One never knows when
a name, a story, an email or newspaper article is going to grab
you by the scruff of the neck and change your life. What follows
is the story, from its beginnings, of how a Muslim leader from
Ann Arbor, Michigan became my brother.
The easiest way to
navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal
text is to click on your "back" button at the left of
your tool bar.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2001
I intended to write about tonight's wonderful Solstice gathering at Pat N.'s apartment in Windsor, Ontario. I'd already prepared the photos when I went online to check my emails. Well, the journal entry quickly lost priority. I learned that Rabih Haddad, a respected and active member of Ann Arbor's Muslim community for two and a half years was arrested by three INS agents on December 14. He is being "detained indefinitely" at an undiscosed location with no bail. He has been charged with no wrongdoing.
According to the email I received, Mr. Haddad "has spoken out for the humanitarian needs of people in Afghanistan many times throughout the state of Michigan since September 11. He represented the Muslim community at a Town Hall meeting sponsored by Rep. Lynn Rivers and has participated in panels at University of Michigan. Mr. Haddad is also on the board of trustees of the Global Relief Foundation, the assets of which were frozen by the Bush Administration yesterday. There were no arrests of Global Relief officials at the foundations Chicago headquarters.
"The only information that the INS has given about Mr. Haddad is that he is being detained indefinitely. He has a wife and four children here in Ann Arbor and is a deeply loved member of the Muslim community. What has happened to Mr. Haddad would have been unimaginable in our community just four months ago."
So I wrote our two senators and three of our representatives from Michigan asking them to investigate and advocate for Mr. Haddad. I then sent a letter to my Michigan friends encouraging them to do the same. I began my letter to my friends in this way:
They came for the Jews and I didn't speak out. They came for the Blacks and I didn't speak out. They came for the homosexuals and I didn't speak out. They came for the Arabs and I didn't speak out. And now they've come for me and there is no one left to speak.
Let us not let it come to that. We must speak out and we must do it now...
It is after 1 AM and I
must go to bed. I'll write tomorrow about the Solstice gathering.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2001
The following is a copy of an email I sent to the Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit (CPR) listserv at 7 PM today:
I have just returned home after spending the afternoon with Rabih Haddad's family, friends, character witnesses and representatives of the media/press in the US Immigration Court waiting room in Brewery Park, Detroit. The bond hearing itself was closed because of "secret testimony" by the government.
I'd estimate 300 people turned out to support Mr. Haddad, a well respected member of the Muslim community in Ann Arbor. They only allowed as many people into the waiting room as there were chairs available; I was fortunate that I'd brought my own "chair" in the form of my Amigo scooter, so I was allowed to stay. A number of supporters offered their chairs to witnesses who would not have been able to stay otherwise.
My new friend, Fadi Kiblawi, a University of Michigan student leader who had driven in from Ann Arbor (even though he has a hard exam tomorrow), was one of those who gave up his seat to a witness. I'd met Fadi out in the parking lot where he kindly said yes to my request that he help me unload my scooter from my car and assemble it. He even stayed with me when I had to return to the car with my camera after the guard refused to let me take it into the court waiting room.
In our conversations I learned that Fadi, a Palestinian whose family left Kuwait in 1986, is a member of the executive committee of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, U of M. He'd been instrumental in planning the September 28 anti-war demonstration at U of M that drew 5000, as well as the more recent meeting called to inform more than 500 Arab men on student visas in the Ann Arbor/Dearborn area of their rights regarding the FBI letter they'd received requesting that they "voluntarily" report for questioning.
Fadi also told me of the importance of Rabih Haddad's work as co-founder and organizer of the Global Relief Foundation. As he described it, this is one of only two Arab relief organizations that has been actively gathering funds to help the Afghan refugees and victims of war. A major part of Ramadan is to give aid to those in need, so the Global Relief Foundation has been an essential part of that effort. Fadi said it was particularly unfortunate that Mr. Haddad was arrested and the Global Relief Foundation's assets were seized by the government on Friday, the day before Ramadan ended with the celebration of Eid. Many Muslims would have donated great amounts of money on Eid to help the suffering people in Afghanistan. A note of cruelty to me was that Rabih Haddad was not even allowed to bring his Quran into jail on one of the most important Muslim holy days of the year.
Today's bond hearing got under way at 2:30 PM but it was not until all Mr. Haddad's witnesses had testified that the judge postponed the hearing until January 2. The reason given was that the government witnesses were not present. We didn't hear this news until 4:30 PM.
When we left the waiting room, the halls were crowded with media cameras--they weren't allowed in the court area--and downstairs was a large gathering of supporters. Salma Al-Rushaid, Rabih Haddad's wife, spoke calmly to the press and media before she and her children left to return to Ann Arbor. I'd had an opportunity to spend some time talking with Salma in the waiting room and found her to be a most courageous woman.
I encourage everyone to come out to the Immigration Court on January 2 to support Rabih Haddad's rightful effort to get out of jail on bond. I'll be sure to send an email to the group as soon as I hear the time of the hearing.
in peace and solidarity
I've just finished listening to/singing with Holly Near's song "1000 Grandmothers". That's what it was like today--I was a grandmother offering the presence of truth and love to a people who needed a grandmother. How did I know so strongly that I was meant to be there today? Why did Rabih Haddad's arrest and detainment disturb me so much when I read of it on Sunday night? I can't answer these questions. But when I was one of the few who was allowed to stay in that court waiting room, I knew there must be some reason. All I could do was be present, and so I was.
I sat most of the time with my eyes closed, offering peaceful loving thoughts to all involved in this hearing. Rabih Haddad himself, his lawyer, Salma and the children, the judge, the INS agents and lawyers, the witnesses, Mr. Haddad's supporters, and every representative of the media and press. The phrase "May truth prevail" kept going through my head like a mantra. And so I sat until one time I opened my eyes and saw Salma, whom I'd never met or seen before today, shyly smiling at me. I returned the smile and continued to sit in silence.
And then at a particular moment I knew it was time for us to meet. So I scooted over to where she was sitting with her friend and the children. Her face lit up with relief, as if indeed she were seeing the face of her grandmother. I don't know exactly what I said but I know it was what she needed to hear. And I know she needed to have her hand held in mine. What a mystery!
And so I ask all who read this to hold Rabih, Salma and their children in especially good energy. They need and deserve it. When I asked Salma what we can do to help, she shook her head and said, "I don't know." I then said, "Prayer?", and she cried, "Yes, oh yes! That is what I am asking of everyone. Prayer is what we need--pray that the truth will come out."
What a gentle-spirited courageous woman. And she has a good sister/friend at her side in Huda. As I told her, "You are not alone. There are people all over the world who are with you and your husband in this. Stay strong. The truth always wins. It may take awhile and we may have to stay strong for a long time, but the truth will come out."
May it be sooner rather
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2002
Well, the operation was a success but we lost the patient. At least that's the way it feels.
Although the Muslim and peace communities of Ann Arbor--three busloads-full--joined with peace activists in Detroit to put on the most amazing demonstration I've ever been part of, Rabih Haddad was denied bail after a secret detention hearing that went on before an immigration court judge for four hours. The reason given? He is a flight risk and a danger because they found a weapon in his home. The fact that this "weapon" was a registered rifle that he uses to go goose hunting with his children proved immaterial.
I say it was immaterial, but actually no one really knows what was material in this case because the hearing was conducted totally in secret. No one was allowed into the court except his lawyer and his witnesses. Not only was the courtroom closed, but no one except perhaps 15 individuals--including his wife and children--were allowed inside the entire Brewery Park complex of buildings.
When I got there an hour before Rabih's scheduled bond hearing, the guard at the front gate checked my name against a short list and directed me a few feet forward to a police officer who informed me that I would need to exit the premises as my name was not on "the list". Even Detroit's Representative John Conyers, Jr.--the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that has oversight responsibility for our immigration laws and our courts --was not allowed on the premises.
What does this say about America?
Well, what happens in the so-called halls of justice these days may be as far from democracy as one could imagine, but what happened today on the streets outside those hallowed halls was the very best of America. The injustice that went on behind closed doors cannot diminish the wonder of what 300 women, men and children experienced together on this cold sunny day in the heart of Detroit. We were truly one family. It was among the most prized moments of my 59 years.
As I said, I arrived at noon, an hour before the detention hearing was scheduled to begin. I'd come early so as to be among those allowed into the court waiting room with Rabih's wife and children. An email I'd received from her after the December 19 hearing had let me know that my presence gave her great comfort. I wanted to be there for her again.
Fortunately, something had led me to dress warmly this morning and to bring my ski mittens, just in case. When the "just in case" came to pass, I parked across the street from the Brewery Park entrance. Before getting out of the car, I called Pat K. on my cell phone to tell her to dress warmly because we were going to be out on the streets. She and I had been in phone contact several times already this morning, making last minute plans about Rabih's hearing. Our plan was for her to be downstairs with most of the supporters while I would be upstairs in the waiting room with the family.
Well, all had changed. In addition to dressing warmly, I asked Pat to bring magic markers so we could write signs on the back of the posters I'd thought to put in the car. I then took windchime walker--Ona the scooter was in my car just in case--and walked across the street to start a protest. I particularly wanted Rabih's wife and children to see us there when they drove in.
Within fifteen minutes, Pat was at my side. I asked her to make a sign for me that read "Free Rabih" and she and I settled in for what would be a long day. We were soon joined by eight members of the Ann Arbor Muslim community. Then another Detroit activist friend, John Z., appeared. So we held up our signs but kept wondering where everyone else was. The Ann Arbor folks said there were three buses that should have been here a half hour ago. Besides we'd seen no media or press, nor had we seen the Haddad family.
John said there was another entrance into Brewery Park on Gratiot Avenue around the corner. So one of our young men went on a scouting expedition. He soon returned with the welcome news that there was a large demonstration going on at the other entrance. Pat took Ona the scooter from my car, assembled it, and the three of us--John too--walked/scooted around the corner.
My eyes filled with tears when I saw what I had not even allowed myself to imagine. There were hundreds of people with signs, circling on the sidewalk and chanting loudly with enthusiasm. They even had a bullhorn! And it was a diverse crowd of Arab and non-Arab, Muslim and non-Muslim, old and young, different nationalities and dress, yet all together in a common purpose...to see Rabih Haddad free! It was the whole world out there on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit.
I've been part of a lot of demonstrations in my time but never one like this. We were truly together as one, full-hearted, passionate and committed to see justice done. I was greeted with smiles and welcoming words by so many. My friend Huda, her husband, niece, and two sons treated me like family. So many people thanked me personally for being there. And the most profound moment of the day came at 3:30 PM when over 100 Muslim men, women and children took time for prayer, kneeling toward Mecca on a very cold sidewalk. As I say, I've never seen anything like it.
Rabih Haddad is still in jail tonight. I am so conscious of that fact. It pains me deeply. I can't imagine what this must be like for him and his family. Especially now that they're using the words "possible deportation" in news stories about him. But it was Rabih who created this sense of family among strangers today. And it is Rabih who has become the international symbol of what is happening to Arab immigrants and citizens in the United States since September 11.
Of the 1200 unnamed Arab men being detained without charges and without bond in jails across this country, only Rabih Haddad is visible and known. The news reporter I saw on TV tonight expressed disgust with both the verdict and the secrecy in which it was cloaked. Representative John Conyers, Jr. is one angry man. And that helps. He came to our rally and spoke powerfully from his press release about how "The treatment of Pastor Haddad over the last several weeks has highlighted everything that is abusive and unconstitutional about our government's scapegoating of immigrants in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack."
I'm reminded of Nelson Mandala in South Africa, Gandhi in India, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States. Each a man of courage and conscience who was called to be a symbol of his people's struggle for justice. I would add Rabih Haddad to that list. This kind of leadership is never something one chooses, but when it is thrust upon you--as it is being thrust upon Rabih--you do not say no.
And now to give you an eye into what happened today. Let me show you some of the signs people were carrying:
-Hands off Arab people
-"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed" Steve Biko
-Ashcroft--Free the Detainees
-"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" Edmund Burke
-Innocent unless proven guilty
-Freedom and justice for all
We aren't about to give
up and neither is Rabih Haddad's lawyer. He intends to appeal
the judge's denial of bail, and those of us who were there today
committed ourselves to stand beside our brother Rabih until he
is released from jail and returned home to his family and his
community where he belongs. We left our
signs on the Brewery Park fence as a promise that we shall
THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2002
I am one tired puppy today and want nothing more than to sit around with my feet up, reading. That is until I check my emails. It is then I discover that we really can make a difference, even if we sometimes feel like a lone voice crying into the wind.
Do you remember my writing in yesterday's journal entry about Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and his outrage at being barred from Rabih Haddad's bond hearing at the Immigration Court? His press release says it all. So this morning I send him an email to offer my thanks and appreciation for his words and his presence at yesterday's demonstration of support for Rabih Haddad. I send a copy of my email to Alexia Smokler, his legislative assistant, who occasionally posts messages on our CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) listserv.
I then turn off the computer, go downstairs and sit in the kitchen listening to the ever-mellow jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan on my CD Walkman, and watching squirrels tightrope-walk on electricity wires and play tag along the top of our neighbor's wooden stockade fence. I make myself cheddar cheese scrambled eggs and pumpernickel toast spread with peach jam. Real comfort food. Later on I enjoy a lemon-filled cream puff that Pat K. had brought over on New Year's Day, and sip citrus-mint Tension Tamer herbal tea.
It is just what I needed.
About 4 PM, I log back onto the computer and find there are two messages from Ms. Smokler. The first is a copy of an extraordinary letter sent today by Congressman Conyers to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and to James W. Zigler, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Services. This letter spells out in detail Congressman Conyers' concerns and questions about Rabih Haddad's closed detention hearing and the refusal to give him bail. He begins by saying, "These actions threaten to make a mockery of our system of justice, and send a terrible signal to the international communities regarding our treatment of foreign nationals."
Yippee!!! Does it ever help to have the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee on your side! And I know Congressman Conyers well enough to know he is a real warrior when it comes to injustice. I now see glimmerings of hope that we might actually get Rabih back home again.
The second email from Alexia Smokler is addressed personally to me. It is in response to my message of support and appreciation to the Congressman today. Apparently he's already getting flack for his outspoken support of due process for Rabih Haddad and needs to hear from people who feel as I do. By the way, if you want to send him a message of support, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and Ms. Smokler's is email@example.com
What touches me most deeply is hearing her say: "I was able to inform the Congressman about Mr. Haddad's situation in great part due to your email messages. Please stay in touch and keep up the good work!"
So all those political/human rights email messages I send out day after day really do make a difference. Wow.
Knowing that gives me the push I need to take it a step further and contact Amnesty International about Rabih Haddad. I've felt for some time that his would be a perfect case to appear on the Amnesty International USA Human Rights Center web site, but they just need to hear about it from someone. Why not from me? So I write them an email detailing the facts as best I can. It sure would be wonderful if they take him on! Send good energy, would you?
Change is in the air.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2002
The bad news is that Rabih Haddad is still in jail. Today's appeal to reverse the denial of bail was not successful. It will be four weeks tomorrow since this respected Muslim leader and global humanitarian was taken from his home in Ann Arbor by three INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) agents and held without bond for a minor visa violation. He has had no actual charges brought against him so it is hard for his lawyer to mount a defense. That seems to be the post-September 11 version of "due process."
I didn't really hear what will happen next, but whatever it is will surely be conducted with the utmost secrecy. All three hearings thus far have been closed to everyone except Rabih Haddad's lawyer. On January 2 and again today, the entire grounds where the Immigration Court is located were closed to everyone except those on a secret list. Does this sound like a democracy?
The good news is that we had a spirited demonstration in support of Rabih outside those locked gates. We also had lots of photographers and reporters from local and national press, including The New York Times. Publicity is what we want! This issue of justice, due process and civil liberties is so much larger than one man. Rabih Haddad stands for the more than 1200 Arab-born men and women who have been detained in US jails since September 11, most with no charges being brought and no hope of bail.
So why does someone like me stand out there on the sidewalk, chanting and carrying signs with a community of women, men and children who were strangers to me until a little over three weeks ago? Someone today carried a sign with the quote that has gone through my head over and over these past weeks. It is the words of the Reverend Martin Niemoeller, a German Lutheran Pastor who was sent to Dachau.
In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.
And so now these people are my people; we are members of the same family. When I see Sulaima, Rabih's wife, I know she is my sister. When I hear the voice of her son leading chants, it is my own boy I see. It was like that the first time I sat with them in that horrible Immigration Court waiting room back on December 19. We connected in a heartfelt way then, and every email we've exchanged since has only strengthened that bond. And Sulaima's friends are my friends. Like Huda, her husband, two boys and niece--the gracious family who invited me into their home on December 24, and with whom I've been in email contact ever since. We will always be family.
So when I say the bad news is that Rabih Haddad is still in jail, I must add that the good news is that, in his unjust imprisonment, he has managed to bridge cultures, religions, countries of origin and create a sense of community unknown until now. Isn't it strange how, in times of crisis, an individual's suffering can transcend the personal and touch the universal? That is what I feel is happening with Rabih Haddad.
There was a brightness to today's demonstration. Lots of smiles, enthusiastic chants, children, great signs, and the hope of success. It certainly didn't hurt that it was a mild sunny day.
Of course, as a word person, the signs always speak to me. A few of them were:
National security & civil liberties are not mutually exclusive
Free Rabih Haddad. He's a peaceful, law abiding, loving Dad...one of us
Stop racist profiling
Toto, I don't think we're in the U.S. anymore
I was delighted to see Abayomi and Margaret from CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) marching with us today, and to be joined by my friend, Lisa, who took off from work to attend. It was Lisa who took many of these pictures.
Now the demonstration itself was superb, but I have to admit I had some quirky experiences with the so-called security at today's event. Even though I figured the hearing would be closed, I got there early and drove up to one of the two guarded gates to see if I'd be admitted. I was shocked to be waved in by the guard who didn't even stop to give me a parking pass. I wasn't going to press my luck, so just kept on driving to the parking lot outside the building that houses the court.
As always, I trusted I'd find someone to take Ona my scooter out of the car and assemble her. This time it was John, the TV cameraman whose van was parked next to my car. The news anchor sitting beside him asked if I was one of the protesters. I reframed her question by answering, "Yes, I'm one of the supporters." "Well", she said, "They're not allowing any protesters in here today." But, of course, that didn't stop me!
I made it as far as the court waiting room before being turned away because I wasn't on "the list." Even then, I didn't give up. I decided to wait beside the fourth floor elevators to greet Salma and the kids with a smile and a familiar face before they went into the waiting room. But when Rabih Haddad's lawyer came upstairs, Salma wasn't with him. "Oh", he said when I asked, "she's out front with the protesters." So I went downstairs and headed outside.
I picked up my sign--still in its plastic bag--from the car, and scooted toward the front gate. It was not the gate I had entered, so these guards didn't have a clue who I was or what I was doing there. I expect they thought I was media or press since they were the only ones allowed into the inner sanctum. Anyway, I asked if I came outside the gate, would they let me back in. After all, my car was parked in there. They said they would. So I scooted through the gate and met up with my friends Huda and Lisa. Huda tied my sign onto the basket of my scooter and I joined the march.
A couple of hours later, when we were waiting at the gate to hear the verdict from Rabih's lawyer, I smiled at the head guard and said, "Now, you're going to let me back in, aren't you?" He said in an ominous tone, "I'd like to speak to you in private." I backed my scooter into a less populated spot and underwent a terse interrogation about how did I get in and what was I doing there. I told him the truth. He was obviously irritated and said, "Well, when you go back inside, you'll be escorted by security." I said, "Great! They can help me put my scooter back in the car."
