‘Ten Years after 911: A South Asian Reaction’
By A.H. Cemendtaur

 

San Francisco Bay Area being a haven for peace movements hosted a plethora of anti-war programs on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  One such event organized by the Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and held at the San Francisco Public Library's Koret Auditorium was dubbed 'Ten Years after 911: A South Asian Reaction.' 

The program started with a screening of a fifteen-minute compilation -- put together by Saqib Mausoof, the chief organizer of the event -- of video excerpts from various films made on the themes of extremism (Kala Pul), identity crises of Muslim immigrants and their US-born children (Domestic Crusaders), entrapment (The FBI's Jihad), drone attacks (Silent Screams), Afghanistan war (Afghans for Peace), and understanding the growing anti-American feelings in Pakistan (Wide Angle on Pakistan).

Various aspects of 9/11 and the continuing violence and hatred it has unleashed were discussed by a panel comprising of Veena Dubal (Staff Attorney at the Asian Law Caucus),  Roshni Rustomji-Kerns (writer, Professor Emerita, Sonoma State University), Dr. Maheen Mausoof Adamson (Director of Research, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, VA Palo Alto), Yasmin Qureshi (writer and activist), and Fariba Nawa (Afghan-American journalist). The panel was moderated by Sharon Sobotta (Director, Women’s Resource Center, St Mary’s College).

Eminent Bay Area civil rights activist and lawyer Veena Dubal analyzed in great detail the role FBI has played in post-9/11 USA. Commenting on FBI's growing domestic surveillance network, Dubal said going after the crime was no longer a retrospective activity for the FBI.  She said that the new laws have changed the orientation of the law enforcement agencies and now everybody wants to be James Bond.

Ms. Dubal is certainly not the only critic of the FBI.  Civil liberties advocates all over the nation have complained of the almost free hand being given to the spy agency. 

Listening to Fariba Nawa you would be justified to wonder if all Afghan-Americans are as confused about the US involvement in Afghanistan as Nawa is.  Nawa liked US removing the Taliban from power; she does not like the US occupation, but is afraid Taliban would again take control of Afghanistan if the US leaves. 

"What has changed for the Afghan American community is that many of them are going back.    We go back, we live there, we work there as translators.   A lot of people have become richer from the contracts the US government is handing out.   You will hear from my community saying  that we are happy that the US intervention occurred.  What we had before, with Taliban, was not an option. 

"During the Taliban rule women could not go out, could not work, could not do many things.   But we at least knew our children were safe because bombs and rockets were not raining on us.  Now we are free to do things but we don't feel secure to leave the house, neither do our children, neither do our husbands.

"If you do a survey in Afghanistan and ask people if the US should leave and the combat mission to stop, most people would say, ‘No.’ But they would give conditions for it, and there is a reason why. We have very pesky neighbors like Pakistan, Iran, and former Soviet republics who have historically used Afghanistan as a pawn and will continue to do so.

"I think a lot of good  has come out of it (the American intervention) but not for the long term.   War is not a long-term solution -- we need a political solution. "

Yasmin Qureshi said that as a Muslim woman, growing up in India, she always felt her family was seen with suspicion and that was the reason she relocated to the US.  But after the 9/11 attacks she saw the same kind of mistrust about her community from fellow Americans.  She said she has learned to fight back.

Maheen  Mausoof Adamson said after 911, it has been a constant battle to be an observant Muslim without being labeled as a fundamentalist.  "There is a difference between learning the fundamentals of Islam, and being a fundamentalist."

Sharing with the audience her experiences as the Director of Research, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, VA Palo Alto, Adamson said she sees a lot of veterans coming back with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) along with traumatic brain injury.  Being far away from the battleground, far removed from the people who get killed, she said she is "seeing the impact of war on people who are pulling the trigger.  They are paying a heavy price."

Adamson described how young people, who believe they need to fight for their country are suddenly taken out of their nice environments in the US and sent to Iraq and Afghanistan; they take part in combat operations and one day come back to the 'sanitary environment', without going through any acclimatization.  They are asked to carry on with their lives as before.  But now things are different for them.  They have seen war and have been exposed to a lot of bad things.

Discussing an issue not widely known, Adamson said, "American female soldiers have been sexually abused in military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are afraid to go to the bathroom at night because they know that they would get abused or get raped."  Adamson said quite a few female soldiers develop urinary tract infection because of not being able to go to the bathroom at night --many develop PTSD from this trauma.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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