It seemed like a great idea. Tyrone Edwards, who heads up the Remix Project, a Toronto arts and culture organization, organized a trip to the inauguration in Washington. Young people, black and Arab, piled into three buses and off they went. Then they came to the border near Buffalo.
Buses one and two got through with no difficulty, but the third bus was stopped. Edwards, in bus number two, also stopped to wait for his charges in the other bus. And wait he did, for seven hours during interrogations, finger-printing, and photographing of those on the bus. Luggage was searched and hand luggage x-rayed. Of course, this was all a natural precaution as some dozen of the girls on that bus were wearing hijab. Then the border agents turned their attention to bus number two, still waiting for bus three. Two hijab-clad girls on that bus were also interrogated.
The delays were understandable. After all, many of those on the bus were of a skin color similar to that of the president, and others had names of the same origin as his middle name.
Anyway, they finally made it through to the inauguration and Edwards still thinks it was a good idea, in spite of the humiliation.
Strange goings-on at Omar Khadr’s Guantanamo trial. It turns out that Khadr saw Maher Arar in an Afghanistan safe house. Yes, that’s what FBI agent Robert Fuller told the court. When shown a photo of Arar, “He identified him by name.” Arar, as you may remember, is the Canadian who was rendered by the United States for some rough treatment in Syria.
Both Fuller and another anonymous interrogator denied that Khadr had been mistreated in custody, a denial flying in the face of clear evidence to the contrary—his use as a mop to clean up a puddle of urine and pine oil, his admission to the “frequent flyer program” wherein for two weeks he was moved every couple hours to a new location, constantly interrupting sleep.
Well, soon after Fuller’s startling revelation, things began to unravel. FBI notes taken from the interrogation in 2002 report that Khadr said that Arar “looked familiar” and that he might have seen him in late September or October, 2001. However, the O’Connor judicial inquiry into the Arar affair placed Arar in North America at that time. Arar states that he has never been in Afghanistan.
Another Canadian who was held first in Syria and then in Egypt, Ahmad El-Maati, says that he was coerced to say he saw Arar in Afghanistan, a statement he says is false.
But before we simply toss this stuff off as just so much nonsense, it reveals something important. The U.S. government has refused to allow Arar entry into the country, saying that it had other evidence about his terrorist connections. Fuller may well have revealed the source and nature of the “evidence.”
Adil Charkaoui, who is on bail while being held under a national security certificate, speaks to journalists in the foyer of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa January 31, 2008.
Imam Salam Elmenyawi, chairman of the Muslim Council of Montreal, told a federal court in Montreal on January 22 that Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan living under strict bail conditions as a potential terrorist, is falsely accused. He reported that Charkaoui expressed outrage at the fire-bombing of the library of a Jewish school and denounced the bombings of transport in London. His testimony was in support of Charkaoui’s bid to have his stringent conditions softened.
Gaza tragedy strikes Ottawan
Monzer Zimmo, a Palestinian-Canadian from Gaza, is devastated by what the Israeli attack on Gaza has done to his family. His sister-in-law was getting things ready for the day, beginning to prepare breakfast, waking the children and getting them to the kitchen-dining area.
While she was following them back to the kitchen, a rocket came through the roof, destroying the part of the house she was passing through. It sprayed shrapnel which cut into her body in a number of locations. With the children wailing, Monzer’s brother picked her up, carried her bloody body to the car, and made the dangerous drive to the hospital. He then returned and took his children and his traumatized mother by another dangerous car ride to his sister’s place.
His sister-in-law had her right leg amputated above the knee, and the process of removing shrapnel has begun. She is in good spirits when family members and friends are with her in the hospital but otherwise she is very down. Because she is an Egyptian citizen, permission was obtained to have her transferred to Egypt, where there are better medical facilities and more specialists, but she declined. No, said this remarkable woman, because she was stable and there were resources for her in Gaza, she wanted her pass to Egypt given to someone whose situation was more serious. The wounds suffered by the other members of the family are not physical, like those she suffered, but the psychological wounds are just as real.
This is not the first tragedy that the family has endured at the hands of Israel. Last year, Israeli forces came and systematically destroyed the family farm, uprooting the irrigation system and leveling the citrus and olive trees.
Yonasy flees to Canada
Now let’s see if I have this right. The United States and Canada are in Afghanistan to protect human rights and to promote principles such as equality of the sexes. That’s in opposition to the reactionary Taliban, who want to destroy democracy, undermine human rights, and oppress women. So why did Masoda Yonasy leave Afghanistan to take refuge in Canada?
This 22-year-old woman, a granddaughter of a former king, is a regular ball of fire. At her age, she had already established a construction company, an agency teaching literacy and computer literacy, and a clinic for drug addicts. Then came the final straw. She told the Toronto Globe and Mail that some day she would like to be president of Afghanistan. When this ambition came to be known in her country through an Internet report in both Pushtu and Dari, the two main languages, the Taliban were out to get her. Well, that is all according to the official “War on Terror” script, right? But not so fast.
Yes, the Taliban wanted her dead, but so did others, even members of her own family, including an uncle. She had to go into hiding. A friend of hers was killed. On the urging of Canadian diplomatic officials, Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took the unprecedented step of issuing her permission to be in Canada on humanitarian grounds. This is apparently the first time such permission has ever been given to someone who was not already in Canada.
Yonasy landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on January 23, dressed for the cold, but not wearing a burkha or any other head covering. So Canada is giving refuge to a young woman whose government back home cannot and will not protect her, a government riddled with corruption and largely in the hands of brutal misogynist warlords. It is protecting her from brutal men who are in control in a country out of control and who are prepared to do what it takes to keep women in their place, even if that means killing them.
This is the same male-dominated, warlord-dominated régime that the U.S. and Canada are fighting to keep in power.
Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, Maher Arar, the Canadian who was rendered by American officials to Syria, summed up Bush’s record on the War on Terror as one that “did not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, and a war that left a legacy of death, destruction, and torture.” Arar expressed the hope that President Obama will be different, with any such war to be “fought under the banner of law, moral principles, and ethics, not under that of torture, illegitimate secrecy, misinformation, and lawlessness.”