Ottawa man returns medal to Saudis to protest treatment of trapped woman

Below, a story about a true hero, and champion for justice.

From The Montreal Gazette:
By Jennifer Campbell, The Ottawa Citizen April 19, 2010

Mark Brousseau hopes some of his  700 shipmates will return their Liberation of Kuwait medals as well.

Mark Brousseau hopes some of his 700 shipmates will return their Liberation of Kuwait medals as well.

Photograph by: Bryanna Bradley, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — A retired naval officer from Ottawa is giving back a medal of honour in protest of the Saudi government’s treatment of a Canadian citizen.

And he hopes others will follow suit.

Mark Brousseau, who served on HMCS Athabaskan in the early 1990s during the first Gulf war, received the Liberation of Kuwait medal from the government of Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday morning, he’ll head to the Saudi embassy in Ottawa to return it to the ambassador to protest the country’s male guardianship system that has kept 24-year-old Canadian Nazia Quazi in the country against her will.

The Muslim woman, whose mother and brother live in Ottawa, went to Saudi three years ago to visit her father and to do the Umrah, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

But once she arrived, her father, whom she claims doesn’t approve of her boyfriend, took her travel documentation and identification and has refused to let her leave the country. In Saudi Arabia, the male guardianship system says that fathers must make decisions for their unmarried daughters. Quazi lives in housing provided by her employer, and says her father, whom she alleges has beaten her in the past, is becoming increasingly violent and abusive. MPs Paul Dewar and Bob Rae have called for action. Deepak Obhrai, minister of state for foreign affairs, says the government is in contact with Saudi officials, but can’t do much because of the country’s rules.

Giving back the medal, Brousseau feels, will raise awareness and, if several of his shipmates — he figures about 700 Canadians have the medal — do the same, it will have more impact. He encourages them to contact Muslims for Progressive Values Ottawa (, a group that has been lobbying for Quazi’s release.

“It’s a small step, but if more people find out about it, maybe they’ll get on the bandwagon,” he said.

Brousseau first heard about Quazi when she was interviewed on CBC’s The Current.

“It just broke my heart, the situation she was in,” he said. “I wished I could help.”

That’s when he thought of his medal: “I thought, it’s not doing me any good sitting in my drawer with all my navy paraphernalia. I’m not under the delusion that I’m going to change Saudi’s rules but the point is that if, in this case, this gesture will help to get Nazia home, it’s worth it.”

Brousseau, 51, is retired from a 25-year career in the Navy. He remembers the Gulf deployment as a stressful time because they got word they were going around Christmastime and he had to leave his wife and children, then four and six years old, for 10 months.

And, as it was before e-mail, he could only contact them once a month when they went into port.

“It was the first time I was deployed in harm’s way,” he said. “They were bombing oil fields and talking about weapons of mass destruction.

“We were at full high alert the whole time we were there.”


Sorry guys, I thought this story was this week and not last. I must be behind the times. Here is what (predictably) happened for those that do not already know, from the Vancouver Sun:

Mark Brousseau hopes some of his  700 shipmates will return their Liberation of Kuwait medals as well.

Mark Brousseau hopes some of his 700 shipmates will return their Liberation of Kuwait medals as well.

Photograph by: Bryanna Bradley, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Retired naval officer Mark Brousseau wasn’t surprised that Saudi Arabian Embassy officials refused to let him through the gates Tuesday morning so he could return his war medal to the ambassador.

And when no one came out to greet him, Brousseau — flanked by retired Canadian Forces airman and fellow Liberation of Kuwait medal recipient Lou Travis outside of the compound — vowed to mail the decorations received for their efforts during the Persian Gulf War, issued by the Saudis beginning in 1991, directly to the Saudi government.

“I’m really not surprised because we attempted to try to talk . . . in person and we hadn’t had much response to date,” Brousseau said.

Brousseau and Travis attempted the gesture Tuesday to protest Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, which has let her father keep 24-year-old Canadian citizen Nazia Quazi in the country against her will for the last three years.

“It was a small gesture for us, but I think it’s going to be a big gesture once the rest of the country sees what we’ve tried to do,” said Travis. “And I hope there’s a big truckload of these things that come to the embassy in the near future.”

Travis joined Brousseau’s cause after reading about the naval officer’s plans in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday.

Muslims for Progressive Values Ottawa chair Shahla Khan Salter accompanied Brousseau and Travis to the consulate entrance down the block after Brousseau was denied entrance at the main gate.

The group has been lobbying for Quazi’s release.

A security guard inside the consulate did not open the door, which was locked.

Salter said the refusal “shows that they don’t really respect what we’re doing.”

A few minutes later, two RCMP officers arrived in a cruiser to let the group know that while they were free to protest, they could no longer trespass on embassy property.

Brousseau later left with his family — wife Linda and daughter Melanie — who tagged along to show their support. The two said they were “very proud” of him.

Brousseau said he has received messages of support not only from retired Canadian Forces colleagues, but from some still in uniform.

Brousseau also said he received an e-mail from a retired captain living in the Northwest Territories who also plans to return his medal, and that he’s hoping for more.

Called Tuesday afternoon, embassy staff said they had no comment to make.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

2 Replies to “Ottawa man returns medal to Saudis to protest treatment of trapped woman”

  1. I wouldn’t put any energy into saving a woman who entered SA with the intent to confirm her beliefs by doing the Umrah. Sharia is the reality of the Umrah. Her choice has consequences.

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