Archive for March, 2012


Dr. Dahlia Wasfi was born in the United States to an American Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. She lived in Iraq as a child, returning to the U.S. at age 5. She earned her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Dr. Wasfi has made two trips to Iraq to visit her extended family since the 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion, including a three month stay in Basrah in the spring of 2006. She has brought her …eyewitness account of life under occupation to 22 United States; Capitol Hill in D.C.; Toronto and Vancouver, Canada; Madrid, Spain in 2007; and the 3rd International Iraq Conference in Berlin, Germany, in March 2008. Her talk in Austin will cover the devastating effects of the 1991 Gulf War, the economic sanctions, and the 2003 invasion and occupation. For more on Dr. Wasfi, including her writings, visit: http://www.liberatethis.com

An Excellent video from the Islamophobia for Dummiez series highlighting the the events that happened that happened in Iraq. But what is really exceptional is Dr Dalia Wasfi’s analysis of the war on terror, the state of Iraq and why conscious people in the west need to stand side by side with all of our brothers in sister in faith and humanity who are oppressed due to the war on terror around the world.

 

Leading academics joined SOAS students on Tuesday 21 February to explore the legacy and vision of Malcolm X and mark 47 years since his assassination.

The student organisers teamed up with the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, in New York, to host a lecture exploring his misunderstood legacy.

The event will explored his vision, his evolution and his achievements.

The panel included:

Paul Gilroy, Professor of Social Theory at LSE and writer of the introduction of the autobiography of Malcolm X
Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University
Zead Ramadan from the Malcolm X and Dr Betty Shabazz Center.

Interview with Dan Viesnik from Londons Stop Guantanamo Campaign

Me: I’d like to thank you for agreeing to take part in the interview and one thing I would like to start off with is can you tell us a lot more about the campaign, about the history of it and how it started and where it is now?

Dan: Yeh sure,  So we started towards the end of 2006, basically to campaign for the British residents, the 9 of the british residents who still remain in Guantanamo and campaign for justice and their freedom to return to the UK. So, out of those residents, they’ve all since been released so from that point of view the campaign has been a success but of the original residents that we’re campaigning for theres still Shaker Aamer who is a British resident who’s still in Guantanamo and theres also Ahmed mubashar who since then wasn’t a legal resident. His asylum application was rejected whilst still in Guantanamo so on this technical grounds the British government has refused to ask for his return. Uhmmmm but we continue to say that because he cant return to his native Algeria due to fears for his safety if he is forcibly returned there, he would rather stay in Guantanamo then go back to Algeria. We’re saying that because he lived in the UK for two years on compassionate grounds the UK should offer him the possibility of returning here as a safe place to return to but although the government says its doing everything it can to bring shaker aamer back, its refused to make any representation or to offer a home to mubashir or any other prisoners who can’t return to their countries of origin. So as well as campaigning for the freedom of the residents we’ve also campaigned for Guantanamo to be shut down and against other secret sites and cia prisons around the world and also against the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Me: Ok, so you said that you know, from your campaign, its broadened to actually shut down Guantanamo Bay and all these secret prisons and rendition. What kind of obstacles has the campaign faced apart from the government rejecting some of your campaigns like for example bring shaker aamer back home and all these other prisoners, what other obstacles have you guys faced?

Dan: well in terms of the way we campaign, we haven’t really faced obstacles in the sense that we’ve organised demonstrations and letter campaigns and things. But really its been a case of trying to get people engaged in the issue and trying to…..i think the biggest obstacle is apathy really, where this isn’t really an issue even for people who work on peace and justice campaigns, Guantanamo just isn’t really a priority for them so I think to really get some leverage we’re gonna need to have a critical mass opinion of people who are demanding action and that’s been difficult at times. I think its, I mean, we came in to the, The London Guantanamo campaign started when it was becoming easier to campaign for Guantanamo in the early years after the 9/11 attacks when Guantanamo first opened it was obviously much harder because very little was known about the very people being sent to Guantanamo and so it was assumed that people believed the propaganda that these people were the biggest terrorists on the planet and so forth but we’ve since learned that from the journalistic work being done by the lawyers and so forth that from the stories that have come back we’ve learnt that the majority of the people   who ended up in Guantanamo or elsewhere are either completely innocent or they never had, or certainly it wasn’t ever proven that they were involved in any kind of terrorist activity. We learnt about the bounties, several thousand dollars that were offered to people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to hand over foreign nationals to the Northern alliance and to the americans and how so many people, completely innocent people, people who had nothing to do with, were not involved with terrorism at all, al qaeda or even the Taliban who ended up in the hands of the US and then who had confessions out of them through torture and coercion so really this big obstacle is overcoming that people believe, I believe that propaganda that even today terrorists and why are you defending them, their evil people and just always having to, you know a lot of it comes out through ignorance and narrow mindedness and a lot of people haven’t heard of the stories about the majority of those who are not terrorists, never had anything to do with terrorism, theres 171 people in Guantanamo and 89 of them have been cleared for release theres no, now the government has deemed them not a threat, theres no reason for them to continue to be there but for political reasons their still there purely for political reasons which makes them political prisoners.

Me: You said their still there for political reasons, can you name us some political reasons their still there for?

Dan: well I think a lot of its to do with political opinion in the US that’s still going in to the hype that its for the interest of national security and their a threat and even though it was bush that started off Guantanamo and the torture regime and its Obama that carried it on. Although he pledged to shut it down, he was going to shut it down within a year of taking office, that was 3 years ago and still there’s nothing that happened. He’s afraid I think, he’s afraid of the political right attacking him for being weak on security and any moves to take real action to shut down Guantanamo and baghram and have a change of attitude and a more human rights focused approach leaves them in their eyes vulnerable to their enemies in the eyes of the political rights in the United States and so that’s the major obstacle really.

