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Mecca: Torture Of Innocent American And British Pilgrims
chase
post 08/27/07 06:23 PM
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Fri, 24 Aug 2007 14:18:00
Taken Without a Crime

Following is the personal account of Sayed Jawad Qazwini who was among those arrested and beaten by the Saudi religious police.


1. Taken without any crime.

I, Sayed Mohammad Jawad AlQazwini, a citizen of the United States of America, was praying in the grand holy mosque in Mecca on August 5, 2007 at 12:45AM when I realized that one of the appointed religious police was giving a lecture regarding Shi'a Muslims. He was attacking the belief system of the shi'a, stating that they are considered infidels.Among his comments were that the shi'a worship the dead, the shi'a worship stones and rocks, the shi'a are hypocrites, and the shi'a gave the Muslim land to the enemy (meaning Iraq's occupation by American troops). At this point a young man came with his old mother to perform prayer.He said to the religious police as he passed next to him that they should stop accusing the shi'a and allow them to pray in peace. At this point I told the young man to ignore him and to continue with his prayers. The religious police looked at us and said in a solid tone, "you are all cowards and we will purify the holy mosque from the shi'a."I told him we are the guests of Allah and that the king has given himself the title of "the servant of the grand masques" Thus, you are in no position to go against Allah and the government of your king. He then arrested me and began to push me and hit me in front of thousands of worshipers.He dragged me by the hand and took me to his headquarters located in the grand masque.I specifically asked to be taken by the police so that I knew I was dealing with the government itself, keeping the fact in mind that I was completely innocent.A police man was asked to take me to the detention center inside the masque. At this point some of the men in our group saw me and followed me to see what was going to happen to me. We were all peaceful, respectful, and obedient to all their orders. Until now we had not committed any crime. The police officer took me and threw me very roughly into a small room.


2. Physical abuse without any crime.

Inside the room were some individuals. The one sitting behind the desk asked why I was brought in.The religious police responded by telling him that I was "an Iraqi shi'a causing problems." I realized immediately that the room and the prison cells were being emptied from true criminals such as pickpockets and thieves. I sensed that I was in danger, and sure enough, as soon as the door closed the man behind the desk threw his boot at me, which was launched directly on my head. I was then in pain due to the fact that the boot was very heavy, and that the distance between me and him was very short. He then threw a stapler and it missed me by an inch or so. Again, he managed to throw his other boot at my head and this time it landed right on my face. At this point I was in more pain and I could barely see.I had a severe headache. He then proceeded to beat me and he was laughing with amusement, telling the rest on the police in the room how good it felt to hit a shi'a. I realized that the door slightly opened and the men from my group were still behind the door. I shouted for help, and they came in. As soon as they entered the man behind the desk called for back-up which resulted in an immediate dispatch of over 30 police into that small room.


3. Torture of innocent American and British pilgrims.

As they entered we told them we were all either American or British citizens, thinking that it would stop them from beating us.The responded by saying the hate us because we were shi'a and from the land of the "infidels."They began to hit us with chairs, bats, radio communication devices, their fists, kicks, and punches continually for at least 30 minutes. All our clothes were ripped and some individuals were bleeding heavily; one from the nose, one from the head and another from the mouth.I was slapped many times in the face. At one point one of the members begged them to stop hitting him in English and they continued. I witnessed them banging some of the individuals' heads to the wall. We were beaten harshly and brutally. We could not find mercy in any one of them. They handcuffed us all. We never fought back. When they realized we meant no harm, they calmed down. Moments later a long bearded policeman came in and went around the room hitting and punching us once again. He said, "I never got a chance" and kicked many in the genitals and stomach. He punched me very hard in the chest and ruthlessly injured my chest and ribs. He said to me "take this message with you back to America."One of the group members was suffering from an asthma attack.He could not breathe, his face turned purple, and we told them he needed a doctor. They responded by saying we all deserved to die.


4. The inhumane treatment of minors and children.

We had two minors who were taken in with us; one who lost control of his bladder and wet himself. They began to mock and ridicule him. We informed them that the minors should not face the same treatment as adults. They said "not in this country."


5. Humiliation based on religion and nationality.

They took us from the prison in the grand mosque by force to another location outside the compounds of the mosque. We had to walk barefoot with our ripped clothes. They made it a point to humiliate us just because we were shi'a and because were came from the lands of religious freedom, democracy and liberty. We walked through dirt on the hot rocks and sands. I asked them to allow us to wear our shoes and they said "you are worthless and valueless, you need no shoes." Once we arrived to the police station, we were placed in a dark and hot environment. We all suffered from emotional and physical abuse. We did not know what was going to happen next. For the entire time that we were taken, until we were released after 14 hours, we were refused food, drink, and use of the restrooms.


6. Signing unknown documents.

We were forced to sign and fingerprint documents written by the police in Arabic.


7. Contacting our embassies.

We managed to sneak in two mobile phones and at times when we were alone we called our friends and relatives. They immediately called the American and British embassies. The embassies were very supportive and helpful. They made calls to the police station and spoke to them about releasing us. They also kept contacting us to make sure we weren't beaten and physically harmed anymore.


8. Refusal of treatment and fake hospital reports.

They took us to a governmental hospital near the police station; we asked to be taken to either an American or British hospital. We were transported in a dark and scary car with no windows; once gain in our bloody clothes and without shoes. They did not give us any treatment; not even a pain killer. The only thing they did was that they removed the blood off of some of the victims' bodies. They gave us fake reports saying we were all in perfect condition.When we wanted to speak to the physician he told us "I would prefer not to hear your story."


9. The crime investigation official.

Once we arrived back at the police station around 1:00PM we met an individual who told us he was from the Saudi crime investigation institute and a representative of the prince of Mecca.He took a copy of our passports and the Arabic reports and told us to leave at about 2PM. He said that he was going to let the Saudi government know we were treated poorly and that they will try to make our experience better. We ended up leaving the police station at approximately 3PM. Our experience didn't change and no Saudi official ever did anything.


10. Continuous suffering.

Until now all the members of the group suffer from various problems, including sleeping disorders, post-traumatic stress, and physical pain.The treatment of the Saudi officials has caused us a tremendous amount of distress.However the emotional scars will remain forever in our hearts and minds. Our family members, our friends and our loved ones are frequently reminded by others about the incident, which results to an unending anxiety and stress. The Saudi officials took from us the comfort, peace and tranquility of our homes. I believe that the entire world is suffering from the Wahabbi mentality which teaches hate, killing, terror and violence. The Saudi government has longed allowed such individuals and groups to operate and empower their systems. Emotionally o not only suffer from the fact that I a victim of the extremist Wahabbis, but I suffer more when I know that such events take place on daily bases in the holy land.
http://al-huda.al-khoei.org/news/44/ARTICL...2007-08-25.html
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chase
post 08/27/07 06:26 PM
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Sat, 25 Aug 2007 12:42:00

Unwelcome Pilgrims

By Zahir Janmohamed

For Shia pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, few can forget what occurred in 1987. Each year prior to that, a group of Iranians, Saudis, and other nationals held a peaceful, Saudi government-approved demonstration to denounce internal hypocrisy in Islam (even though it was a not-so subtle jab at the Saudi monarchy). It was a tradition started by Imam Khomeini after the Iranian Revolution and one that continued with barely a scuffle for years.

In 1987, however, an argument broke out between demonstrators and Saudi police in which the police opened fire, forcing the demonstrators to flee in a stampede-inducing frenzy. Over four hundred people were killed with another 649 injured, an event described in vivid detail in the book Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami. While discrimination in Mecca and Medina continued afterwards against anyone the Saudi government deemed outside its definition of Islam, actual violence against worshippers rarely did.

That uneasy but stable status quo was broken on August 5th when a group of Shia pilgrims from the US and the UK were physically harassed, verbally insulted, and then detained by Saudi authorities. In a letter now widely circulated on the Internet, one participant, Syed Jawad Qazwini, an Islamic scholar and community leader based in Florida, extensively documents the abuses he saw committed against himself and his group. [SEE ABOVE]

According to his account, his umrah delegation was praying inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca and were within earshot of a Saudi appointed religious scholar lecturing on Islam.The speaker allegedly repeated familiar anti-Shia canards -- Shia Muslims worship the dead, are hypocrites, and gave Muslim lands away to the enemy (a reference to the support many Shia leaders gave to the overthrow of Saddam Hussain).

A young man then approached the religious police and told them that they should not disrespect Shia Muslims. Qazwini, a 25-year-old Iraqi American, urged the young man to ignore the incident but tension ensued and the police became physical. "They began to hit us with chairs, bats, radio communication devices, their fists, kicks, and punches continually," recounted Qazwini. "They were hitting us with so many blows that I could not hold them back," added another pilgrim, Mustafa Field.

The Saudi police responded with a barrage of insults, reportedly telling the worshippers that they were "all cowards and we will purify the holy mosque from the Shia," according to Qazwini's account. Qazwini then told the police that they were "guests of Allah" and that they were "in no position to go against Allah and the government of your king."

The police officer then pushed Qazwini aside and arrested him, reportedly dragging him to a detention center within the mosque with several members of his group trailing behind. While the detention center was cleared of others, Qaswini claimed that a Saudi official boasted to other officers that he had caught an "Iraqi Shia causing problems".

With the room now empty, a police officer then threw his boot at Qazwini, hitting his forehead. "I was in more pain and I could barely see," wrote Qazwini. "I had a severe headache. He then proceeded to beat me and he was laughing with amusement, telling the rest on the police in the room how good it felt to hit a Shia."

Qazwini recalled crying for help while some members of his group tried to approach the detention center to help him. Chaos ensued as over 30 police officers were dispatched to quell the trouble. Members of Qazwini's umrah delegation were then beaten by Saudi police, some reportedly hit in their genitalia. "Take this message back to America," a Saudi officer allegedly told to the group. Seven Britons and one American was detained for 12 hours until their eventual release, according to the BBC.

The story has yet to be corroborated by any eyewitnesses outside Qazwini's group, and groups like Amnesty International are still waiting for more information before any statement (or action) can be made. Images of some the victims are now circulating on the internet and many of the pilgrims said they plan legal action. Syed Hasan Qazwini, an Islamic scholar and the head of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, said the attack was not surprising and part of a very familiar pattern of abuse. Said Qazwini, "This event (is) another episode in a long standing culture of policies which discriminated against Shias living in Saudi Arabia or those on pilgrimage."

In a statement released to reporters, Ghazi al-Usaimi, deputy police chief at Mecca's Grand Mosque, decried these allegations, saying "What the media said is baseless; no assaults took place in the shrine." Repeated calls for comment to the press office at the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC were unanswered.

Interestingly, victims reported that Saudi officials further escalated their assault when they learned of the victims nationality. "They were calling us infidels. When we said we were British and American citizens and wanted to speak to our embassies the beating got even worse," Amir Taki, a civil-servant from London noted in a London press conference. One of those beaten was a 16-year-old British Shia Muslim who was assaulted even further when Saudi authorities learned that his mother was an Englishwoman. Qazwini told reporters, "I think they wanted to send a message to the West, and unfortunately we were the means they used to do so. We were targets for two reasons, because we held American passports and because we are Shias."

Prior to this incident, there were indications that conditions were improving for Shia pilgrims. In October 2006, Saudi Arabia played host to a conference of prominent Muslim leaders calling for an end to sectarian strife between Muslims. But for many, the attack on the pilgrims recalls a painful history of abuse in Mecca and shatters hopes for a more inclusive and tolerant hajj and umrah experience. - END

This article was first published in www.altmuslim.com

Zahir Janmohamed is an associate editor of altmuslim.com and co-founder of the Qunoot Foundation. He is based in Washington, DC.
http://al-huda.al-khoei.org/news/44/ARTICL...2007-08-25.html
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