Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice
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Voice of Witness's Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, is edited by Alia Malek, an author ( A Country Called Amreeka) and former Department of Justice attorney. A groundbreaking collection of oral histories, Patriot Acts tells the stories of men and women who have been needlessly swept up in the War on Terror. In their own words, narrators recount personal experiences of the post-9/11 backlash that have deeply altered their lives and communities. For more information on the book and to learn more about Voice of Witness visit www.voiceofwitness.org.
On March 24, 2005, Adama Bah, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl, awoke at dawn to discover nearly a dozen armed FBI agents inside her family’s apartment in East Harlem. They arrested her and her father, Mamadou Bah, and transported them to separate detention facilities. A government document leaked to the press claimed that Adama was a potential suicide bomber but failed to provide any evidence to support this claim. Released after six weeks in detention, Adama was forced to live under partial house arrest with an ankle bracelet, a government-enforced curfew, and a court-issued gag order that prohibited her from speaking about her case. In August of 2006, Adama’s father was deported back to Guinea, Africa. Adama, who had traveled to the United States with her parents from Guinea as a child, also found herself facing deportation. She would spend the next few years fighting for asylum and struggling to support her family in the United States and Guinea.
The morning of March 24, 2005, my family and I were in the house sleeping. Someone knocked on the door, and my mom went and opened it. These men barged in, waking us up. I always sleep with the blanket over my head. They pull the blanket off my head, I look up, I see a man. He said, “You’ve got to get out!” I’m like, What the hell, what’s going on?
I saw about ten to fifteen people in our apartment and right outside our door in the hallway. They were mostly men, but there were two women. Some had FBI jackets, and others were from the police department and the DHS. We were all forced out of the bed and told to sit in the living room. They were going through papers, throwing stuff around, yelling and talking to each other, then whispering. I heard them yelling at my mother in the background, and my mom can’t speak much English, and they were pulling her into the kitchen, yelling at her, “We’re going to deport you and your whole family!”
This whole time, I was thinking, What’s going on? What are they talking about? I knew my dad had an issue with his papers, but I didn’t think that my mom did. They kept saying, “We’re going to send all of you back to your country.”
Then I saw my dad walking in, in handcuffs. They had gone to the mosque to get him. It was the scariest thing you could ever see; I had just never seen my father so powerless. He was always this guy you didn’t mess with. If he said do it, you did it. He was just someone you didn’t cross paths with.
They took him to the kitchen, whispered something to him.
He sat down, looked at us. He said, “Everything’s going to be fine, don’t worry.” And then I knew nothing was fine, I knew something was wrong. They told him to tell us what was going on. He told us that they were going to arrest him and they were going to take him away.