Wednesday November 08, 2017

Wednesday November 8, 2017 Full Episode Transcript

Note: Transcripts may contain errors. If you wish to re-use all, or part of, a transcript, please contact CBC for permission. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Copyright © CBC 2017

The Current Transcript for November 8, 2017

Host: Anna Maria Tremonti


Listen to the full episode


[Music: Theme]


This is an absolute joke right now. They want to overthrow a regime and it didn't happen. These guys are whiny toddlers throwing a temper tantrum and their numbers are diminishing.

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: A dismissive missive from a Trump supporter clearly done with those who would protest against his president. So wait until he hears them today. It was one year ago exactly that Americans went to the polls in the election that sent Donald Trump to the White House, and those opposed to that result plan to mark the day by in their words ‘screaming to the sky’. Fox News calls that sad tactic, sad and fantastic all at once. So what does it say that a protest movement that once got millions to march will now howl into a void? In half an hour we're asking where have all the protesters gone. Also today this young Yazidi woman managed to escape ISIS but not what it did to her.


They treated us very badly. They beat us every day. And the thing that I really hate is that they forced us to marry a person who was not part of our religion.

AMT: There are thousands of women trying to recover from years of sexualized brutality from those who were loyal to ISIS. And thousands of others who are still in captivity and teams of people determined to help them any way they can as soon as they can. And in an hour, meet a member of one of those teams with War Child Canada in Iraq. And gun violence.


[Sound: Gun Shots]

This was a scene in Abbotsford earlier today; gunfire ringing out between police and an armed suspect.

AMT: The gunfight that killed at Abbotsford Constable John Davidson is a stark reminder that gun deaths in Canada are nothing to be smug about. We're starting there. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.

Back To Top »

Canada has a gun problem, says firearms author

Guests: Iain Overton, Dr. Natasha Saunders, Angela Wright


ANCHOR 1: But first we are learning new details about the suspect in that mass shooting in Edmonton. Six adults and two children were found dead in two separate homes on Monday.

ANCHOR 2: …Shot and killed three Mounties and injured two others sparking a 28 hour manhunt.

ANCHOR 3: Video of the day shots rang out inside the Toronto Eaton Center.

ANCHOR 4: We now know the name of the police officer in Abbotsford B.C. who died in the line of duty. Constable John Davidson an officer with 24 years’ experience was shot and killed while trying to stop an armed man. We're following the latest developments.

AMT: Gun violence does happen here in Canada as well. The shooting death on Monday of Constable John Davidson in Abbotsford B.C. was just the latest reminder. To be sure Canada does not have to contend with the American style epidemic of mass shootings, as in Sunday's church shooting in Texas which followed one in Las Vegas just five weeks earlier to the day. But guns are a deadly presence in this country; a factor in suicide, a factor in injuries to youth and increasingly in crimes. We're taking a look at Canada's relationship with guns today and we're starting with someone who has studied guns and their effect on everyday life around the world. Iain Overton is executive director at the London based UK Charity Action on Armed Violence. He is also the author of The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms. And he joins us from London, England.


AMT: Hello. How does gun violence in Canada compare, well first of all to the U.S.?

IAIN OVERTON: Well this is the thing is that's the central mantra from Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine, to something perpetuated in the Canadian Press, is that it's very much an issue of perspective. Canada says look “we don't have a gun problem. America the United States has a gun problem”. And you know it's not hard to see why that mantra exists. Between 2009 and 2013, for instance there's around 56,500 gun homicides in the United States. In Canada during that time there was just 814 firearm murders. And that's partly because Canada has less guns. You've got 31 guns per a hundred people in Canada compared to one gun per person in the United States. Well it's a lot of those guns are in the hands of a minority. Some people in the southern states would have 20 guns in their basement but Canada isn't the United States. You know from a European perspective, and somebody whose kids are half Canadian, Canada I would say is much more of a European Union approach towards health care, to education, taxation. And actually if you put Canada in the perspective of Europe, as part of the 31 countries that make up the wider European region, Canada would actually rank fourth in terms of gun homicide rates. And in terms of sheer numbers only France Germany and Italy have more gun deaths per year.

AMT: So we didn't feel smug, you're telling me.

IAIN OVERTON: I don't think Canada should feel smug and I've written about this in the Canadian Press, and I got an absolute torrent of vitriol and angry abuse from white middle aged Canadian men, because they don't like this idea. They say look “you know I'm not going to go out and shoot people. It's not in my DNA. I've got a hunting rifle and I just used this for hunting”. And you know this is – well, two issues - one is I've never seen such anger and I worry that men who are so angry have access to guns. I just find it concerning. But secondly and far more importantly is this, is that when you actually look at the number of firearm suicides in Canada it really is a concern. I mean Canadian suicides are a dozen times more than gun suicides in England and Wales. Between 2003 and 2012 over 5500 Canadians shot and killed themselves. And this I think is something that really is lacking in the Canadian debate because the people who own guns for shooting and I understand the cultural significance of that in Canada. I've spent enough time in Canada to appreciate that. But these self-same men - it's usually men - who believe in themselves as being highly individualistic they can sort out their own problems. They stand alone. They don't need support. Actually when a midlife crisis hits, or they lose their job, or their wife walks out on them, having such ready access to a firearm, to that hunting rifle is just a couple of steps away from them putting it in themselves and doing their law.

AMT: Okay. Let me jump in here a little bit. So I mean your studies actually show that some that if you don't have a gun in the house then your risk of suicide will go down, right?

IAIN OVERTON: Well it's a combination of two things. Firstly, the gun is meant to kill people. That's the whole reason that having it. So the lethality of the gun is a massive factor in its effectiveness of ending your life. [Unintelligible] a handful of pills you might well wake up, getting a stomach pumped. But you'll survive. And what they found is that people who try to kill themselves, generally if they survive do not go on to kill themselves after that. So that's the fundamental point. The lethality of the gun means that you don't get a second chance. In ninety nine percent of people who put a gun on themselves will die from that gunshot. But the other thing they found is that even doing small measures, like having bullets in one room and a gun and another would reduce your risk of killing yourself, because it just gives you a few extra seconds to have a real conscious thoughts about how bad is the situation. So the easier it is to end your life, and the more lethal it is to end your life, the greater the risk of suicide.

AMT: And when we talk about gun ownership you make the point that is there is a difference, culturally, between Canada and the US in some ways. But we do have a hunting culture in Canada. Some people buy guns to hunt.

