Maher Arar

Canadian citizen Maher Arar was rendered by U.S. officials to Syria where he was tortured and detained for a year. Canada cleared his name, apologized, and compensated him, whereas the United States refused him justice, has yet to apologize, and keeps him on a watchlist. Maher has become a passionate advocate for human rights and founded Prism, an online magazine focusing on national security related issues


Portrait by Bud Shultz

“The overzealous response to the events of 9/11 that the Bush administration chose to adopt has destroyed my life and the life of many innocent people all of whom happen to be Muslims. My life was shattered, my career ambitions could no more be realized and my hope for obtaining justice through the American judicial system evaporated after the Supreme Court refused to hear my case.

I would like President Obama to immediately launch a criminal investigation to find out whether Bush and his aides were responsible for the rendition and torture program part of which still exists today. I know President Obama has resisted the call for transparency on this matter and indicated that he wants to look to the future. But without looking at the past we can never plan for a better future.”

 

Mr. Mohammed Khan Tumani

Mohammed Khan Tumani, along with his father Abdul Nasser Khan Tumani, was unlawfully detained in Guantánamo Bay. Mohammed was only 17 when he was first taken into custody, making him one of roughly 22 individuals who were originally detained as minors in Guantánamo. Both Mohammed and his father suffered severe abuse in detention. Neither was ever charged with any crime. Mohammed and his father are now respectively resettled in Portugal and Cape Verde. They dream of the day they can be together again.

When I really look back at the past ten years, I realize that I lost all my life and not only part of it. And that is due to the injustice and the arbitrary detention I was subject to. I was looking forward to becoming a productive member of my society and I had other ambitions as well, yet God set my fate his way and I lost all that I dreamed of. Yet, I am now back to rebuilding my future despite the large number of hurdles I am still facing, one of them is the loss of my father because of the American government and its unfair justice.

Honestly, the world has completely changed from worse to worst during the last ten years, especially in the domain of human rights, in particular in the United States which, to my knowledge, had always implemented democracy; however when I was imprisoned by them I learned the meaning of democracy whose principles are barely being implemented in any nation, especially when it has to do with human rights. Killing and injustice are widespread, especially over poor people who have no connections and this is the justice that is being claimed by the nations that use it in the shape of beautifully arranged words only when they please. This shows only one thing and that is the world is leaning towards its destruction, for there is no longer anybody willing to value it and build it. Just the contrary!

What I wish to see is for us to treat each other in fairness and equity, to have sympathy towards each other, to have big people have mercy on small people, to have small people respect big people without any distinction whatsoever, to have justice prevail, to remove any distinction between poor and rich people, between a person in charge and an ordinary individual. Yet this will not happen, for a ruler without justice is like a river without water.

Justice is to give each person his or her due and, therefore, implementing justice will bring happiness to the society with all types of individuals and social level. However, justice nowadays is absent, or almost absent, or it is present only in books and lyrics. America is the great power in the world that is dictating equity between societies and their citizens, yet it fails to implement not even one per cent of justice in its own backyard. The best example and evidence to prove what I am saying can be seen in Guantanamo where prisoners don’t even have the liberty to communicate with their families and America, on the other hand, is requesting other countries to free their prisoners and is dictating to them to implement human rights and fair trials while we find America itself turning a blind eye and plugging its ears when it has to do with its own practices; as if only America was legally authorized to behave as it pleases and the world should do what it dictates.

Finally, I say when rulers stay away from justice people stay away from obedience. “

 

Mr. Benamar Benatta

Mr. Benatta is a plaintiff in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class action civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who were swept up by the INS and FBI in a racial profiling dragnet following 9/11.

“9/11 events affected many lives in the world, but it had a tremendous effect on mine in particular. I was in my twenties and full of energy, when suddenly my cherished life was shattered to pieces. As a Muslim with background in aerospace, I was of course singled out, and detained by U.S officials under the preventive detention policy, that was established by former attorney General John Ashcroft. However, my agony did not end there; for the next seven months, I was held incommunicado, beaten, ill-treated, and held under conditions that was described by the federal Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr as “oppressive” and caused a stern rebuke from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which condemned the “ high-security prison regime (involving impositions that could be described as torture) which, for no reason whatsoever, was imposed on [Benatta] while he was under investigation by the FBI” . The irony is that this ill-treatment, this torture to be more precise, did not take place in Guantanamo or Abu-Ghraib, but right within the jurisdiction of the United States, in the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn to be precise.

In all, I spent nearly five years in detention, and was unaware of how far, the horrors of 9/11 have changed our world. Freedom has been restricted and flying became a bit more of a hassle. We let fear and hatred get the best of us. I believe many people in the world, especially Americans, desperately wanted everyday life to be the same as it was before 9/11. I, for one, desperately wanted my life back to normal. I have been trying to put the shattered pieces of my life together for years now to no avail. I even went back to the University and finished a master degree in Aerospace Studies, thinking that that extinguished lamp will light again in my lifetime. However, I soon realized that getting a job in the aerospace industry is very slim if not impossible; thanks to that “Terrorist label” that is still hunting me and will probably do so for the rest of my life.

I miss the America of the old days; I have seen a very dark, scary side of America where the rules of law were basically non-existent, and wish to never ever see that side again. There is no denial that the U.S government made its share of mistakes as did other nations, however, greatness is not by keep doing the same mistakes but by learning from them, fixing them, and never repeating them again. In this age and time, I agree that security should be a priority; however, I do also believe that we can accomplish that without compromising civil liberties, as Benjamin Franklin once said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty, nor safety”. What makes this nation great is by believing that all men and women are created equal, by believing in truth and justice among others. The founding fathers made sure that future governments are bounded by a written constitution that protects individual rights.

I was moved when the American people elected the first African American to the White House, and I thought the country is getting back on the right track. However, I do believe that there is more work to be done, and that some issues had to be addressed before moving forward. It is not as simple as it may seem to just flip the pages and assume that everything is alright; it is not, since innocent people, such as me, had their lives ruined and continue to suffer as a result.

I hope that peace will prevail on earth; that justice will be served in the near future; that I will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to be able to close the book on those dark times. As I wish , that one day, be able to visit the U.S, stand at the world trade center, and pray for those who lost their lives completely unnecessarily in that horrible day.”

 

Ahmer Abbasi

Mr. Abbasi, from Pakistan, is also a plaintiff in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class action civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who were swept up by the INS and FBI in a racial profiling dragnet following 9/11.

“I was 20 yrs old when i went to US, very young and energetic. hopefull to acheive the american dream like any other immigrant. But going forward with those dreams i made some crucial mistake's to make myself legal in the US. That's where my fall began. Working hard in new york as a cab driver for almost 10 yrs(some time 18 hrs a day)earned good money and life was so smooth for me.

After 9/11 the whole world changed for me, first few months of my incarceration i start feeling that what ever is happening with me, i should'nt expect better than this because after all i'm muslim, and we deserve this .came back to pakistan empty handed did'nt get a job for 3 yrs, parents helped me out and insisted me to get married, which i did'nt want, and thought how am i gonna afford to run a family here.

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I'm still struggling here as life is getting tougher every day, when i look back over the ten yrs, life has become stressfull and there's no hope.

In coming yrs i would like to see the world as a better place to live, when every body have this understanding, that terror has no religion, we have bad people every where in the world ,in every religion.

Justice means to me every thing, if together we strive against terror, we surely can defeat it, just have to make sure that our policies are in favor of the people, and off course what are the root causes of terror, what we are facing right now.”