Me:  So from what I understand, that actually makes it a political imperative for someone like Obama to keep Guantanamo bay open to maybe secure votes or to maybe secure some people on the right in America to ensure that he wins the next election and things like that, you also said that there were certain monetary gains that were to be made, that were paid out to people, do you think that there could have been a certain level of corruption in that?

Dan: Afghanistan has been classified, I think as the most or one of the most corrupt countries in the world and I’m sure that although the current government is supposed to be particularly corrupt. I’m sure that that was also, I’m sure that that kinda thing also went on before, but you know to us, $5,000 to us, well to me will be quite a lot of money but to them will be kinda like becoming a millionaire almost, it’s like several years wages. So if the United States has given them drop flyover’s over afghan villages saying that you know, we’re going to look after your family for years to come you know if you hand in anyone you suspect of being a, you know, al qaeda or Taliban or a terrorist, you know then there’s a massive incentive to you know, somebody who’s from a different tribe or somebody who’s not your friend, somebody you don’t like or have any loyalty to to hand them over and take the money and I’m sure people would do it in this country if there was a war situation and greedy people out there who would you know, take the money, if they were offered a million pounds to hand over somebody who they didn’t like anyway.

Me: yeh I agree

Dan: but they probably didn’t realise what was going to happen anyway, I’m sure you know, you know if they knew that those people knew that they were going to be sent to a concentration camp in Cuba and tortured for up to 10 years, then despite, even you know with the attraction of the money they might have thought…..

Me: They might have been reluctant to do that, actually you know that reminds me of something. Remember when Saddam hussain was captured there was a bounty on his head aswell, and I remember that they didn’t actually release the money to the person that referred them, referred him to them and there was a lot of reasons saying people were coming up to us saying “he’s over there,” and we didn’t know who to give the money to so there’s a lot of things going on there but I want to know more about the London Guantanamo Campaign, so you opened up in 2006, wjat kind of events have you done and what kind of, you could say has there been a change in the political arena in terms of its attitude towards Guantanamo, do you think the attitude is changing now?

Dan: Well since I’ve been campaigning I haven’t noticed a change and I think particularly after Obama came in saying that he was going to close it, it was bad for the United States image and so forth so certainly since the change from when we started up to that point from the public there were more people being sympathetic to us so from that point of view things have become easier in terms of getting public support but there’s still so many people who aren’t clued up about the truth and what the real situation is and also I think that we do what we can to campaign here in London and the UK but this isn’t really where the pressure needs to be laid, okay, I’m sure there’s more that the British government can do to bring Shaker Aamer back and of course it could offer a home to Mubashar, he could be here today in theory if it wasn’t for these new laws that they’re passing which makes it now very difficult to transfer anybody to other countries or to the US to face trial. Prior to those laws being brought in it would have been straight forward so, we do, we kind of act in how we think we can be effective and how we can bring about that change but really in terms of the vast majority of people in Guantanamo and elsewhere there’s only so much we can do here that’s going to be effective that’s really going to have any kind of influence so you know we can only do our best.

Me: Ok, so how can other people get involved in the campaign and what can other people do in their own individual capacity not just help the London Guantanamo Campaign but you know, maybe do their bit to help shut Guantanamo down, what can people do?

Dan: well they can join our demonstrations, we hold monthly demonstrations at the US embassy and at speakers corner….

Me: OK, I didn’t know that, you do monthly

Dan: yeah they used to be done weekly now they’re done monthly since the beginning and in addition to that we have latter writing campaigns and petitions from time to time, there’s an early day motion which is to shut Guantanamo by Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbin at the moment so people can write to their MP and ask them to sign the early day motion and theres details of various things on our website which is londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com. In addition there’s the save Shaker Aamer campaign which we’re involved in as well and we’re working specifically with shaker Aamer for his return and in February it will be the 10th anniversary since he arrived in Guantanampo bay and there will be two events in Battersea because his family is from Battersea and also one outside the US embassy on the 11th and 14th of February so people can join in on those events. People can write to David Cameron the prime minister, they can write to William Hague the foreign secretary and they can also write to president Obama they can write to the secretary of state Hillary Clinton to make their feelings known they can also write to their MP. So there are all these things that people can do but there are also all these other organisations which campaign on behalf of, to shut Guantanamo, there’s Reprieve, there’s Amnesty, there’s cageprisoners of course and you know people can check their websites to see what kind of actions and events they are organising and go along to those. Some of them, they can inform themselves on what the situation is so that they’re able to speak with some kind of authority you know when they’re talking to their MP or when they’re writing a letter they can show that, I think its better to send a personal letter which raises some of the issues which are of concern to you rather than just a template letter that somebody else has prepared so its good for people to inform themselves about what’s going on and people can write to newspapers and to radio programmes and so forth and just to basically do day to day talking to people from their faith, talking to people from their religious community or friends or family and getting people thinking about the issue and getting together maybe organising events of their own so there’s all kinds of different things people can do depending on their skills and their interests, if they’re poets they can write some poetry, so there’s all amounts of things people can do to raise awareness about the issue and make their feelings known, we have social media, we have twitter, facebook we have London Guantanamo campaign uses both of those so there’s all different arrays where people can get involved and get their feelings known and try and get some kind of movement and get these people home from Guantanamo and get Guantanamo bay shut down.