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So I got home to news this week that a colleague of mine from McGill's faculty of education was killed while working to set up education programs for Afghani kids.

I didn't know her too well, but from the times we did participate in debates and other work together I can say she was definitely an amazing mind and a really committed advocate of education for kids and women in developing countries.

She had a lot of fans among my friends and colleagues.

Taliban victim had 'sense of mission'

Aid worker. Outremont resident, three others die in hail of bullets southeast of Kabul


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jackie Kirk's 40th birthday cards are still sitting on the mantle in her Outremont home, chilling reminders of a life taken too soon.

"I'm still not sure I quite believe it," said her husband, Andrew, of her death.

Kirk, 40, was one of three foreign aid workers killed in an attack by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Lowgar province yesterday.

Kirk was an adviser to the International Rescue Committee. She helped run educational programs for children.

Andrew Kirk said he learned of his wife's death at 6:45 yesterday morning. "I had a phone call from the IRC head office. ... I was hoping I was still asleep, perhaps, and that this was some dream, but it's real."

Kirk, her two female colleagues and their Afghan driver died in a hail of bullets southeast of Kabul around 10:30 a.m. local time. A second Afghan driver was critically wounded and remains in hospital. The province's deputy police chief, Abdul Majid Latifi, told Agence France-Presse that Taliban insurgents ambushed the two clearly marked vehicles that were carrying the aid workers on a 100-kilometre stretch of road between Gardez and Kabul.

He said the attackers broke the windows of the vehicles and then shot the workers at close range.

"There were signs of about 10 bullets on the vehicle but more bullets on the bodies of the victims. They were hit by dozens of bullets," he said. "We don't know yet how many men carried out the attack."

A person claiming to be a Taliban spokesman took responsibility for the attack, saying it was done in retaliation for the ongoing NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. "We don't value their aid projects and we don't think they are working for the progress of our country," said Zabihullah Mujahid in a telephone interview with a news agency.

Kirk was a veteran of international aid work, having spent time in Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo and Indonesia. She was scheduled to go to Taiwan later this year. She had been working for the IRC since 2004.

Her husband said she cared deeply about her work, so much so that it wasn't unusual for the couple to spend anniversaries apart, as they did this year, on Aug. 8. "She was incredibly passionate, warm and committed to what she was doing. She had a huge sense of mission, I think."

Kirk was trained as an elementary school teacher and had a particular interest in women's education. She wrote her thesis on women teachers in Pakistan. "She was always very focused on the lives of girls and women in these countries and wanting to help understand their lives to help make things better," said her husband.

Her academic colleagues from McGill, where she was associated with the university's Centre for Research and Teaching on Women, expressed their grief in an email yesterday. "Her energy, cheerfulness, generosity and critical mind will be sorely missed by her colleagues in Education and the feminist community at McGill. We extend our deepest sympathy to her husband, Andy ... and to her family in the U.K."

Kirk, a dual citizen, last appeared in The Gazette's pages in 2002 after she wrote a report calling for more support for children whose families immigrated from war-torn countries.

When news of her death reached Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Kirk and her colleagues, saying they had given selflessly to help the Afghan people. "Their spirits will live on in the continued efforts of all who are assisting in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," he said.In a statement released late yesterday, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean called the attack "another cruel blow to our nation as we continue to grieve."

One of Kirk's co-workers was a fellow Canadian - 30-year-old Shirley Case of Williams Lake, B.C. The two other IRC employees killed in the ambush were driver Mohammad Aimal, 25, of Kabul, and Nicole Dial, 30, a dual citizen of Trinidad and the United States."They were wonderful, wise, profoundly committed, compassionate humanitarian workers," said the IRC's Michael Kocher. "We are outraged by this brutal, senseless, heinous attack." As a result of the killings, the IRC has decided to suspend its humanitarian aid programs in Afghanistan, where it has worked for more than 20 years.

The bodies of the aid workers were being kept in pine caskets at the main hospital in Pul-i-Alam before being transported to Kabul later in the day, AFP reported. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called the deaths of the foreign aid workers "senseless murders.""I condemn the killings in the strongest possible terms," he said.

Edited by Guest
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very sorry to read your post Blane.

((((strength to her husband, family & friends))))

I leave for Kandahar on Monday and I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting myself into.

The ramp ceremonies are going to be extremely sad and heavy psychological moments, I know that!

I refuse to be afraid of life though, and believe in myself and the reasons I am going.

I will be checking in to say hi to you skanks on occasion.

Be well everyone


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yeah, it's kinda hard-hitting. especially knowing a whole lot of other people working in less-than-safe places on a pretty regular basis. When you look at how little progress has been made in making lasting change, you start to wonder whether it's worth putting your neck on the line. Of course Afghanistan is particularly tough as a destination, but I think the same issue is relevant elsewhere.

I'm going to start regular trips to Kenya next month under the guise of helping with climate change, and kinda wonder about it myself!

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I knew jackie by email through the Canadian Global Campaign for Education. It's very sad news as she'd spent her life promoting education for all (a millenium development goal and something she insisted on even n emergency situations). She was a great woman who lived by her ideals.

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