Muslims recall questionable detentions that followed 9/11

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Around New York City in the weeks following the September 11 attacks, as an eerie calmness settled at Ground Zero, South Asian and Arab men began to disappear.

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Soon, more than 1,000 were arrested in the metropolitan area and nationwide. Most were simply accused of overstaying and deported to their home countries. But before that happened, many people were detained for months, with little outside contact.

Twenty years later, after all the remembrances and memorials of the events of 9/11, little attention has been paid to the fate of these people and their families, the collateral damage of a horrific terrorist act, and the frenzy it created.


Fahd Ahmed, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Desis Rising Up and Moving, said that after the attacks, her group “began getting calls from women saying, ‘Last night, law enforcement broke into our apartment and took my husband and my brother away. ” The kids are calling us and saying, ‘My father went to work four days ago and he didn’t come home, and we didn’t hear anything.'”

“There were people who were disappearing from our communities,” he says, “and no one knew what was happening to them or where they were going.”

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According to the 9/11 Commission report, they were arrested as “special interest” prisoners. Immigration hearings were closed, captive communication was limited and bonds were denied until detainees were released from terrorist connections. Identity kept secret.

A review by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General stated that its policy meant that a significant percentage of detainees stayed for months, while immigration officials questioned the legality of longer detentions and even though there was no indication That they were associated with terrorism.

The report said that although many of those arrested had come to the US illegally or for longer periods, it was unlikely that they would not have been pursued to investigate the attack.

The “misunderstood approach” of cornering Muslims and presuming them to be terrorists was “pure racism and xenophobia in the operation,” says Rachel Meropol, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who sued in 2002. Several Men and continue to fight for additional plaintiffs today.

One of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Yasser Ibrahim, was at a shop in his New York neighborhood and noticed people watching TV attentively. “I saw these images on the screen, and for a moment it was like some kind of movie or something,” he says. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

He was in the United States since 1992 and enjoyed his life. “I loved everything about America,” he said by Zoom from Egypt.

on 30 September 2001. Federal agents showed up at her door in Brooklyn New York. Ibrahim thought that the immigration case would be straightened out quickly, or he would be deported. He remained in custody till the following June.

For three months his family did not know what had happened to him or his brother. Even then there was little external communication. And some officers at the facility in Brooklyn were physically and verbally abusive. He had seen his brother months earlier. “The general feeling was that we were going to be here forever,” he says.

Abraham’s brother had been exiled earlier.

When Ibrahim was let go, he was given several sizes of clothes and made him sit on a plane, but without telling him the destination. The plane went to Greece and, after spending a night in the custody of the Greek authorities, boarded a flight to Cairo.

In 2009 he and four others, including his brother, reached a settlement of $1.26 million at trial. Although not an apology, he says, “we thought it was to acknowledge that something was wrong with us.”

Umair Ansar, 14, was living in Bayonne, New Jersey, when he and his math classmates watched the Twin Towers collapse on class television.

Less than a month later he came from school and found an almost catatonic mother and a sabotaged home. His father, Ansar Mahmood, had moved in with the family computers.

“We didn’t know where our father was for the next three months,” Ansar said.

When the family saw him again, he was a different man. “He was so weak… I couldn’t see my father like that,” Anser said.

There was no financial support for the family as the father left. Ansar and his brothers were bullied in school; He was harassed by neighbors in the house. This became untenable and the family returned to Pakistan leaving Mahmud in prison.

Mahmood eventually pleaded guilty to operating with an unauthorized Social Security number and was sentenced to eight months in prison. He was transferred to the Passaic County Jail, where the family now lives, before eventually being deported to Pakistan on May 10, 2002.

Joshua Dretel, co-chair of the National Security Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, says deterrence is a fundamental piece of something troubling – the acceptance of more aggressive law enforcement to protect against terrorists.

Find it at airports, in buildings, even on subways: “These are things that were once extraordinary and extraordinary, and now the exception has become the norm. I think it has put us in a position of vulnerability to a more and more malicious version of it. “

Shirin Sinnar, a professor of law at Stanford University, says that the extreme measures taken after 9/11 have been normalized to the point that “we don’t even talk about them anymore. They’re just from surveillance and rights and profiling.” have become part of the types of deprivation we expect to see.”



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