June 26, 2006

Thoughts and Images from the DC Anti-Torture Protest

I managed to make it this morning to the 24-hour vigil organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition that I wrote about yesterday. The turnout was not huge, but that was mainly due to the heavy rain fall and thunderstorms that have been hitting the DC area. The offices of TASSC were flooded last night so that affected the whole day's program. In front of the White House, attendees passed out informational flyers, held up banners and signs, chanted anti-torture slogans, and half a dozen people got arrested after a civil disobedience session.

I met an old Peruvian man who was wearing a picture of his son who was tortured to death in 1993 by the Fujimori government. He was an innocent university student who was arrested, tortured, and then burned to death by the authorities. I met an American nun who was tortured by the government in Guatemala during a period of civil unrest until she escaped. These and other governments in Latin and South America were supported by the US; some of the torturers were even trained by Americans.

I met a young Jordanian-American woman whose brother was tortured in Saudi Arabia at the behest of the US government. Ahmed Abu-Ali is an American citizen who languished in a Saudi jail for 20 months without being charged, was tortured by the "Mabahith" (secret police), and then finally sent back to the US where the government sought to get revenge from him and his family by making frivolous charges against him. He was convicted by a jury based on confessions he made while being tortured. Yes, you heard me right, they took the statements he made while his body was whipped and his nails were pulled off, and used that as evidence against him. (Please recall my earlier post about Maher Arar who was rendered by the US to Syria where he said, "I was terrified, and I did not want to be tortured. I would say anything to avoid torture.")

The effects of torture on an individual cannot be erased. I could tell while speaking to these survivors that this was not something easy to do, to reopen the wounds and recall the painful memories. But they were brave enough to do it because they realize that innocent people like themselves are facing the same type of oppression, and as survivors of torture, they want to put an end to it. From Guantanamo to Syria to Guatemala to China, prisoners around the world in more than 150 countries are being tortured as we speak.

The burden is on us to make a difference, to change the policies, to lobby for change, to ask for justice.

Here are some pictures of the event (click to enlarge):

"zero tolerance for torture"

"All religions honor human dignity. Torture seeks to destroy it."

Police truck driving off with the 6 arrested protestors as the crowd waves
the elderly Peruvian man in the orange shirt with his dead son's picture on his chest
the crowd in front of the White House

A man dressed as a Guantanamo Bay inmate with a sack on his head, like the victims of Abu Ghraib. His poster reads "No exemptions for Bush. Ban all torture now."

This wasn't part of the event. The white tent is the home of an old woman who sleeps there in protest, I guess. Her signs, addressed to the White House, read: "Live by the bomb, die by the bomb" and "Ban all nuclear weapons or have a nice doomsday".
[previous posts on torture: Extraordinary Rendition; Torture in Israel]

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At 10:31 AM, Blogger Christopher Brown said...

I'm glad you and other were there Moi. I share the feelings of the other survivors of torture. There is no point when it is needed or justified.

At 11:34 PM, Blogger Louis Edward said...

Thanks for going. Someone needs to stand as witness against this. I would never have believed, 23 years ago, when I joined Amnesty International, that my own country would be guilty of this. I worked for human rights, all these years, because I would want someone else to defend me if I were helpless. But, we were the good guys; it could never happen here. All the human rights gains in international law, treaties and politics have been lost to fear and cruelty. We've got to turn this around now.

Jimmy's Cry in the Wilderness


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