Dr. Nancy Murray interviewing British author Victoria Brittain on her new book Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women in the War on Terror
On 14 April 2013, CagePrisoners had the pleasure to speak in Brussels at a conference organised by the Collectif Réflexions Musulmanes (CRM). The enthusiasm was palpable at the venue since it was perhaps the first gathering of this kind in Belgium.
CagePrisoners has no political affiliations, but would urge all to step aside and show support for Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui in the forthcoming elections in Pakistan.
On 7 March 2013, Cageprisoners hosted an event which featured Victoria Brittain, former foreign editor of The Guardian, speaking about her newly published book Shadow Lives.
It was the opportunity for all to learn about the daily struggles and immense strength of Guantanamo Bay detainees' wives or families of prisoners recently extradited to the US.
If you missed the event or want to remember these forgotten women once again, tune in tonight on Islam Channel (Sky 813) at 10.30 pm.
My Afghanistan was one of the films shown as part of the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival. This documentary, directed by Danish director, Nagieb Khaja, gives a unique insight into the impact of the War on Terror for the civilians of Afghanistan.
A new law has been presented last week before Parliament to deprive those having a dual nationality of their French citizenship if those individuals are “bearing arms against the French armed forces and police” and are considered as “jihadist”.
The extraordinary experiences of the families of the men being held under house arrest.
Press TV's documentary program "Infiltration" shows how British Muslims have been kept under surveillance by the British police and MI6 agents.
American news outlets are abuzz with the ongoing manhunt for Christopher Jordan Dorner. As the search for him continues, one thing has become strikingly evident: just how deeply the logic, discourse and tactics of the War on Terror have penetrated the American police state. The media and the LAPD have demonized Dorner as a crazed killer, rather than seriously engaging with the political rationale of his actions. With the threat of additional violence presumed to be high, and his capture hindered by the weather and mountainous terrain, the task force has even admitted that they’re employing drones. Now that the white paper on targeted assassinations in circulation, we have to wonder: how soon until ‘targeted strikes’ come home? In a few years, will ‘enemies of the state’ on home soil simply be killed from above?
He’s been on the run ever since. Speaking about the case, Police Chief Charlie Beck recently commented, "This is an act of domestic terrorism”.
Perhaps that’s fitting, given that “terrorism” has come to encompass essentially any illegal act purportedly committed with political (read: anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-American, anti-racist) aims. Dorner has been clear about the rationale behind his violence – just after the attacks he posted a 6,000 word message explaining his actions. As he opens his message Dorner writes:
“I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days. You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile wherever he was seen. I know I will be vilified by the LAPD and the media. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name. The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse.”
Later he adds:
“...Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant race of a species and they inadvertently take kindness for weakness from another individual. You chose wrong....
...I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north...”
Dorner is presumed to hiding out in California’s San Bernadino Mountains. Officers fear that additional causalities may be inevitable if he is not captured, and are also worried he could escape across the border into Mexico – so the joint forces responsible for his arrest have begun to rely on warfare technologies. As one senior police officer commented, “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Some news sources have suggested that the police are out to assassinate Dorner. The Express asserted, “Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil”. Despite these claims, there is no evidence to suggest that Dorner is being tracked by armed drones, and it seems most likely that that they’re employing surveillance drones to locate him more easily.
Then again, police forces have been killing Black men without charge or trial since before the birth of the nation. [As KRS-One taught us, ”The overseer rode around the plantation, The officer is off patroling all the nation... The overseer had the right to get ill, And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill, The officer has the right to arrest, And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest!...] With a $1 million reward on Dorner’s head, let’s not underestimate the lengths the joint task force will go to ensure that he’s neutralized, whether or not they use a drone [and let’s not forget the other Black men assassinated by the cops in recent years]. As one blogger wondered, “In light of current concerns about domestic “terrorists”, one wonders if the Panthers would be considered drone assassination targets under the current Justice Department guidelines if they were around today?”
The Obama administration continues to redefine the concepts of “imminence” and “proportionality” in international law to suit their needs, all to justify a secret program that assassinates US citizens abroad. That’s a reality that few of us could have imagined prior to 9/11.
I doubt Dorner will become the next al-Awlaki. But in ten years... who knows what will be legal on home soil?
