October 19, 2006

The Unending Nightmare, and the Perpetual Quest

We must always remember that stories such as this one never end:
Maher Arar was honoured with an international human rights award tonight but, in the latest indignity he's suffered, the U.S. government would not let him travel to the U.S. capital to accept his award in person.

Arar, who now lives in Kamloops, B.C., remains on the U.S. "no-fly list" even after he was exonerated in a Canadian judicial inquiry headed by Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor.

British actor and activist Vanessa Redgrave – who would have presented the award to Arar on behalf of the Institute of Policy Studies – demanded that Washington remove the Canadian man from its electronic data bases that still brand him a terrorist threat.

Arar was honoured by the IPS, a Washington-based think tank, for his work to try to eradicate torture in the world.

He broke down in tears during a videotaped acceptance speech at the National Press Club, when he was describing his imprisonment and the beatings he endured during 10 months spent mostly in a filthy "grave" in Syria.

He said "life in the cell was impossible" and that he contemplated suicide as soon as he realized he was in Syria.

The beatings were so painful, he said, that "I forgot every moment I enjoyed in my life."

"Since my release, I have been suffering from anxiety, constant fear and depression. My life will never be the same again. But I promised myself one thing, that I will continue my quest for justice as long as I have a breath."

Arar said earlier today that he wants U.S. authorities who sent him to Syria to admit their error and be held accountable for their actions.

"He’s a very brave man," Redgrave said. "It takes fantastic courage."

She said it takes a special quality for a person to realize his destiny affects so many others, that he had to find justice so this would not happen to others.
You should read the entire story, but I want to mention this especially terrible passage:
Arar, who participated by telephone in an afternoon news conference at the policy institute, said he wants U.S. officials to accept the findings of the Canadian report and remove his name and his wife’s from the list.

"First they will have to acknowledge what they did was wrong and, second, they have to hold those people accountable."

Arar, who’s appealing a U.S. lawsuit that was dismissed by a federal judge, said he has just one simple question for President George W. Bush.

"Knowing that Syria tortures people . . . why did they send me to that country?"
I am almost certain that Arar is aware of the answer to that question: "knowing that Syria tortures people" is precisely why they did send him there, as this and similar cases make indisputably clear.

Arar has been subjected to the most horrifying kind of injustice and brutalization imaginable. As he indicates, some parts of this hell on earth will never end for him now. It is very understandable to me that a person who has suffered in this way might not be able to accept fully that certain of the leaders of this country are genuine monsters in human form, monsters for whom the supreme value of a single life holds no meaning. If acknowledged all the way down, some truths make it difficult, if not impossible, to go on.

Bless you, Mr. Arar, and God speed.