get elected as the Mayor in Peterborough. From January 10, 2017 Maryam is appointed as minister of women’s affairs continuing to serve Canadians in her new capacity.
Maryam Monsef spent most of her childhood in Herat in western Afghanistan. When she was less than two years old, she lost her father. She was left with a 20-year-old mother and her two sisters.
Talking about her father, Monsef said they never got to know what exactly happened to him and the only thing they know is that her father had been arrested during an exchange of fire on the border of Afghanistan and Iran.
Shortly before Maryam was born, her uncle was kidnapped from a dormitory at Kabul University. He was a student of Pharmacy. Maryam’s uncle was a political activist and had talked against communist regimes on several occasions.
Ms. Monsef said “some people rushed to his uncle’s hostel at a night and took him and his friend to an unknown place.” According to Monsef that incident was an alarm to the whole family.
Following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Maryam along with her mother and sisters were commuting between Iran and Herat. When the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended, the family returned to Afghanistan just like many others. They had hoped for an end to conflict.
Since then her mother was running her family by doing jobs like, cooking, sewing, knitting, and sometimes taking money from Maryam’s uncle. Minister Monsef told Huffington post that “it was not decent for a living.” Her mother was teaching English Language at her home and sometimes at some schools. . But this was not enough to meet their needs, because the Taliban were against women’s education.
Maryam’s childhood was spent commuting between Iran and Afghanistan. In Iran, although it seemed not to be a welcoming environment, under protection of her mother and her grandfather Maryam lived a proud life.
Maryam says, as illegal refugees they were constantly in danger of deportation. She says she never felt that they were poor and had no future, because she grew up with so much love and support that she was thinking her family had everything. She did not feel the absence of her father because her grandfather always played the role of a father to her and her sisters.
But living in fear of deportation from Iran and being humiliated as illegal immigrants had created a miserable situation for Maryam’s family.
Eventually, in 1996 when Maryam was only 11, she and her family immigrated to Canada. They traveled from Iran and Pakistan and Jordan and during the trip according to Maryam, she and her siblings got varicella. When they reached Canada, they sought asylum and eventually were accepted in Peterborough, where her uncle lived.
Maryam has a different picture of entering her new home. She describes her new experience of Canada as a green land with more than 40 lakes and rivers that surrounded the city. Red–bellied woodpeckers were everywhere and she had never seen such before.
It was very difficult for Maryam to deal with the new environment. She had already missed her mother land and did not know the English language. She says that everything was strange and different from a cultural perspective, even their house.
Her family was supported and helped by some social groups and organizations to integrate with communities; a move that resulted her to volunteer for these originations.
“Workers, volunteers and neighbors came to us and helped us not to feel alone and isolated. They gave us the feeling that we belong to here.” Maryam Said. “After 20 years the love and support we received is still within me and I hope I give it back by serving as MP.”
That’s how she found her in an alien society where she did not experience the bitter taste of discrimination.
Maryam received her bachelor’s degree from Trent University in psychology and then became one of the active and well-known women in Peterborough. She is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada and took on political activities when, after several trips to Iran and Afghanistan in the years between 2010 and 2014, different motives and incentives were created within her to serve.
She is still single and jokes that she is married to Peterborough. In addition to English, she is fluent in Persian.
In 2014 when being 29, she tried to be elected as Mayor of Peterborough that failed. But when the Liberal Party of Canada won 2015 elections, he quickly went through the steps of progress.
In his last trip to Canada, during his speech to Canadian Parliament, Barack Obama referred to the Afghan-Canadian identity of Maryam and said that this is a sign of integrity and universality of political structures in Canada.
Canada’s ruling Liberal Party is the oldest federal party in the country and is generally in the center of the political spectrum in Canada. Compared to the Conservative and the New Democratic Party of Canada, the liberals are famous for being moderate. The party has often dominated federal politics in Canada and only in the 20th century it was in power for nearly 69 years. That is, more than any other party in the modern world holding power.
In 2015, some important decisions were taken by the party about Canadian policies, including the country’s middle class tax cuts, spending extensively in the fields of education and health, dealing with greenhouse gases and more.
After Joe Clark, Justin Trudeau, 45, leader of the Liberal party and the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada is Canada’s second-youngest prime minister.
Mr. Trudeau is one of the world’s most popular politicians and he grabs the attention of many in political circles. This means that Mr. Trudeau is often made headlines. Meanwhile, his immigration policies, valuing and welcoming immigrants, has made Trudeau a very popular politician in the war-torn Asian countries.
A girl of Inspiration
For many in Afghanistan Maryam Monsef is an inspiration. As a migrant citizen who is now one of the most influential female politicians, Maryam is an inspiring figure. Many women and girls in Afghanistan see her as an agent of change in Afghanistan.
Now it is Maryam’s second year serving as a minster. In 2017’s International Women’s Day in Afghanistan, where situation of Afghan women has witnessed extensive changes, Minister Monsef’s life story is an inspiring journey.
Abdullah Rahmani contributed to this report.