Today in Islamophobia

A daily list of headlines about Islamophobia
compiled by the Bridge Initiative

Each day, the Bridge Initiative aims to bring you the news you need to know about Islamophobia. This resource will be updated every weekday at approximately 11:00 AM EST.

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11 Jan 2022

Today in Islamophobia: Today marks twenty years since the U.S. government opened the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, where 780 Muslim boys and men have been imprisoned. Today, 39 men remain with 27 having never been charged with a crime. A number of articles today discuss the legacy of Guantánamo, the torture at the center of the institution, the lives of the prisoners, and the ongoing legal challenges. Our recommended read of the day is by Khalid Qasim for the Guardian on his twenty years of imprisonment without charge at Guantánamo; Qasim writes, “The golden years of my life have been wasted in Guantánamo. If what happened to me happened in America, they would give me millions of dollars. Because I’m in Guantánamo, because I’m Arab, because I’m Yemeni, nobody cares.” This and more below:

United States

11 Jan 2022

I’ve been held at Guantánamo for 20 years without trial. Mr Biden, please set me free | Recommended Read

It may surprise you to know that I think America has a very good justice system. But it is only for Americans. In the cases of those like me, justice is not something that interests the US. I wish that people understood how Guantánamo is distinct. In Guantánamo, the torture we are exposed to is not isolated to the interrogation rooms; it exists in our daily lives. This intentional psychological torture is what makes Guantánamo different. There is interference in every aspect of my existence – my sleep, my food, my walking. For the first nine years at Guantánamo, I was held in solitary confinement. It was a harsher, more violent place then. The communal blocks that opened in 2010 made a difference, but the deliberate mental torture remains the same. The rules change constantly and without warning. Some guards and some administrations are more cruel than others. The only freedom I have here is to protest. On aggregate, I have been on hunger strike for seven years. Seven years, feeling that I am not dead but also not alive. I believe in facing my jailer. They control my body, but not my heart. They tried to prevent me from learning, but I have anyway. The golden years of my life have been wasted in Guantánamo. If what happened to me happened in America, they would give me millions of dollars. Because I’m in Guantánamo, because I’m Arab, because I’m Yemeni, nobody cares. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Guantánamo Panel Approves Transfer of First High-Value Detainee

A Somali man who has been held at Guantánamo Bay as a high-value prisoner was approved for transfer with security assurances, according to a document obtained Monday, making him the first detainee who was brought there from a C.I.A. black site to be recommended for release. Guled Hassan Duran, 47, received word of the decision on Monday morning, the eve of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He became the 14th or 15th of the 39 detainees still at Guantánamo with approval for transfer once U.S. diplomats find countries to accept them with security guarantees that satisfy the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III. Mr. Duran was captured in Djibouti in 2004, spent about 900 days in C.I.A. custody and has been held in classified detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay without charge since September 2006. He cannot return to his homeland under a congressional prohibition on the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Mr. Duran is unlikely to go anywhere soon. The Biden administration has transferred only one detainee from the prison, a Moroccan man whose repatriation negotiations were begun during the Obama administration, put on hold during the Trump administration and completed in July. Once a deal is reached for any of the cleared prisoners, the secretary of defense has to sign off on it and Congress has to be provided 30 days’ notice. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

20 Years Later, the Story Behind the Guantánamo Photo That Won’t Go Away

The image ignited a debate over what the United States was doing at its offshore prison, which continues operating to this day. It also became one of the most enduring, damning photos of U.S. detention policy in the 21st century. But lost in time and collective memory to many is that the picture was not some leaked image of torture that the public was not meant to see. It was taken by a U.S. Navy photographer, intentionally released by the Defense Department. To the chagrin of a succession of military commanders, the image of those first 20 men on their knees would not go away. Newspapers and magazines routinely republish it in articles about the prison, the base and the United States’ war on terrorism. Protesters don orange and re-enact it. Islamic State fighters usurped it and put hostages in bright orange clothing, then executed them. Just two are held today. Of those first 20, eight were released by the time Mr. Bush left office. None were ever charged in the Sept. 11 attacks. It has become so pervasive, so emblematic of U.S. detention policy that some do not realize that it was taken at Guantánamo Bay, the prison that the George W. Bush administration made its showcase detention operation. In a recent episode of “60 Minutes” about a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a government document, the Guantánamo photo that was released by the U.S. military filled the screen to illustrate the idea that the government has used classification “to conceal wrongdoing — torture in the war on terror for example.” read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Timeline: 20 years of Guantanamo Bay prison

During the past two decades, 780 men have passed through the facility, which was created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Today, the facility holds 39 men, according to disclosures from the US government’s interagency Periodic Review Board made in October. “These are detentions that are inescapably bound up with multiple layers of unlawful government conduct over the years – secret transfers, incommunicado interrogations, forced feeding of hunger strikers, torture, enforced disappearance, and a complete lack of due process,” said Amnesty International’s Daphne Eviatar in a statement. Al Jazeera looks back at some key events over 20 years of controversy surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Guantánamo Bay at 20: why have attempts to close the prison failed?