And so it happened that a very nice older African-American security guard named James disassembled and stored Ona in my car for me. Now the fact that the head guard was calling me a liar--he didn't believe the guard at the other gate had simply waved me through--did not particularly please me, but hey, everything worked out pretty well, considering.
Now we just have to free
SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2002
I wanted to write about today's delightful phone call from my online friend Margaretha in Sweden and the joy of singing with Notable Women later this afternoon, but something else has consumed my attention.
Salma, Rabih Haddad's wife, sent me an email this morning that is terribly disturbing. They have moved her husband from the jail in which he has been held since December 14 and will not tell her where he is! As she said, she and the children have lived for Rabih's phone calls and letters, but they have heard nothing from him for three days. She sounds at the end of her rope. The last sentence of her email was: "I have to hear from him soon..they can't do this"
What kind of country are we living in? I just finished watching a powerful video--"Palestinian Diary"--that was filmed by three ordinary people who live on the Gaza Strip. What they describe does not sound all that different from what we are seeing happen to Rabih Haddad and his family. Where is the America we were taught to believe in? Where is freedom and justice? How can they get away with this in a so-called democratic society?
I am so ashamed of my country.
When I read her email for the first time this evening, I immediately contacted Congressman John Conyers, Jr. He has shown such compassion and outrage at how Rabih Haddad is being treated by our justice system. When he was denied entrance to Pastor Haddad's January 2 bond hearing, the congressman started a campaign of advocacy that has included a press release, a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft and to the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and an Op-Ed piece that he submitted to the Detroit News.
And now I have just sent the following email to my CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) listserv:
The latest news is that Rabih Haddad, the Muslim leader from Ann Arbor who has been detained without bond since December 14, has been moved from the Monroe County Jail to an undisclosed location. As of Sunday morning, his wife and children--who have been living for his daily phone calls--had heard nothing from him in three days. The authorities will not tell her where he is being held.
We cannot stand by and let this cruel and unjust situation continue. I ask all concerned persons to contact your senators and representatives and urge them to investigate the obvious abuses in the handling of this case. As we know, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. has been a strong ally in this case, and I trust he will not let this latest injustice go unchallenged. Whatever you can do to bring this to public attention would be helpful. Letters to the Editor? Contacting Amnesty International? Let's just do something!
If you are a regular reader and have been following what has been happening to this man whose "crime" is overstaying a tourist visa but who is being treated like a murderer, I ask you to do whatever you can do to bring attention to his case. Although Rabih Haddad is being detained in Michigan, this is not a state issue, it is a federal one. So if you feel touched by his case, it would be most helpful if you contacted your senators and representatives, as well as letting Representative John Conyers, Jr. know of your support for his continuing efforts to bring justice to this case.
On February 19, the INS has scheduled a deportation hearing for Rabih Haddad. He has expressed fear that if he were sent back to Lebanon, the country of his birth, his life would be in danger. I understand he is going to request political asylum based on those fears. When you contact your elected officals, it would be helpful if you urged them to support Pastor Haddad's request for asylum.
According to a newspaper report I read yesterday, the INS is planning to deport at least 6000 persons, the majority of whom are Arab-born. What happens to their families? Are they receiving the same kind of "justice" that we're seeing with Rabih Haddad?
We cannot sit back and
let this Arab witch hunt go unchallenged. Please let your voice
MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2002
"I am very proud of you."
I hear these words as I eat dinner tonight, not through my ears but through my heart. It is the voice of my father who has been dead since June 1987. It comes as a surprise because the work for peace and justice that has consumed me since the first US bombs were dropped on Iraq on January 16, 1991 is not something I would have imagined he would agree with. And maybe he doesn't, but that's not the point. What he admires is my commitment and determination to make a difference in the world, because it was the world that was my Dad's passion as well. I appreciate his speaking to me, especially now, as our efforts to support Rabih Haddad rush toward more dangerous waters.
The first email I open this morning is from my friend Mohammad. In it he sends a copy of Rabih Haddad's letter to the editor that was published in Sunday's Ann Arbor News. Now, you understand, as much as I have been involved in supporting Rabih and his family during what I consider his unjust imprisonment, I have never met him nor heard him speak. I want you to hear the voice of the man we are trying to free from jail:
An open letter
To 'Lady Liberty'
My Dear Sweet Lady:
You don't know me, yet I am one of your forsaken sons. In my dreams you come to me with promises of freedom and great aspirations, in a land far away.
"One nation, indivisible, under God," you said. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were guaranteed to all," you said. "A land where justice is blind," you said. Your words swept me up in a tornado of hope, dreams, and inspiration. I answered your call and came to you with open arms, and oh, what a sight you were! Standing tall over the world, holding your torch like a beacon, calling stray ships on a turbulent ocean to safe harbor.
It was then that I pledged to you that I will uphold and practice the values that you stand for. Little did I know that I will be persecuted in your name, and little did you know what your children were doing behind your back, some wittingly, but most unwittingly. They are afraid, my dear Lady, and fear almost always begets hate. I have done my best to preach and explain. I made every effort to promote and expedite healing among all of your children who are still anguishing and agonizing over the national tragedy of Sept. 11. I condemned and denounced those barbaric acts of horrific terrorism. I called upon your children to come together and embrace one another. I implored them to triumph over adversity and flock to your side in a show of unity and defiance to those who would rob us of the values that define our way of life.
Someone once said, "There is nothing as strong as real gentleness, nothing as gentle as real strength." When I think of this, I think if you! Take a look over your shoulder and whisper gently to your children not to be afraid. From my jail cell, and because of my faith and trust in Almighty God, I tell you that my spirit is free! Free as the meadowlarks of Nebraska, proud as the bold eagles of Alaska. You do not have to worry about me; just keep your torch burning high, and remain in the dreams of the oppressed and persecuted around the world. Continue to be the beacon of hope and oasis of prosperity for so many.
Come what may, I will hold true to the pledge I made to you, "truth" and "justice" will ultimately prevail!
With love and hope,
Your forsaken son,
Monroe County Detention Center
The second email I open is from Salma, Rabih's wife. She is frantic because she still has not heard from Rabih--this is the fourth day of silence--nor do his lawyers know where he has been taken. I send out emails to Congressman John Conyers, Jr., my CPR listserv and individuals who have shown interest in Rabih's case, urging them to do whatever they can to help us get some information. I receive an email back from Fadi Nazih Kiblawi, a student at the University of Michigan who has spearheaded numerous actions and forums on Rabih's behalf. In it he includes an AP article that says Rabih Haddad has been moved in secret to Chicago. He is no longer in custody of the INS but is now being held by the US Marshals Service. No one knows why, including his lawyers. Again I ask, how can you mount a defense when they will not tell you the nature of the charges?
I write Salma and tell her the news. What does it say about this country's judicial system when the Associated Press gets such information at least two hours earlier than the lawyers and family of a person who is being held without bond, with no charges against him, in an undiscosed location? When were they planning to inform Rabih's lawyers and family? Would they ever have informed them?
I next call Alexia Smokler, Congressman Conyers legislative assistant. We've never before communicated by phone--only by email--so when I say my name, she laughs and says, "So you do have a voice!" In our conversation, she tells me that the Congressman is calling an Ad Hoc Committee hearing to look at civil liberties in the US since September 11. It will be held at House of Representatives on January 24. Ms. Smokler asks if I think Rabih Haddad's wife would be willing to testify. I say I certainly hope so, and give her Sulaima's email address so she can contact her. I then email Sulaima to let her know what was happening.
After all this home-based
activism, I take time off the computer to start packing for San
Francisco. Clothing is never an issue--I always handle that at
the last minute--but gathering all the items one needs to live
away from home for three months takes time and attention. Things
like stationary/stamps, computer paper/printing cartrages/disks,
candles/incense/lighter, musical instruments, maps/SF information,
art journal/supplies, books, kitchen utensils, etc. Just a lot
of small easily forgotten stuff. But I make a good start.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2002
In some ways, today is a continuation of yesterday. I hear from Salma that she's willing to speak at Congressman Conyers' forum on civil liberties at the House Office Building in Washington, DC on Thursday, January 24. I call Alexia Smokler, Congressman Conyers legislative assistant, to tell her of Salma's assent.
I read online newspaper articles about Rabih Haddad being moved to Chicago by the US Marshals. The New York Times, Detroit Free Press and Detroit News all carry articles about it. I expect other papers do too, but those are all I check. In the Detroit News I discover an outrageous column by a man named Pete Waldmeir that ran yesterday. In it he all but convicts Pastor Haddad of being a terrorist. Of course, I can't let that go unchallenged, so I fire off a letter to the editor.
My next order of business is to write and put up yesterday's journal entry that I was too tired to do last night. By then it is time to hop--figuratively--on La Lucha and scoot down to the dentist's office for a tooth cleaning. My teeth now feel so delicious, as if they've shed their mohair sweaters!
Believe it or not, it
is only 9:30 PM! I'm going downstairs to watch a little TV with
Eddie before going to bed early. Sounds like a good idea to me.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2002
Time is in short supply these days as I prepare to migrate to San Francisco for the winter. It is now after 3 PM, my friend Lisa is coming over in an hour, and the tasks I set for myself regarding packing/organizing tax materials remain undone. Ah well, I always manage to get packed and ready and I'm sure I will this year as well.
My attention continues to be focused on doing what I can to support Rabih Haddad and his family. Finally, after a full week, Salma received a phone call from her husband this morning. She still does not where he is being held...and neither does he. His lawyer knows nothing either.
What does that say about our justice system when an individual's lawyer is not told that his client is being moved out of state, where he is being taken or why. Is this really America?!
The good news is that an excellent frontpage series of articles on Rabih Haddad's case appeared in this week's Detroit Metro Times. The Metro Times is a free weekly alternative publication that has managed to remain unsullied by the government's propaganda campaign. One of the articles is based on an in-depth interview with Salma al-Rashaid, Rabih's wife and my friend. What amazing people!
Today I talk with Salma by phone. You can hear the relief in her voice that she's finally heard from the man she calls "my beloved hubby." We talk about Congressman Conyers forum on civil liberties at the House on January 24. As I'd mentioned before, the Congressman wants her to speak at it. I hope I don't give her the wrong advice, but I recommend that she not take a plane but rather drive the 8-9 hours to Washington, DC with friends. I've heard too many horror stories about persons who look Arab being taken off planes and not allowed to fly because a fellow passenger complained they did not feel safe with them on the plane. Disgusting.
After her call, I send my usual slew of emails about what is happening with Rabih, as well as special messages to my senators and representative urging them to advocate for due process and open hearings in his case. I suggest to my senators that they set up a forum on civil liberties in the Senate similar to the one Congressman Conyers is holding in the House. Having the Detroit Metro Times article to offer them background on the case really helps.
Tonight is my women's book group meeting in Windsor, ONT. We'll see if Lisa feels like driving in the snow that began about an hour ago. If not, I'll have a quiet night before tomorrow's full day with the kids at school.
Well, I just got a phone call from Lisa and she's just going on home. She lives another hour north of my house and realistically fears the snow might be a real problem by 11 PM. I agree. I'm going to wait until closer to our book group meeting time (7:30 PM) to decide whether I'm going or not. Of course, the snow has stopped coming down right now!
A later update:
The snow actually got serious and everything is magically white. I decide to stay home and am glad I did. I get inspired to contact both the Oprah Winfrey Show and Amnesty International--now there's an interesting combination!--and ask them to take on Rabih's case.
In relation to Oprah, I suggest they put on a show devoted to the topic of racial profiling of Arabs in the US since September 11. I tell them about Rabih Haddad and recommend they invite Salma on the show. The more people who hear their story, the more we can shift public opinion to our side.
I had contacted Amnesty
International before, but now with the Metro Times article as
background, I try again. This time I get what looks like a personal
reply from a real live human being. Natasha says she is forwarding
my request to the research department in London--they are the
ones who decide what cases AI takes on. I feel Rabih's case is
a natural for Amnesty International. I mean if a lawyer is not
even told where his client is being held, why he was moved out
of state, or what he is being charged with, that sure sounds unconstitutional
Even after I went to San Francisco for the winter, I was able to keep up with Rabih and Sulaima...
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2002
...I just checked my emails for the first time today and was particularly encouraged by two of them. In one, Sulaima expressed great happiness that she had again heard her dear husband Rabih Haddad's voice over the phone, and that she and the children were finally going to be allowed to visit him this weekend in the Chicago prison where he was moved in early January. She has not seen him since January 6.
The second encouraging message was from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Michigan. It reads:
Today we are filing a very important case - the first in the country to challenge the secrecy of immigration proceedings, a policy instituted last September by the INS. We are representing Rep. John Conyers and the Detroit News. A companion case has been filed by the Free Press as well. We will be having a press conference this morning -- a full story is running on National Public Radio.
Also, be aware that the Senate Judiciary Committee meets today to hear testimony on three anti-terrorism bills -- one creating a new crime of "terrorism"; wiretapping; and a search and seizure bill that raises serious fourth amendment issues.
Kary L. Moss, Esq.
ACLU of Michigan
May these lawsuits benefit Rabih Haddad and the thousands of unnamed men of Arab descent who are being held in jails and prisons across the US with no chance of bond and with no charges having been made against them.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2002
I had a long telephone conversation with Sulaima this morning. How can this woman who has every reason in the world to be bitter and hate this country be so compassionate and loving? I can't understand it. I hear her story and it makes me so angry at this country that is forcing her, her children and her husband to live an unending nightmare. She did say at one point, "I keep pinching and pinching myself hoping I'll wake up, and I don't."
But this morning she had had another phone call from Rabih so she was feeling happy. The appalling thing is that the prison authorities now say they have used up their time allowed for phone calls this month. I asked what she meant. "Well", she answered, "they say we're only allowed to talk 15 minutes per month." 15 minutes per month? What is this?! Even her lawyer says he's never heard of such a thing. It's as if they're making up the rules as they go along...and getting away with it.
She told me about what it was like to testify before the House Judiciary Committee at last Thursday's hearing on civil liberties. Apparently all the other speakers had carefully scripted documents that they read from, but Sulaima courageously decided not to write anything ahead of time but to "speak from my heart." Not only that, she said how important it was to speak not only for Rabih her husband but to speak for all the detainees who have no voice. When she finished, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., who had convened the hearing, commended her on her courage and compassion. Her story must have touched everyone in that room; she put a face on what it means to lose our civil liberties.
Unfortunately she'd had to take a plane from Ann Arbor to Washington, DC for the hearing. When I asked, she admitted it was bad. Both coming and going she was singled out with other people who looked Muslim, taken aside and searched from head to toe. One security guard told her to remove her scarf there in front of everyone. I cried, "But that's like making you take off your clothes in public!" She said quietly, "I'm glad someone understands." Anyway, she asked if she could go into a private room before removing her scarf and the guard let it pass. What are we doing to innocent people in the name of "security"?
That was not all. The Saturday she and her daughter went to Chicago to try to visit their husband and father in Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center--unsuccessfully, I might add--they returned home to find a letter informing them that the INS is starting deportation proceedings against Sulaima and three of her four children. Her 8 year-old son, who is an American citizen by birth, would be allowed to stay in the US if he wanted! Very helpful, that. Because Sulaima is a citizen of Kuwait, that is where they would be sent. And if her husband Rabih is deported, as the INS wants to do, he would be sent to Lebanon. Sulaima's hearing before the Immigration judge is scheduled for February 12 and Rabih's for February 19. Her options are to ask for political asylum, leave the country willingly or fight deportation. I hope she fights it.
There was one more piece of information that really got under my skin. Did you know that Rabih has been in solitary confinement since he was first detained on December 14? Not only that, they have recently taken away all his reading material except for his Quran. They will not even allow him to have pictures of his children. Where is this human cruelty coming from?
One would think such a conversation would be depressing, but it wasn't. As angry and disgusted as I felt hearing much of her news, I also felt deep gratitude--gratitude for the privilege of knowing such a woman of courage and compassion, and gratitude that this important challenge has been handed to an individual who is willing to stand firm and speak publically for what she believes in. I recall that Sulaima studied political science in college with the dream of becoming an ambassador like her father. Well, she is an ambassador, not for a particular country but for justice and truth.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2002
...One of my emails contained a copy of an Associated Press article that my friend Marilyn had seen in the Chicago Tribune online. The title was encouraging--"Wife, children visit detained Muslim leader." But when I read it, I was distressed to learn that yes, they'd been allowed to visit their husband and father for the first time in a month, but were separated from him by bars and heavy plexiglass. As if Rabih Haddad is a dangerous criminal! Oh, I get so angry at how badly these innocent people are being treated by this country's so-called "justice" system.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2002
...Speaking of compassion, which means "to suffer with", I received another email today regarding Rabih Haddad. It contained a copy of a letter that Rabih recently sent to Andy Thayer of the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism in which he describes the conditions in the prison where he is now being held. It also included Rabih's address and encouraged everyone to write him letters. Even if he doesn't know you, just hearing that you support him means more than we can imagine. His address is:
c/o Metropolitan Correctional
71 W.VAN BUREN STREET
CHICAGO, IL 60605
The email--sent by the Muslim Community of Ann Arbor--also asks that we write/call/fax our senators and representatives explaining Rabih's situation and demanding that they do something to ease his prison conditions. He has not hurt anybody or been charged with any crime, yet he is being treated like a violent criminal.
Rabih's letter follows:
Dear Mr. Thayer,
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful letter of Jan. 22. I do greatly appreciate your interest and efforts for my release. Please extend my regards and gratitude to all members of CCAWR.
I am sorry to say that I was not able to see the protests because the window in my cell is "Whited out" to allow light in but not for me to see anything out. I was able, however, to hear about it from other inmates who own small radios and heard it on the news. I am writing you this letter and don't know when I'll be able to mail it since I still don't have access to stamps. I have filled out a visitor's form, however, which is mailed by the facility here. You'll need to fill it out and mail it back to them.
Allow me to take this opportunity to bring you slightly into my world here at MCC Chicago. I am in a 6' x 9' solitary cell that seems to have been designed for extremely violent or extremely troublesome inmates. The bed is situated in the center of the room with about a foot and a half on either side of it to the wall. The bed is a metal slab with four legs bolted to the floor and fitted on all four corners with special fittings to hold straps if it should become necessary. I have a camera fixed on me right outside my door that has completely deprived me of any kind of privacy since that door has a small window which allows them to check and see if I'm still there around the clock. It's for my safety, they say. I am allowed one 15 minute call to my family every 30 days.
My food is handed to me through a slit in the door 2-1/2" x 12". The same opening is used to put the cuffs on me before the door is opened for any reason. I am allowed 3 showers a week for which I have to be cuffed to walk 10 paces to the shower that has a door similar to my cell's door. I'm only un-cuffed after I'm inside and the door is locked. I also get 1 hour of recreation 5 days a week, and what a joke that is. I am led, cuffed, from my cell to a cage (literally) just down the hall which is the same size as my cell. In it is a homemade stationary bicycle that has no resistance and thus is worthless for exercising. I have to wait until the cage is empty because I cannot be put in there with anyone else, for my own safety, they say. I have made numerous pleas to the warden and others to let me speak with my family once a week, but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. I have been under these conditions for the past month and a half, which can drive a person to the extreme limits of his/her mental, emotional, and psychological capabilities.
