January 11th marks the day when Gutananamo Bay received its first inmates five years ago. Just a few months ago, we commemorated the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and now, on a much smaller level, a much smaller group of people are commemorating the demise of human rights and civil liberties in the nation that championed those causes for centuries.

I have been extremely depressed and distressed at the situation at hand. After reading numerous books on Gitmo, and after having finished one just last night, I find myself in a constant state of anxiety and suffer from mild headaches every now and then. How can this country let such an atrocity go on? My anger at American human rights violations knows no bounds. The only thing that can anger me more is the double standards we continue to propagate the world over.

I can go on and on and invite comments – constructive and destructive – but will instead draw your attention to the article I’ve copied below which was published in the Pakistani newspaper I write a column for, The Post.

Waiting for a miracle – or a revolution?

Guantanamo: the terror lives on
By Zeeshan Suhail

I have been living in the US for several years now, but have failed to understand the recent and highly disturbing trend that can be observed in this country regarding human rights violations. The country that once prided itself on being a beacon for those seeking the protection and enjoyment of those rights is today the same country that blatantly violates them. The US is no longer a harbinger of hope for those who are persecuted the world over; instead, it inspires deadly fear and anxiety and has lost the stature it once held in a world already plagued with countless wrongs.

A constant reminder of this negative role the US is now playing in the realm of human rights is none other than the very existence of Guantanamo Bay. I have written about Guantanamo numerous times before in this column space. It has mostly been because all, if not the vast majority, of the detainees are Muslims of Arab or South Asian heritage. In solidarity, I stood with them, writing articles like the one you are reading right now, hoping someone, somewhere would read it and contact an influential member of their social circle or community, and help spread the word about the atrocities going on in the name of national security and protection of civilians.

But alas, today, Americans are no better protected than they were before 9/11. In fact, the world is an even more treacherous place, perhaps more so because of the blatant human rights violations going on in places like Guantanamo. These gross injustices give fuel to the fire of terrorism that threatens to rip across the Muslim world if we do not contain it soon.

And yet, the American authorities do not realize how simple it is to both uphold these sacred values they helped enshrine, and to still wage a much-needed war against terrorism and terrorists. If only these officials knew that this process begins with respect; respect for life, for civilization, for values. In its blind quest for superiority and supremacy in anything and everything, the US forgot that greed and selfishness can only harm those who indulge in these acts.

Guantanamo is the antithesis of everything Americans hold sacred. Yet today, as we commemorate the day it received its first inmates five years ago, it stands tall and proud as the tarnished image of what the new US has come to reflect: double standards, hypocrisy and the alarming disrespect for things the civilised world holds in high esteem. While over 500 Muslim men languish in conditions we shudder to think of, the US continues to export torture to other countries. In the 21st century, torture has officially become an exportable commodity, the product of a few decades of poor policy that remains unchanged. As if it was not bad enough that Americans are indulging in this horrific act, they are coercing other countries to pursue similar policies.

Guantanamo has, for many months, been eliminated from the international agenda. We no longer see human rights experts calling for its closure, or for the due trial of its inhabitants. Instead, Britney Spears’ misdeeds are splashed all over the pages of newspapers and sensationalism regarding anything that can potentially harm Americans is drilled into our heads as a credible “threat” to our lives. What the American authorities do not realize in their haste to protect their people is that they can do their countrymen a much better service by not only advocating social justice and fairness, but also by proving that they hold these principles close to their hearts for those of other nationalities as well.

Five years after Guantanamo received its first prisoners, I walk the streets of New York City in perpetual fear; Fear that, one day, out of nowhere, I can be picked up off the street, never to be seen again. My tranquility will forever be snatched from me and my dreams will forever be shattered. If places like Guantanamo exist to show us what our future can be, then I will never be able to sleep peacefully at night. If places like Guantanamo exist to ensure my safety and security, then the terror it inspires in my heart must be curbed.

President Bush, I hope you are reading this.

Zeeshan Suhail is a board member for AID and a Regional Director for the NYC area.

(posted to blog by Una Hardester)