The first prisoners arrived at the newly built Camp X-Ray prison at the US naval base in Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay on 11 January 2002. It was a makeshift jail formed of chain-link cages and barbed-wire fences, watched over by snipers in plywood guard towers. It was never intended to be permanent, but from the start it had an ambiguous legal status: outside normal US law, it housed what the military called ‘enemy combatants’, not prisoners of war. Twenty years on, approximately 780 prisoners have been held at Guantánamo in total. However, beset by allegations of abuse and torture at the camp, authorities have only been able to bring charges against 12 men and convictions against two. The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, tells Nosheen Iqbal that the murky legal status of Guantánamo Bay that made it so attractive to the US government in 2002 is now making it so difficult to close. Despite the hopes of three presidents (Bush, Obama and Biden, but not Trump) to close it, progress has been glacially slow. It requires the willingness of US allies to accept the transfer of prisoners, and while there was some momentum in the early phase of Obama’s presidency, it has since dried up. Meanwhile, 39 prisoners continue to spend their days inside Guantánamo, with little prospect of release for many of them. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

20 years on, Biden must close Guantánamo once and for all

It has been 20 years and four presidential administrations since Guantánamo opened, but for those born since then, its terrifying stories sound more like the plot of a fictitious horror film than reality. It is a disgraceful legacy we simply cannot pass on to future generations. Opened in response to the September 11 attacks, Guantánamo has held almost 780 Muslim men and boys. Before they were detained, many were abducted, disappeared and brutally tortured in secret US-run prisons or by so-called allies in the “war on terror”. In Guantánamo, they were tortured, very few were charged with crimes, and none given a fair trial. Kafkaesque military commissions set up to try them have proven ineffectual and unfair, denying defendants an impartial arbiter and access to critical evidence. Meanwhile, families of 9/11 victims have waited in vain for justice. Amnesty International and many others around the world have doggedly campaigned to close the prison since its inception. President Joe Biden, like President Barack Obama before him, has promised to close it, but so far has failed to do so. It is not just about closing Guantánamo. It is also about delivering accountability for the violations committed within its setting. Last year, testimonies from a number of former detainees, including Majid Khan, Abu Zubayda, and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, describing their abuse at US-operated “black sites” abroad and in Guantanamo, were made public. Abu Zubaydah’s story was told in a PBS documentary called, the Forever Prisoner, the torture inflicted upon Slahi, who is now a bestselling author and human rights defender, was portrayed in the film, The Mauritanian, while Khan told a sentencing jury about enduring stress positions, beatings, forced-feeding using tubes tipped with hot sauce, and sodomy with a garden hose. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in civil cases against Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland and Romania for their complicity in the torture and enforced disappearance of people in the context of the US rendition and secret detention programmes, but there has never been any meaningful accountability for the United States. From those who authorised torture at the highest levels of the government to those who carried out the illegal “enhanced interrogation techniques”, no one has ever been held responsible for the crimes committed. This should begin with the declassification and full release of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on CIA torture. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Getting to a secret prison is difficult, seeking justice from it feels hopeless

It has now been more than 20 years since I lost my father on Sept. 11, 2001. I have lived without him and his love for the majority of my life. I had hoped that I would eventually find closure or peace, but it feels as if my loss, my pain, is prolonged by the years of injustice that continue to follow from those attacks. I am now experiencing another 20th anniversary — except this one represents the persistent absence of morality at a nearly unreachable place, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. I spent this 9/11 anniversary prepping to go to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center for my first time. I have since been twice, and on Jan. 11, 2022, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the facility, I was supposed to be sitting in the viewing gallery, observing another round of pre-trial hearings for the 9/11-accused; however, the hearings were cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. Although out of extreme precaution for individuals’ health, this represents another road block, another delay, still with no trial date in sight. The obstacles and delays are not just a question of logistics. They stem from the abandonment of rule of law and the lack of a commitment to human rights, with torture at the center. The military commissions, the prison as an operations center, and the specific selection of what can and can’t be discussed is all part of what Carol Rosenberg calls “a peculiar pick-and-choose transparency.” This system creates obstacles that not only hinder the progression of a potential trial but also the potential of closure. I never imagined I would sit in the observation gallery watching the 9/11 accused and struggle with feelings of guilt for the torture done on our behalf. I sat there and felt a sadness — for myself, a sadness for the system and those it wronged. It’s time to reflect and consider what the next 20 years should look like. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