Where do we draw the line between justice and oppression? Between prosecution and persecution? Is due process supposed to serve society or is society supposed to be enslaved by "due process"? Many people on this side of the fence, I'm sorry to say, have become Pavlovic dogs of sorts when it comes to "due process." I have been treated like the worst criminal you can imagine when I have not even been charged with a crime.
All of this has done nothing but harden my will and strengthened my resolve to overcome and persevere. Your efforts and the efforts of others are like torches of hope that light my way in this deep and dark tunnel that I've entered and I am eternally grateful for that.
Please convey my warmest greetings and thanks to all those who planned, participated or supported your efforts. May God bless you all.
P.S. Please forgive my spelling. I did not realize how dependant I've become on my computer's spell-check until now.
P.S.2 I forgot to mention
the waves of cockroaches that invade the cell at night and crawl
all over everything, including me.
THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2002
This morning I talked to Salma Al-Rushaid. It was the first time we'd managed to connect by phone in several weeks. So much had happened. The lease for their Ann Arbor apartment was not renewed "because of what has happened." Fortunately a friend has let Salma and her four children move into her modular home that is just five minutes away. The pressure on the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago--at least 30 phone calls to prison officials a day, tons of letters and political pressure by people like Detroit's Congressman John Conyers--has paid off. Rabih is now allowed to call Salma and the children once a week--15 minutes per call at $5 for the first minute--instead of once a month. By the way, Salma's phone bill last month was $600. But, most importantly, he is allowed two two-hour "contact visits" per week instead of the former four hours of visits through bars and heavy plexiglass per month. Salma said she and her daughter couldn't stop shaking when they actually got to touch Rabih last week for the first time since January 6. She says she'll go to Chicago every Sunday and stay until Monday in order to visit her husband.
Last weekend Congressman Conyers made an oversight visit and actually saw the cell where Rabih is being held. He issued a Press Release on March 5 describing Rabih Haddad's prison conditions as "appalling." But Salma told me that yesterday the warden asked Rabih if he wanted to be moved out of solitary confinement. Believe it or not, this man who has never broken a law and has no charges against him now, has been held in solitary confinement since Friday, December 14! That is 12 weeks tomorrow or 84 days or 2016 hours. Think of it.
I asked Salma how Rabih was handling it. She said, "Considering everything, amazingly well." When I asked her how she was doing she said she was much better now that she could have contact visits. "That visit really recharged my batteries." I said something about how much we take for granted. She agreed. "I tell all my friends--don't take anything for granted!"
But, as wonderful as it is that they can be together more often, there is still the unknown facing them. Apparently Rabih went before a jury in Federal Court a few weeks back, but there were no charges brought, so I don't understand what that was about. I do know that Salma and the children have an Immigration Court hearing on April 10. The INS wants to deport her and the children to Kuwait because Salma is a citizen of that country. As I've said before, they want to deport Rabih too, but to Lebanon since that is his citizenship. The fact that they had applied for permanent residency in April 2001 and had spent over 14 years in the United States seems to make no difference. Their tourist visas had expired and that is enough to kick them out of the country, at least in a post-September 11th USA.
I told Salma I would be
telling their story at tomorrow's Global Women's Strike march
and speak-out here in San Francisco. Her immediate response was,
"Don't forget to talk about the others!" She and Rabih
are so strong in their determination to bring attention to the
1200 men of Arab descent who have been held in jails and prisons
across the country since September 11. The government refuses
even to make their names public. I promised I would speak for
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2002
How does one respond when the Universe, or whatever one calls the Divine, has its own idea of what one is to do? I guess one just says, OK. And so I say, OK.
I had intended to show you some wonderful pictures I took of my friends today at Simply Supper. I actually downloaded them a few minutes ago but, you know, they just disappeared into some computer-version of a Black Hole. I can't find them anywhere.
So that was what I'd intended to write about tonight, my friends at Simply Supper. But, to be honest, that topic flew out of my heart as soon as I looked at today's mail and saw an envelope with my address printed in pencil. The return address was Rabih Haddad 30189-039, MCC Chicago, 71 Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60605. And the date on the envelope was February 21. It had taken over 5 weeks to be delivered!!! Gawd, I knew my mail service here was screwed up, but this beats all.
Anyway, I opened it up and found 3 sheets of yellow legal-sized lined paper covered on 5 sides by a long letter written in a mature, steady hand using a blue ball-point pen. It started, "Dear Patricia, Dear Sister". That's when my eyes began to well up.
As close as I have felt to this man, his wife and family, this was the first time I had ever had direct contact with him. We have never met or spoken. But somehow when I read that December 16th group email from an activist friend in which they told of this well-respected Ann Arbor Muslim leader's arrest and imprisonment without bail, I was as touched as if I were reading about an old friend. Then when I ended up being allowed to stay with his wife, children, witnesses and Muslim friends in a small Immigration Court waiting room that Tuesday afternoon (December 19), when I felt compelled to be a silent witness for peace and justice in that room filled with shock and fear, when I scooted over and took his wife's hands in mine and told her she was not alone, that there were thousands of people the world over who were with her and her husband during these difficult days, I knew we were members of one family who loved and cared for one another.
These almost 4 months of demonstrating on the streets with Rabih's Muslim community from Ann Arbor, becoming friends--actually more like sisters--with his wife Sulaima and her friend Huda, writing countless group emails and journal entries about what has been happening to Rabih and the injustices of his case, helping to get Congressman John Conyers involved through what he read in one of those emails, talking regularly on the phone and exchanging emails with Sulaima, writing Rabih only one letter but telling his story formally and informally everyplace I've been since coming to San Francisco in January, and now hearing his voice speaking to me in a letter all feels like a lifetime of knowing and caring about this family.
I want to share parts of Rabih's letter because I know many of you have been with him in spirit for as long as I. I want you to know what kind of man you have been supporting.
This is how his letter begins:
This letter has been long overdue! I've grabbed my pen countless times to write and gotten choked up and overcome by emotions every single time. My story with you started Dec. 19. That's the day Sulaima met you for the first time. During our phone conversation later that day, she gave me the details of your encounter which brought tears to my eyes. Later she would tell me of your efforts and activism. Needless to say how blessed I felt to have you as supporter and, more importantly, as a friend who seems to know and understand the innermost flickers of our emotional, mental, and psychological plight. Your words are dipped in the nectar of hope, they sap of compassion and sympathy and I have suckled on them (as I'm sure Sulaima did also) repeatedly.
I have only received one letter from you. I also read one of your emails to Sulaima along with your appeal to Amnesty Int'l, but it doesn't take much to be touched and moved when words are coming straight from the heart. I've always said that sincerity is like two wings attached to the words that take off from the heart of the sender and land them directly in the heart of the receiver. Your words have landed in my heart, and like it or not, you've gotten yourself a friend for life.
Rabih then writes of the way he is being treated in prison and how it feels. This was back when he was allowed one 15 minute phone conversation with his wife per month, and only 4 hours in visits per month. He wrote just days after Sulaima had been sent the 250 miles back home without being allowed to see him because the warden had not told them the 4 hours could only be used in two 2-hour visits rather than four 1-hour visits. Rabih said that when " I pleaded with the warden later in the afternoon that no one had mentioned to me that the 4 hrs. can only be utilized in two sessions, his answer was, 'Well, now you know."
He described many ways in which he was being treated differently from other inmates also being held in solitary confinement. [Rabih was in solitary confinement from December 14 until about two weeks ago after Congressman Conyers had made an "oversight visit" to Rabih's cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison in Chicago]. For instance, his visits, unlike the others, were to be "non-contact", meaning he and his wife and children were separated by bars and heavy plexiglass. Also his shower days were different from all the others, and he and only one other inmate--a man from Saudi Arabia--were watched by camera around the clock. He told of the suicidal condition of the inmate from Saudi Arabia and how Rabih managed to counsel him by yelling through the sound-proofed walls of their adjacent cells, that is until the authorities separated them so they could no longer have any conversation. He told how there were two "inmate orderlies" in his unit who usually ran small errands for the inmates like getting them toilet paper, soap and picking up their empty food trays. But these orderlies were not allowed even to come near Rabih's cell or that of the man from Saudi Arabia, in essence "making our isolation complete." He told of the strip searches, especially degrading experiences for a Muslim man who "is bound by his faith to cover his private parts." He also wrote of having his hands shackled to his waist and chains on his feet whenever he left the unit.
And this is a man who has been charged with no crime, has never broken any law in his life and who was not allowed bail because he owned a registered hunting rifle from Kmart, a rifle with which he and his sons used to hunt geese.
Yet, after describing these horrendous conditions under which he was living--he has recently been moved out of solitary into a shared cell with the general population--Rabih went on to say:
All this has driven me to a state of transcendence (I'm not sure the word exists). I feel like I'm looking at all that is happening to me from a distance. That's when I begin to feel sorry for my jailers because in actuality they are the prisoners and I am free. I am free because my spirit is free and that allows me to look at matters from afar. But they are imprisoned by their fears and apprehensions, by their rules and regulations, by their never-ending striving after worldly wreckage that someday they will have to leave behind. I am free by my faith and refuge in Almighty God. Their increased cruelty only increases my hope in my imminent deliverance.
Your words of encouragement and solidarity, your commitment to see this ordeal through till the end are major contributing factors to my endurance and perseverance. Your encouragement and support of Sulaima have done wonders for her, believe me I know. Her and the children are all I think about. I can't begin to tell you how proud and blessed I feel for the way they've carried themselves through these difficult and trying times. The credit goes to Almighty God first and then to Sulaima. God knows I wasn't there for them as much as I should have because of my relief and community work. But my solitude has given me a chance to take a long hard look at what are the most important things in life and I've rearranged my list of priorities to have my family right there at the very top!
So this is the man the INS wants to deport to Lebanon because he has overstayed his tourist visa, while they want to deport his wife and three of their four children to Kuwait. The 8 year-old boy would be allowed to stay in the U.S. because he is an American-born citizen, but of course Rabih and Sulaima wouldn't leave him here by himself! When I talked with Sulaima on the phone Monday, she told me of their joint deportation hearing at Detroit's Immigration Court--Gratiot at Russell if you can attend--at 10 AM on Wednesday, April 10. I'd spent this morning sending group emails to Detroit-area activists urging them to join what I'm sure will be a large demonstration in support of Rabih, Sulaima and the children that day. How I wish I could be there myself, but I will certainly be with them in spirit.
Isn't Rabih an amazing
person? As I wrote in my letter to him tonight, Gandhi, Nelson
Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind when I think
of him. May his story have a happy ending.
THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2002
Today had everything...all of it good. It started with my receiving the following email:
Congressman John Conyers,
Fourteenth District, Michigan
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
Dean, Congressional Black Caucus
April 3, 2002
Conyers on Haddad Ruling:
" A Victory for Fundamental Fairness"
In reaction to today's Eastern District of Michigan ruling to open up the U.S. Department of Justice's detention hearings involving renowned Michigan religious leader Imam Haddad, Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee issued the following statement:
"The decision to restore Imam Haddad's fundamental constitutional right to an open immigration proceeding is a blow to those who would destroy our constitution in a misguided effort to save it and a victory for the fundamental fairness of the American judicial system. This is a repudiation of Attorney General Ashcroft's strategy of pushing the envelope when it comes to the Bill of Rights.
The Justice Department, in its zealousness to protect our freedoms by detaining Middle Easterners without disclosing evidence and by holding secret hearings, has attempted to whittle away the constitutional foundation that has made America a beacon of freedom for the world. Today's decision illustrates how far the Bush Administration has gone in transgressing the boundaries established by our founding fathers in pursuit of national security."
Conyers joined the ACLU and others in petitioning the court to open the proceedings. The Justice Department had sought to exclude Conyers and other members of the public from attending the proceedings.
That is the first good news we've had in relation to Rabih's situation. Could it be that folks are waking up?
Soon after I returned
home to Michigan, my commitment to Rabih and Sulaima's cause took
me down to the Immigration Court building in Detroit.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2002
...This was a pretty discouraging day. Rabih and Sulaima's deportation hearing had been postponed until June 19 because of yet another appeal by the Justice Department to try to keep it closed to the public. Unfortunately I'd not heard of the postponement so had gotten up at 6:30 AM, been on the road by 7 AM and had waited in front of the Immigration Court until 10 AM. I kept expecting to see TV News trucks and busloads of supporters from the Ann Arbor Muslim community, but all I saw were people going to work. Ed gave me the news of the postponement when I returned home; he'd read it in the morning paper after I'd left.
I didn't mind the inconvenience to me, what I minded dreadfully was the thought of Rabih having to spend two more months in prison. It is so wrong to keep him locked up when his only "crime" is overstaying his tourist visa. Even if they deport him at least he'd be free.
Well, I did what I could. I sent a group email to my activist friends and communities, wrote a long letter to Rabih, and sent the following letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press:
How Long Will They Keep Rabih Haddad in Prison?
I was disappointed to read in this morning's Detroit Free Press (4/24/02) that the Immigration Court hearing for Rabih Haddad, his wife Salma Al-Rushaid and three of their four children had been postponed yet again because of another appeal mounted by the Justice Department. Apparently the government was not happy with the 6th Circuit Court decision to uphold the Detroit Federal judge's ruling that the hearing would have to be open to the public and the media, instead of being held in secret like before.
By playing these endless legal games, they continue to keep Rabih Haddad, a respected Ann Arbor Muslim leader, in prison for at least another two months with no chance of bail and no charges having been brought against him. At the next scheduled hearing on June 19--if it goes forward then--Rabih will have been in prison for over six months! His crime? The only thing they seem to have on him is that he overstayed his tourist visa for three years. And for this he was held in solitary confinement for almost four months and is now being held in a federal prison 250 miles away from his wife and children.
Is this really America?
In my letter to friends I added this paragraph:
Please keep pressuring your elected representatives to right this wrong, not just for Rabih but for the 100s of other Arab men who remain hidden away behind bars with no chance of justice or release. Write letters to the editors, call in to talk radio shows...do whatever you can to keep this issue alive. Don't let Rabih and his brothers rot away in prisons. They have NO VOICE but ours.
Ah well, tomorrow I'll
be with the wonderful kids at the school in Dearborn. The
hope of our future and the delight of my present. May this country
become all that they deserve it to be.
FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2002
So what is freedom
really. Is it doing what I
want when I want, or is that
self-indulgence. Is it
feeling sun on the back
my head, the wind's fingers
parting my hair, the lake's sour-sweet
smell in my nostrils. Is it sitting
in the cacophonous clamor
prison cell reading poetry. Is it putting
one word beside another in a way that
surprises my somewhat stuffy
ear. Is it watching an
squirrel nibble succulent buds from a
branch bent double. Is it taking to the
streets to register my dissent.
Maybe freedom does
not depend on place or
time or person. Perhaps freedom
demands nothing but
MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2002
...My other gift was the news that Rabih Haddad has been transferred back to the Monroe County Jail in preparation for his, Sulaima's and the kids' INS hearing on July 9. That is another gift. Instead of again postponing his hearing to a later date, for the first time it was moved forward from August 6. Oh, to have Rabih back in Michigan again! To have him within miles of his wife and their four children, in a much more humane environment than that hellhole called the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago where he'd been since January 12.
To be honest, I'm experiencing some personal fretfulness over Rabih's transfer. Today I sent a very special letter to his Chicago address, a letter I now fear may never reach him. If it were just something I'd written I wouldn't particularly care, but this was five pages of personal notes of support and solidarity written by at least a dozen of the women at Carolyn's retreat. It was truly soul-stirring and I would give anything to have it back so I could make a copy before mailing it off again. Ah well, hindsight is always 20/20.
In addition to the news of Rabih's transfer was a copy of a good article about him and Sulaima that was in the June 15th edition of the Toronto Star. I guess I'm not surprised that it was a Canadian newspaper rather than one here in the U.S. that finally printed the truth.
I've just received an
email from Sulaima telling me the story-behind-the-story of Rabih's
prison transfer. Apparently he disappeared for days with her having
no knowledge of where he was. After countless phone calls, letters
and faxes sent by his lawyers, family and supporters, Rabih finally
turned up at the Monroe County Jail. This is exactly what happened
when they transferred him to Chicago in January, but that time
it went on for ten days. Does it sound like a democracy where
people disappear and even their lawyers do not know where to find
them? At least Sulaima said she got to see him yesterday. Don't
any problems we have pale in comparison with what Rabih, Sulaima
and their children have faced every day since December 14, 2001?
May we not forget to be grateful for ordinary lives.
TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2002
I spent the morning sending a group email from Phillis Engelbert to most folks in my email address book with notice of a Biological Warfare & Disarmament workshop being offered in Ann Arbor, an update on and message from Rabih Haddad, a description of the Mock Trial that was held at the 6-month commemoration of his arrest, and a chilling eyewitness account of what happened at Bush's appearance at Ohio State University's commencement last Friday. For me, the heart of the message was the following letter and poem from Rabih:
LETTER FROM RABIH HADDAD
TO THE COMMUNITY
June 3, 2002
Dear friends, brothers and sisters,
I have attempted to write this letter on several previous occasions but was lost for words every single time. How do I express my gratitude to those who were total strangers to me before my arrest on December 14th of last year but have sacrificed their time, effort and money to show their support for me and my family in our predicament, thus becoming friends that I feel extremely honored and priviliged to have. "Thank You" just doesn't cut it. My giant gratitude cannot be confined to the limitation of words.
You have contacted elected officials, you have demonstrated and protested the government's infringements and excesses, and you have written me letters of encouragement and support. All of this was, and continues to be a great source of solace that I draw upon every single day.
The labor pains of September 11th were an excruciating vanguard of a new human understanding. A new HUMAN ORDER if you will, that you seem to have grasped. There are many around us who insist that this precious baby was still-born. But such are the most precious things in life. Babies are born through the pains of labor. The sun rises after a night of cold and darkness. Rocks have to be crushed before diamonds are produced.
Just like a candle burns and melts to light the way for others, and an incense stick withers away to leave an uplifting aroma of freshness and purity, we must endure until we prevail, and prevail we will with God's grace and mercy.
Recently, a friend and penpal of mine sent me a beautiful poem
she had written wondering what Freedom was. I answered with
a poem that I am only sharing with you because of her encouragement.
It is titled :"Freedom"
Freedom is... soaring
snowy peaks of a majestic mountain range, or
sinking to the depths of your soul
Freedom is...making that choice.
Freedom is ....drifting
an Autumn leaf on a sleepy stream, or
being carried on the wings of a cherished memory
Freedom is...making that choice.
Freedom is ...chasing
rabbit on a blooming meadow, or
riding the chariots of your dreams.
Freedom is...making that choice
Freedom is ...watching
a bumble bee
tease the pollen full fluffy buds, or
being swept up be a masterful symphony of emotions
Freedom is... making that choice.
Freedom is... getting
in a blissful downfall of cleansing rain, or
immersing yourself in God's graces
Freedom is...making that choice.
Freedom is ... breaking
shackles that bind over spirit and
transcending the reality of "matter"
to the boundless realm of faith,
Freedom is making that choice,
or ...not making it at all!
*NOTE: RABIH IS BACK
IN MICHIGAN, AT THE MONROE COUNTY JAIL, AND HAS A NEW ADDRESS.
Please write to him.
100 E. 2nd St.
Monroe, MI 48161
TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2002
What I will not forget is Rabih's face and the dignity in his voice. For six and a half months I've fought for this man's right to be free, yet today was the first time I'd ever seen him. And even then it was on closed circuit TV. But it was Rabih, the man I call my brother, there before me in that crowded immigration courtroom that we'd never imagined we'd be able to enter. He was hearing and seeing what I was hearing and seeing. Though, for him, it was on a television in jail.