IAIN OVERTON: Well yes. And this is the thing is the people who buy guns generally do not use those guns in murder. So, the murders across the border usually with handguns, both in America and in Canada. And often those are in the hands of criminals in Canada. And so they're not massively implicated in gun suicides. Gun suicides and long guns, hunting rifles, are massively implicated and the very people who would have this are so often rural environments where they go out hunting, as I said, they are self-sustaining and they think that they can carry their own troubles. And in many ways if a man goes through depression they don't want to reach out and talk to other people. They may think themselves a burden on others and the best way to do that is to end their life. It's kind of a black and white sensibility. So the very men who are more inclined to go hunting are also those who are quite high risk that suicide.

AMT: Right. Okay and we do know that statistically more men take their own lives with guns than women do.

IAIN OVERTON: Absolutely.

AMT: Iain Overton we have to leave it there. Thank you for your numbers and your insights.

IAIN OVERTON: Thank you.

AMT: That is he and Overton executive director of the London - UK based Charity Action on Armed Violence. He's the author of The Way of the Gun. Well my next guest has looked at the link between guns and young people. In a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, earlier this year Dr. Natasha Saunders The lead author, found that for one that one child or youth a day is killed or injured by a firearm in Ontario. Dr. Saunders is a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She's a scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and she's in her office in Toronto. Hi Dr. Saunders.

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: Hi how are you.

AMT: Well I'm curious to know about these numbers. So one child a youth a day killed or injured by a firearm in Ontario.

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: Yes. So we looked across hospital records or emergency room visits and hospitalizations, as well as death records for children, so that's up to the age of 24. And looked at all causes of firearms, handguns, rifles, air gun, BB guns and what we found is that on average there's about 355 injuries per year in Ontario among children and youth. The predominant group in that is youth 15 to 24 year olds but certainly an alarming number.

AMT: And you know why these injuries are caused?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: So we look at the breakdown of intentional versus unintentional injury. So in terms of unintentional injuries that might be youth playing in their backyard with BB guns that maybe getting a hunting rifle and injuring themselves with a shot going off, and that's about 75 percent of the injuries. And we looked at assault, and about 25 percent of those injuries are related to assault. This study specifically didn't look at suicide. It was really looking at unintentional and assault related injury.

AMT: And like you mentioned BB guns, do you know what kind of other guns were used in these injuries?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: So because we have to take the information from hospital records. We just know whether or not they are a handgun a rifle or shotgun or a BB gun or an air gun. And there is a group that where we don't know that the firearm that's used and that makes up about a third to half of the injuries.

AMT: BB big guns are more dangerous than we think, aren’t they?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: They certainly are especially among youth and children actually. You know we often think of BB guns or air guns as toys you can go to your local store and buy one. You don't need a license. There's no training required for it. And they're much more easy to get. But actually they can cause harm. So they penetrate skin. They penetrate the eye. They penetrate bone. And so they can kill you. And I don't know if they have the same respect as some of the handguns or rifles but they can certainly cause some of the same problems. And in particular in children and youth it's something we have to be more cognizant of.

AMT: And as you looked at these numbers, how did you react?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: Well I was surprised. I mean again were overshadowed by what goes on in the US. We think of Canada as a relatively safe place, but we don't actually have data - lot of data on what's going on in Canada and a lot of the data we do have is around firearm fatalities. And in children and youth anyways, that only makes up 6 percent of injuries. So it's really the tip of the iceberg when we look at fatalities. You know if somebody loses an eye or loses a limb because of a firearm injury, that can be very devastating and certainly death is the worst outcome. But there are other outcomes that are just as bad and we don't have that data. And we've realized the importance of studying that in Canada.

AMT: And the age range is huge here. It's from infants to 24 year olds.

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: It is certainly. We did some breakdown between sort of young children and school age children up to the age of 15, as well as 15 to 24 year olds, and 15 to 24 year olds make up the largest proportion among the group that we studied. However, still about 25 to 30 percent of the injuries occurred in children under the age of 15, so not an insignificant amount.

AMT: No no not at all. And you're saying that 75 percent are unintentional versus 25 percent assault. So you're talking about accidents, like again you can't know for sure. Are these people who are maybe playing with guns or like something goes off when nobody expected it would?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: For sure. Yes or for the unintentional injuries that's, it is where somebody is not going out trying to hurt somebody else. If the firearm worked unintentionally or shoot somebody unintentionally and not at the intended target, instead at a human being.

AMT: Okay, and these are Ontario numbers. What's going on in the rest of the country?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: Unfortunately we don't have good data in terms of what's going on in Canada. You know I would suspect that numbers across Canada are pretty similar to Ontario, given that firearms are regulated generally at a federal level. But we don't have that data and it's certainly something that is going to be really important going forward to understand what's going on in the rest of Canada as well.

AMT: So what would you like to see change to reduce those rates of injury and death?

DR. NATASHA SAUNDERS: So when we look at the numbers, in terms of Children and Youth, when it comes to a rifle or shotgun, the numbers are actually pretty good. We don't see a lot of injuries from those weapons and they are fairly well regulated. People have to take a safety course, which is really important to reduce potential injury. So when I think of things like BB guns and arrogance which aren't regulated, I think we have to start reconsidering who is allowed to purchase these often toy guns. And what safety mechanisms need to be put in place to reduce injury. So you know if people take a safety course to understand that they need to be locked and an unloaded separate from their ammunition, just the way that a firearm, like a shotgun or a handgun needs to be. You know I think we have a chance at reducing some of the injuries in children. I think children and youth should not be allowed to use these unsupervised, as well. and right now it's legal for them to use them unsupervised, which is I don't think appropriate for a developing brain where impulsivity and risk taking behaviors aren't fully developed.

AMT: Okay. Thank you for your time and your work.


AMT: That is Dr. Natasha Saunders pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children. A scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Science is in Toronto. My next guest says we should also focus our attention on Canada's cities even more than rural areas, where gun violence has steadily been on the rise in cities. Angela Wright is an anti-gun violence advocate. She's a writer and public affairs professional. She's in our Toronto studio. Hi.


AMT: So what concerns you about the nature of gun deaths and gun injuries in Canada right now?

ANGELA WRIGHT: The most concerning thing is that gun related crimes, whether it be homicides, shootings, or the use of gun and in other crime, which would be robbery, assault, home invasion those sorts of things. The numbers are increasing they're increasing rapidly and they're increasing across the country. People often think about Toronto when they think about gun violence because it's absolute numbers there are so many shootings. But when I looked across the country there is a total of seven cities that have seen a spike in gun related crimes in the past few years.

AMT: Which ones?

ANGELA WRIGHT: So we're looking at Surrey in BC, then Calgary and Edmonton - Alberta, Regina - Saskatchewan, Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario and then Halifax - Nova Scotia. So this is a cross country issue. And so and the most concerning part about it is that people don't really know how to react and so what you see is you have mayors and local law enforcement agencies grappling with this issue in there and they're kind of scrambling trying to figure out how do we solve this issue. So in Surrey for example their local mayor created this new task force. And then in Regina they tried a two week gun amnesty to try to get as many guns off the streets as possible. And then in Halifax the Public Health Association had it had a conference to tackle this issue and then they hired an expert to study the issue. So essentially it's increasing so rapidly and so quickly people are scrambling to figure out what to do.