20 Years of US Torture – and Counting

Twenty years after Guantánamo Bay detention operations commenced on January 11, 2002, a new report assesses the massive costs of US unlawful transfers, secret detention, and torture after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The report, from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Human Rights Watch, outlines how these abuses trample on the rights of victims and suspects, create a burden to US taxpayers, and damage counterterrorism efforts worldwide, ultimately jeopardizing universal human rights protections for everyone. The report notes that: The US has held no one accountable for the CIA orchestrating a system of undisclosed “black sites” throughout the world in which it secretly detained at least 119 Muslim men and tortured at least 39. The US has largely resisted accountability for abuses at its military prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it detained thousands of Muslims including several women and boys, and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The US military is still detaining 39 Muslim men at Guantánamo, 27 of them without criminal charges, and judicial proceedings are so flawed that none of the five 9/11 suspects have been brought to trial. The prisoners are among at least 780 foreign Muslim men and boys whom the US has held at Guantánamo since January 11, 2002. The US has spent more than $5.48 trillion on the “War on Terror” including $540 million a year just to detain prisoners at Guantánamo. While unlawful US detentions have gradually ebbed, civilian deaths and injuries from US-led strikes in the “War on Terror” skyrocketed under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump, also without accountability. US counterterrorism partners have replicated the Guantánamo model by detaining thousands of people in dire conditions in Iraq, northeast Syria, Nigeria, Egypt, and elsewhere for alleged terrorism offenses. Those detained, often without charge or trial, include civil society members, suspects’ relatives, and children who are victims of armed groups. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

‘It’s a huge political albatross’: Guantánamo Bay, 20 years on

Camp X-Ray was built in three days, but the sprawling Guantánamo Bay prison camp which grew out of it has proved very hard to dismantle. About 780 detainees have been held there over the past 20 years, many of them swept up arbitrarily on the battlefield. One university study found that 55% of them had not committed hostile acts against the US or its allies. Three of the past four US presidents (Donald Trump being the exception) have tried to close it, but 20 years on, it is still there, a legal anomaly and lead weight wrapped around America’s global reputation. Guantánamo Bay (known in the US military by its abbreviation GTMO) has been left to fester. Conditions have improved: the detainees are no longer in solitary detention and are kept in cell blocks with refrigerators and communal pantries, but the fact of detention without trial remains a constant. Over the 20 years of its existence, only 12 detainees have been charged, and only two have been convicted by the military commissions. As time goes on, more prisoners face death in Guantánamo by natural causes. It will increasingly become a very expensive, yet very rudimentary, nursing home in the Caribbean. The Pentagon has asked for $88m to build a hospice for ageing detainees, the New York Times has reported. The prison camp already costs over half a billion dollars a year, working out at nearly $14m per detainee, compared to about $80,000 an inmate in US ‘supermax” prisons. “I’m not sure what their strategy is,” Durkin said. “They say they want to close Guantánamo, but they seem to be running into all the same problems that Obama did … Guantánamo has taken on a life of its own. It’s a huge political albatross, and frankly Obama dropped the ball.” read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Virginia delegate calls FCPS response to attack on Muslim student ‘unacceptable’

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates said the Fairfax County School Board is failing in its response to a December attack on a Muslim high school student. In a letter to the board sent Monday, Ibraheem Samirah, who represents parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, said its response to an attack on Fairfax High School student Ekran Mohamed was unacceptable. A witness said a male student pushed Mohamed to the ground, removed her hijab and assaulted her. The incident sparked a student walkout from county schools in solidarity with Mohamed, while a Fairfax County Police Department investigation concluded that no racial comments were made. Samirah denounced the attack as an act of bigotry and reiterated that multiple eyewitnesses reported the attacker having used anti-Muslim slurs, despite police findings. Mohamed’s lawyer, Abed Ayoub, said the altercation began in a classroom where the perpetrator was among a group of students crossing out Islamic symbols. When Mohamed went to alert a teacher, Ayoub said, she was grabbed by the neck and shoved. “There’s multiple witnesses who can attest to racist and Islamophobic comments and overtures being made immediately prior to the incident into the assault,” Ayoub told WTOP. read the complete article