Testimony of Abu Yasin one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Testimony of Abu Khalid one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Testimony of Abu Umar one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Testimony of Abu Layth one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Testimony of Abu Muhammad one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Testimony of Abu Assad one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
On 11 January 2013, the French army launched a military campaign in Mali following movements of armed Muslim groups towards Bamako. For months now, they took up the whole of northern Mali and were just about, as we are told, to occupy the whole country. France following Mali’s President formal request decided to militarily intervene. And when I say France, I mean President Francois Hollande, without consulting the Parliament, decided on Friday to send French troops to Mali.
American Justice – a Richard Vergette play that addresses the sociopolitical issues surrounding the death penalty - has just opened in the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, running from 10 January to 9 February.
The play is based around the character of Lee Fenton (played by Ryan Gage), who has murdered the daughter of the Congressman (actor Peter Tate) but, on request of the Congressman, he has his death sentence commuted to life without parole on the condition that the Congressman educates him. Rest assured, the storyline goes far deeper than the surface with big twists that leave the audience gasping at crucial moments. It strongly encourages you to walk away thinking about the issues that are addressed – rarely, does a West End play have such a potential impact on influencing the political stance of its audience.
The play addresses the following themes - the systemic abuse of prisoners by law enforcement officers in a predominantly conservative Christian country, the state of prison education system, the theory of rehabilitation and retribution and the impact of murder upon the family of a victim.
The harsh acts of the warden (actor David Schaal) are immediately excused within the first quarter of an hour as he attempts to justify his actions by quoting the Bible -
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” (Mathew 5:7).
The warden’s belief that Fenton is not merciful leads to him to speak to him using derogatory terminology, discouraging his development and his Christian belief is used to explain why the warden believes Fenton ought to be punished by death for his actions. This is a reflection upon the mindset of many conservative Christians in the U.S. who stances on a variety of issues ranging from Obama’s Muslim heritage to homosexuality are referenced in the play.
An article written on behalf of CagePrisoners need not go into extensive detail about the theme of systemic abuse – we have written countless times and produced multiple reports that stand testament to the abuse and torture in secret camps, Guantanamo Bay, and the general treatment of prisoners affected by the War on Terror. Prison abuse goes much further than just those that CagePrisoners campaign for – there is strong evidence to suggest the “beating of prisoners, torture of prisoners, (and) humiliation of prisoners” occurs frequently in state prisons. There is no respect for the fact that these prisoners are paying time for their crimes, which is sufficient punishment – they should not be treated inhumanely during this time.
Education and Rehabilitation
Many opponents of the death penalty strongly believe in the power of strengthening the prison education system in rehabilitating offenders. The Congressman takes it upon himself to look past the fact that Fenton had murdered his daughter, and chooses to teach him – the audience quickly witnesses a man who cannot read, progress into an intellectual by the second scene.
There is a compelling argument for the use of education to help criminals change and choose an alternate life path upon release, if they are granted release, or even to use their education to make a difference from within the prison. One example of a death row prisoner who used books to educate himself whilst on death row and strengthened his mental faculties, resilience and intellectual capability whilst in prison is Wilbert Rideau. Rideau was held on death row for 12 years until in 1972, the application of death row in Louisiana changed and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In prison, Rideau read countless books and rose to become a leader amongst the abused prisoners, writing freelance articles for mainstream media, publishing his own magazine from within the prison and writing books from inside Angola. Now, after release in 2005 following a re-trial where he was found guilty of manslaughter, Rideau speaks about his experience, the importance of prison education systems and the impact that education had upon his life.
Congressman – “The audacity of hope, you will exemplify.”
For a man who is trapped inside a small cell with little exercise, waiting for the eventual announcement of his date of death or awaiting clemency, a book can have an incredible impact upon the exercise of his imagination and provides him with the opportunity of education – something many take for granted, but research suggests that 75% of those in U.S. prisons are illiterate. The Congressman shouts in frustration at Fenton in the first scene when explaining his motives for wanting to teach him, when Fenton cannot understand – “The audacity of hope, you will exemplify.” Referring to President Obama’s novel, the Congressman is arguing that through learning, Fenton will learn to have a string of hope in prison – hope, which takes a sense of humanity that only comes through education, to feel. Education is an extremely powerful tool that society takes for granted, and American Justice forces you to think not only about prison reform systems but also state education systems and whether we would have as many criminals on the streets as we do if everyone was given an equal opportunity to schooling.
