Anti-Arab Racism and the Gulf War Fallout on Campus
In the first weeks of 1991, during the U.S. massacre of Iraqis commonly known as the Gulf War, members of the Pro-Palestine Students Association (a mixed Arab and non-Arab group of men and women) at Carleton University waged a public and private battle of our own. I was acting president of the association at the time, and remember the beginnings of this local battle coinciding with the first midnight images of silver bombs falling out of the sky. The experiences of our group on campus coincided also with the silencing of the voices of Arab-Canadians during the war, a silencing that was part of the effort to keep the victims of the bombs voiceless if not nonexistent in our minds.
The war effort was fed by the media, by the Prime Minister's call for Canadians (read non-Arabs) to be vigilant, and by the Canadian Secret Intelligence Services (C.S.I.S.), in what the Canadian Arab Federation calls the most encompassing security sweep in the country's history. Up to 1,000 Arab-Canadians were questioned after being tracked and photographed, their phones bugged, their employers questioned, and bank accounts monitored. Non Arab-Canadians could speak out against the war, but Arabs and non-Arab Muslims who opposed it were seen as potential saboteurs. *
Our club was a loosely-organized group of students mostly wired on school deadlines, bad dreams, and a kind of psychological shellshock. We identified with the unnamed, faceless targets of raining bombs. We were emotionally drained from mental calisthenics____________________