11 Jan 2022

Exclusive: many resettled Guantánamo detainees in legal limbo, analysis shows

About 30% of former Guantánamo detainees who were resettled in third countries have not been granted legal status, according to new analysis shared exclusively with the Guardian, leaving them vulnerable to deportation and restricting their ability to rebuild their lives. Of the hundreds of men released from Guantánamo since the prison first opened 20 years ago, about 150 were sent to third countries in bilateral agreements brokered by the US, because their home countries were considered dangerous to return to. Publicly, the US committed to transferring them in a humane way that would ensure rehabilitation after years of incarceration – and, in many cases, torture – without charge. But many remain in legal limbo, unable to work or reunite with their families, and have been subject to years of detention. Others have been forcibly returned to dangerous conditions. The new data was produced by the human rights organization Reprieve, which assists former detainees, and illustrates how the lawlessness that has marked the prison from the beginning can follow men years after their release. The analysis indicates that approximately 45 men have not been given residency documents upon resettlement. read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

Saudi Arabia: Imminent Deportation of Uyghur Detainees

Saudi authorities are apparently preparing to deport two Muslim Uyghurs back to China, where they are at serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi authorities have held the men arbitrarily since November 2020 without charge or trial. An informed source told Human Rights Watch that on January 3, 2022, a Saudi official told one of the detainees, Nurmemet Rozi (Nuermaimaiti on his Chinese passport), 46, that he “should be mentally prepared to be deported to China in a few days.” The Turkey-based daughter of the other man, Hemdullah Abduweli (Aimidoula Waili on his Chinese passport), 54, a religious scholar, posted a video on social media in Arabic stating that her father and Rozi are at imminent risk of deportation, appealing for Saudi Arabia to allow them to return to Turkey where they were residents. The two men are currently held in al-Dhahban Mabahith (intelligence) prison north of Jeddah. “If Saudi Arabia deports these two Uyghur men, it will be sending a clear message that it stands arm-in-arm with the Chinese government and its crimes against humanity targeting Turkic Muslims,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Deporting people to places where they would face arbitrary detention, torture, or worse, risks further tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s global human rights image.” read the complete article

11 Jan 2022

HSBC holding shares in China firm linked to human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims

HSBC bank holds more than £2 million in shares for a subsidiary of a Chinese paramilitary company that has been accused of human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims, it has been revealed. The UK’s biggest bank bought £2.2 million worth of shares for Xinjiang Tianye, a chemicals and plastics company, for an anonymous client last year while continuing to act as a custodian meaning it pockets money while holding the shares, the Sunday Times reported. Xinjiang Tianye Group describes itself as a “large state-owned enterprise in the eighth division of XPCC”, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The corps, a large paramilitary and economic organisation, has been subject to US sanctions and has helped to oversee the surveillance, mass detention and forced labour of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. The group is often described as a “state within a state” and controls numerous publicly traded subsidiaries, including Xinjiang Tianye which is on the Shanghai stock exchange and allegedly plays a part in the abuses including forced labour transfers. read the complete article

Bosnia and Herzegovina

11 Jan 2022

In Bosnia, the ‘Eastern Question’ Is Rising Again

He was referring to the painful history of indigenous Muslims living as minorities in the post-Ottoman Balkans — a history of discrimination, violent expulsion or worse, including mass extermination. He was also referencing the euphemism that some Europeans invented in the 19th century to define this long-term genocide: the “Eastern Question.” This “question” is a historical theme but also a very urgent one, as Bosnia and Herzegovina, my home country, is going through the most serious political and security crisis since the 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the three-year international armed conflict that resulted in Bosnian genocide. In the last few months, Milorad Dodik, Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite presidency and the leader of secessionist efforts of the Republika Srpska entity, announced — and indeed already took — some explicit steps toward the breakup of the country. Just like his political predecessors aimed to destroy the Bosnian state, Dodik continues using the same anti-Muslim narratives and hateful, essentialist speech against Bosniaks, in line with the war criminals who orchestrated and executed the latest genocide in the early ’90s. Dodik’s renewed, purposeful and increased usage of the term “Muslim” aims to reduce the entire Bosniak people to a religious group only, to portray them yet again as foreigners in Europe. At the same time, he hopes to tap into the vision some Western European leaders have of the continent as well as their embrace of Islamophobic narratives about Muslims. But this narrative goes beyond Dodik. He finds open support from Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, and Janez Janša of Slovenia, two of the most xenophobic and openly vocal anti-Muslim leaders in Europe. They seem united in what they call the “defense of Europe,” a familiar line from the ’90s. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Jan 2022 Edition


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