He sat so still that at first I wondered if it might be a still photo on that video screen that was facing the judge. I was lucky to be able to see him at all. I have La Lucha, my travel scooter, to thank for that. I was parked in the middle at the back of this small room that had more seats for media than for supporters. But a few of us got in and for the first time since Rabih was "detained" (imprisoned), a hearing relating to his case was held in an OPEN courtroom. Until now, no one but Rabih's lawyer and the government attorney had ever even seen this woman, Judge Elizabeth Hacker, who holds Rabih's freedom in her hands (or does it go higher up than that?). But the government didn't give up easily on their demands for secrecy.
The only reason today's hearing was open was because of a lawsuit filed this winter by Congressman John Conyers (Rabih's greatest advocate in the federal government), the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Metro Times. In April, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds of Detroit ruled that the hearings must be open, and that the thousands of pages on file regarding his case must be released to the public. The government appealed. It went to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and they upheld Judge Edmund's verdict. The government appealed that decision. However they did release the files for public viewing. Today's hearing had first been scheduled for April 10 and then again for April 24; in both cases the government got a continuance. Of course, each time the hearing was postponed, that meant Rabih had to remain longer behind bars with no bail. And now he has to stay there for another month and a half until his asylum hearing on August 27 at 9 AM. That was Judge Hacker's ten-minute determination today.
But if I have anything to say about it, his conditions are going to get better at that county jail than they are now! This business of there being "non-contact" (behind plexiglass) visits between him, Sulaima and the children is totally unacceptable. Not only that, they have a right to visit for more than 10-30 minutes twice a week. Besides I gather there's a guard whose hobby is making life miserable for Rabih by taunting him, waking him at 4 AM to "give him his mail", and such. That is way out of line. Anyway, I know where to go with such complaints and that is directly to Alexia Smokler, Representative John Conyer's legislative assistant. It is she who has worked behind the scenes for Rabih by giving Conyers information and helping to coordinate his many efforts to alleviate Rabih's suffering. For instance, it was after Congressman Conyer's onsite visit to Rabih at Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center that Rabih was given the option to get out of solitary confinement and to have contact visits for longer periods of time with his family. If you recall, before Conyers (and others) went to bat for Rabih, he was only allowed one fifteen minute telephone call to Sulaima per month!
I keep having to remind myself that this man has had no charges brought against him in the six and a half months of his imprisonment, that he has never been convicted of any crime in his life. Whatever happened to "presumed innocent until proven guilty?" What about habeas corpus and due process? I keep having to ask, is this really America??
Anyway, this morning I finally met Alexia Smokler face-to-face after months and months of email correspondence. I was able to tell her about how badly Rabih is being treated in the Monroe County Jail (just 30 miles southwest of Detroit). She was not aware of these things and assured me she'd let the congressman know. As she said, "Maybe it's time for another onsite visit." So when I got home, I sent an email to Representative Conyers detailing the problems and asking him to conduct an onsite visit to Rabih in the Monroe County Jail. He's a good man; I trust he'll do what he can.
I also had the delight of meeting Phillis Engelbert, a tireless worker/organizer for Rabih's freedom. Again, she and I have been in email contact for a long time, so it was wonderful to see and talk to her in person. Phillis is the woman to the far left in this close-up picture of the rally outside the court this morning. Rabih has written telling me how much her support means to him and Sulaima.
And I guess the sweetest moment of all came when I could hug my sister Sulaima again. She and I email regularly and occasionally talk on the phone, but we'd not seen one another since the demonstration outside the closed courtroom on January 10. As sweet as it was to see her, that is how sad I felt when I heard the lawyer request relief for Sulaima and the children in the form of voluntary departure, should Rabih's request for political asylum be denied in August. The judge accepted the request. That brief exchange made their possible departure very real indeed.
I have two more pictures of the rally that I took from the car--photo one and photo two. After the hearing--which you can read about in this excellent email report sent by Phillis this afternoon--and the media/press feeding frenzy around the lawyer and Sulaima in the lobby downstairs, I scooted to my car, got help from two supporters to put La Lucha in the car, and drove out the front gate. I didn't know there was still a rally going on or you can be sure I would have kept my scooter out and joined them. As it was, I managed to drive by a couple of times, honk my horn and take pictures.
Please remind me of what
I saw enacted in that courtroom today whenever I start fussing
about cameras that don't work and other such really important
FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2002
Free As Rain
She opens wide her dry
chapped lips, thirst-caked
tongue stuck out in
gratitude, lapping up every
ounce of this gentle
morning rain. Leaves grow
fat and sassy; roots
suck moisture deep into
their pores. A song emerges,
a song of hope, a song
life. I sing in time to the
beat of rain on my red
teflon-coated poncho. My
arms glisten with drops that
seep swiftly into dry
skin. My bare feet tap a
jig on the scooter's floor,
happy to join the dance.
Soft grey clouds cover
a down comforter drawn up
over sleepy bodies by the
mother who loves every
child. The rain touches all; even
my brother unjustly held in
prison sees it through
the tiny window of his
cell. We are one,
a whirling mass of energy
circling the globe and
beyond. Rain helps us see our
commonality, the truth of
our interwoven existence
within this spinning home we
share. Rain is freely given and
freely received. May we remember
its wordless wisdom and share
drops of love and compassion
freely as the rain.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2002
To be accepted as a sister in a Muslim community is a tremendous honor, and tonight I am feeling deeply grateful that such an honor has come into my life. A year ago I had not one Muslim friend, and now I am privileged to feel loved and valued by countless persons who practice the Islamic religion. One family in particular has become as dear to me as my own. Life is such a mystery.
Today Rabih Haddad's Muslim community in Ann Arbor held a fundraising picnic at a Metro Park on the Huron River outside the city. The legal expenses for his case are terribly expensive, and need to be carried by the whole community. The work for justice for Rabih is not about an individual but about our communal loss of civil liberties. All of his supporters were invited, and I was happy to attend. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day--sunny and warm with no humidity, blue skies with puffy white clouds, and a gentle breeze to keep the flies away. The park itself is lovely; actually Ed and I used to stop there on long bike rides back in our serious biking days.
I arrived about 4:30 PM, just as folks were starting to gather. As has always been my experience with this community, I had no trouble getting help unloading and assembling my scooter. I was particularly excited because this would be my first opportunity in the seven and a half months I've known these folks to play rather than protest with them. All our previous encounters had been either inside or in front of the Detroit Immigration Court during hearings for Rabih Haddad and/or Sulaima and their children. It was good to see so many smiles on people's faces today. And the biggest smile was on the face of my dear sister Sulaima. OK, I wasn't exactly frowning myself, but that was after I'd heard her good news.
Sulaima and her four children had just gotten back from their first "contact" visit with Rabih since he was transferred to Monroe, MI from Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) two months ago. A contact visit is one in which the inmate and his visitors are in a room together without plexiglass separating them. Rabih could finally touch and hug his wife and children. Sulaima was positively glowing and I bet if I could have seen Rabih, he would have been too. An extra treat for me was finally getting to meet Oussama, their youngest boy. What a wonderful child! Sulaima is doing such a fine job of raising the kids while Rabih is unable to be with them. They seem natural, full of life and very normal for their ages.
Each time I am with this community, I learn more about their culture. For instance, men and women do not mix at social events, so there was a men's area and a women's area; children moved freely between the two. But many of the kids stayed closer to the women because we were in a pavilion right beside the river. The men cooked the lamb over in their area, and then we were served and ate in our own areas. Of course, when it came time to pray, everything stopped. The men gathered in their area and the women in ours, and they all prayed in the direction of Mecca. I recall them doing the same thing on the cold sidewalk at our January 10 demonstration in Detroit. To Muslims, religion is a way of life. I'm not talking fundamentalism, rather an integrated whole.
It was good to connect not just with Sulaima and the children, but with those sister and brother supporters I'd gotten to know at Rabih's hearings since he was jailed on December 14, 2001. Some of the people I remembered not by name but by their sign, such as Laurie (whose back is to the camera here) whose sign was a classic: "Toto, I don't think we're in the US anymore."
I send special greetings to Sulaima's family in Kuwait and Rabih's family in Lebanon. She was delighted I was taking pictures for my online journal because that meant both of their families could feel like they were with us today. As indeed they were, and always are.
As I got ready to put this journal entry up on the web, I saw a brief news report on my AOL home page saying that the US has refused Iraq's offer to let the weapons inspectors come back into their country. The US says, "It isn't about that anymore." Well, whatever it is about, I know another way is possible. For today women, men and children of different religions, cultures and world views came together for a shared meal and shared conversation. Mutual respect, tolerance of our differences and working towards the common goal of freedom and justice for our brother Rabih has helped us see our oneness in the scheme of things. We know that peace is possible. May the leaders of countries take the time to learn that truth.
MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2002
"Today, the Executive Branch seeks to take this safeguard away from the public by placing its actions beyond public scrutiny. Against non-citizens, it seeks the power to secretly deport a class if it unilaterally calls them 'special interest' cases. The Executive Branch seeks to uproot people's lives, outside the public eye, and behind a closed door. Democracies die behind closed doors. The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people's right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately in deportation proceedings. When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation. The Framers of the First Amendment 'did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us.' Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 773 (1972)."
The above is a quote from today's unanimous ruling by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the Detroit Free Press, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee), and three other newspapers, and against the Department of Justice. The Department had contended that it could hold secret proceedings against Rabih Haddad, who has been held for over nine months without charges being filed; the US Sixth Court of Appeals ruled otherwise. They said, in what the New York Times calls "stinging language", that his hearings must be open to the press and the public. This significant ruling will surely have an impact on the hearings of all persons being detained as Rabih has been detained. At least the Justice Department will now have to offer proof case-by-case that a hearing must be closed to protect the national security, rather than being able to impose the blanket secrecy they have insisted upon for all INS hearings of persons of Arab descent since September 11.
I expect this ruling to be appealed by the government and to end up in Supreme Court. And we all know whose side they usually take. But, even so, this is a momentous decision, one that indicates the slumbering Judicial branch of the government just might be waking up. And that is good news!
It is the perfect day for over 100 of us gather in front of the Monroe County Jail in a show of support for our brother, Rabih Haddad. Our rally was planned before today's ruling is announced, which only makes it better. We also hear that Rabih's request has been granted that tomorrow's asylum hearing be postponed until his brother can return from Lebanon. He is a key witness in Rabih's case.
The only damper is that the guest of honor is not allowed to join our party. Apparently when the first supporters appeared in front of the jail this afternoon, Rabih knocked on his slit of a window (second from the left corner on the top floor) and held up a piece of paper. The guards immediately whisked him out of his cell and put him where he could neither see nor hear us. But he knows we are here. And we can feel his presence.
For me it is particularly powerful because this is the closest physically that I have ever been to my brother Rabih. After more than nine months of thinking about him, telling his story wherever I go, writing/calling/emailing on his behalf, attending every hearing both inside and outside the courtroom, getting to know him through letters, becoming like family to his family and friends, it feels like we are in the same room, greeting one another as sister and brother. I trust he feels this too.
As always happens when I'm with this community, whatever help I need is graciously offered. For instance, Miriam and Leena help remove Ona my scooter from my car and assemble her. Then Bilal, disassembles and puts my scooter back in the car after we're done. I believe all of these young people are former students of Rabih's. Bilal says he was the best Islamic Studies teacher he's ever had; I've heard similar sentiments from other students.
Of course, Rabih's wife Sulaima is here, as are their two eldest sons, Rami and Sami. Rabih's being spirited away from the window is hardest on Sulaima who so wants him to be able to see and hear the support that has grown rather than diminished during his nine months of imprisonment. She keeps looking up at the jail windows hoping to see some indication that Rabih is there someplace. And Sulaima isn't the only one searching those window slits for a sign of our brother; we all do at one time or another. But for the most part we walk back and forth, carrying our signs and sometimes chanting. We conclude with a rally where folks are invited to share stories about Rabih.
I guess for me it's always the children that touch my heart. Mothers with toddlers, little boys carrying photos of Rabih and young girls doing the same. Youngsters with signs that make powerful statements. Just the innocent beauty of these children.
But it isn't only the children. I'm touched by the sign carried by one of the leaders of Ann Arbor's Arab-American community. It is his son who is carrying the sign about Rabih being a loving dad. And this juxtaposition of powerful signs about due process and civil rights. Happily, we've already had an answer to this sign about ending secret trials. , but the final words on his sign lie at the heart of our struggle--"Release Rabih Haddad." And many others have a long way to go, like this one that calls for an end to unjust detainments, and again, the one that speaks to why we are here--"Free Rabih!"
We will not stop gathering
like this, making signs that are carved on our hearts, and standing
in support of our brother Rabih and all our brothers of
Arab descent who are languishing in US jails and prisons with
no charges against them and in many cases, with no lawyer to defend
them. This is America, darnnit, and we will do everything we can
to see that this government begins to act as our Founding Fathers
and Mothers intended it to act. We will not give up the struggle
until truth prevails and justice--true justice--is done.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2002
I ask you to visualize
these two people together again.
Rabih Haddad and his wife Sulaima Al-Rushaid, together with their four children in their home in Ann Arbor. Able to touch, kiss, hug one another. To sit together on their sofa and watch TV. To eat breakfast together in the morning and dinner in the evening. To be able to read bedtime stories to their four-year-old and tuck him into bed. To listen to the older kids as they talk about their day at school. To pray together at home and in the Mosque. To be able to weep and smile, giggle and talk about unimportant things. To walk outside together with their children in the fall-scented air. To hold hands as they walk. To make plans for their future together. To dream and to imagine. To know that when they go to sleep at night, they will see the other beside them in bed when they wake up the next morning.
Can we even begin to imagine how this nine-and-a-half month nightmare must feel to Rabih, Sulaima and their children? Can we imagine what it would be like to lose the one we love suddenly, harshly, with no knowledge of when we would be together again? Can we know how precious are the small things, the daily routines, that we take for granted?
Tomorrow at 9 AM EDT, Rabih and Sulaima have the best chance of being together again that they have had since he was arrested on December 14, 2001. There will be an open detention (bond) hearing before a new, hopefully unbiased, immigration judge. If she or he determines that Rabih Haddad is not a flight risk or a danger to the community, he will be released. Just like that.
Please, please use all your powers of visualization to see Rabih walking (running?) free out of that dreadful jail and into the arms of his wife and children. We have the power to manifest that reality. Let us dare to do so.
"Free at last, free at last, thank Allah almighty, I'm free at last!"
May it be so.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2002
May I be honest? After spending eleven hours at the Immigration Court today, I'm too tired and too disgusted to write much of a journal entry tonight. My brother Rabih Haddad is still in jail and likely to remain there. The so-called open hearing was a sham as far as I could tell. Just an exercise in fake due process. And it didn't even remain open; at 6 PM, the court was cleared to hear "secret testimony." I never did get into the court room, but I was OK with that. It would have been a l-o-n-g time to sit and listen to witnesses for Rabih whose positive testimony was obviously going to make no difference at all. The one thing I did miss was seeing my brother in person. He was actually there for the first time, not just video-taped from jail. I would have liked to see this man I've grown to care for so deeply. But I was able to meet his brothers, Mazen and Bassem, both of whom had sent me emails thanking me for being such a friend to Rabih. Actually, Mazen and I had the opportunity to sit down together and have a good talk after the court had been cleared. He is a wonderful man, sensitive, honest, articulate and clear-thinking; a fellow who would obviously be fun to be around in different circumstances. He loves his brother very much and is trying to deal with the loss of Rabih behind bars, and the recent death of their beloved father. May he receive some measure of comfort. Here is Mazen with his cousin Jinan. At this moment they are driving back to Toronto.
Friends, I've got to go
to bed. I'll tell you more tomorrow and share my pictures with
you then. I trust you understand.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2002
I tried to deal with my negative feelings about yesterday's court hearing by using my art journal this morning, but I'm afraid it didn't really help. If anything, my feelings are more raw than ever. It's hard to see any good in lies and deceptions played out on an institutionalized scale. They call it the Department of Justice; I say if that is justice, what do you call injustice?
Let me give you an example. After nine hours of waiting around, the media cameras and press reporters snapped to attention when a representative from the Department of Justice came to tell them there would be a five-minute statement by a Justice spokesperson with no questions allowed. A man in a suit soon appeared. The lights went on, cameras buzzed, microphones were jabbed in his face and reporters frantically took notes. His message? Rabih Haddad was not only in jail for violating his visa, he was tied to terrorists through his relief organization which had had its assets frozen by the government and would soon be on a special terrorist-type list of such organizations. Haddad would not be released on bond because he was a clear danger to our country. Five minutes up...no questions, please. And the timing of this message that sounded so official but had nothing to do with what was actually going on in the courtroom upstairs? Fifteen minutes before the deadline for the 6 PM television news shows. The press and media ran out the door to send their "news" to the stations. So these unsubstantiated accusations were broadcast as the latest-breaking news of the day! Is it any wonder the American people don't get it?
The media weren't the only ones who did a lot of waiting yesterday. Those of us who didn't get into the courtroom--in the morning they only had room for thirty members of the press and media, Rabih's family, witnesses and three members of the public--waited, some of us for eleven hours. The women waited and the boys waited. Folks talked, sat staring into space, read, went to the cafeteria and/or walked around. We were watched over by immigration court guards on the fourth floor where the court is located.
But waiting wasn't all we did. In the morning we held an enthusiastic support demonstration for Rabih on the sidewalk in front of Brewery Park, this guarded complex of buildings in which the INS and Immigration have their offices and courtrooms. About sixty of us marched with signs and shouted things like, "Who do we want? Rabih. Were do we want him? Home." Kristine and her daughters, Leena and Miriam, had made a bunch of signs, three designed especially to hang from my scooter . Many members of the Muslim Community Association and the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace had come by bus; others had driven. It takes about an hour each way. There were also Detroit activists present, among them Shawn and I.
We had a banner that read, "Justice for Rabih", and a pile of signs from which to choose. Some of the signs were familiar to me from other demonstrations, but others were new. During the demo, Cynthia showed me the "Cats For Peace" sign that her cat Tina had worn during the Ad Hoc Peace Committee's weekly anti-war presence at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market last Saturday.
Because cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom, we had a good amount of media attention at our demonstration. It felt good to be doing something.
About 11:30 AM, we packed up our signs and headed back into the lobby to wait for folks to come downstairs during the lunch break. We wanted to hear how things were going. Well, we had some more waiting to do as they didn't break for lunch until 1:30 PM. But when they did, we got a report from one of our brothers who had been in the courtroom. He said Sulaima, Rabih's wife, and his brother, Bassem, had been among the three witnesses to take the stand. He felt everyone had stood up well to cross examination. At the same time that we were trying to find out what was going on, the press and media were doing the same.
We women then waited by the elevators for Sulaima. We figured if she wanted protecting from cameras and inquisitive news reporters, we could gather her into our folds and walk her wherever she wanted to go. When she appeared, that was exactly what she wanted. She told us with tears in her eyes that they had just let Rabih hug her and their boys, Rami and Sami. I know that the last time they had been allowed to touch was August 3. It had been three months before that. Even when Sulaima had to go tell Rabih in August that his father had died, the prison authorities would not allow her to have even a few minutes to hug him. And this for a man who has only been charged with a visa violation.
Sulaima, accompanied by a few friends, went into the cafeteria and Cynthia positioned herself to warn reporters and news photographers that Sulaima did not want to be approached or photographed. One fellow got quite huffy in response, but Cynthia didn't care; she had a job to do and she did it. Thanks to her, Sulaima was not disturbed during the lunch break.
