Reporting from Ottawa (Canada)
10th March. 2002
CAUGHT BETWEEN HARD ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
especially those with Muslim names or those who wear turbans
and beards or look like Middle eastern are caught between
a hard rock and a hard place trying to survive in predominantly
Christian countries (North America and Western Europe), without
being apprehended for belonging to a terrorist organization.
say that even Sikhs with their long beards and turbans have
been in danger of being arrested because they looked like
members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network led by Osama bin
Laden! Many innocent people are languishing in jails and police
holding cells without access to their families and lawyers
because they had Muslim names, or looked like Arabs in appearances.
Many are deported to countries they had never seen or left
with their parents when they were babies or toddlers due to
a brutal civil war that still persists today.
IS ILLEGAL TO DEPORT CITIZENS"-- AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
some 30 American-Somalis living and working legally in the
United States have been deported to Somalia without charge
or reason. All were shackled together on the aircraft and
when they complained they were beaten and drugged. According
to news agencies, all medications were taken from them, including
insulin from diabetes and anti-depressants, causing anxiety
among the users.
kept asking us if we knew Al-itihaad," one of them
told a press conference on arrival in Djibouti, adding that
most of them left Somalia in 1978 and became American citizens.
Many of them hardly speak the Somali language or knew anybody
in the war-ravaged country. Unarmed, with no money or documents
(Their American documents have been impounded by the US Air
Marshals and the FBI before boarding the aircraft) they are
stranded and are unable to hire bodyguards to protect them
in a country where the gun rules - a country where gunmen
decide who eats or starves. Their families are desperate to
know their whereabouts as they were secretly whisked out of
the US. It is illegal to deport citizens to a country without
a central government, such as Somalia. For some strange reason
the story has received little attention in the Western media
or human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International.
kidnapped my son. I didn't even know he'd been deported. I
was told nothing," lamented the father of a 20 year-old who
was a university student in Seattle.
Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) based in Toronto recently
issued a damning report about laws that erodes rights of the
individual. The CJFE report says: "An increasingly number
of countries are responding to September 11 in ways which
erode rights. Indeed many governments are using the war on
terrorism to further clamp down on critical voices within
their own countries, including writers, journalists, political
dissidents and even ordinary citizens.
USA PATRIOT ACT signed into law October 26, 2001 gives the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) extensive powers wiretap
anyone suspected of working with terrorists; read and monitor
mail and email (they are free to read or print this article!),
access to business records (freezing bank accounts); indefinitely
detain citizens and conduct secret searches. The law gives
the Central Intelligence Agency (The CIA) authorities to obtain
all Federal Grand Jury information, including police records,
wiretap transcripts and testimony without court order.
Britain the law passed by parliament in December 2001 authorizes
prolonged detention of suspects even when no charges are laid
- is a violation of the European Human Rights, which Britain
is a signatory. The law allows wiretapping and surveillances
of Internet correspondences.
laws are passed in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy,
The Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries. Individuals
and lawful charities are being mistakenly named as "terrorists"
due to errors, or malice or unsuccessful rigid interpretation.
believes that true security depends on rigorous respect for
civil liberty. Restrictions on freedom of expression, here
in Canada (Bill C-36) or elsewhere around the world from enhancing
security are likely to breed insecurity, as unpopular ideas
whose expression runs the risk of attracting attention from
law-enforcement agencies are driven into the shadows. Security
measures that threaten freedom of expression could have the
effect of forcing dissent underground, perhaps making legitimate
dissent take forms that represent danger to society."
to home, Ethiopia, exploiting the war against terrorism, has
been pointing the finger at Somalia for obvious reason - hoping
to get the old dash (hawl-fududeyn) and a pat on the
back from Washington. The Tigrean regime in Addis Ababa alleges
that Somalia is an open invitation to international terrorism.
I have been saying all along that there are of course terrorists
in Somalia, but these are homegrown who decimated the country
and committed genocide against unarmed civilians. For many
of us who lived under the shadow of their guns, regard them
as more lethal and ruthless than the international terrorists.
Experts on Somali affairs repeatedly classified Al-itihaad
"as a group that ran out steam" and had never engaged in international
terrorism, save their futile skirmishes with Ethiopia in the
1980s and early 1990s.
Afrah © 2001
Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He
contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international
newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through
the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two
of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English
language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship
introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga
Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to
know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship
laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in
the country. He received several death threats from the warlords
and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained
defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction
to Reuters news agency. He still is!