AMT: It's interesting we once had a gun registry in Canada or the makings of one. What happened?

ANGELA WRIGHT: Well the long gun registry obviously was scrapped by the previous government. But the issue with that is that the registry a lot of times it tracks guns that are purchased legally of course. But where there's a lack of data is in terms of how criminals are getting these guns. It's hard to know whether these guns are coming across the border. There are some coming across the border and but we also don't know whether these guards guns are originally purchased legally and then how they end up in the hands of criminals. There seems to be a lack of data and that and often what happens is that they're either sold or they're stolen and then serial numbers are filed off and then it becomes very difficult to track guns.

AMT: And so in terms of how gun data is collected and how these guns are used, where are the big holes? You just named one. Where are the other holes in terms of how we understand guns in this country?

ANGELA WRIGHT: So one of the biggest problems is that there's no uniform way in terms of law enforcement agencies. And because most police forces are municipal, so each police force tracks its own crimes in its own ways, with the exception of Surrey, Surrey under the RCMP. And so Toronto the Toronto Police Service is actually kind of the most innovative. They have this open data portal and essentially allow anyone to go online and see the number. It's updated essentially weekly and you can see the number of shootings and where the shootings are taking place and that sort of thing. But in other cities sometimes they're not releasing data until a year or two later. Or they don't track homicides separately from shootings or not tracking shooting deaths separately from other types of deaths. And so it becomes much more difficult to be able to get a sense of how things are working across the country. So that's a big gap.

AMT: Right. Because the more we know the more we can tackle it. You are not talking about gun control though?

ANGELA WRIGHT: No. So essentially gun control really comes down to how do we essentially control the guns themselves but that the issue with gun control is that it comes at the at the end. Well first it's also expensive because then you're talking about involving law enforcement and you're also talking about involving the RCMP. And then if it's a transport it CBSA and that's very expensive. It's very labor intensive. What's more important is to tackle issues essentially before people pick up guns. So how can we intervene early in people's lives so that they don't turn to crime? And so then we're looking at how can we properly fund education, how can we properly fund the victim services, oftentimes people who commit crimes have been either victims themselves or they have family members who are victims and so how can we support them in their loss.

AMT: We have to leave it there but what you're saying is we have to follow that trail a little further back.


AMT: Thank you for coming in.


AMT: Angela Wright an anti-gun violence advocate a writer and public affairs professional in our Toronto studio. Let us know what you think. As you listen to this we are @TheCurrentCBC on Twitter, go to our website, click on the Contact link. Stay with us. The news is next and then:


[Sound: Protesters Cheering]

AMT: Remember when you thought anti-Trump protests would never end? Where have all the protesters gone? We are looking at that next. This is The Current.

Back To Top »

'Street protest is broken': What's become of large-scale demonstrations against Trump?

Guests: Micah White, Becky Bond, William Kaplan

AMT: Hello. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.

[Music: Theme]

AMT: Still to come, ISIS may be on the run in Syria and Iraq but thousands of young women and girls remain captive to the fighters. Others have escaped and are living with the trauma of their experiences. In about half an hour I will speak to someone who works in northern Iraq to help those women try to put their lives back together. But first channeling the opposition.


[Sound: Cheers and applaud]

Right now a historic moment. We can now project the winner of the presidential race CNN projects. Donald Trump wins the presidency. The business tycoon, a TV personality, capping his improbable political journey with an astounding upset victory. Donald J. Trump. Will become the 45th President of the United States.

AMT: One year ago tonight, late into the night, early into the morning an upset victory that upset wide swaths of American society. And after the shock wore off, many Americans took to the streets. The day after the inauguration in January, there was an unprecedented protest in Washington D.C. and around the world. The women's march.


[Sound: Demonstrating Cheers]

My body. My choice

Her body. Her choice

Donald Trump has got to go.

Hey hey. Ho ho

AMT: In a month to come there were more protests, lawyers and ordinary citizens occupied streets and airports to fight the so called Muslim ban.


[Demonstrators cheers]

We will not turn away people.

We will not turn away anyone because of their religion.

AMT: Thousands marched in support of funding for science, including Bill Nye the Science Guy.


Science must shape policy. Science is universal. Science brings out the best in us with an informed optimistic view of the future together. We can dare, I say it, save the world.

[Sound: Cheers]

AMT: One year since the election and many protests later polls show that, as president, Donald Trump is facing the lowest approval ratings in the history of U.S. presidential polling. But fewer people with anti-Trump sentiments are pounding the pavement in organized protest. Today to mark the one year anniversary of the election many are planning to protest by screaming to the sky, much to the derision of Trump supporters and Fox News.


Thousands of concerned citizens will commemorate the one year anniversary of Donald Trump's election by screaming helplessly to the sky, screaming hopelessly to the sky I'm not getting. It's both sad and fantastic, sadtastic, if you will.

AMT: So what has become of the large scale protests against the Trump administration. I'm joined by two people with experience and insights into American protests. Micah White is an activist, one of the founders of the Occupy movement and the author of The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution. He joins us from New York City. Becky Bond is a former senior Democratic adviser in the Bernie Sanders campaign and co-author of Rules for Revolutionaries. She is in Philadelphia. Hello to you both.


BECKY BOND: Good morning.

AMT: Becky bonder you're going to be screaming to the sky in protest today?

BECKY BOND: [Laughs] You know we actually had a commemoration yesterday of one year after the election of Trump and that was elections across the country in the United States. And overwhelmingly and we saw progressive volunteers get involved in those elections and we routed the Republicans in places like Virginia and Philadelphia and Maine. So I don't think people are so much as screaming as or going out and knocking on doors and talk to their neighbors and they are winning elections.

AMT: And in Maine, I understand that essentially that vote will allow an expansion of Medicare something the Republican governor previous had tried to stop five times, under Obamacare.

BECKY BOND: That's right. What's amazing is that the people are taking the power into their own hands and they are attacking elections in ways that we haven't seen in the last 20 years here in the United States. And people understand we need change and it's up to them to win it. And so we're seeing massive turnout at the ballot box behind policies like the expansion of Medicaid.

AMT: Micah, what do you make of it?

MICAH WHITE: Well I think that you know what is going on is that, on a wide scale, activists are coming to the realization that you know traditional street protest is broken, and that you with Occupy Wall Street we spread 82 countries with the women's march you know one percent of Americans protested. And I think we're starting to understand well that protest alone is broken. But I think that there's also a very, you know, we have to be very careful not to get co-opted into Democratic Party politics and the kind of progressive politics that's the very reason why Trump got elected. So it is an interesting moment where activists are transitioning from street protests to trying to figure out some sort of electoral solution. But there's also a danger that they could fall into the various establishing of politics that is the reason why Trump was elected.

AMT: And so, Becky, you point to some electoral wins yesterday at the same time the momentum of some of those marches. Do you think that some of that has been lost?

BECKY BOND: Well here's the thing. What we looked at when we saw the massive marches back in January – I think they estimated it was over four million people that participated in over 600 marches all across the country. And that's a lot of people that's actually twice as many people as we have serving in the U.S. armed forces. So when you think about that number of people I think they marched and they saw a lot of people were asking “well what's next? I don't want to just march. I want to get to work to change things”. And what we're seeing is we're seeing a subset of those four million people, but a lot of them getting engaged in organizing and the work is going to take to change things. And listen if you just do a little bit of math and you take the four million people, who maybe they spent four hours marching against Trump on that weekend, many spent much more, that is over six or 16 million hours of work. And if those 16 million hours of work has been spent knocking on doors, running for office. We have the power to change things in this country and I think we're seeing people wake up to that and get involved and work in their communities. And it's not just behind the Democratic establishment. I'm in Philadelphia because the city just elected a district attorney, a county prosecutor, who's more radical than any law enforcement officer that we've seen in a big city in this country. There's going to have the power to protect undocumented immigrants from transportation forces. He's going to have the power to stop locking up Americans who can't pay their bail, putting them in jail for months when they've never been convicted of a crime. So there's real passion and real work going into putting people in place who can actually change and not just oppose the policies of Trump, but bring about a whole new policies of the world that we want to see.

AMT: Right. Okay. But Micah, let me ask you. There was some kind of expectation that if people took to the streets things would change because they were in the streets. And there's a division there, is there not? Can we pick that part of it? Was it the protests in the streets? Donald Trump hasn't changed. The political work has changed.

MICAH WHITE: It's a really interesting question. I think it's a really important question and I think that it actually points to something about the changing nature of modern democracy. I think that one of the foundational myths of modern democracy is that our governments are based on the consent of the governed. and that one of the ways that we could show the discontent of the government was by getting large numbers of people into the street. So that's why in 2003, for example, you know we had millions of people all over the world go into the streets and say we don't want the Iraq war. Or you know with Occupy we went into the streets all over the world and said we want money out of politics. And I think that activism has now tested the hypothesis that we can manifest a higher form of sovereignty in the streets. And we've actually learned something which is that it's not true. And so I think that the kind of the crisis with an activism points to a crisis within democracy, which is that we no longer live in democratic societies where the will of the people actually dictate the decisions of the people who are elected. And this is why I think it is very important not to get pulled into standard representative politics and the idea that there's going to be some sort of leader who's going to save us. I think that what needs to happen now is to take the realization that: Okay street protests alone don't work but we can combine street protests with winning elections and we can use- we can put social movements into power not just you know good progressive candidates, but actual social movements like they're doing in Italy with the Five Star movement and Podemos in Spain. But I do think that the deeper thing here is a crisis within democracy.

AMT: Micah, maybe Becky you want to argue that the fact that democracy- isn't it working for you, if you got those Democrats elected last night?

MICAH WHITE: No because I think that what's happening is precisely the reason why Trump got elected which is that you know, with Occupy the same thing happened where you know Occupy got pulled into the Democratic establishment and a re-election campaign for Obama. And one of the ways that the that the establishment response to the crisis within street protests is to try to tell us “we'll just get involved with electing Democrats and everything will be okay”. But what is the Democratic Party and the Republican Party that are the problem which is what instigated things like Occupy Wall Street? So I mean it's a good thing but it's also a step back. And I think that it puts us in the same position we were in before which is these establishment parties are the problem. That's why we tried to create social movements that had actual power to the people. And we still haven't solved the problem of actually giving power to the people not just representative governments.

AMT: Becky, what do you think of that?

BECKY BOND: Well I mean I think it depends what candidates you're talking about. And we're seeing social movements move into electoral politics and we're seeing them bring their own candidates to run for office. And they're pledging not just to elect these people, but they're pledging also to hold those people accountable once they're in office. And that's what we've seen with this historic election of Larry Grasmere in Philadelphia. We're also seeing it with - just take the women's march for example. The women's march is not very involved in trying to pass a ballot initiative in the state of Florida which would [unintelligible] get their vote back to over 1.5 million people in Florida, who can't vote for the rest of their lives because they've been convicted of a felony. And they're using the ballot box and passing an actual law at the ballot box to change that, in the same way people in Maine have to expanded health care coverage at the ballot box. Now the marchers are an important tool, you get a lot of people to come out. It's a very low barrier to entry and they raise their hand and say this is what I'm for. This is what I'm against. But that's just the first step. Then we have to engage those people in that deeper work it's going to take to actually change things. I think that we've seen for a long time in the United States people showed up to March and they thought that was enough or they just wanted their name on a list of people that believed in a certain thing. But now I think, with the election of Trump, people realize that if they don't show up and do the work then we can end up with someone like Trump who is doing devastating harm to people in our communities. And well what we need to see is people organize to take the country back. And I think that's starting to happen.

AMT: Arguably the the people who voted in Trump understood that they went leapfrogging over the protests did they not? They actually organized - like they did the very thing you're talking about.

MICAH WHITE: Yes. I think that's actually a really really good point. I think that if you look back at who made up Occupy Wall Street, it was it was a left right movement. There were a lot of, you know Ron Paul and there are all these right wing elements within Occupy and I think that one of the things that happened - you have to remember that Occupy was under the Obama administration. And I think the one thing that happened is that when Obama kind of smashed occupy, the left went into more street protests with Black Lives Matter, and the right went towards electoral politics and they elected Donald Trump. And so I do think that there is a kind of - there's a lesson to be had here for the left which is that we do need to orient around electoral politics. But I think that the deeper question is well what does that look like? And I don't think that looks like putting our faith into charismatic single individuals. I think it means putting our faith into social movements.

AMT: Well I've got a clip I'd like you to both hear. This is Chris Hedges. You know who he is, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author of The Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of revolt. This is what he says about protests and how he believes it's going to take more than protest to bring a big change in the U.S. Listen to him.


I think the only hope is to do what, for instance the First Nations communities did in Canada, or what the Quebec Student Movement in Montreal and at a sustained civil disobedience. This is what the protest attempting to block the Dakota access pipeline did it standing. That's really the only weapon we have left. What will spark it? What will set it off? Will it happen? These are all unknowns.

AMT: What do you think Becky Bond?

BECKY BOND: Well I agree with another one of your fellow Canadian thinkers, Naomi Klein, who says that no is not enough. All right. And so I do believe that: Yes sustained civil disobedience is an important tool and we're using that across the country to stop pipelines, but a no agenda is not going to be enough to change things. And that's what we saw when we lost the election to Trump. The Democrats who ran on not Trump and Trump ran on empty promises to bring back factories and give people back their jobs. And so we have to have a yes agenda. We have to have something like you have in Canada the lib agenda so that when people go to vote that they can actually vote for something that they believe in, not just vote no. It's the same thing with protest, right. It's the same thing with civil disobedience. We can't just be organizing around what we don't want. There also has to be the yes that we can embrace and make happen. And until we have a yes that we can organize behind, we will keep losing to demagogues like Trump who can whip up the public into a frenzy and just throw the bums out. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to organize and use all the tools from marches to civil disobedience to the ballot box, to organize around the change we want.

AMT: So are you telling me that the most important tool a protest remains your democratic options –Vote, they voting?

BECKY BOND: All of them are important. But in the end if we don't win elections, we get Trump. So it's just very very important that we don't see the field of elections to the right wing, and to right wing populist in particular. People in America are hurting. We don't have universal health care like you have in Canada. People actually have to beg for money to keep their family out of bankruptcy when they have a medical emergency. So we're in a crisis here in the United States and elections really matter. And so we cannot allow populace to use hate to whip up people who lack basic resources to live their lives in dignity and elections are part of that.

AMT: Micah White, there would be those Trump supporters who would say they were in a crisis before he was elected, that they saw something else and that was part of their dissent.

MICAH WHITE: That's right. That's absolutely right and I think that it's really important not to demonize populism. Occupy Wall Street was a populist movement. I think that what is at stake here and what Occupy really threw into relief, and I think was really correct about, is at that what stake here is how are decisions being made in our society. The problem with Trump isn't necessarily his right wing agenda. The problem is that he is an autocrat. He believes that he alone can save the world, that he alone can make the proper decisions. And I think that what we're trying to do, what we're trying to do is revive actual democracy which means giving decision making power to the greatest number of people possible. And this is why when I talk about winning elections, I mean a social movement winning elections not just finding a progressive candidate that we can put our faith in, or finding a right wing person that we can put our faith in. But I think it's very very important not to learn the wrong lesson from Donald Trump. I think that there's something very valid about populism. I think is something very valid about the concerns of right wing people, and I think that the only movement that can go forward is going to be a left right hybrid movement. I think that the time of this kind of sectarian progressive leftism is over. And that we do need to figure out how to channel populism but combine it with a kind of global universal spirit to actually confront what's going on in the world which is these issues that affect both sides.

AMT: We have to leave it there. Thank you both for your thoughts today.

MICAH WHITE: Thank you.

BECKY BOND: Thank you, Anna Maria.

AMT: That is Micah White an activist and the author of The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution. He's in New York City. Becky Bond is a former senior adviser in Bernie Sanders campaign. She's co-author of Rules for Revolutionaries. She is in Philadelphia. Well my next guest has looked at some of the protest movements that have changed the course of history. William Kaplan is the author of Why Dissent Matters? Because Some People See Things the Rest of Us Miss. He is with me in our Toronto studio. Hi.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Good morning.

AMT: So what do you think as you listen to the two of them?

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Well I agree and I disagree. In my view protest is still extremely important and I can give you a couple of examples. May I do so?

AMT: Yes.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: So consider, I'm going to give you two examples, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Occupy Wall Street. Montgomery bus boycott began in the mid-1950s when a brave African-American woman, named Rosa Parks, at the center refused to give up her seat for a white person. Dr. Martin Luther King organized a boycott it lasted for a year. It had a budget of a million dollars, or a 100 full time employees, a thousand workers and they ended segregation on Montgomery buses. So there's a perfect example I think of how citizens can protest about something. They can express a dissenting view and they can achieve social change. Now it's not easy. It doesn't happen overnight. No one just hands over the keys because someone says they don't like something. They worked hard for it. They fought for it. They achieved a result. Consider on the other hand Occupy Wall Street. You know in many ways that was a degenerate carnival; people were banging their bongos all night long. There were assaults. People were screaming. In other ways it was a very positive experience. But one thing Occupy Wall Street did, and it spread to 80 countries around the world, to a thousand occupations, is it introduce the notion of income inequality. And of course there's always been income inequality in our society. We all know that. We see that every day as we walk around our cities and towns and communities. But for the first time as a result of this protest, people became very aware of the 1 percent and the 99 percent. You know we know for instance, Anna Maria, that 40 million Americans require food stamps to live. A million Canadians have to go to food banks. I mean consider that we're the richest country in the history of the world and a million people in our country have to go to food banks. Two families in Canada own the same as 12 million other Canadians. But what Occupy Wall Street did, it didn't have a single goal, it didn't have a demand. But we are aware now that income inequality threatens peace on the planet.

AMT: You're saying it changed the conversation.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: It changed the conversation. It moved the dial. Now of course it's up to the political class, the people we elect to office to figure out what to do about this. And we haven't come up with any solutions. Occupy Wall Street was never able to articulate a single demand. But we know absolutely clearly that you can't live in a mansion surrounded by a slum.

AMT: Let me ask you about another protest, Idle No More.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Idle No More. I don't know a lot about Idle No More. But I do agree with Becky Bond who said that we are going to see a change in protest - in the Native American protests against pipelines in the United States. I think does a very clear indication of what will happen in Canada, should we proceed with building pipelines here. People are not just going to simply assemble in front of legislatures anymore and raise placards and then go away. People are absolutely convinced that more is going to be required. But I do want to disagree with one thing one of your guests said. And I believe in the democratic system, obviously. We have to achieve change to the ballot box. But I don't think there's any single recipe for protests. That's the great thing about our pluralist society. People leave, they protest things, they change the conversation, Occupy Wall Street changes the conversation. It's because of protesters that we've seen social change. Can I give you another example?

AMT: Well I'm just going to go back to Idle No More for a minute because - and I don't presume to speak for anyone who is indigenous - but I have talked to many people who are indigenous who say Idle No More was a turning point for them, that it brought something else to the fore. It ignited the understanding, internally, of like a new generation of Indigenous young people to actually stand up and start talking about this. And it did change some of the conversations in the media.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know of course in Canada many Canadians today are completely committed to reconciliation with First Nations. We're committed to the concept. We're committed to achieving this. We don't know how we're going to do it or when it's going to happen. And the thing about changing the conversation and moving the dial is you can't expect there to be immediate change. You remember Richard Nixon visited China, I think in 1972, when he asked the Chinese premier what he thought of the French Revolution. And he said “too early to tell”. So we actually don't know when things are going to change. We know in Montgomery bus boycott actually ended segregation on buses. We know with Occupy Wall Street for instance that people are more aware of income inequality threatening security on the planet. And my point is - the point of my book is that you got to listen to protesters. You can't turn your back on them. You can't start chanting when they speak. And when people have something to say - because we can't be afraid of any ideas. We have so many problems we need to deal with. We have to listen to other people because some people see things the rest of us miss.

AMT: But protesters are never the majority. The protesters are the ones protesting the status quo, most often.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Well, they may not be the majority but consider some of the protests your guest talked about. One of them wants the protest against the war in Iraq. When that protest took place, it was the first international protest in the history of the world. It took place in 60 countries. The BBC estimated that 10 million people protested, biggest protest in human history.

AMT: I'm not saying they're not important I'm just saying that.. And Ta Nahesi Coates was here just a couple of weeks ago and he made the point that if the people who start protests were popular, they wouldn't have to protest.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Sure, and the thing about protesters I find really interesting, is you know some protesters are misanthropic. Some protestors are crazy some. Some protesters are protesting about things that will have no currency with the public. But some protesters, most protesters, many protesters they come out, they leave the comfort of their home because they believe very strongly - you know and I'm talking about individual, dissenters; Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat; Frances Kelsey who stood up against an entitled drug manufacturer and fought thalidomide in the United States, Rachel Carson who warned us of an environmental disaster and maybe save the planet. Like these are people that are authentic protesters they have something to say. And I say we have to listen to it. We don't have to do what they want. We don't have to agree with what they say but we have to listen because maybe they're seeing something the rest of us miss.

AMT: Well isn't that then the job of the media then to cover dissent because that way people can hear about it and they can decide for themselves.

WILLIAM KAPLAN: Absolutely. And that's why I'm so glad you had me in here today.

AMT: Okay, well thank you for coming in [laughs]. William Kaplan thank you.


AMT: William Kaplan is the author of Why Dissent Matters? Because Some People See Things the Rest of Us Miss. He is in our Toronto studio. Let us know what you think of what he's saying. How important is dissent? What do you listen to? What do you ignore? What do you think you better start ignoring? You can tweet us. We are @TheCurrentCBC, find us on Facebook, go to our website And in our next half hour, women and girls captured by ISIS fighters have been living through hell. They're too often forgotten in the discussions of ISIS. After the break we're going to meet someone who works with such women in northern Iraq to help them try to get their lives back. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current on CBC Radio 1, Sirius XM, online on, on podcast and on your radio app.

[Music: Theme]

Back To Top »

Life after ISIS: 'It is very difficult for these women and children to be accepted'

Guest: Galawezh Bayiz

AMT: I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. In just a moment, we're going to hear about women in Iraq who have escaped the grips of ISIS and the efforts to help them, and their children, move on with their lives. But first we want to let you know about a story coming up tomorrow. We're going to be hearing from residents of William’s Harbour, an island off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's a town that is being relocated and the lights will officially be switched off in William’s Harbour this Friday.



GEORGE RUSSELL: I was born here. I got baptized here, got confirmed here, and I got married here. So the town is after me, right. Yes. Father was born in 1900. So his father lived there before him.

ROSALIND RUSSELL: Community was a real busy community. One time he had a fish plant here, that [unintelligible]. People used to work, we used to work in the plant all the time. Then brashly people went away. Their kids go to school. I think they didn't think it was going to happen. They didn't really think was going to happen because some people called here to me now they'll say to me “My God made, how did this come about?” I say to them “well, people voted for him.” That's the way that goes. But I think they are going to miss it, just to say. I don't know what to do, really.

AMT: That's George Russell and Rosalind Russell. Residents of William’s Harbour Newfoundland and Labrador. They have mixed emotions about relocating. William’s Harbour, one store, no gas station, home to about a dozen people. We're going to hear more about what's happening to their community in its final days, tomorrow on The Current.


AMT: I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you are listening to The Current on CBC Radio. One after ISIS was driven out of Raqqa, Syria last month and out of Mosul Iraq, before that, the analysis has been that the jihadist group may be permanently weakened. But across the region in Syria and Iraq thousands of women are still being held by the group, many of them including young girls are held deliberately to be sexually abused and brutalized. We've got a glimpse of the kind of life they face in captivity, earlier this year, when we brought you the story of two teens Bushra and her sister Badia who were captured by ISIS fighters in 2014.


They treated us very badly. They beat us every day. And the thing that I really hate is that they forced us to marry that this was not part of our religion. They forced me to marry someone named Zarhan. His real name was Abu-Arkan. He was older than my father. He was Iraqi and could speak Kurdish but in front of me he only spoke Arabic. He was very bad with me and he beat me every day. He raped me and he forced me to undress myself.

AMT: That young Yazidi woman, Bushra, spoke to freelance journalist Sally Armstrong in a camp in northern Iraq earlier this year. For women and girls who do manage to escape ISIS the future is uncertain and often very bleak. Many will live in camps for the internally displaced. Others will try to eke out an existence in cities far from home. My next guest helps them try to rebuild their lives. Galawezh Bayiz is the country director for War Child Canada in Iraq. She works in the north of the country in the antonymous region known as Iraqi Kurdistan, where many Iraqis fled to escape ISIS. Galawezh Bayiz is visiting Toronto and she joins me in studio. Hello and welcome.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Hello. Thank you. Anna Maria.

AMT: Even with reports of ISIS weakening, how many women are still in captivity - like being held by ISIS?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: We believe that there is over 3000 woman still kept under ISIS.

AMT: That's a lot.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: So a lot of people and that includes Turkmen as well. Yazidis and Turkmen woman. There are funds to release them. And that's a very gradual and slow process.

AMT: Funds to release them; you have to pay to get them out, right?


AMT: Who are the women? What were they doing before? Where were they?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: They were in their homes. And then ISIS all of a sudden attacks the villages, the towns and people just escaped for their lives.

AMT: But you're talking about women who were captured and used as sex slaves and escaped, but you're also talking about women who fled the areas controlled by ISIS. Am I right?


AMT: So let's talk about each group here. The women who were captured by ISIS and who finally get out. What kinds of stories are you hearing from them?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Horrible stories just as Bushra in that clip talked about. You know basically, treating them like objects and sexual and slavery and trafficking and literally selling them and they don't know who these men are? What are they? They get impregnated. They give birth to children. And you know some of those, like Bushra who run away fortunately, you know she suffers from psychological problems and trauma after all that experience. And so are the many women who have been released.

AMT: And how long have most of them been held?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Since the beginning of ISIS invasion, June 2014.

AMT: That's a long time.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: It is a long time. The children, the babies are now children and the children are now teenagers.

AMT: And were the children also abused, along with their mothers?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Some of them. We hear cases of even little girls have been like as young as 10 or 11. Yes.

AMT: So they were holding them as slaves they were selling them at auction at one point, as well. Are you hearing those stories?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: We do hear those stories that they're literally trafficked over borders, you know, but evidence is very little. We don't have hard data but definitely there are a lot of women missing, families don't know where they are. But the Kurdistan Regional Government has funds for release of some women, especially the needy one. And the Turkmen actually also have some funding to release the women as well.

AMT: And you talk about funding. So they're paying them, what do they have to pay to get them back?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: The prices vary. I don't know what are the criteria for that release, but it's definitely over a hundred thousand, definitely.

AMT: Each?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes, surely.

AMT: So they're being brutalized and the only way to save them is to actually pay that ransom fee.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes. Basically there's a lot of effort to actually release these girls. For example families beg other families for money, so that they give these elements - the ISIL elements - to release that girl in exchange for the amount agreed. So it's not just like ISIL releases. It's the families who try really hard to get them out. So they negotiate. They make a deal to release their daughters or sisters.

AMT: And when they come to you, are they accepted by the family that has just had them released or do they face hurdles with that as well?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: They do. They do. Currently, especially the Yazidis, there's a dedicated center for the abductees who were released. So they are sheltered, psychologists that do actually help them to rehabilitate mentally and socially. Now you mentioned the idea of acceptance. It was very difficult at the beginning to actually for these women and their children to be accepted. The tribal leaders of the Yazidis, denied, disowned them. They said no they're not part of the community anymore.

AMT: Because?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Because of the shame to society as they claimed, as if it was the fault of the girls. But it's obviously not so. But slowly slowly, with advocacy, with the interventions of many organizations and the Kurdish government we tried to convince these community leaders that actually it's not their fault. You know she needs you more than any other time. We worked on that. So they started accepting their women and girls back into their communities.

AMT: And as you do the work you're doing, is there anyone you've met who really stands out for you that you can't forget? I want to understand who you're working with and who you meet.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: One of the staff members that work for me, she's actually a Turkmen and she's an advocate. So she's in direct contact with those who make deals with ISIL to release them, as she has the numbers, she has the names, she advocates, she tries to get them released. We get daily information about how they feel, how they long to return home really. They are suffering obviously. They're really suffering.

AMT: And what about the children? Because the children are the children of ISIS fighters, but they're just kids.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: I know, complicated case. The humanitarian organizations, they don't say this is an ISIL born child. They exactly see it as a child. They provide the services for them, from the humanitarian perspective; medicine, food, shelter and everything. But I believe that we should really think very quickly about rehabilitation and integration of the families and the children so that we quickly try and help them forget the past, and prepare them for the future. And even the teenagers the children who became teenagers and studying the ISIL curriculum. We need to wipe out all that information. And it's a difficult task but we need to do it now. We need to de-radicalize the teenagers who were under ISIL, learning their principles.

AMT: You are talking about the children of the women who were taken, or are you talking about some of the other women who were taken too?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes I mean absolutely, even the children born of ISIL, they are the most complicated case and there's no services for them so far that is particularly for them. We really need concentrated programming and psychosocial rehabilitation support for them. We need to have a legal justice system to actually protect them and give them identity somehow. It's very difficult because you don't know who the father is. They're born in Iraq. From a woman who was raped. I mean legally it's a huge challenge and there is no system to actually address that.

AMT: And there's no - even their status, then…

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: No status whatsoever.

AMT: No citizenship?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: No citizenship. And there is even the wives - the woman who fought with ISIL. They are foreigners. They are in the country. They now have children in Iraq. The husband is probably dead or ran away somehow. They also don't have the citizenship or status.

AMT: And then you have the women and girls who were never captured but they were living in that territory. And they also come to you for help? What can you tell us about them?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: They are put in specific camps. And until recently, these camps were actually managed by international organizations and the United Nations. But recently, the PMF - the popular mobilization army - which belongs to the Iraqi government, they took over the management of the camps. And the international community is a bit worried about the treatment of the army of these sheltered people in the camps, because of retaliation and fear of them abusing the woman and girls. So there's protection issues raised.

AMT: So even if they escaped, they think that because they lived under ISIS and did not get out earlier they must have wanted to be with ISIS.


AMT: Which is not a given.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Not all the women who stayed behind in ISIL held territories are actually ISIL supporters. They stayed because they said “this is my home I die where I die.” But some of them were pro ISIL indeed, unfortunately.

AMT: And of course for a lot of people there is no home to go back to right now.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Western Mosul, it's all rubble. A lot of destruction.

AMT: Are the majority of the women you're working with from the Mosul area?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Mosul, Salaheddin and Anbar.

AMT: Okay, but Mosul was of course the biggest city that ISIS held.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes western Mosul in particular. All rubble and people moved back from camps to see their homes and they saw well “where do I return to?”

AMT: What do you do to help these women?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: We reach out to these women. They go through life skills training so that they cope with the reality, because they have escaped because of the harsh reality and there's a lot to cope with. We try to instill positive coping mechanisms in them. We also tell them about human rights. We mention, we discuss human rights, children's rights. And many of those women then slowly start to talk about the harsh reality they live under Saddam, under ISIL. So some of them would just open up about the abuse in the house and the abuse of the army and their abuse of the ISIL elements.

AMT: And we're talking about women their husbands are either dead or missing. So how do they support themselves?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Not all of them are missing husbands. But yes most of them have lost family members. So basically the humanitarian organizations pay them cash or food baskets. But people need more than food baskets and cash to live. They will be given employability skills training and at the end we place them in employment. And then the others who don't want employment and don't have the necessary qualifications but they have handy skills, we provide them with vocational training. And then at the end we give them a loan, a loan of up to $500 and then they go do business at home, or rent a shop and sell their products.

AMT: And this is all happening in in the Kurdish area of Iraq?


AMT: Okay. You grew up in that part, right?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes. I am from Kirkuk. Yes.

AMT: Okay. So what was life like for you growing up? Have you have you faced conflict almost like most of your life?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: I have. I have really. I was just a small kid when the Iran-Iraq war started. The war with Iran started 82 and ended in 1988, with millions dead from both sides.

AMT: Right. And then of course the first Gulf War started in 91 in Iraq.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Right, yes, when Iraq wanted to invade Kuwait. And that's when the exodus of the Kurdish people happened towards Iran and Turkey, which my family was one of them. But it was difficult. I mean Saddam was obviously a dictator and Kurds in Kirkuk could not speak the language at the time. And one day, you know, our school would finish at 12:00 midday and then you are so hungry you want to go home. But one day they gathered us all up. “Okay, come on let's march towards the town center”. We don't know why but hundreds of kids go towards the town center. And after a while we realize that there a kid being put on the cross and they're shot dead. And he was only 14. And we were all screaming and shouting in the town center. “What is happening?” You need to clap and say “yes yes” to Saddam saying otherwise you will be sacked from the school. So we were like screaming and shouting and you know it was very confusing and terrible times, difficult times. And bombs falling everywhere all the time you know.

AMT: And so this continued.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: For eight years, for eight years.

AMT: What made you want to do the work you're doing now?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: When I came back from Iran, in 91, it was the university year. I was really excited as a woman to mix with men because before that you were only in girls’ schools. So you had no contact with the with boys or men. So I thought when I go to university then I'll mix with people and I grow. Right? So it was a very exciting time and it was actually that time when the international community came to Iraq and the no fly zone was formed.

AMT: As sanctions against Saddam.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: So that's when many many international organizations came to Kurdistan and hopefully my English was good at the time and I have experienced a lot of rough life really. So I was suitable to work with international organizations. And so studying and working.

AMT: Your family fled to Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: In 91, Kurds in Kirkuk particularly felt very threatened. And that's when we had to be displaced to Erbil. We feared for our lives after a long life struggle under Saddam's dictatorship. I had brothers who were Peshmargas. And my mother struggled to actually – singlehandedly - because my father died when I was three. So she would make these beautiful sunflower seeds, roasted sunflower seeds, so she would sell that. My brothers would sell it in the show. So that's how we grow up. You know we grew up, you know hope gets you going. So my hope to go to university kept me going and I was very excited to return. Studied hard, go to university and then at the same time I started working with the international organizations on aid. And since then that has been my career.

AMT: You've also seen a government takes children, teens and, as you said 14 year olds, and blame them for something. You don't want to see that happen with these children who are maybe ISIS children maybe not. You don't want to see that happen again.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: No no definitely not. We don't want to create more violence with violence. You know I think we humans, humans can change. It's not their fault. It's not the children's fault that they are born that way. It's not the woman's fault that she was raped. All what you can do is basically support them mentally, socially and economically to actually get on with your life and become peacemakers.

AMT: Right now there is renewed fighting between Iraqi government forces and the Kurds in the very area that we thought from a distance was that autonomous, is now in dispute again.


AMT: It has to do I think with - you can tell me - it has to do with the push for independence in Kurdistan. Am I right?


AMT: So how do you work under those kinds of restrictions, when you're already trying to navigate all those other checkpoints and patchwork quilt of who is in control of what and help people escaping?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: It's a very complicated issue you know. I mean Kurds helped the world to kick ISIL out of Iraq, the most atrocious enemy really for humanity. And yet we did it. We were committed and at the same time we had - we still have over 240,000 refugees in Kurdistan, sheltered and they have the right to do things and protected. Similarly we have probably around 1.8 million IDPs in the north.

AMT: Internally displaced people.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Internally displaced people. And so when you look at it, you say “well I helped the government to kick ISIL out. And then when we proved that Kurdistan is worthy of Independence, the Iraqi government got upset.” I mean even the international community was not with us. Most of them were not with us for that independence. America said you need to delay it. But President Barzani continued with his quest for independence. So the referendum for Kurdistan was announced in late October and then it was not received well by the Iraqi government. They asked for and nulling the declaration but we didn't. And then a military attack happened after that.

AMT: And at the same time you're helping other people struggle with their lives and you make the point they don't have identities either.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Yes, as a humanitarian I mean I'm blind. When I do my work, I'm absolutely blind. I don't think politics. I just help human beings.

AMT: What do we need to know from Canada, as we hear the news and we see ISIS being weakened? And you make us aware of the fact there are so many victims of ISIS still in their control, or still trying to recover. What do we have to understand about the people you're helping?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: The people we are helping are innocent. Most of them just want a normal life and they were just victims of circumstances that they didn't want to be part of.

AMT: What kind of future will women have in Iraq, regardless of who's in charge, as you look at what they have been through and what has been left behind and what has been destroyed?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: I think you always look ahead and you will never forget the past. But you get over it and you learn from it. And if you're alive, you say thank God that I'm alive. And then hope and resilience two strong elements that the people of the country have.

AMT: Do you see changes that will happen in that society because of all that's going on? Will it ever be the same? Could it be better in some ways down the road? What do you see?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: I'm an optimistic person generally but I'm also not naive. I think I can see a storm brewing right now from a war. But all we can do now is lay the foundation for the future and do would daily. Do your assistance daily. Help the people they need you, on daily basis. But I don't know what the politicians are planning but to be honest it doesn't look good right now.

AMT: You're talking about again the Kurdish-Iraqi conflict?

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: The Kurdish-Iraqi, Iraq itself you know.

AMT: Internally, more of a civil war.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: More of a civil war, you know Iran interfering and then there's Russia. There's a lot going on and it's very confusing.

AMT: Very exhausting for people to even contemplate.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Exhausting. Yes. I gave up thinking too much. You know, so all I do is do what I can, help as much as I can, on daily basis.

AMT: Because the help you can give to those women and their children now…

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: They will survive for tomorrow.

AMT: Thanks for coming in. Thanks for your work.

GALAWEZH BAYIZ: Thank you Ana Maria.

AMT: Galawezh Bayiz, program director for War Child Canada in Iraq. She was here with me in Toronto. Visit our website We will be posting photos of her work with women in Iraq. That is our program for today. Stay with Radio 1 for Q. Tom Power welcomes banjo player Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn to the show. Their new album Echo in the Valley is full of political and social commentary. Wait for that one. Finally today after our discussion about efforts to help women and girls who have escaped from ISIS, we're going to leave you with some more voices from that region. Women have been a major part of the fight to wrest back control of territory from ISIS. A significant number of Kurdish and Yazidi women have been on the frontlines fighting ISIS and commanding units. And so we're going to leave you with the voices of a few of them, collected by a different by different news agencies. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thank you for listening to The Current.



VOICE 1: As a woman when you take your rifle, go out, and get ready to fight against them, even if you don't kill them you are fighting against their mentality.

VOICE 2: But when I fight against them I feel stronger, empowered because when they see women, they go weak at the knees. [Sound: Gunfire] Because according to their belief, they must not be killed by a woman. When they see us, they prefer to run away, not to be killed by us.

VOICE 3: I joined the militia to fight against those who want our land and our honor, those who have captured our villages and displaced our families. I'm here to attest that the Yazidi girls and women show no weakness.

VOICE 4: Those men have committed horrible crimes. That is why me and other female fighters kill them and let them end up in hell.

[Sound: Gunfire]

Back To Top »

CBC would like to acknowledge the support of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.