After court reconvened, a number of us went into the cafeteria for a late lunch. One of the best parts of these long hours of waiting was the opportunity to get to know each other better. So many of these folks I know by face, and some by name, but we've rarely had time to just sit and talk. Well, we had plenty of time for that yesterday. We actually had some candid discussions between Muslim and non-Muslim women about our cultural differences and similarities.
After lunch I decided to head outside into the parking lot for a scoot. It was a hot day but comfortable in the shade. Although surrounded by expressway traffic sounds, I found a couple of pine trees and a little grass to sit beside. I took off my sandals and tried to relax but my stomach was still tied in knots.
Back inside the lobby I happened on Sami, Rabih and Sulaima's almost ten year old son. He showed me a hand game his mother had taught him. I countered by showing him the "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and see all the people" hand game we used to play as kids. He asked, "What's a steeple?" Mosques don't usually have such things. We then got into a wonderful discussion about history. He asked who had been the President when I was a kid. I said, "Truman." Sami smiled and said, "Harry S. Truman?" I was impressed. He then went on to say, "And the next president was Eisenhower." Right again. We went through all the Presidents in order. I had trouble remembering Richard Nixon. He then told me about the Aztec, Anasasi and Mayan tribes he's studying about in fifth grade Native American history. I described the Anasasi cliff dwellings I'd seen at Canyon De Chelly in 1994. We then talked books. He's a great reader--he was reading a library book as he waited--and is a particular fan of the Harry Potter series. He told me about Books #3 and #4 that I've not yet read; Book #3 is his favorite.
What a bright, well adjusted child. The only times he seemed to close down was when I talked about his Dad. I sense he protects himself by not thinking about it.
This conversation with Sami and the talk I had later with his Uncle Mazen were the most precious parts of what ended up being a very long and discouraging day. I didn't get home until 7:45 PM, twelve hours after I'd left home yesterday morning. If this day was hard for me, what must it have been like for Rabih and Sulaima, for their sons Rami and Sami, for their two children at home, for Rabih's brothers Bassem and Mazen, for his mother in Lebanon and Sulaima's father in Kuwait? I can't even begin to imagine what all of this must feel like from the inside. I suspect that "nightmare" is too small a word.
In terms of the case itself, I began to realize during the Department of Justice news conference that my brother Rabih was going to have a tough time getting any justice here. And as I heard more and more details of how the case was being handled by the judge, my discouragement grew. For, even though members of our community overheard the press and media who were in the courtroom say that Rabih's testimony had answered any questions they had had about the case, it appeared that the judge had come into the proceedings with his mind already made up. Then I learned that even if he did rule in favor of letting Rabih out on bond, the government would immediately appeal and that appeal would go to the Immigration Court Appeals Board. That was when I knew that what they called "due process" was no such thing.
By the way, whatever happened
to "innocent until proven guilty?"
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2002
It is wonderful being here in Washington, DC with Mom as she recovers from her latest bout with pneumonia, but it was hard to miss Rabih's hearings yesterday and today. The first ones I've missed since he first applied for bond on December 16, two days after his arrest over ten months ago. I gather that I would not have gotten in yesterday anyway. The guards at the entrance to Brewery Park did not let anyone inside the complex except those on a "special list." Shades of the days before District Judge Nancy Edmonds ruled that Rabih Haddad's immigration court hearings were to be open to the press, media and the public. Yesterday, the public didn't get anywhere near the courtroom. The Immigration Court Administrator says it was a "misunderstanding." For persons like Phillis Engelbert of the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace, long at the heart of support for Rabih and Sulaima, it was "...frustrating, upsetting, frightening, and even Orwellian." I don't know the outcome of Tuesday's hearing--part two in the new bond hearing that Judge Edmonds insisted upon--but I'm sure Rabih was not released. I would surely have heard if that had happened.
Today's hearing was to
determine whether or not Rabih would be granted his request for
asylum in the United States. I don't know the details but I do
know that Rabih is certain his life would be in danger if he were
deported to Lebanon, the country of his birth. I just called Phillis
to see what had happened in court today. Although she was unable
to attend, she'd heard that Rabih and his witnesses had testified
and that the courtroom was filled with supporters. Apparently
the judge has not yet announced his decision. Although I am aware
that the chance of Rabih gaining asylum is slim, my fear was more
about deportation than his asylum request being denied. But at
least as of now, Rabih and Sulaima--this hearing also involved
her and three of their four children--are still here in the U.S.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2003
I returned home from the huge anti-war rally in Washington, DC late Sunday night to find a letter waiting for me from my brother Rabih Haddad. It's been a strange few months with both of us not receiving letters that the other had sent. Whether it was the fault of the Monroe County Jail or the US Postal Department, we do not know, but whatever the cause, it has been disturbing and a bit disorienting. I, for one, have found it hard to write when I didn't have any sense of what my brother was thinking and feeling. I had not heard from him since November 6, two days before my mother died. Sulaima had emailed in early January telling me that Rabih was worried because he hadn't heard from me in a long time. That's when I found out that two of his letters had never reached me. I had been feeling disappointed that I hadn't heard from him after my Mom died. I knew Sulaima was aware of her death, as were Rabih's brothers, because I had received deeply compassionate emails from all three of them, but I'd heard nothing from my brother Rabih. And it seemed that at least one of the letters I'd sent him over these months had not reached him either. I was beginning to wonder if maybe I was on someone's "list."
Well, his letter of January 14 made up for everything...more than made up for everything. First of all, it was long--seven sides of yellow legal paper handwritten in pencil. And what he said touched me in ways that I can't express in words. I want to share some of it here:
My dear sister Patricia,
I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and the highest of spirits. I know I haven't written in a while but I was waiting to hear from you about the condolence letter I had sent you back in mid-November upon hearing from Sulaima about the passing of your dear mother. I can't tell you how frustrated and disappointed I was when Sulaima told me that you hadn't received it. I put a chunk of my heart into that letter. I knew your heart would be broken so I sent you a piece of mine with which to mend yours!
After a paragraph in which he sent me good wishes on my annual journey to San Francisco--he didn't even know I was going to stay in Michigan this winter--he wrote the following about his imprisonment:
With the sunset of today, I've completed 13 months of captivity, ten of which I've spent in solitary confinement. This has given me a chance for reflection and contemplation. I have learned things about myself that I did not know before. I have attained a much higher standard of self discipline and self control than I've had before. I have come to know and understand different faces of humanity that would have been impossible in any other setting...
He then proceeds to share a series of far-reaching critical analyses of the criminal justice system, the 30 year-old "War on Drugs", and the more recent "War on Terrorism." His analyses are carefully formulated, objectively presented and thought-provoking, but I don't feel comfortable quoting him without his permission. However, later in the letter, he does give me permission to share a poem that he recently wrote. He prefaces it in this way:
In conclusion, I'm sending you something I wrote recently. I called it "Ode to Emmett Louis Till." Emmett was a 14 year-old boy who was lynched in Missippippi back in 1955. I was so moved by his story that I found myself pouring my emotions into words...
Ode to Emmett Louis Till
Come here children, gather
Come huddle together and be still
Listen with your hearts, don't make a sound
Listen to the epic of Emmett Louis Till
A giant of a boy at age
A mountain of a man when men were few
If freedom had a face that could be seen
Then Emmett would be its crimson hue
Beaten to a pulp by the
With savagery akin to the wildest beasts
No one can feel what Emmett had felt
So toast him not at your hypocrite feasts
They thought they'd killed
him by their deed
Later, they washed his blood away
Little did they know they'd sown the seed
And fertilized the soil they aimed to fray
His body lay dead, but
a movement was born
His blood was spilled to fuel its flare
Fragile were the limbs they thought they'd torn
Iron was the will they'd forged from despair
Emmett, your blood is
still gushing strong
Your bones are still broken each and every day
Many have striven to right the wrong
but the bigotry of some still thrives today
The embers lay smoldering
beneath the ash
While a storm is brewing out over the sea
The scoundrels, betrayed by a lightning flash
Shall stand exposed for everyone to see
All masks have fallen,
not one remains
What monstrous features have been revealed
Crosses and Bibles, blotted with blood stains
Of those "loved" to death in order to be "healed"
Those of us who "differ"
still tread your path
Emmett, freedom has turned elusive anew
The children of your slayers still wreak their wrath
On today's "sand niggers" and the Muslim few
They speak of peace as
they march to war
They've scorched the fields of Liberty's bloom
Hypocrites of a breed not known before
They are the children of the womb of doom!!
December 8, 2002
Monroe County Jail
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2003
On this, the National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants, I was fortunate to be with some of my favorite people of Muslim, Arab and South Asian descent. It was my day at the K-5 school in Dearborn where I get to sit with the kids every week and do the same art projects as they. Today several classes were finishing up the portraits that we're coloring with oil pastels. These drawings are based on photographs we brought in, that were then traced onto a sheet of drawing paper using an opaque projector. In essence, it's a lot like coloring in a coloring book, except many of us are trying to model our features to get a sense of roundness. I've really been enjoying this project! The photo I used was my school picture from second grade. Of course, the kids get a big kick out of seeing little Patsy with her gap-toothed grin. Teacher put my picture up on the bulletin board today, which made me feel very good indeed!
After the kids and Susan left at 3:30 PM, I put my head down on the table and caught a cat nap until 4:45 PM. It was then time for me to drive over to ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) where the Blue Triangle Network was holding its Solidarity gathering with speeches, cultural presentations and opportunities to network with other folks working against the repression of our immigrant sisters and brothers.
My friend Abayomi Azikiwe moderated the event, the Raging Grannies sang three songs,Traverse City, MI attorney Marian Kromkowski told us about the illegal arrest and detention of her friend Amer Jubran, a Palestinian political activist/organizer in Boston, Susan Sunshine read her poetry, attorney Nabih Ayad spoke of the work he and the Michigan Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has been doing on behalf of many Arab immigrants who have been targeted by the INS and FBI, and Brother Asad Tarsin, a former student of Rabih Haddad, told of his mentor's illegal detention with no charges having been made for 14 months now. As a close friend of Rabih and his wife Sulaima, I was deeply moved by Brother Asad's presentation. He managed to give the information needed to understand Rabih's case, while also showing the heart and spirit of this exceptional human being. He also helped us see the tragic toll Rabih's unjust imprisonment has had on Sulaima and their four young children. Rabih will be very proud of how Asad spoke for him. I intend to print out the digital picture I took of Brother Asad and send it to Rabih within the next few days.
I can't say enough for the individuals and groups that responded so quickly to the targeting of our Muslim brothers and sisters after September 11 by holding a summit and founding the Blue Triangle Network. These women and men work tirelessly to educate, advocate for and personalize this ongoing struggle. We now all wear blue triangles with the name, age and country of origin of one of the "disappeared" in the US. I especially commend Mark Sheppard and Bob Parsons for all they do to keep this repressive situation within our thoughts and actions. Tomorrow many of us will meet in front of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) Building on Mt. Elliot at E. Jefferson here in Detroit between 7-9 AM and 2-4 PM to protest this, the third deadline for the INS "special registration" of immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries. Tomorrow's registration deadline is for men aged 16 and over from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. If you stop to think for a minute, you will see the parallels between these "special registrations" and the registration of Jews in Hitler's Germany and the registration of the Japanese in Roosevelt's America. We fear it is the first step toward rounding up Muslim immigrants and putting them in internment camps in this country. There has already been mention of such a possiblity by a number of high level government officials.
These are chilling times and we cannot sit back and just let this escalating repression with its secret detentions and deportations happen without taking a public stand against it. That's what I love about our Raging Grannies; they are there to wake folks up and walk their talk. Let's hear it for the Grannies!
TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2003
Such strange times. This morning I read an editorial by a writer I respect tremendously, William Rivers Pitt. It's title is "Arrest Me." In it he describes recent examples of persons being questioned, arrested and, in one case, deported for "crimes" as innocent as saying "George Bush is out of control" on an internet chat room. The man who made that statement, a former public defender from Sante Fe, New Mexico, was arrested for "threatening the President." As a public critic of the President myself, I wonder when a knock might come on my door.
Is this paranoia? In Oxford's dictionary, paranoia is defined as "1. Mental disorder in which a person has delusions of grandeur or persecution; 2. Abnormal tendency to mistrust." Well, what about a normal tendency to mistrust, or authentic concerns about being persecuted? What about a law-abiding man like Rabih Haddad, the Muslim cleric and global humanitarian who heard a knock on his door on December 14, 2001 and has not seen a day of freedom since? What about the countless Muslim men who have been "disappeared" in the US since September 11, not one of them with charges having been brought or any trial date set? The times they are achangin'.
Rather than waste my time stewing and fretting, I took steps today to be prepared "just in case." I cleaned out a lot of saved emails, particularly ones I had sent. I looked up and have memorized the telephone number of a lawyer in Detroit who works on just such cases as this. I decided which accessibility device I would use if I were taken "downtown." Actually Ed and I have been joking about such a knock on the door for some time now. If it does happen, you can be sure they'll be sorry they messed with me. Here I am, a 60 year-old disabled woman who has never broken a law in her life and has lived in the same house in a politically conservative community for over 30 years. Not to mention being a Raging Granny. Oh, wouldn't the press and media just love that!
It's almost surrealistic to be thinking and talking this way, like something out of a Class B spy novel. But I'd guess folks during the McCarthy era felt the same way. You never imagine your own government is going to be taken over by people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Perle, Libby, Wolfowicz, Abrams, Rice and Powell. But it has happened and those of us who see what is going on must not stop speaking our truth, no matter how they try to frighten us. Like Paul Revere galloping through towns and villages, we will gallop across the worldwide internet sounding the alarm to wake up and do something!
But I know and you know and people all over the world know that what is also spreading like wildfire in every land is an entity larger and more powerful than any power-hungry gang of men and one woman, it is the People. And the People have a voice, a shared vision and a strength never before seen on earth. As the Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs puts it, "That is what revolutions are about. They are about creating a new society in the places and spaces left vacant by the disintegration of the old, about evolving to a higher humanity, not higher buildings, about Love of one another and of the Earth, not Hate; about Hope, not despair; about saying YES to Life and NO to War, about becoming the change we want to see in the world."
THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2003
I should know by now not to read alternative news web sites like Common Dreams.Org so late at night. It just infuriates me and makes it hard to sleep.
Will it never end? Each day I think it can't possibly get worse, and then it does. A friend told me on the phone tonight that people who support the president and his war say to her that she's so negative, always talking about doom and gloom. My god, if they aren't seeing "doom and gloom" in the state of our country and the world--particularly the things that are being masterminded by the Bush White House--then I'd have to say those people have shut down and just aren't thinking anymore. Any thinking person would have to be responding with varying degrees of outrage, pain, grief, horror, disbelief, anger, frustration and sadness to what they read and see is going on these days. Just sitting back and saying, "Oh, I trust the president" is the most irresponsible--and dangerous--attitude imaginable.
For instance, I just read of three teens and seven others critically wounded when they were shot by American troops in Samarra, Iraq earlier this week. Their crime? Shooting guns into the air to celebrate a wedding, the traditional way to celebrate festive events in Iraq. U.S. troops opened fire into the wedding procession. One of those killed was a 13 year-old boy, and a 12 year-old boy is critically wounded. Following the shootings, several American soldiers stormed into the hospital with rifles drawn, demanding to know the names of the wounded. Family members were so frightened, many of them fled. And then the American forces imposed an 10 PM to 5 AM curfew in the city, interfering with evening prayers at Samarra's revered gold-domed mosque.
And the Americans wonder why the Iraqis are not jubilant at being "freed"?
Next I read of President Bush's latest threat to our planet. No, I'm not referring to Iran, although I certainly could be. Instead I'm referring to his plan to undermine one of the most important protections offered by the Federal Endangered Species Act: critical habitat designation. According to a press release put out yesterday by the National Resources Defense Council:
Critical habitat designation is one of the three essential legs on which the federal Endangered Species Act stands; the others are the listing of threatened and endangered species, and the development of recovery plans. Current rules require that habitat be designated for all species.
"Essentially, the administration is claiming that species don't need a home," said Holmes. "We know that the number one reason why wildlife becomes endangered is loss of habitat. If we don't protect the places where these species live, these plants and animals may be lost."
The Bush administration proposal will claim not only that critical habitat is not important, but also that federal agencies do not have the funds they need to conduct surveys and draw maps of each species' critical habitat, as required under the law. Yet scientific surveys have demonstrated that species with critical habitat are improving faster than those without.
So, let me see if I understand this correctly: the Federal Government has over $400 billion to spend on Defense (Offense?) in 2004--not counting the off-budget hundreds of billions for their wars--but they do not have the funds to "conduct surveys and draw maps of each species' critical habitat"?
How can the American people sit back and let this president get away with it? ALL of it. In another article, Sr. Joan Chittister writes:
What may count most, however, is that we may well be the ones Proverbs warns when it reminds us: "Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks the truth." The point is clear: If the people speak and the king doesn't listen, there is something wrong with the king. If the king acts precipitously and the people say nothing, something is wrong with the people.
It may be time for us to realize that in a country that prides itself on being democratic, we are our government. And the rest of the world is figuring that out very quickly.
When will the American people figure it out, and why don't they even seem to want to? I wish I could figure that out. Why are the majority of the citizens in this country willing to sleepwalk off a cliff, a cliff that is within our sight, that we are crowded around at this very moment? Are they afraid if they look down, they'll see how close to the edge they are? Are they too concerned with just trying to put food on the table and keep their jobs? Are they so afraid of the "enemy"--even White House PR-created ones--that they're willing to give over their freedom and autonomy to "Big Brother" ? Are they so drugged out on TV, shopping, alcohol, prescription drugs and other addictions that they simply can't think for themselves?
My friends who are thinking people are, without exception, filled with horror at what Bush and Co. are doing to our country, the world, the planet and all creatures--including humans--who are trying to live in peace. My brother Rabih Haddad, who has had plenty of time to think while being in solitary confinement (still with no charges, no trial, no bail) for the past 17 months, is so depressed by world events that he could not write even one letter for two and a half months. And this is a man for whom letters provide his only feelings of freedom and connection with the outside world. Today I received my first letter from him since before the Bush/Blair attack on Iraq. In it he writes:
I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive your brother who has not written to you for so long. The past two and a half months have been the toughest for me in my ongoing ordeal. The war in Iraq, the situation in the Middle East, the stagnation of my own case bore so heavily on me that I was both mentally and emotionally suffocating. I could not write a single word for the duration. My pad and pencil, once obedient tools, rebelled against me and joined the team of my tormentors. Every time I picked them up to write, my thoughts raced and my anger and frustration would swell within me and choke off any possibility of being productive.
I can understand. Since March 20, I too have not been myself. My former readiness to get out there and protest, sing and RAGE--either with the Grannies or on my own--has dried up. It's taken all my activist energies simply to stay informed--which is almost always painful--send out my group emails, and share my political thoughts here in my journal. It has been the toughest time of my life.
But I'm not being unjustly held in jail, unable to touch my loved ones, at the mercy of often cruel and unfeeling guards, cut off from nature, community and meaningful activities, and worrying about a future that Rabih describes as "ambiguous and more uncertain than ever." I can't imagine how that must feel on top of the horrors that unfold day-by-day in The World According to Bush.
It is for all of these reasons that I so value the time I spend with the children at school. And today was no exception. I finished the two--#1 and #2--pencil portraits of students that I've been working on for a couple of weeks, and just thoroughly enjoyed being around their life and energy...even their end-of-the-year wildness.