To enforce death upon an individual is to presume that he or she is incapable of rehabilitation. With education comes a chance to be rehabilitated – criminal mindsets can be changed, a sense of morality can be instilled and it comes back to hope – giving the individual hope that they have more to offer than they perhaps initially believed, giving them the hope that they can change.
Victim family impact
Congressman – “There’s something deeply destructive about hatred.”
The hatred that the family of a murder victim feels will not go away with the death of the murderer – as the Congressman tells Fenton, he does not hate him because hatred is “deeply destructive” and cannot be rectified with the simple solution of meeting an eye for an eye. In the same way that burying a loved one never quite puts an end to the sorrow and suffering that lingers, witnessing a murderer die provides a quick pain release, a momentary sense of justice for the suffering of your loved one but beyond this, your loved one does not come back and the grief remains. The Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) was set up to discuss the needs of murder victims’ families, arguing the death penalty does not provide a solution. Families who are part of this foundation have explained that they have dealt with their losses by deciding that they “couldn’t live with that hate and had to move forward,” which seeking the death penalty would not enable them to do – the arduous process of constantly pushing for the enforcement of death over years, often decades, does not give the grieving a moment to deal with their loss and move forward with their lives. After all those years, if their tiresome fight for the death of the perpetrator is successful, they often find it difficult to readjust to a life that does not involve campaigning and fighting for that death – they lose sight of how to live life independently of the one tragic incident that lead them to years of despair trying to seek “justice.”
Education, abusive penal system, rehabilitation and victim impact… there is one more powerful theme that this play addresses, but to share this would be to spoil the plot for those who have not yet watched it. I strongly encourage you all to watch.
It has been found that Asians are 42 times more likely to be held under anti-terror law (schedule 7), most of the time questioned about their religious beliefs and often asked to spy on their local mosque.
For more information on schedule 7 click the following link: Submission to the Home Office Schedule 7 consultation
A launch event for Victoria Brittain’s forthcoming book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Pluto, 2013), has been confirmed for Tuesday, 26th February in the London Review Bookshop.
In Shadow Lives Victoria Brittain explores a hidden dimension of the ‘9/11 wars’ – the impact on the wives and families of the men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and under house arrest in Britain and the US. Beatrix Campbell has written ‘This is a book to make you gasp, weep, shout, but above all a book to admire: the lovely writing, the complexities made clear, the everyday heroism of survivors. It is a terrible story, beautifully told.’
Victoria Brittain, described by John Pilger as ‘one of the greatest reporters’, will be at the shop to talk about her book with the award-winning human rights lawyer Louise Christian, who has acted on behalf of several Guantanamo detainees. They will tell the horrifying stories of several of the families affected by extra-judicial detention, and discuss the wider implications of policies which flout the rule of law, breach fundamental human rights, and run counter to the basic principles of human decency.
Tickets for the event cost £7 and can be purchased through the London Review Bookshop’s website, here.
It promises to be an engaging discussion that is not to be missed. We advise booking your place early, and we’ll be posting more about this event closer to the time.
The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror
Victoria Brittain. Foreword by John Berger. Afterword by Marina Warner
“Thanks in no small measure to Victoria Brittain’s remarkable work, we should all have at least some sense of the horrifying events of which Guantanamo is a symbol. Here Brittain adds another crucial dimension to the shameful record, with a searching, sensitive, and wrenching account of the ordeal of the women left behind, their torment, their endurance and courage, their triumphs over the cruel “extension of prison to home.” And not least, a revealing picture of what we have allowed ourselves to become. " – Noam Chomsky
“This is a window into an invisible world…a reminder that abandoning normal legal standards has serious consequences for the Rule of Law.” – Helena Kennedy, QC
International human rights breaches - State accountability v State immunity
Legal seminar: Preserving the rule of law: taking a risk
Extradited to a future of torture: the reality of solitary confinement in America
Spying and Entrapment
Starving for justice
Are Muslims active enough in the fight against Guantanamo?
Guantanamo: 100 days of hunger strike - Template Khutba
Muslim students discriminated against in the UK
Help Lynne Stewart, civil rights lawyer for Muslim defendants, stay alive
How your Schedule 7 swab could help get your family arrested
Why haven't you signed the Shaker Aamer petition?