An iftar fundraiser was held in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 2015, during Torture Awareness Month, for the National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF). The event titled, “Targeting Muslims: State Violence in the War on Terror,” was co-sponsored by Impact Hub DC and the Washington Peace Center.
An eclectic mix of activists, educators, journalists, poets and artists convened to pray, break fast together and witness a powerful night featuring spoken word by The Sanctuaries - Washington, DC and an exclusive showing of the T(ERROR) Documentary.
The documentary follows a high level FBI sting operator, Saeed Torres, as he goes after a person of interest, Khalifah al-Akili, a 34-year-old white Muslim convert. Torres has been a part of many terrorism cases and is one of approximately 15,000 informants — among them crooks and ex-convicts— who ‘make up the largest surveillance network ever created in United States’ according to Trevor Aaronson, author of "The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism." These domestic spies receive tens of millions of federal dollars each year.
"They trying to make me force this dude into saying something to support terrorism,” Torres said in the documentary about his FBI handlers.
Unbeknownst to Torres, the filmmakers were also in touch with the Al- Akili who was sure that the FBI was targeting him.
The National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms was scheduled to host a press conference on March 16, 2012 at which Al-Akili would tell his story of being targeted by the FBI. The day before the press conference, Al-Akili was arrested. As the cameras rolled, he asked the director, David Felix Sutcliffe, to help his wife and baby. “I haven't done anything to anybody,” he shouts, as he is dragged away.
The film’s co-director Lyric R Cabral conducted a question and answer session with the audience. The informant Torres was her neighbor in New York and she felt it was her duty to tell his story, especially after witnessing several terrorism cases in court and photographing several families of the men entrapped by the FBI. This was Cabral’s first feature length documentary, co-directed with Sutcliffe, and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature, as well as the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Full Frame Film Festival. After the film airs on PBS, the directors plan to showcase it around the country as an educational tool for the Muslim community.
Following the Q & A, Avon Twitty spoke about his experience in the communication management unit (CMU), a special prison which hosts inmates, a vast majority of them Muslim. “You saw here how they set people up but what you didn’t see is what happens to them in the prison,” he said. “I was one of the first inmates that they whipped and tear gassed in that prison [where Al-Akili is held].” Twitty, also known as Abdul ‘Aliyy, released from prison in 2011, believes that his designation to the CMU was based on discriminatory notions about Muslims, and made in retaliation for his filing grievances and a lawsuit.
Arshad Ali, a teacher new to Washington D.C., said he was excited about watching ‘an amazing film’ and being a part a powerful conversation. “I am new to DC and was excited to meet some Muslims with a left political agenda. I am excited to build!,” he stated.
ICNA President Naeem Baig, a board member of NCPCF, thanked the audience for attending and reminded the audience the funds go to support family members of victims on the war on terror. A table was set up for Hijrah, a one of its kind magazine for Muslim inmates.
“As torture awareness month comes to a close, I'm asking all of you to help support the work of the NCPCF, an organization that works to educate the public about post 9-11 abuses such as entrapments as preemptive prosecutions, in addition to supporting families,” stated Dr Maha Hilal, the Deputy Executive Director of NCPCF.
To donate to the NCPCF use this link: http://bit.ly/1RMM9VK