And now it is, believe it or not, 2:30 AM! Even though I had a good long nap after school, I'm beginning to get very sleepy. Time for bed.
SUNDAY, JUNE 8, 2003
This was a day to pull together loose ends regarding the dorm/meal arrangements I'm making for our O Beautiful Gaia CD recording weekend, June 13-14. It took me close to two hours to gather the information--I should have stock in MapQuest!--and write a detailed email to send the 32 women who will be staying in the dorm...and then another goodly hunk of time to write the housing director at the university where we'll be staying, to finalize our plans and ask my questions. Even though it has been a mammoth job, things are coming together in an acceptable fashion. A few bumps in the road are to be expected, but nothing serious has gone wrong since my roller coaster ride a week ago Friday. And any discomfort I had about writing big checks on my personal account has disappeared because these wonderful women have now ALL paid me in full!
Before I got to work on that business, though, I had to respond to the distressing news about the probable deportation of 13,000 immigrants that was reported in Saturday's New York Times. These are the men, aged 16-72, from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries, who were forced to submit to a "special registration" by the INS this winter. If you remember, the Raging Grannies and I joined protests that were sponsored by the Blue Triangle Network in front of the Detroit INS building on two bitter cold days in December and February. We feared just such a thing as this wave of deportations would happen as a result of this racial targeting of Muslim men from Arab and South Asian countries.
I started with a group email to the Blue Triangle network, the Raging Grannies and my Muslim friends, asking what we could do to respond to this frightening development. I then wrote the following Letter to Editor of the New York Times:
Re: More Than 13,000 May Face Deportation (June 7, 2003)
On several bitter cold days last winter, I joined groups of concerned citizens in front of the Detroit INS building. We were there to protest the "special registration" of immigrant men between the ages of 16 and 72 from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries. At the time we feared how this information would be used. And now I read that more than 13,000 of those registered are likely to be deported because of their illegal status.
When I see such evidence of official racial targeting, I am reminded of Hitler's Germany and our own treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. If the newly-named Department of Homeland Security is so concerned with the immigration status of individuals within our borders, why are they not holding special registrations of European immigrants, or those from Central and South America, Asia and Africa?
It looks like a purge to me, and I am ashamed of my country.
Patricia Lay Dorsey
I finished by sending the New York Times article to Commondreams.org, asking them to publish it on their web site. You do what you can do.
Late in the afternoon,
even though it was spitting a bit, I scooted down to the weekly
peace vigil in my community's commercial district. I am so impressed
by the faithfulness of these folks. They are now sponsoring their
third peace lecture, this one to be held at the local Islamic
Center on June 30. They have invited a professor from Wayne State
University--who is also an international lawyer--to speak on the
erosion of civil liberties in the US since September 11, and in
particular, the Patriot Act. As always, we shared information,
announcements, and discussed issues relating peace and politics.
And to think I've lived in this conservative community for years
thinking I was alone in my commitment to peace activism! What
a joy to find that I am not alone. I've offered to help by being
in charge of sending out their group emails. Their email list
already numbers 150 and the group has only been in existence a
few months. As Carol, the organizer, said tonight, things are
changing from the bottom up. Grassroots is where it's at.
THURSDAY, JULY 3, 2003
As I reflect on this year's celebration of July 4th--Independence Day here in the United States--I am conscious of the paradox between what that day symbolizes and what I currently see happening around me.
I recall Aly's words at last night's gathering of our local peace group. Aly who had to flee Egypt in 1967 after having publicly questioned some of Nasser's decisions. Aly who said he chose to come to the United States because of its reputation the world over for being a country where citizens could openly question their government without fear of reprisal, a country with constitutionally-guaranteed free speech. Last night Aly said the United States has become a "third world country" very much like his homeland, a place where one has to be careful what one says and to whom. Especially if you are a Muslim of Arab descent like he and his friends. Another member of our group, a physician originally from Syria, sadly nodded his head.
It appears that the United States--at least the governmental leaders of the United States--have turned their collective backs on the freedoms we prize and have replaced them with the rhetoric of freedom but the reality of fear and repression. To me, the difference between a third world country and the United States is that the former is more open about its repression while the latter still calls itself a "free country."
I'd have to ask Rabih Haddad how free a country we live in. Rabih who has been in jail for over 18 months with no charges having been brought against him, no trial and no idea how much longer before he is deported, as he surely will be. His "crime" was to be a well respected humanitarian in the Muslim Arab world. Oh yes, and taking the advice of experienced immigrant lawyers who said that because he had applied for permanent residency in the US, his lapsed visa would be overlooked. Free? Ask Rabih if he thinks the United States is a free country.
One of the hallmarks of a free country is a free press. Do we now have a free press in this country? Ask Robert Fisk from The Independent newspaper published in Britain and John Pilger, Australian broadcaster and film-maker. According to interviews conducted in Oslo with these two journalists who consistently told "the other side" during the war on Iraq, self-censorship is rampant in the media.
"But even the term self-censorship is not quite right", Pilger says, "because many journalists are unaware that they are censoring themselves.
"Media organizations are now under tight control, Pilger says. Just five corporations rule the broadcasters in the United States. In Australia Rupert Murdoch controls 70 percent of the media. "We live in an age of information," he says. "Yet the media is not attacking the ruling system. The media has never before been so controlled, and propaganda is all around. Most of us don't even see it."
There are those who would disagree with my assessment of things. They would say "Yes, you complain that this isn't a free country, but you're still free to criticize it publicly."
For now, I am. But if there were another horrible terrorist attack on this country and the powers-that-be got their wish and pushed Patriot Act II through Congress, how safe would I be to openly criticize my country's government? I wonder. When a citizen could be stripped of her/his citizenship with no appeal or judicial review, and be held in prison indefinitely with no charges or trial, how free would I feel to write journal entries like this on the internet where anyone could read them? If I were smart, I would self-censor myself rather than wait for an outside authority to do so. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
So on this eve of Independence Day, I celebrate my independence of thought and that of hundreds of millions of persons like me around the world. For as repressive as the United States government has become, the movement for justice and peace has flourished in ways never before seen in history. And we are the ones who now carry the vision of freedom and independence, not in a narrowly nationalistic sense, but with a communal power that circles the globe. Isn't that an irony? The less free and representative governments become, the more the people claim their own power to create the reality they need and deserve. It is happening the world over, but don't wait for the media or press to report it. They won't. We must find our own ways to communicate, and for now, the internet is proving to be the true voice of the people. Now our task is to keep the internet free!
TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2003
My brother Rabih Haddad has been deported. Ed just heard it on the 11 o'clock news and came upstairs to tell me. We only know that he was deported on Monday night, that his wife Sulaima and his lawyer were not informed of that fact until Sulaima received a collect call from Rabih during a layover in Amsterdam on Tuesday morning. We also know that he was immediately detained after he disembarked from the plane in Lebanon. His mother who was waiting to meet him learned that much from the officials. But we do not know anything else. This is why Rabih had applied for asylum, because he feared that he would be jailed as soon as he returned to the country of his birth. At this point no one knows whether Rabih has been jailed or just detained for questioning at the airport.
Can you imagine how this must feel for Sulaima and their four children? And what are they to do now? Only one of the children is a US citizen by birth; the other three and Sulaima have expired visas, just like Rabih. Sulaima's country of birth is Kuwait. Will she have to go there? So much is unknown right now.
How I wish I could help, even in some small way. I have just sent emails to Sulaima, to Rabih's brothers, Mazen and Bassem, and to Phillis, their faithful advocate at the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace. I feel so impotent and sad. I have only just been able to stop crying.
After Ed told me the news, I checked my emails and there was one from Phillis telling the AAACP members what had happened. At least all that we know so far about what has happened. I then went to the Detroit Free Press online and found a lead article titled, "Haddad deported, family remains in US." The New York Times online also has an article. Their's is titled, "U.S. Deports Charity Leader in Visa Dispute." As always, it is filled with unproven innuendoes that tie the Global Relief Foundation that Rabih co-founded to terrorists. Of course, no such charges were ever made in court, so they could never be disproven.
Rabih was deported 19 months to the day that he was handcuffed in front of his children by INS agents, and thrown in jail. Except for minor visa violations, he was never charged with any crime, but his good name was smeared by unproven accusations made to the press and media by the INS and representatives from the Justice Department. For 19 months this well-respected Muslim cleric and global humanitarian was treated like a criminal by a "justice" system that has no sense of justice left since John Ashcroft came to power. There were no appeals that could get Rabih released, nor was there any way to assure his clement treatment in jail. He had not been allowed to touch his wife and children for over a year.
And this is the country they say is free? I wonder what this country's Founding Fathers would say about that. I guess it's only a democracy for a select few. And Rabih was obviously not one of the few.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16, 2003
Here is the VERY GOOD NEWS I awoke to this morning. I will be at the Press Conference today!
From: A2 Area Committee
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 08:25:05 -0700 (EDT)
Subject: [peace-events] Rabih made it home; press conference 1 pm today
Two pieces of news about Rabih Haddad's deportation:
Last night I sent an email stating Rabih had been deported to Lebanon and detained there. Since then, he has been released. He spent the night at his mother's home. Apparently, the airport in Beirut received many phone calls from Rabih's supporters. This may have been a factor in their decision to release him. Hopefully this signals the peaceful end of an arduous journey for Rabih Haddad.
There will be a press conference today (Wed.) at 1 pm at the Islamic Center, 2301 Plymouth Rd in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The speakers will be Noel Saleh (ACLU attorney), Salma al-Rushaid (Rabih's wife), and Kristine Abouzahr (from the Committee to Free Rabih Haddad). The organizers ask that anyone who is able to attend and show their support, please do so.
See you at the press conference or the Art Fair.
"Rabih's deportation just reinforces our assertions from the beginning--that Rabih Haddad is innocent, and that the government has not and cannot find anything against him other than a minor visa violation that does not warrant his detention in the first place," stated Kristine Abouzahr, spokeswoman for the Committee To Free Rabih Haddad. "The government has attempted to assassinate his character by spreading rumors and innuendo, and has destroyed his family's sense of security. We do hold the government responsible for anything that may happen to him and his family now."
When asked by a reporter if she would like to return to the US some day--Sulaima and the children are expecting to be deported at any moment--Sulaima al-Rushaid said, "No. Not this country as it is now. I loved the old America but since September 11, everything has changed. It is no longer the same country. I now find it scary."
"So is there anything you like to say to the US government, Ms. al-Rushaid."
Sulaima stood with her head bowed, then raised her head and said one word, "Ashcroft." With great deliberation she went on to say, "I would say to Mr. Ashcroft to stop and reflect on what you are doing. Look around and see how your decisions have eroded this country's civil liberties."
Today's press conference at the Islamic Center in Ann Arbor--Rabih's home mosque--was very emotional for those of us who have been at Rabih's and Sulaima's side since the beginning of this nightmare on December 14, 2001. Not only were we finally hearing the truth told--that Rabih was totally innocent and had been jailed unnecessarily for 19 months--but for the first time, this truth seemed to be heard and respected by the press and media who had often smeared Rabih's character by printing unsubstantiated accusations by the INS and more recently by the US Department of Homeland Security (does anyone else think of Nazi Germany every time they hear that name?).
For many of us the most emotional part of the day was the awareness that this might be the last time we would ever see our beloved sister Sulaima. After the press conference, we women formed a spontaneous line to get our last hugs and kisses from our friend. In that line, there were no dry eyes.
Speaking of eyes, I have never seen Sulaima look quite as tired as she did today. When she stood up to speak, she apologized ahead of time for any mistakes she might make as she had only had two hours of sleep last night. Not only was she worried about Rabih, but she was quickly packing in preparation for the moment when this inhumane group of people from the US Department of Homeland Security would come bursting into her home with no warning and take her and her four children, aged 13 to 5, off to the airport to be deported to Lebanon. When asked how her children were taking all of this, she smiled wanly and said, "They don't know what's going on. I told them we'd soon be going home to be with Daddy, but for them, this is home."
Noel Saleh, the ACLU attorney who has helped with Rabih's case from the beginning, made the point clearly that if the government had had any evidence at all that Rabih Haddad had any ties to terrorist groups, they would have slapped him in a military prison and/or brought him to trial. The fact that they simply put him on a plane and released him in Lebanon means they had nothing to justify having kept this innocent man in jail for 19 months. He, Sulaima and Kristine assured the assembled press, media and supporters that they are not going to let this injustice rest. They will be doing everything possible to bring the truth to light and to insist that the US government apologize and recant their unfounded accusations and innuendoes. Sulaima, especially, made it clear that she will continue to fight for her husband's good name, whether from Lebanon or Ann Arbor.
I come away from this experience of getting to know Sulaima, Rabih, their children, Rabih's brothers, and their community of friends, colleagues and supporters with a sense of awe and gratitude. As hard as it has been to walk with them through this nightmarish time, it has been even more of a privilege. I have watched both Rabih and Sulaima grow into such strength, courage and wisdom that I can only say "Thank you" to the Universe that touched my heart that December day 19 months ago and said, "Go to this Immigration Court hearing and support this man, Rabih Haddad." What a grace and gift it has been. And, as I told Sulaima today and will tell Rabih when next we write, I love them as a sister and that means forever.
An amazing thought occurred to me after I'd put up today's journal entry--now Rabih himself can read my accounts of our 19 months of working for his release! In fact, this web page that I call "My Brother Rabih Haddad" could be a sort of illustrated history for him. So I spent some time tonight updating it and repairing a few broken photo links. May these pictures and words show Rabih that he was never forgotten during his long months in jail.
As I scooted with Ed tonight, the following song started singing itself in my head:
Free at last, free
Thank God almighty, he's free at last!
FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2003
It is 1:30 AM Saturday morning and I have just gotten off the phone after an hour-long conversation with my brother Rabih in Lebanon! I can't stop smiling. As Rabih said, we could talk for three solid days and never run out of things to say. How is it that two people who have never met could feel so close? But it's as though we know one another heart-to-heart, and have from the beginning. It almost makes me believe in reincarnation.
A couple of hours before calling Rabih, I'd been at a farewell picnic in Ann Arbor for Sulaima and the children. I was feeling sad about that until I talked with Rabih. Now I don't feel Sulaima and I were saying a forever-type goodbye. Rabih and his mother--who knew Patricia through my web pictures and journals about her son--have both invited me to come visit them in Lebanon. Sulaima said the same. Who knows? Life is such an adventure, we never know the path ahead of time. Lebanon already feels familiar to me because of all the children I know from school who were born there and go back every summer. They've told me so much about it, and shown me so many photos, that somehow I can see myself there. Not right away, but maybe next year. As I say, who knows?
Now I want to show Rabih pictures of Sulaima and the boys (their 13 year-old daughter Sana chose not to be photographed), of his youngest, Oussama, riding with me on my scooter, of his supporters and friends--Phillis from the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, the faithful women from his mosque who put together this picnic and then enjoyed it so mightily, Mary and Laurie of the AAACP, Kristine of the Free Rabih Haddad Committee, Nancy with her daughter Louisa, Rabih's former students Miriam and Leena, indefatigable Cynthia, and a good number of women whom I know by face but not by name. We talked, ate, hugged Sulaima (a lot), took and posed for pictures, signed a card for Sulaima, and celebrated the good news about Sulaima's travel plans (she and all four children will be deported to Kuwait where they'll visit her father for two days while she gets her visa, and then they will fly to Lebanon to be reunited with Rabih). These plans are the work of many hands, including Rabih, Sulaima, Mazen (Rabih's brother in Toronto), the lawyers, a good officer from the Immigration Department, Congressman John Conyers, an attorney for the House Judiciary Committee, Sulaima's father in Kuwait, the Free Rabih Haddad Committee, and others. As of now, it looks like they will be leaving the US next week.
But this evening was ours to give thanks for the bonds we've formed with this wonderful family. And the weather cooperated by giving us clear skies and a beautiful sunset.
And now it is past time that I take myself off to bed. I am still smiling...
SUNDAY, JULY 20, 2003
After a good night's sleep--fourteen and a half hours!--I awoke feeling rested and refreshed. Finally. Last week was among the most strenuous weeks of my life emotionally, and sleep had been in short supply. Not only was I getting to bed late but I was having serious itching with what was probably a stress-related skin condition. Whatever it was, my symptoms have happily diminished.
The powerful reaction I've had to Rabih's freedom makes me realize how much his imprisonment had been weighing on me these nineteen months. But when I asked him how he was feeling now that he was free, he said, "You know, Patricia, it's really strange. I don't feel any different. After all, I was always free."
MONDAY, JULY 21, 2003
I keep thinking of things Rabih told me during our phone conversation the other night. One story in particular stays with me. It is the story of his last night in the county jail where he'd spent 14 of his 19 months behind bars. As you may recall, all of those 14 months were spent in solitary confinement, or what he told me is known as "the hole."
Even though inmates in the hole were only allowed one hour out of every 24 outside of their cells, Rabih still got to know each and every man. "I wanted to get to know them, to hear about their lives, to be a listening ear." Apparently it was not unusual for the men to spend their one precious hour of "freedom" sitting with Rabih, talking.
So last Monday night--a week ago tonight--Rabih had just finished his dinner. A guard came to the door of his cell and, in an urgent tone of voice, told him he had to go downstairs "Right now!" Rabih asked if he could put on his shoes and socks. The guard said yes. There was something about the way the guard was acting that made Rabih feel something was up. He thought they might be transferring him to another jail that was farther away from his family, as they'd been threatening to do. So he put on his shoes and socks, and walked with the guard down the cellblock corridor. As they walked, the inmates started banging on their cell doors and yelling, "Free Haddad! Free Haddad!" That was his send-off.
THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2003
And the People Cheered
Bloody heads circle
the imperial borders,
mouths stretched open
in grimaces of pain.
And the people cheer.
our imperial borders
with photos of heads
And the people cheer.
Heads or headlines,
Spears or missiles,
Strangers or sons,
The "evil ones" are dead.
And the people cheer.
Patricia Lay-Dorsey, in hopes of a better tomorrow
Even though I had intended to avoid the news while in Ann Arbor, yesterday's glaring headlines caught my eye as I scooted by newspaper kiosks. What came to mind was, "To what kind of barbaric tribe do we belong?" This poem was struggling so hard to be born during my drive back home today that I had to pull over to the shoulder of the expressway and jot it down. However, it changed after I checked out the New York Times web site this afternoon and was confronted by photos of the blood-spattered heads of two dead men they say are Saddam's sons. Few seem to mention the 14 year-old boy who was also massacred, the teenager they say might be Saddam's grandson. Will they be after his daughters next?
You know, I don't much care whether these two men were Saddam's sons or not; they were someone's sons, someone who is outraged and grieving right now. It is very hard to live in a country whose government leaders and media/press applaud assassination. No attemps to cover it up, or to call it by a different name. Assassination has become an acceptable and, in this case, laudatory way of dealing with persons we consider our enemies. No arrest, due process, trial or sentencing. Even the Nazi leaders who had committed horrific crimes of genocide against the Jewish people during World War II were given the benefit of public trials. Even those who were then sentenced to execution had the chance to mount a defense beforehand. But not now, not in these times when our nation is in the grips of fear-inspired support of a government that seems able to do whatever it pleases with little regard for our nation's laws (It is against the law for the US to engage in assassination), international rules of war, or any semblance of respect for humanity.
According to the NY Times, "The defense secretary said coalition forces would continue to 'root out and capture and kill' members of Saddam's former regime."
We have gone back to the times of the barbarians when outright killing was the only answer. It is as though Darwin's theory of evolution has been reversed. How far back must we go before the people wake up? I certainly hope this pendulum is coming to the far reaches of its swing.
