Thursday March 02, 2017

Beyond the Huddled Masses

Syrian women and children travel from areas controlled by jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, en route to safety in areas held by by Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, on November 9, 2016.

Syrian women and children travel from areas controlled by jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, en route to safety in areas held by by Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, on November 9, 2016. (DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 53:58

We're all the product of our past. Where we come from, and how we got here from there, shapes who we are -- our education, what kind of parents we had, our cultural background -- these are just some of the factors that go into shaping the people we become as adults. But refugees bring something different into the mix.

 

"You know, people who inflict fear in you, inflict fear because they themselves are cowards. And what it was they wanted to do to me was to make me a shell, so that I would stop challenging the status quo."

-- Flora Terah, talking about the threats and abuse she faced in Kenya, fighting for women's rights.


Refugees, the people who have escaped, sometime barely with their lives, from a country where their safety is in danger, these people often bring to their new country, and their new lives, something special -- an urgency about what's important, a drive to make things better -- for themselves, and, frequently, better for others too. What happened to them in their old lives shouldn't happen to anyone else.

From the 2016 Stratford Festival, a discussion with three fighters for human rights, three people whose families arrived on the shores of North America with next to no thing. Today, all three are deeply involved in fighting for human rights around the world. 


Guests in this episode: 

  • Flora Terah works for women's rights in Canada and elsewhere- she was a political activist in Kenya before her son was murdered in retribution.
     
  • Harold Hongju Koh is professor of law at Yale and has worked as an advisor to the State Department -- his parents were refugees from North Korea.
     
  • Payam Akhavan and his family were refugees from Iran. He's worked extensively with the United Nations and as a UN prosecutor at The Hague; now he teaches law at McGill. He's also this year's CBC Massey lecturer.


** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded at the the Stratford Festival, thanks Melissa Renaud, David Campbell, Keira Loughran and Dian Marie Bridge. Special thanks to Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.