“I just wish for people to give me a chance”
By: Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star
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EDMONTON – Omar Khadr is standing in his bedroom looking out at the backyard.
It is his second morning of freedom after nearly 13 years behind bars, and he’s embarrassed because he doesn’t know how to open the window.
“Oh there we go. Well that will come in handy,” he says as he’s shown where to lift the latch and fresh air fills the room. “It got hot yesterday. So that’s one of the basic skills I’m going to learn. Is how to open my window.”
Open a window. Open a bank account. Get a driver’s license. Get a library card. There are so many small skills to be learned by a man who has loomed large since he was shot and captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 – a man who has never been allowed to speak publicly.
For the first time since being granted bail earlier this month, Omar spoke over two days in exclusive interviews for the Toronto Star and a documentary that will air on the CBC.
Until now Omar has existed in caricature drawn and defined by others: victim, killer, child, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist; he has been compared both to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and serial murderer Paul Bernardo. He has been prosecuted by the Bush and Obama administrations, interrogated by Canadian intelligence agents while the Liberals were in power, vilified by the Conservative government and defended as a child soldier by prominent figures such as retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and peace activist Desmond Tutu.
When Omar, now 28, briefly answered journalists’ questions after his release on May 7, he appeared calm and humble, was articulate, spoke with a slight Canadian accent and smiled constantly.