By: Mary Cranston
A well-known Afghan photographer is being denied the opportunity to speak in Ottawa by the Canadian government.
Hanifa Alizada is recognized in countries worldwide for her dramatic photos illustrating the silencing of women. The photo-artist was set to deliver a speech about life for women in Afghanistan and to showcase her work at a convention in January called "The Shrinking World of Photography."
The convention was organized by the School of Photographic Arts in Ottawa (SPAO), in partnership with the Nobel Women's Initiative and MATCH International Women's Fund. It’s designed to show how photographers explore issues such as violence against women. Organizers are extremely shocked and disappointed at Alizada’s Canadian visa rejection.
In recent years, Alizada has traveled to the United States, Europe and Asia. She also participated in a globe-trotting exhibition sponsored by the World Bank this year on the subject of violence against women.
Alizada and her fiance, Gholam Reza Sepehri, both applied for visas this fall through the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Canadian embassy in Afghanistan does not issue visas to Afghan nationals and sends all applicants to Islamabad.
Alizada and Sepehri received letters indicating four reasons as to why their applications were denied by the high commission.
A copy of the letter was sent to the Ottawa Citizen by Alizada stating that before a decision is reached, an officer considers several factors. These may include the applicant’s travel and identity documents, reasons for travel to Canada, family ties to the country and whether the applicant would be likely to leave Canada at the end of his/her authorized stay. The letter is dated Nov. 11 and is signed with an illegible signature of a Citizenship and Immigration officer at the high commission. No legible name for the officer appears on the letter.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, she was never interviewed by the high commission and is perplexed as to why her application was denied. She says she has no interest in living in Canada, where she has no relatives. Her family and her job are in Afghanistan. The high commission in Pakistan referred queries about Alizada to Citizenship and Immigration headquarters in Ottawa. The department said privacy laws prevent it from discussing individual cases.