Every Part of Our Ummah
By Asim Qureshi
This Ramadhan we will be sitting down to eat with our families. Father, husband, mother, wife and children, all together partaking in the barakah of the month. Then they will recite the Qur’an and encourage each other to do good for the sake of taking the most from the month in anticipation of bettering themselves for the rest of the year, Insha Allah.
How will the detainees and t! heir families be spending this Ramadhan? In what state will they eat their food? To what extent will the Ummah relate to their plight and connect these helpless hearts to the body of the faithful.
The mothers and wives
Ismet Siddiqui currently sits under house arrest in her home in Karachi. What is her crime? Actually nothing…The authorities are scared that she will raise awareness about the disappearance of her daughter Aafia Siddiqui along with her young grandchildren at the hands of the Pakistani authorities. Ismet was threatened soon after their disappearance that her grandchildren would permanently disappear if she spoke about the events. Since 2003 mother and children have all been missing, and none can gain access to Ismet.
For those mothers who have the ability to do something for their children, their lives become the campaign to get their children home to safety. Abbi Nawaz, mother of one of the Egypt 3, after be! ing hit with innumerable difficulties kept her courage, “T! hey want to crush our spirits but they are not going to succeed. If I have to go back there again, I will go back there again and make sure this does not rest.” As Bisher El-Rawi rots away in Guantanamo Bay, his mother Jahida Sayyadi was similarly writing to highlight the cause of her son,
“I am not urging you to devise special rules to help my son out of his torment. I am not seeking sympathy and soothing words. All what I beseech is that go by your own books and help us implement your rules. Allow him a fair trial. Deal with him in accordance with the rules which you take lots of pride before the whole world on setting out and embracing. Go back to the Geneva Conventions, to human rights declarations, and to hundreds and hundreds of documents that have been signed and endorsed to secure the human dignity and rights to a decent living.”
It is however in her capacity as a mother and wife that Farhat Paracha embodies the difficulties faced by these! women. Her husband, Saifullah Paracha, has been illegally in US custody since July 2005. At the age of 60 with multiple illnesses, the US authorities decided to kidnap him on his way to attending a business meeting in Bangkok. Their torment however is amplified by the recent sentencing of their son, Uzair, to 30 years imprisonment in the US on evidence that has been internationally seen as being flimsy at best. Despite the ever increasing costs of running campaigns for her loved ones, she manages to hold together her family and run the family business.
With Ramadhan upon us, many wives will have to wake for Suhoor without their husbands, as explained by the wife of one of the UK detainees, “Life’s a lot harder now…we used to pray together, eat together, wake up together…Now it’s like only half the family is waking up. I wake up alone at sehri time…the girls are too young to fast anyway. It’s sad…I miss the days he was waking up with me.”
The fathers and husbands
There are ma! ny fathe rs currently locked up all over the world; they all remember their children and families with a longing that is the one thing which keeps them going. For those such as Moazzam Begg, there was particular cause for heartache, as he had never met his youngest child until released from Guantanamo Bay. In a similar circumstance was the released Guantanamo detainee Mamdouh Habib, who had never met his 4 year old daughter. His wife, Maha Habib, said that on his return, the very first thing she had in store for her husband was an introduction to their daughter.
However they are not the only fathers who have been forced to suffer such an injustice. Currently still sitting in the cages of Guantanamo remain Jamil El Banna, Shaker Abdur Rahman Aamer and Omar Deghayes. All three have yet to meet their youngest children who were born after they were forcibly kidnapped and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay.
Here in the UK, the men that exist (for living would be a glori! fication of their situation) in Belmarsh and other prisons, are cut off from the ones they love so dearly. Daily they have to deal with the horror of knowing that their wives and children are facing some of the harshest treatment without any hope of help. Mustapha Labsi during his time in UK prisons had minimal contact with his wife. He said of her situation, “My wife who is not from this country was shocked mentally and psychologically and she wanders in the streets without care or protection.”
For those under control orders, the husbands and fathers have the added worry of having their entire households turned upside down beyond their control. The family of Mahmoud Abu Rideh are faced with the prospect of having their home and life raided by a large contingent of the police on any random night. Already the police have raided their homes over 30 times and they have major restrictions placed on their lives. For any self-respecting father or husband, such infringe! ment into their daily lives is an insulting and degrading situ! ation to be placed in. With Ramadhan around the corner, the family face the prospect of having their home raided during their Suhoor every single day.
Johina Aamer, Michel Aamer, Saif Aamer, Faris Aamer, Anas El Banna, Mohamed El Banna, Abdul Rahman El Banna, Badeeah El Banna, Mariam El Banna, and the 2 children of Ahmed Errachidi are the children of just 3 British residents still in Guantanamo Bay. Unlike their fathers, these children actually have British citizenship and thus the legal right to be represented by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when abroad and complete rights to consular protection. Their fathers have not been afforded this same right, for although being longstanding British residents in the UK, they have not as yet been able to take citizenship.
Another child who has never known his father, is the son of Omar Deghayes, who is also currently being held in Guantanamo Bay as one of the British resid! ents who face deportation to their countries of origin. The father of Omar Deghayes was executed for political reasons by Colonel Qaddafi and now Omar faces torture and political imprisonment for a crime he never committed at the hands of the US administration. One thing is certain – Omar’s son will grow up in a world where dictators like Qaddafi killed his grandfather, and dictators like George W Bush took away the sight of his father in one eye.
For many Muslim children, Ramadhan comes with the certainty of the immense joy that comes with Eid. The children of the detainees have yet to experience this pleasure, their Eid is spent trying to remember a man they hardly know and in some cases do not know at all. 9 year old Anas El Banna describes the hurt which comes with each Eid,
“Eid after Eid has come and gone and my Dad is still in chains. Two weeks ago was the small Eid and in two months, it will be the big Eid. The best and most wonderful Eid! for me will be the Eid when my dad comes back to us and bring! s back o ur happiness with him.”
These children have the right to grow up knowing their fathers, they have the right to understand what fair and open trials mean, and yet they will in all likelihood grow up knowing that these things are merely philosophical ideals which belong to a bygone era. Meeting these children only brings recognition that the Ummah has completely failed in its obligations to its brothers and sisters, for the sadness in their eyes is something that most of us will never experience.
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This Ramadhan these families will not be complete and will have to spend the month in the saddest of circumstances. For so many families, Cageprisoners.com serves as their reference point to what is taking place to their loved ones, wherever they may be in the world.
Cageprisoners have been campaigning for the rights of these brothers and sisters and will continue to do so. H! owever the priority is to get them help, regardless of the organisation people wish to contribute to. The fact will always remain that this work requires the spiritual, physical and financial support of the Ummah. Please donate generously to help our work continue inshallah, Jazakamullahkhayr:
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