I called my brother Rabih in Lebanon again tonight. I'd had an email earlier today from his brother (my brother too) in Toronto in which Mazen had shared the strong emotions that are assailing him right now, and I figured Rabih might be going through trying times of his own. I was right.
These days of waiting for Sulaima and the kids are filled with anxiety for Rabih, especially when he hears the exhaustion and strain in her voice over the phone, but can do nothing to help. He laughed and said, "As soon as Sulaima walks off that plane, I'm going to put her on a pedestal!" Another concern that I sense worries him more than he can let on, is whether or not the Lebanese government is going to leave him alone. They called him in briefly the day before yesterday "just to finish questioning him", and Rabih said his mother almost freaked out. He downplayed the seriousness of this and said it was just a formality, but I know it must concern him. He laughed about his final worry, and that is that he will smother Sulaima and the kids with all the love he has stored up for them. He said, "It's like putting a starving man's favorite dishes before him and asking him not to gobble them up!" I assured him he could never love Sulaima and the kids too much.
Rabih seemed to appreciate our conversation and, in fact, said at one point, "I could get addicted to your calls." But I promised that as soon as he was reunited with his family, I would fade back into the woodwork; it was just during this "waiting time" that I thought my calls might help. He said they would always help.
I was delighted to hear that later this afternoon (Friday, his time) Rabih will be going to his family's second home in the mountains to escape the heat and humidity of Beirut. There he plans to get their fishing equipment ready for the boys, and to hike in the mountains. This vacation home is only forty minutes from Beirut, and shows why Lebanon is called the "Switzerland of the Middle East."
By the way, Sulaima and the children are scheduled to be deported to Kuwait this coming Monday, July 28. May they travel safely, and may the family be at home together in Lebanon by the end of next week.
SATURDAY, JULY 26, 2003
Sulaima and I talked on the phone yesterday morning and in the course of our conversation she told me that she and the children had to report to the INS (now called ICE) headquarters here in Detroit at 10 AM on Monday for deportation. It occurred to me that they deserved a loving send-off, especially after how they've been treated by this country's so-called "justice" system. So I told her I would be there myself in front of the INS by 9:30 AM, and that I would get as many people to join me as I could. My reasoning was not simply to show Sulaima and the kids that we care, but to show the INS/ICE folks that we are watching how they treat Rabih Haddad's wife and children. I want this deportation to be under public scrutiny, not handled in secret like they did with Rabih two weeks ago. So I sent out the following email to the groups and individuals in my address book whom I thought might be interested:
Dear sisters and brothers
I just talked with Rabih Haddad's wife, Sulaima, and discovered that she and their four children--Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama--are to be at the INS Building, 333 Mt. Elliot, just south of E. Jefferson in Detroit at 10 AM on Monday, July 28. From there, they will be transported to the airport to be deported to Kuwait. The promise is that after two days in Kuwait--Sulaima's father and sisters are there--she will be given her visa to Lebanon and the family will FINALLY get on a plane to be reunited with Rabih, who was secretly deported from the Monroe County Jail on July 14 after 19 months of unjust imprisonment. At present, the family intends to make their home in Lebanon with the helpful support of Rabih's mother and extended family.
We need to give this family that has suffered SO MUCH at the hands of the U.S. government a BIG SEND-OFF!!! I'm asking all my sisters and brothers to meet in front of the INS Headquarters on Mt. Elliot (just south of E. Jefferson) at 9:30 AM with LOTS OF SIGNS and a readiness to sing! I'll bring special song sheets.
Let's let the INS know that this innocent mother and children are our loved ones, and that we INSIST that they be treated with the care and consideration they deserve. Let your signs speak your heart.
Remember, meet no later than 9:30 AM on Monday, July 28 in front of the INS Building, 333 Mt. Elliot, just south of E. Jefferson in Detroit. Let's have the last sight Sulaima and the kids have of the U.S. be one of LOVE AND SUPPORT!!!
Please forward this message to your groups and frinds.
See you there, rain or shine.
in support of my sister
and her family
I then announced the rally and gave some background into Rabih's case at last night's Blue Triangle Network national retreat and planning meeting in Dearborn. Since the BTN's reason for being is to support, advocate for and educate the general public about the threats since September 11 to our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab and South Asian descent in the US, most of the folks there--folks from as far away as San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, New York City and Chicago--already knew about Rabih Haddad. He's been an international symbol of what John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act have meant to immigrants in this country, especially Muslim immigrants of Arab descent. Representatives from the Chicago Blue Triangle Network came up afterwards and told me how much it meant to them to hear the latest news about Rabih and Sulaima, as their group had organized support for them during the winter and spring of 2002 when Rabih was being held in Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center. One of the representatives said she was going to try to extend her stay in Detroit an extra day so she could attend Monday's rally.
The number of positive responses I've received to my idea of giving Sulaima and the kids a good send-off has surprised me. What I'd originally seen as a small way to support my sister and her children has turned into a BIG DEAL, so big that it will require press releases, speeches, a bull horn, and way more organization than I can manage on my own. After a couple of phone calls and emails to my sister Kristine in Ann Arbor, I was delighted to hand over the organizing to the Free Rabih Haddad Committee that has coordinated all of the local rallies and demonstrations that have been held for Rabih during the 19 months of his detention.
But for me the most important thing is that the last sight Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Ossama have of the United States will be of people who love them. They deserve it.
MONDAY, JULY 28, 2003
I've been in bed for three hours trying to sleep. All I've been able to do for the past half hour is cry. It is finally sinking in. Sulaima and the kids are leaving, never to return. I feel as though it is my daughter and grandchildren who are leaving. Every moment we've shared is coming back to haunt me, especially the first moment we met. It was December 19, 2001 and I didn't know this family at all. All I knew was that something in their story--the story of a Muslim cleric and humanitarian being arrested suddenly in his home in Ann Arbor by INS agents, handcuffed and taken to an "undisclosed location"--touched me deeply. So I went to the immigration court hearing that we'd been asked to attend to offer support, and at one point during those long hours sitting in that waiting room--no one except his lawyer and a few witnesses were allowed inside the courtroom--I was drawn to scoot over and talk briefly with the wife of this man who was being treated so unjustly. We met with our hearts. I don't know how else to describe it. I remember holding her hands in mine, looking deeply into her eyes, and speaking of our connection as members of this one human family, telling her she was not alone, that there were people across the globe who were standing beside her in solidarity, assuring her she was strong enough to handle whatever might come. And then I gave her two boys my Odwalla grapefruit juice that I'd carried into the waiting room. That was how it started. You know, we've never gone to one another's homes, in fact months would go by without our seeing one another. But we both knew the other was always there, offering love and mutual support. For it was not just me supporting Sulaima during these nineteen months, but her supporting me as well. Whenever she saw me her face would light up with such a loving smile, and she'd always come over to give me a big hug. We must have at least four or five photos of us hugging. I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. But, as sad as I feel now, I'd just as soon get this sobbing part of my feelings over and done with tonight. I don't want to bring this kind of energy to the rally, especially not if I see Sulaima and the kids. They're going to have enough of their own raw feelings to deal with, without having to deal with mine. I just want to offer them love and support today, not a soggy tissue-face and runny nose. I wonder if Sulaima can sleep tonight. I hope so. She's got a demanding week ahead of her. At least until she can relax in her beloved Rabih's arms. Ah well, writing my feelings instead of crying them has helped. Maybe now I can sleep.
Before I went back to bed, I went to my inbox to reread Sulaima's last email to me. This is what she wrote:
I regret not knowing ,seeing, hugging you more often dearest Patricia. There are no words to describe how I feel now. Mixed mixed emotions mainly very happy that now he is free free free and with his loving mom. But leaving you guys, that is totally different. I pray to GOD that you all stay safe and healthy for many many years to come to continue your priceless work.
love you more than you will ever know Sulaima
Can you see why I love her so much?
Today we gave Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama the kind of send-off they deserved. It was full of love, outrage, tenderness, song, tears and lots of TV/radio/newspaper interviews. We who have supported this family in their ongoing struggle for the release of Rabih Haddad, their husband and father, during 19 months of detention without charges, came together, as one sign put it, as "One World, One People." We were old and young, women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim, Raging Grannies Without Borders, Free Rabih Haddad Committee members, folks from the Blue Triangle Network, Peace Action, Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War In Iraq), the Flagpole Protestors (from my local high school), and individuals who were there because they believed in the pre-September 11 American principle of law that said one is innocent until proven guilty. There was one man who captured the attention of the media and press by spray painting "Remember 9-11" on a piece of construction plywood across the street, but his was a voice that was not needed to be heard in this crowd. If there is any segment of American society that can never forget 9-11, it is our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab descent. They bear the consequences of that tragic action every day of their lives.
Ed had followed me downtown on his way to work so that he could get my scooter out of the car and set it up for me. I could not possibly do what I do in the world without the support of this loving man. Anyway, that got me to the INS building a half hour early, at 9 AM. When I arrived, one TV truck was already there. And then the supporters started to arrive. We had a wonderful gaggle of Raging Grannies in attendance, two of whom--GranMotoko and Granny Carol Yamasaki--had driven an hour to get there. And there was a good group of brothers and sisters from Rabih and Sulaima's mosque who had caravaned by car and van 50 miles from Ann Arbor. The surprise to me was the large number of press and media who not only showed up but got interviews and/or photographs of just about everyone, and who stuck around for hours until the INS van had finally loaded up Sulaima and the kids and taken off for the airport at 12:20 PM. For those of us who had felt silenced and invisible every time we'd read or seen or heard the media and press repeating the Justice Department's--John Ashcroft's--unsubstantiated accusations of Rabih and his Global Relief Foundation being tied to terrorists, having a chance to say our say was both healing and empowering. It seemed as though the press and media were finally catching on to the fact that if the Justice Department had had anything on Rabih Haddad, they would never have let him go free, in Lebanon or anyplace else. It was now clear to any thinking person that the government had tried to get something on Rabih and his group for 19 months and had come up empty. All they had on him was a usually-fineable visa violation, and so they deported him, his wife and children. What a miscarriage of justice.
So when I was interviewed today--the question usually being, "Why are you here?"--I not only talked about wanting to support this family who had been so mistreated by the American government, but gave my opinions about how the government had handled the case and how the media and press had reported it (shameful in both cases). Many of the thoughts that had kept me awake last night came pouring out. I have no idea exactly what I said, but I know it came directly from my heart. What I do remember saying over and over is that, in deporting Rabih Haddad, the United States has lost an exceptional asset to our country, that I saw in him a link to persons like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that this has been one of the worst chapters in American history, and that we supporters will continue to fight for Rabih Haddad's and the Global Relief Foundation's names to be cleared. I also said that Rabih Haddad's only "crime" was being a humanitarian who tried to alleviate the suffering of others. Anyone who interviewed me got an earful.
But it wasn't simply our opinions that we shared today, it was a song that had come to me full blown as I awoke yesterday morning. Even though it was a bit of a tongue-twister, almost everyone learned and sang it with gusto. We sang it to Sulaima and the children through the windows of the van that had carried her and a good number of sisters from Ann Arbor to Detroit. We sang it into microphones held by TV camerapersons and radio interviewers. We sang it to Rami and Sami when they came out of the INS building to say goodbye. We even sang it to Rabih himself! For one of the most amazing moments of this day came when one of the brothers held up his cell phone and said, "It's Rabih on the phone!" Granted the connection only lasted for three minutes at a time, but with the speaker phone (!) turned on, Rabih was able to make a personal statement of thanks to his supporters. Even the hardboiled press and media were shaking their heads in wonder at that.
In addition to interviews and songs, we expressed what we wanted to say in the form of signs. Yesterday I'd made six myself--#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6--not counting two with the words to our theme song. The sisters from Ann Arbor had a whole batch of excellent signs, and everyplace you looked up and down the line, there were signs in evidence. At one point I scooted across the street and took a series of photos of rally participants, looking from left to right--#1, #2, #3, #4. It was then that an INS guard came up and said, "Shall I confiscate your camera now or later?" America, home of the free and the brave.
But, as often seems to happen, there is one moment that I'm sure will always stay with me. It came about a half hour after Sulaima and the children had disappeared inside the bowels of the INS building. To be honest, I did not expect to see them again. But I looked up to see ten-and-a-half-year-old Sami coming toward me on the sidewalk. He walked right into my arms and gave me a big hug. I whispered, "I don't want you to go", and he said, "I don't want to go either." By now the cameras and microphones had closed in on us like we were M&M or something, but Sami and I didn't care. We were seeing only each another. I told him how his Dad was waiting for him, and how he'd told me he was afraid he'd "gobble up" his family, that he loved them so much. We talked about Lebanon and also about his being able to see his granddad in Kuwait for the first time in years. I told him I was planning to come visit, as were a lot of his friends from Ann Arbor. Soon I saw Rami kind of hiding behind Sami and had to coax him over to get a hug. It was obviously a very emotional time for these boys, but, as always, they handled themselves with dignity and grace. Oh, I'm going to miss these kids. But, as I said to Sami, all we want is for their family to be together again.
Most of us--supporters and media/press--waited until Sulaima and the children were to be transported to the airport. We supporters wanted one more chance to show them our love, and the media/press wanted one last photo op. But as time went on, we realized the INS was probably going to try to get them out without our seeing them. So we stationed some of our folks at one entrance on E. Jefferson Avenue, while the rest stayed in front of the gate on Mt. Elliot. Suddenly we heard a cry, "They're taking them out the E. Jefferson entrance." Everyone ran--I scooted--over to that entrance and we were able to wave to a van that our brothers assured us they'd seen Sulaima and the children get into. But instead of using the entrance where we stood, the van--with its tinted windows to prevent anyone seeing who was inside--turned toward a back entrance and drove out of sight. We ran/scooted in that direction, but they were gone. The press and media agreed with us that this was typical of how the INS operates these days. Everything is done in secret, even when they have nothing to hide. Ah well, Suliama and the kids know we were there, and more importantly, know how we feel about them.
Sana, Sami, Rami,
Whether here or Lebanon,
We love you like a family.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2003
Last night I discovered that what I had hoped was simply a twisted ankle was something more. I'd guess a pulled or torn ligament and a bad sprain. Whatever it is, my right leg and foot are painful and can bear no weight. I'm fortunate I was able to get upstairs (on my bum) soon after the fall while the injury was still in the numbed-out trauma stage. At least I'm in my beloved space for the duration.
As I tried to sleep during the night, I asked myself if I would have done anything differently had I known my excessive activity would lead to this. Especially when I realized that this injury might keep me from attending the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival for the first time in nine years. The answer was a resounding "No!" Being able to do what I could do for Rabih and Sualima these last two weeks was worth missing the festival, or missing anything for that matter. Every moment was a privilege.
And I found that the injury didn't keep me from continuing that work today. I sent a group email titled "Rabih & Sulaima" to hundreds of individuals and groups, as well as a letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press. As I told the media and press interviewers on Monday, we aren't going to rest until we've seen Rabih Haddad's name and the name of his Global Relief Foundation cleared.
Being an activist doesn't always require you to be out on the streets. Sometimes a keyboard works just as well.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2003
As is so often the case, the real war isn't fought until the battle is done.
I think of the hard questions that George W. Bush and his advisors are now facing about why they insisted on attacking Iraq. Remember how the Commander-In-Chief landed on an aircraft carrier off the port of San Diego on May 1 and announced that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended?" Maybe the President should ask the soldiers still over there--who are dying on an average of one a day--how they feel about being part of a combat operation that isn't considered "major."
I think of John Ashcroft and the USA Patriot Act. Yes, it was passed with little discussion and even less careful examination by a frightened Congress soon after September 11, 2001. Well, as of today 143 cities have passed resolutions banning its enactment by local law enforcement agencies, last week the U.S. House voted 309 to 118 to overturn key provisions of the Act, and on Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union and six Muslim groups brought the first major constitutional challenge to the Patriot Act to federal court. Their lawsuit seeks to have Section 215 of the Act declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the privacy, due process and free speech rights of Americans.
As a baseball great once said, "It ain't over till it's over."
I think of the case of Rabih Haddad. I'd guess that the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security breathed collective sighs of relief on Monday when the last of Rabih's family--his wife and children--were deported to Kuwait. With Rabih Haddad--the man they'd kept imprisoned for nineteen months with no charges and no bond--secretly deported to Lebanon on the night of July 14, there was no more reminder of their fruitless search to connect him to terrorism. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so they thought. Well, it's not panning out that way. Yesterday such a public outcry and flood of emails descended on the offices of two Kuwaiti newspapers that had inaccurately described Rabih Haddad as having been charged with funneling funds to al-Qaeda, that they had to print retractions on today's front pages. Now I learn that Sulaima's brother, Ezz Yacoub al-Rushaid, has just been quoted in al-Seyassah newspaper in Kuwait as saying he plans to sue the U.S. government "to bring dignity and clean my sister's and brother-in-law's names." And on Thursday's "Democracy Now" radio program, Amy Goodman interviewed the ACLU lawyer Noel Saleh, who had also served as attorney for Rabih and Sulaima. Although most of the interview dealt with the ACLU lawsuit challenging the USA Patriot Act, Goodman also asked her guest to briefly discuss the related case of Rabih Haddad. Noel Saleh concluded the interview by saying, "Rabih was a symbol of American jurisprudence gone astray."
And so, as Rabih wrote this afternoon in his first-ever email to me, "The struggle continues!!"
I'm just grateful to be in it. During times like these, what could be better than to be smack dab in the middle of the struggle for truth and justice.
MONDAY, AUGUST 4, 2003
Rabih, Sulaima and the kids are together again. Ebtehal, Sulaima's dearest friend here in the States, just called to tell me. All she said after my "Hello", was "It's Ebtehal. They're reunited! They're together!" She kept talking but I had to ask her to give me a minute. I couldn't hear anything except that they are together. Tears started falling down my cheeks and Ebtehal started crying too. So there we were, sobbing our joy into the phone, with her trying to tell me the news.
Sulaima had just called her fifteen minutes ago. She said the kids are all excited and keep saying they can't believe their Dad is driving a car. It turns out that Sulaima was talking to Ebtehal on her cell phone as the family was on their way up to Rabih's mother's home in the mountains. He's been up there for almost two weeks getting things ready for his family.
I can't believe it. Oh oh, here come the tears again.
But they're together. Happy isn't a big enough word to say how I feel. Even ecstatic is too small. There are no words, just tears. Thank God or Goddess or Universe or Creator or Whoever for allowing this dear family to be together again. May they NEVER be parted again!
Now I just want to sit back and imagine them in my mind's eye. I want to SEE Rabih behind the wheel, smiling so much his face might crack wide open. With Sulaima beside him, reaching out her hand to touch this beloved man whom she feared she'd never touch again. The children--Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama--in the back seats, talking and smiling and falling all over themselves to tell their Dad EVERYTHING that's been going on in their lives. None of them able to believe this is real. That they are REALLY together and safe. That the nightmare is over.
May the nightmare be over...over forever for this family who has suffered so much. May they be held safe and protected. May they have everything they need to start a new life. May the changes they've undergone draw them closer together. May they be gentle with themselves during these first weeks and months of learning how to be a family again. May they let go of unrealistic expectations and accept one another as they are. May they touch and touch and touch to their heart's content. May fear be thrown out the window as they drive up into those beautiful mountains. May they laugh and have a lot of FUN!!!
What a grace and a gift. How I love imagining them together. Thank you, thank you, thank you...
