Monday, November 2, 2009





A call to artists, activists, educators, students, lawyers, clergy, prison abolitionists, and all people of conscience:

Theaters Against War (THAW) is on the verge of beginning what we think is a crucial new initiative to expose the current effects of the “war on terror” in eroding human rights and civil liberties here in the US and we are calling on artists, activists and people of conscience to join with us.

The Disturbing Detention of Syed Fahad Hashmi
In April 2009, The Nation published a harrowing article about the arrest and detention of Syed Fahad Hashmi, or Fahad as he is known to friends and family. The fundamentals of the indictment against Fahad are: for two weeks, he allowed an acquaintance to stay in his apartment who had a suitcase full of waterproof socks and rain ponchos that is alleged to have been delivered to a member of Al Qaeda and this same acquaintance allegedly used Fahad’s cell phone to call co-conspirators. From THAW's perspective, the most insidious aspect of the Hashmi case is actually not this spurious indictment – Fahad is facing four charges of material support to Al Qaeda – but the severe and inhumane detention that he has faced for more than two years at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan. A US citizen and Brooklyn College graduate who grew up in Flushing, Queens, Fahad has been held for more than two years in severe solitary confinement at the MCC, a federal penitentiary that has been mirroring many of the abusive practices detainees face at Guantanamo upon actual American citizens. The conditions of his detention threaten his mental health and his ability to participate in his own defense.

Fahad’s constitutional rights have been denied in the following ways: no contact with anyone except his lawyer and his parents; no calls, no letters, no radio, no newspapers until they are 30 days old and censored by his jailers; no contact with other prisoners; no group prayer or worship; and for more than 28 months now, no fresh air or sunlight. His cell is electronically monitored inside and out, so he showers and goes to the bathroom in constant view of the camera. He is allowed only one hour "out" of his cell a day to “exercise” in a solitary cage that is directly attached to his cell room – a right which he is often denied by prison guards. Additionally, under the claim of “national security”, much of the evidence against Fahad has been labeled “classified” which means – in a horrifying desecration of due process, one of the most basic elements of fair trial rules respected universally – Fahad won't be allowed to see the evidence against him. A fair trial under these circumstances seems impossible and we all wonder how this could be happening in the United States.

The THAW Vigil Idea
As theater people who believe in the power of our medium, we want to bring attention to the injustices that an American citizen is facing in a detention center less than 40 blocks from the heart of the American theater world, Broadway. One of the only things that Fahad has going for him is that rather than being held in a remote prison somewhere in the Midwest, he is in New York City – a city of 9 million people who can protest visibly against what is happening. During the initial phase of his detention, Fahad had a radio. However, one day, as part of the arbitrary rules of his detention, this radio was taken away from him. And so, THAW has conceived of an idea to bring Fahad his own “personal radio program” beneath the windows of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The “radio programs” we create will have individual segments that draw attention to some of the more absurdly arbitrary elements of Fahad’s detention – for example, we will have a “30-day-old news” segment with all the major news headlines….from one month ago. This “radio vigil” will be a two-fold performance – it will allow us to bear witness to the inhumanity of the conditions of Fahad’s detention as well as use public performance to draw attention to the compromise of civil rights of American citizens and other detainees that is taking place. And every week will include special Broadway or off-Broadway stars taking part in planned performances.

Time, Place and More Information
Beginning on Monday October 19 from 6-7pm, we will hold weekly vigils every Monday evening from 6-7pm outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center at 150 Park Row (at Pearl Street) in lower Manhattan in order to raise awareness about Fahad’s case. The conditions of Fahad's confinement are not aberrational and are similar to the conditions faced by other “war on terror” suspects being held across the United States. But Fahad is in New York City and people of conscience in New York can help to make other Americans aware of what is happening NOW!

Let’s show Fahad and fellow Americans that we won’t allow this case to go to trial without a large public outcry. Come stand with us and also help THAW to spread the word to your own networks. For more information, you can email THAW, or call and leave a message for THAW at 206-312-2201 and someone will get back to you shortly.

THAW Out for Justice!
THAW Out for Peace!

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