Thursday, 21 June 2012

Kashmiri-American human rights advocate to be imprisoned by the USA

I’m speaking tonight in Newark, CA (off I-880 near Fremont, just south of the east end of the Dumbarton Bridge), at an important forum on self-determination in Kashmir.

Tonight’s event will be the final public appearance by Kashmiri-American activist Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai before he surrenders himself to begin two years in a US Federal Prison Camp as the result of a politically-motivated prosecution for his advocacy — in the USA, as a US citizen — of human rights and self-determination in his homeland of Kashmir.

The forum will also feature presentations, some live and some via Skype, from leaders and key supporters of the Kashmiri national liberation movement in Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora.

There will be a lot of speeches, but there will also be a free dinner. Please join us!

I’m sad to see a committed activist sent to prison by my country’s government for his nonviolent activism. I’m angry to see the Kashmiri people and one of their leading voices once again become collateral damage in a political and diplomatic dispute between other, larger countries (in this case, Pakistan and the USA). I’m outraged at the discriminatory, zenophobic, and Islamophobic long-term surveillance and eventual selective prosecution of Dr. Fai for actions that are routinely engaged in by vast numbers of individuals and organizations, especially those that work in support of immigrant communities and international issues.

Dr. Fai was convicted of tax law violations as a “common criminal”. But the law that permitted him to be surveilled for years — his home and office bugged, his phones tapped, his e-mail intercepted — and the charges to be brought against him in the first place was the “Foreign Agents Registration Act” (FARA).

Almost all advocates for immigrant rights or international issues violate FARA, making it ideally suited as a ready-made excuse for repression of activists or organizations that offend the US government or its allies.

Under FARA, anyone in the USA — even non-profit organizations, churches, etc. — who receives significant funding from non-US citizens or who engages in any political activity (signing a petition, writing a letter to Congress, passing out a leaflet, making a post on your page on the Internet, etc.) at the “request” of any non-US citizen must register with the Federal government as a “foreign propagandist” and prominently label all their political communications as “foreign propaganda”. Registered foreign agents are required to provide a regularly updated public accounting of the details of their political activities and of every penny they receive from a non-US citizen and how it is spent. It’s essentially impossible to fully comply.

Although the charges against Dr. Fai under FARA were eventually dropped as part of a deal in which he pled guilty to violations of tax laws, FARA remains on the books and could be used against you, me, or most of our politically active friends.

Dr. Fai’s imprisonment makes it all the more important for others to take up the work he has been doing to raise awareness of the violations of human rights, including the fundamental right to self-determination, in Kashmir. It makes it important to support Dr. Fai as a political prisoner (not that all imprisonment isn’t, of course, inherently political). And even if you’ve never heard of Kashmir, Dr. Fai’s prosecution should be a wake-up call about the threat posed by FARA as a tool of political repression in the USA, and the need to completely repeal FARA.

I hope to see some of you in Newark tonight.

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 21 June 2012, 14:58 ( 2:58 PM)
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