Here is the Haddad family--Rabih, Sulaima, Sami, Rami, Oussama. Now imagine them all together in one picture with 13 year-old Sana--her Dad's "Princess"--also at their side:
After I'd somewhat composed myself--although it continued to be a mix of smiles and tears--I sent a group email to the hundreds of individuals and groups who have grown to care about Rabih and his family during his long months of imprisonment and these final weeks of riding an emotional roller coaster. But this day--both before and after I heard the news about Rabih and Sulaima--were spent writing a personal essay called "Courage Found." I didn't write it for any reason except that I needed to explore the subject for myself. But as it developed, so did its meaning. I dedicate it to Rabih Haddad and to Sulaima al-Rushaid, two of the most courageous persons I've ever known.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2003
Since being homebound with a sprained ankle, I've read dozens and dozens of articles and op/ed pieces about current events. After a week of study, I've come to the conclusion that George W. Bush is the most consistent president in American history. He consistently supports big business, tax breaks for the wealthy, corporate interests, privatization of government services, secrecy, weapons manufacturers, oil interests, the Saudis, industrial polluters, companies owned by his friends and family, logging/mining/drilling in pristine wilderness areas, "diplomacy" that uses bribes, threats and blackmail, a "justice" system that jails Muslim men of Arab descent with no chance of due process, domestic surveillance of anyone and everyone...
I just called Sulaima on her cell phone in Lebanon! It was a poor connection so we had to yell, but she sounds SO HAPPY!!! She said she and Rabih were just driving back to the house after having had their first day alone together. "We still can't believe it!" She asked me to give everyone her love, and said how much my phone call meant to her. How I love imagining the two of them driving together through the countryside, smiling all the time, I'm sure.
Our consistent president supports Karl Rove's advice, fundamentalist Christian ideas and rhetoric, punitive policies towards countries with a high incidence of AIDS, "scientific" proof that fossil fuels are no problem and global warming doesn't exist, intelligence analyses that support his position, representatives of the media who only ask scripted questions, political appointees who share his ideology, countries whose leaders do what he tells them to do, international treaties that allow the United States to make its own rules, economic forecasts that say all is well, talks to groups that guarantee frequent standing ovations, opportunities to dress up and pose for heroic pictures.
I could go on but you get the picture. Consistency,that's what we have in the White House...at least until 2004. I don't know about you, but I'm going to look for a Democratic candidate who is unpredictable, contradictory and complex.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2003
I talked to my brother Rabih Haddad in Lebanon today! And not just to Rabih, but also to his 13 year-old daughter Sana. You know, it feels like I'm living back in the 40s again. Remember how exciting it was when you'd talk long distance to someone in another state? Long distance calls were a BIG DEAL back then. Well, calling Lebanon from Detroit feels like a BIG DEAL in 2003. I keep pinching myself to be sure I'm not dreaming. And after all those months in jail, just being able to talk with Rabih at all is amazing.
They're doing all right. Lots and lots of things to work out, though. Finding a school they can afford where they accommodate non-Arabic speakers. Finding a place to live near the school. Waiting for their shipment of household goods to be cleared by the Department of Homeland Security and finally shipped to Lebanon. And of course there's always the challenge of Rabih and/or Sulaima finding work that will support a family of six. All of this coupled with the adjustments that come of living in a country with a different language and customs, especially for the children who have only lived in the United States. But things are moving along.
Sana told me that two days ago they visited the school that she and all three of her brothers--even five year old Oussama--will be attending. She was pleased to see that not only are most of the classes taught in English, but the kids she heard talking in the halls were also speaking English. That was a big relief. She's still anxious about making new friends. A reasonable, perfectly normal anxiety for a ninth grader.
Rabih sounded tired. With good reason, I'd say. Can you imagine having been cooped up by yourself in solitary confinement for over a year and a half, with no outside stimulation and no opportunity to exercise your management skills, and all of a sudden to find yourself responsible for caring for the needs of your family, finding work and doing all of it in a country that may be your country-of-origin but where you haven't lived in decades? That would be enough to tire even the most indefatigable among us...which I think describes Rabih Haddad.
In only five weeks, they have found a school for the kids, as well as an apartment to rent near the school. Pretty darn good! Now the biggest anxiety is the question of when will their household goods arrive. And that is a legitimate anxiety. As is their habit, the U.S. government seems to be doing everything in their power to make life hard for Rabih Haddad and his family. In a recent phone call to the shipping company here in the States, Rabih received word that the Department of Homeland Security had finished examining their shipment but refused to release it for shipment. So members of the Ann Arbor-based Committee to Free Rabih Haddad are now trying to get more information on what is holding things up. As Rabih said with an audible shrug, "So we'll move into our apartment but we won't even have beds to sleep on."
Does it never end? Will the U.S. government never let this righteous man and his family get on with their lives? I told Rabih if they need an advocacy work done, to be assured that their family of friends here in the States are ready to do whatever it takes get their household goods freed from chains. He was comforted by that.
We talked about the possiblity of my coming to visit, perhaps in the spring. Both Rabih and Sana sounded delighted with the prospect. I think it is doable, even with my disability. What an amazing thing it would be to see my brother Rabih for the first time ever, and to again be with my sister Sulaima and the kids. Sounds thrilling actually. I understand that Lebanon is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Maybe in a few months I'll see for myself.
At one point during our conversation Rabih said, "I was saying to Sulaima just the other day that we hadn't heard from Patricia in awhile. She must have gotten her phone bill." I laughed and told him he was right! But since then we've gotten on a better "international calls" plan, so occasional calls are possible. Actually, Ed was great about that outrageous phone bill. Although he was pleased that I was going to do what I could to reduce the cost in the future, he still said it had been worth it for me to make those calls to Rabih and Sulaima when I did. I agree. And now that Rabih is in the market to get a home computer, we'll be able to communicate by email. That will be sweet. Staying in touch with family is important.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2003
More than a year ago--September 30, 2002, to be exact--I asked my online journal readers to visualize two people together again. I then posted two photographs side-by-side on my journal page: Sulaima and Rabih. At that time I naively believed there was a chance that the new immigration court judge who had been assigned to Rabih's case by a district court judge, might release my brother on bond. If you're a regular reader, you know that the only way my brother Rabih Haddad came to be released from solitary confinement--where he'd been held without charges for most of his 19 months in jail--was through secret deportation to Lebanon.
But today, thanks to Rabih's brother, Mazen, who just returned from a visit to Lebanon, I can show my original dream manifested: Sulaima and Rabih together again. When I look into their eyes I see their love for one another burning like the candles we held in vigils on Ann Arbor streets. I also see a man and a woman who have been profoundly marked by a nightmare that lasted from December 14, 2001 when three INS agents took Rabih out of his home in handcuffs until August 4, 2003 when Rabih met Sulaima and their four children at the Beirut Airport after their own deportation. I see gray in Rabih's beard and shadows under Sulaima's eyes. I also see a calm presence and a peace born of suffering. It's as if the world can do nothing more to hurt them; they have lived through the worst and survived. Not only survived, but used their experiences to deepen their humanity in ways we who are untested can only imagine.
An hour later...
I just talked with Sulaima and Rabih by phone! Oh, it is SO GOOD to hear their voices. When I told Sulaima how happy it makes me to know they're together again, she said, " I haven't gotten over it myself. We wake up every morning and thank God that we're together."
As you can imagine, life has been very busy for them, so busy that Rabih says he hasn't been able to take time alone to read and contemplate like he used to do on a daily basis. "I miss myself!" He's starting his own business. He said he decided to do what he has been doing for years, except now he will charge for it: he will consult with humanitarian groups and help them raise funds. If you recall, Rabih co-founded the Global Relief Foundation in 1991, a humanitarian aid organization that became one of the two largest aid organizations in the Arab world. I am certain that he will be very successful in this venture. In our new Internet-expanded world, organizations from around the globe will be able to avail themselves of his wisdom and expertise. It seems a perfect fit. He was clear about keeping his work life as unstructured as possible. "After all", he said, "I have a book to write." He then went on to say that he feels it is already written in his head, but just needs to get on paper (or on a computer). I trust that is true. I also trust that he will know exactly the right time to sit down and write it. But for now, starting a new business, getting acclimated to a country he hasn't lived in for 22 years, and caring for his wife and four children is not allowing a lot of extra time. Besides, he's still waiting for his computer to arrive from the United States.
Sulaima had sent me an email a couple of weeks ago catching me up-to-date. In it she'd said she was going to look for part-time employment. But today she told me she'd had to sign a paper saying that she wouldn't work for three years. Apparently if you want to get an immediate work visa in Lebanon, it costs a lot of money. So they're holding off on that and trusting Rabih's business will meet their financial needs.
When I asked about their making new friends, she told me that recently she and Rabih had been out shopping and she'd seen an American Muslim woman to whom she'd felt drawn. It turned out this woman was the wife of an old friend of Rabih's! Alexandra has lived in Lebanon for sixteen years so has a good group of friends that have already made Sulaima feel welcome. Making new friends is proving harder for the children. Sana, who is 13, is badly missing her friends from Ann Arbor. We agree that her transition will take time. The children are doing well in school even though Rabih says Arabic and math are giving them some trouble. But these are bright kids and now that they're receiving tutoring, I'm sure they'll be able to catch up in no time.
I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to talk with my sister Sulaima and my brother Rabih. I told him that as long as he was in jail and they were separated, a heaviness would come over me every time they'd come to mind, which was frequently. Now when I think of them, I smile. Rabih said that it was the love and sacrifices made by friends like me that got him through it all. I demurred, saying, "I didn't make any sacrifices." And Rabih said, "Sulaima is just reminding me of your first sacrifice, that bottle of water you gave the kids."
Imagine remembering such a thing! That was the first time I ever saw Sulaima and the children. It was Tuesday, December 19, 2001 and we were crowded into an immigration court waiting room because they wouldn't let anyone enter the courtroom while Rabih's bond hearing was in progress...which was what we were to discover was a post-September 11th fact of life for Arab Muslims "detained" by the INS and held indefinitely in US jails. Anyway, I'd brought an Odwalla grapefruit juice in my purse, figuring it might be a long day. Thinking back, I'm surprised the security guard let me bring it into the waiting room. We'd been waiting about an hour and a half when I scooted up and introduced myself to Sulaima, her children Sana, Sami and Rami (4 year-old Oussama was not with them), and her friend Huda. Realizing the kids were probably thirsty, I gave them the small bottle of grapefruit juice, which they shared. I said to Rabih, "I bet the kids didn't even like grapefruit juice!" I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, "But I do."
Funny how such a small
act can be remembered as a sacrifice.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 2004
Today I felt so close to my brother, Rabih Haddad, my sister, Sulaima, and the kids. I received a wonderful, long email from Rabih that caught me up to date with their news. The main news is that Sulaima is pregnant and the baby is expected in early July! But apparently Sulaima has a herstory of premature births, so we must keep her and her little one in protected, nesting energy at least until late May. This dear family has had more than their fair share of difficulties in the past two years. No more already! After he told me of their expecting a baby, he wrote, "Tell Mr.Bush and gang that Rabih Haddad's progeny is still growing."
Rabih said his consulting business is moving forward, slowly but surely, and he is delighted to be starting a study circle for a group of American sisters. He calls teaching his other great love after humanitarian work. I know that everyone I have met who ever had Rabih as a teacher said they would never forget him. He obviously has a true teacher's gift. The children are settling in at school and making new friends, even though they still miss their friends in Ann Arbor.
Rabih concluded his email in this way:
Good always triumphs
over evil, and while "evil" may win a few battles here
and there in a spectacular fashion, the outcome of the war will
no doubt be in "good's" favor. One of my favorite
parables on this is from the Holy Qur'an: "Seest thou not
how Allah sets forth a parable? - A goodly Word like a goodly
tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches reach to the
heavens. It brings forth its fruits at all times, by the
leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men,
in order that they may receive admonition. And the parable
of an evil Word is that of an evil tree; it is torn up by the
root from the surface of the earth. It has no stability."
(14:24-26). We shall overcome!!
I hope to hear from you soon, give my best to Ed and may the grannies of the world unite and rage on.
Your (free) brother
After reading Rabih's email, an idea occurred to me. I am riding to Georgetown, Ontario tomorrow with sisters of my Great Lakes Basin community. On Sunday afternoon, our three GLB sisters from Georgetown are putting on an "O Beautiful Gaia" CD Launch party in their community and we want to join them. When I'd gone to the web site of the motel where I'll be staying, I'd noticed it had said that Toronto was only 40 minutes away. Well, Mazen, Rabih's younger brother, lives in Toronto. The one time we'd met at one of Rabih's immigration court hearings, Mazen and I really hit it off. We've been in email contact ever since. And we also consider ourselves to be brother and sister.
So I emailed Mazen with an invitation to join me at our CD launch and/or at brunch on Sunday. I've just heard back from him that we have a date for brunch at 11:30 AM on Sunday! I immediately emailed Rabih and Sulaima to tell them about our plans. I KNOW they will be pleased as punch, if not a little jealous. Well, I haven't totally given up on the idea of visiting Rabih, Sulaima and the kids in Lebanon. Yes, a 12-hour flight is intimidating, but the kids at school--many of whom are from Lebanon or have family there--say it's well worth the long trip. Life is such an adventure.
I'll be off the internet
until Monday, so there will be no new journal entries until then.
If we get back early enough on Sunday night, I'll check in then.
But, to be honest, that looks unlikely. Have a good weekend...
THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2004
...My first call was to
my dear brother, Rabih Haddad. We laughed a lot and shared some
stories. When I asked him to tell me one story from his past,
he replied, "I'll tell you if you promise not to put it in
your journal!" He's getting to know me too well! Actually,
he surprised me by knowing about the recent adventures I've had
with snow. I said, "Have you been reading my journals?"
He said, "Sure." Isn't this internet amazing? His news
was good. His consulting business is up and running. Sulaima is
feeling all right after minor surgery on Tuesday. The kids are
doing well. They got their first report cards and Sana, the eldest,
was third in her class! I can't imagine how she did that after
attending English-speaking schools most of her life, and now being
in one where the primary language is Arabic. Rabih said they had
very cold weather in Beirut last week. But when I asked him, "How
cold?", he laughed and said, "Well, to you it isn't
going to sound very cold." It was +7 Celsius. But up in the
mountains outside of Beirut, they got a foot of snow. Good skiing
weather. We talked about my visit with Mazen on Sunday, and then
about his talent as a singer. Mazen had given me his CD--Rabih
has a copy too--and I was most impressed with the quality of his
voice and the feeling with which he sings. I would love to see
him share his talent with a wider audience.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2004
What a gift to have wise friends! I just got off the phone after talking to my brother Rabih Haddad and his daughter Sana in Lebanon (it is now 2:30 PM in Detroit, and 9:30 PM in Beirut). I am left with a smile on my face. Not only did we play catch-up in terms of our news, but with both Rabih and Sana the conversation dipped deep into issues that touch our hearts. Sana and I talked about friendship and the importance of finding people who want to talk about more than superficial stuff, how sometimes it is best to go off by yourself and think. Rabih and I talked about prejudice, hatred and anger.
We agreed that for some people, having someone or something outside of themselves to hate is pleasurable. It keeps them from looking inside, from examining their own dark places within. If they can project all of that outside of themselves, then they don't have to deal with it. Prejudice and hatred can be addictive. And as with any addiction, those who are in the habit of using it are often unwilling to give it up.
Anger, at least the kind of anger that moves easily into rage, is insanity. So when someone is angry in that kind of way, they are unable to reason. Rabih's saying this reminded me of the man I'd encountered after a community-wide commemoration in Ann Arbor on the occasion of the first anniversary of September 11. I remember trying to dialogue with him and finally giving up by saying, "Jim, we don't seem to be able to communicate tonight, so I think we'd better stop trying." To me, this man seemed totally out of control. Rabih mentioned a teaching from the Prophet regarding anger. A man came up to the Prophet and asked, "What should I do to live a good life?" The answer was, "Don't get angry." The man kept asking the same question over and over, apparently looking for additional instructions. To every question, the Propet answered with the same words, "Don't get angry."
I then asked Rabih, "But what do you do when anger comes anyway?" I mentioned my ongoing anger at the decisions made by George Bush and his advisors, decisions that bring more and more suffering to the world. I brought up the anger that he, Rabih, feels about what happened to him over those nineteen months of unjust imprisonment here in the US. Rabih's answer was interesting. First of all, he said that there are different kinds of anger. There is the kind of anger that becomes rage, and there is anger that is an authentic response to what is going on around you. In answer to my question, he again quoted the Prophet. When you feel anger, "change your position." He means it literally. If you're sitting, stand and walk. If you're inside, go outside and breathe the fresh air. Even washing your face with cold water can help.
Now, that was a new one on me. I don't think I've ever heard that kind of advice before, but it makes sense.
Technology is giving me
opportunities I would not have otherwise. Without the telephone,
my brother and I would not be able to hear one another's voices
or have conversations like we had today. It makes me feel grateful
to live in these times. Everything can be used for good or ill.
Technology is a tool, not an end in itself. It is up to us humans
to decide how we will use technological tools. Will we use them
to take control for our own greedy or power-hungry purposes? Or
will we use them to build community and establish connections?
I choose the latter...and I know my brother Rabih does the same.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2004
Today was a red letter DAY for my brother Rabih Haddad: the day his truth got out into the world. Finally.
I hadn't told you because I was sworn to secrecy--yes, even a journal-keeper like me can keep a secret--but a journalist/editor from The Metro Times, Detroit's primary weekly newspaper, traveled to Beirut for four days in February to get an exclusive interview with Rabih.
He'd received many requests for interviews since his deportation last July, but had kept silent. Believe me, the press and media had been putting a spin on Rabih's story from the moment he was first arrested and thrown in jail on December 14, 2001. During his 19 months--most of which was spent in solitary confinement--of detention, only one article appeared in the mainstream media that was balanced and objective. That article was written by Ann Mullen of The Metro Times. I remember it well. Not only did she portray Rabih Haddad as a principled man but also showed his wife, Salma, to be a woman of courage. The truth of it.
So when Ann Mullen requested an exclusive interview, Rabih said yes. Today her article and pictures appeared in The Metro Times. "Rabih Haddad Breaks His Silence" is a long article, but it needs to be. Not only does Ann give an in-depth view of my brother, who he is, what's important to him, and how he perceives what happened to him in the US, but she gives what Rabih sees as an objective portrayal of the different sides of the question of his guilt or innocence. The extent of her research is awesome. She interviewed just about everyone who had a part to play not only in the case, but in Rabih's life as co-founder of and fundraiser for the Global Relief Foundation. She also gives a delightful picture of Rabih's relationship with his mother, aunt and grandfather in Lebanon. Even if I didn't know or care about Rabih, I would find this article interesting reading. Almost a primer on what "justice" looks like for Arab Muslim men in post-9/11 America.
After reading it, I immediately phoned Rabih in Lebanon. I was pleased to hear that he considered the article well-balanced, objective and accurate. "All I ever wanted was for the information to be presented objectively so people could judge the truth for themselves."
Well, I spent most of the day preparing and sending out a group email to folks in my address book, and contacting alternative news sources with the link, hoping they would post the article on their sites. I also contacted Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" web site with the suggestion that she interview Rabih on her radio program. His story is almost a parable of life under John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Timely and essential for everyone to know.
As the day wore on I recalled the first time I ever spoke with Salma al-Rushaid in that crowded immigration court waiting room on December 19, 2001. All she kept saying was, "I just want the truth to get out." Well, it is, dear sister. It finally is.
©2001-2003 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.