Maher Arar’s Story

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
November 4, 2003

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen and Ottawa computer consultant, 33-year-old, married and father of two children, was abducted in New York airport last year, and sent to prison of Syria for further torture.

Is this believable? Is this a far-fetched story?

Without providing him any lawyer during the interrogation, without going through due process of law, a Canadian citizen, who is entitled to all of his constitutional rights, were treated viciously, violating the norm of human rights that Canada is supposedly champion of upholding.

The moment Mr. Arar’s plane landed in Amman, Jordan, before going to Syria, the severe beatings began. They had beaten him with hands in the van in Jordan, with two inches thick shredded cables, in his stomach, on his neck, hip and lower back in Syrian prison. The Syrian “law enforcing” musclemen slapped him and boxed him for hours while Mr. Arar was screaming, in pain and despair, and trembling in uncontrollable fear. Fear for further torture, fear for his dear life.

Not only gruesome physical tortures that Mr. Arar was put through, he was also grinded with inhumane mental torment. At the end of his hours long physical abuses, the Syrian “law enforcing” officials with brutish smile would tell him that the next day would be worst so that Mr. Arar could have more nightmares in his grave like imprisonment. And the waiting period, interval for the torturers to get their refreshments, to build strength for further torture sessions, while Mr. Arar was put into a room where he could hear the agonizing screaming of other luckless prisoners in the compound, possibly other Maher Arars being brutalized away from public scrutiny.

It took almost a year of combined efforts of Canadian government (“quiet diplomacy”), Amnesty International and other organizations before Mr. Arar was released from his unfair imprisonment. After conducting a through investigation that also included severe beatings and outright tortures of the prisoner, the “benevolent” Syrian government found the allegations on Mr. Maher Arar to have any links with the terrorist organizations are not to be true.

Now that Mr. Maher Arar came back to Canada, he and his wife are requesting for a public inquiry of the entire horrific episode. But interestingly, Canadian solicitor general has denied the demands of the Canadian opposition parties for a full-scale public inquiry on the role that CSIS, RCMP and Canadian government played on this apparently unlawful deportation of Mr. