Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Categories: Episodes
Our guest host this week is Karin Wells.
Last December, in a small town in Tunisia, an officious permit clerk took away Mohamed Bouazizi's produce cart and his scales. Her aides beat him up.
Mr. Bouazizi had been working as a street vendor since he was 10 - and been harassed by the police for just about as long. He went to the governor's office to get his scales back - 'How do you expect me to make a living?' he yelled - 'I will burn myself if you won't see me.'
Less than an hour later Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the middle of traffic. That was the beginning of the Arab Spring.
This week looks like the end of the beginning - Tunisians are going to the polls as we speak; Hosni Mubarak is on trial in Egypt; Moammar Gadhafi is dead and Libyans are dancing in the street.
Change seems to be everywhere. But not in Syria. Those unlucky people have been trying to overthrow THEIR despot for months....to no avail . In our first hour, we'll look at Syria.
In the run up to those Tunisian elections, there have been riots over banning the hijab, the Muslim veil . That simple article of clothing has become the lightning rod of Islamic political and cultural disputes all over the world. In our second hour, Karen speaks with Leila Ahmed, who set about to untangle the comings and goings of the hijab in the Middle East.
And in our third hour ... a young woman from Sudan, an artist, who is about to create a work of art called Nora's Cloth. Her art work is all about how clothing defines a women; "Nora" is Nora from Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House.
Ibsen....the writer who said "A man should never put on his best trousers when he goes out to battle for freedom and truth" - his plays continue to provoke and unsettle the world over.
Elsewhere in the show: our feature documentary today "Morning Sun" lays out the legacy of a Japanese-Canadian baseball team, the Asahi - a team that played its last game 70 years ago.
No Syrian Spring?:
This week with the death of Moammar Gadhafi, yet another milestone was passed in the so-called Arab Spring. Today's voting in Tunisia marks another.
For almost a year, much of the world has watched in amazement as the people of one Arab country after another has risen up in protest against despotic and dictatorial governments. Tunisia was the first country to see protest transform into regime change, then Egypt and ultimately Libya. Meanwhile in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and even the Palestinian territories, demonstrations and demands, sometimes violent, for democracy continue.
The great exception to this story of the Arab embrace of democracy and change is Syria. For months, Syrians have gathered in town after town, often on a Friday after prayer, to protest the brutality and corruption of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The response has been one of escalating violence. Arrests, imprisonment, exile, even reports of torture have been supplanted by shootings and killings.
Nations as different in ideology as China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States and Canada as well as the United Nations and the Arab league have all called upon President Assad to put aside violence and listen to the people of Syria. So far this call for talk not bullets has been to no avail.
So what can be done, what should be done to stop the violence and bring about change in Syria?
That's a question Andrew Tabler thinks about a great deal. He is a Next Generation Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, author of In the Lion's Den: Inside America's Cold War with Assad's Syria and co-founder and former editor of Syria Today.
He was in our Washington studio.
Occupy Mail and Tape:
The conversation about Occupy Wall Street that aired last week on The Sunday Edition occupied your thoughts and sent some fingers flying on keyboards. Here are a few letters we received on that subject.
Some pundits are also asking whether the protesters are simply a loose group of anti-social anti-capitalists...and if they want real change, why don't they just head out on election day and vote?
Earlier this month, more than half of all eligible voters in Ontario stayed away from the voting booths on election day - a record low turnout.
And it wasn't much better in recent elections in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories.
It's not just provincial elections either - voter turnout in our last federal election was the second-lowest ever.
So we decided to return to the Occupy Toronto encampment this week to find out whether or not the protesters do vote - and if not, why not.
Our survey was informal and the results are hardly scientific, but if what we saw and heard is true, then a higher percentage of protesters are voting than their counterparts outside the park.
It was an anniversary that passed with little fanfare. Last month, on September 18th, a group of baseball players gathered in an old park in Vancouver's downtown eastside. They were there to pay their respects to the Asahi, a Japanese-Canadian baseball team that played its last game in the same park 70 years earlier.
There are just a few of those original Asahi players left today. This was perhaps the last chance to thank those men for what they meant to the community. It was also a chance to think about their legacy.
Back in the 20s and 30s, the Asahi was the sporting cornerstone of a bustling neighbourhood, the pride and joy of Japantown. But then the Second World War came ... and then Pearl Harbour ... and Ottawa ordered Japanese-Canadians off Canada's west coast. Twenty-two thousand people of Japanese descent were rounded up and sent to camps in the BC interior. Families were torn apart, and many never returned to the west coast.
Japantown quickly withered and died. And the Asahi baseball team was suddenly no more.
But as you'll hear in John Chipman's documentary, Morning Sun, that wasn't the end of baseball for Canada's Japanese.
The question of what the veil stands for in Islam has been hotly debated for the past few decades. It's also led to bans, lawsuits and the denial of government services and education to women wearing the veil.
Leila Ahmed has been struggling with her own reactions to the veil throughout her life, from her childhood in Egypt in the 1940s, through her university education in Cambridge, England, and her decades as a professor in the United States.
Since 1999, she has been the first professor of women's studies at the Harvard Divinity School, and has authored several books. The most recent is A Quiet Revolution, about the resurgence of the veil, from the Middle East to America.
Ms. Ahmed was a studio at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He began his life as an impoverished apothecary's apprentice...and became the "father of modern drama"...often described as the most important playwright of our time, second only to Shakespeare.
What is is about Henrik Ibsen's work that still inspires accolades?
The 19th-century Norwegian certainly wrote some of the theatre's greatest female characters: Nora in A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler.
And his plays explore enduring themes - about the most difficult of life's questions...hypocrisy, honor, morality and the price of liberty.
Ibsen's work has long appealed to European and North American audiences...but it also resonates around the world. Every year, there are hundreds of productions of Ibsen's work .. in Bangladesh, Japan, Israel, Burkina Faso.
And this year, a Sudanese multi-media artist, Issraa el-Kogali, won a Norwegian scholarship for a piece she calls "Nora's Cloth", which will explore the realities of Muslim women behind the veil.
We caught up with Ms el-Kogali in Kharthoum, where she is based.