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Perhaps you have heard the story of Maher Arar. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: Mr. Arar, a citizen and resident of Canada was grabbed up – basically kidnapped by the U.S. Government – in 2002 during a family vacation stopover at JFK Airport, and illegally sent off to be imprisoned and tortured in the Middle East for over a year. The notorious Syrian prison where Arar was held and brutally tortured for over 10 months is known as “The Grave”. Arar’s arrest was made based on false information, and Arar was given no opportunity to consult with a lawyer – told by our government that he had no rights whatsoever because he is not a U.S. citizen.
Since being returned to Canada in 2003, the Canadian government has cleared Arar of any wrongdoing, made a formal apology to him, admitted its complicity in Arar’s wrongful detainment, and awarded him over $10 million dollars. The U.S. Government has yet to admit its illegal actions, or even take Arar off the terrorist watchlist – which he should have never been on in the first place – even though the Canadian Government officially requested Arar be removed from this list in January 2007. Arar’s case against the U.S Government continues.
I’m writing about Mr. Arar because I am moved by the story of his suffering and survival, and disturbed by how little I’ve heard about Arar in mainstream media. And I am inspired by the ongoing efforts in pursuit of justice by Mr. Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh. Were it not for the intense campaign of Mazigh to have Arar freed, he might still be imprisoned.
I first heard Mr. Arar’s story in 2006, and was reminded of Mr. Arar again when he was interviewed on Fresh Air recently. You can listen to the show here:
Canadian Citizen Imprisoned by U.S. Speaks Out
There have been a number of other excellent stories on NPR about Mr. Arar as well, which you can find and listen to by searching their website. You can find more info about Arar’s case on his website, as well as in an extensive Wikipedia entry on Extraordinary Rendition.
This is just one of many stories of illegal, unconstitutional actions taken by the current U.S. administration, and as citizens, I believe we all bear some responsibility for our government’s actions. So I sent this letter to Mr. Arar in October 2007, when members of the U.S. Congress also apologized to him, as he appeared before them to testify about his experiences:
Dear Mr. Arar,
I heard your story on several NPR programs in October of 2006, and was very moved hearing of the ordeal you and your family have endured. During an interview, you were asked about whether an apology from the US Government would help. As a citizen of the United States, I would like to apologize to you, knowing that an apology from this particular government will probably never be forthcoming. Though I am proud of my country, I am deeply ashamed of this government and its many inhumane and destructive actions. This government, which myself and many others believe was not legitimately elected, neither speaks nor acts on my behalf. And many, many of us are working to ensure that the people who did this to you will be removed from power. It is a challenge, but hopefully one which can be accomplished sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I work for peace, most especially with my friends of many faiths in an interfaith peace group, where we work to educate each other and the public at large about the beauty of each of our religions, and the many common values we share. We work to support each other, and in particular to change the perception that Islam endorses violence and that Muslims are dangerous and should be feared.
What happened to you, I believe, is a direct result of the scapegoating and fear-mongering being used by this government to further its political goals. I pray that such injustice will pass away from our world, and that no one will ever have to go through something like this again.
I started writing this message in 2006 but never completed it. Then the other day I heard that you had testified before Congress recently, and remembered that I had not completed and sent this message to you. I hope that the apologies you received from members of Congress provided you with some small measure of comfort. I know nothing can erase the wrong that has been done to you and your family, or make up for your suffering.
I wish you peace and healing, and thank you for all you are doing to bring attention to these issues.
Peace and Love,
PS I am sending this via e-mail because I wanted to send this apology to you with my personal contact info, so you would know it is coming from a real person and US citizen.
* Flute Fusion * from The Silver Nightingale
“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker
I am posting this information because this is a story everyone, especially everyone in the United States, should know, and because I greatly respect and support Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh’s persistent work – in the face of tremendous resistance from the current U.S. Government – to make sure that what happened to them does not happen to others.
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich
“A free spirit, huh? Well, you know I’ve been called that. But you know there’s no point in setting a spirit free if it just runs and hides once it’s sprung from the box. Now, too many free spirits confuse freedom with mere chaos. The fact is, you can’t lose focus. You can’t avoid the real world. A truly free spirit seizes their time and works like a field mule right around the clock to try to haul all the less free souls to someplace better. And this is the true job of the Artist, the Seer, and yes, even the Princess. Temptation is just the voice that whispers: ‘Don’t bother.’ Well here’s the word: Bother. Do it. Reach!”
– Dennis Hopper, Concert for Diana, 1 July 2007
From my good friend and colleague, Annie Wenz – kayaking gypsy shaman folk nurse!
I thought I’d send this out in case maybe just maybe some of you have in your hearts &/or pocketbooks to contribute to an absolutely wonderful cause/song camp for teens age 12-18, sponsored by “Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas & Texas Folk Music Foundation” (Our friends at The Kerrville Folk Festival)
The camp is SUCH an AMAZING gift! Many of these kids have at least 1 parent in Iraq, & most of them come from incredibly difficult situations. Music has been the perfect tool for bringing them together, building their self esteem, teaching them leadership skills & giving them hope!
They are actually the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. (this will be my 3rd year teaching) They arrive from various areas around Texas not knowing each other, keeping to themselves, initially, shy insecure & out of their element. Within 24 hours, they stand arm in arm, cheering each other on, laughing, crying, sharing the joy of music & art. They are totally transformed.
Cost of sponsoring 1 teen is just $50 (but even part of that would be a huge help) Also if anyone out there just won the lottery, we are also in need of a “food sponsor”- that will cost $1500. (if not, we’ll just feed them bread & water & maybe some wild grapes & armadillos from the ranch 😉 )
This years music instructors are myself; Tom Prasada Rao; Donna & Kelly of “Still on the Hill” & Roy Wooten of Bela Fleck; Texas artists Frank Meyer & Bill Oliver, & Poetry instructors Tim Mason and Jena Gessaman.
It is SUCH an honor to share music with these kids. I know we are making a huge difference in their lives as we pass the torch of music & community.
If you are at all able to donate even a bit, please contact:
Jon F. Charles (Camp Director)
304 W. Ave B
Killeen, Texas 76541
(254) 699-5808 Ext. 106
(512) 525-9037 Cell
Deputy Chief Professional Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas
or Dalis Allen
Player of Harleys/Guitar/Piano/Drums/Indigenous Flutes
Stay tuned to this category, I will be posting more opportunities to do good in the world, and inspiring stories about people doing good deeds (unless those end up in my Inspiration Category! 😀)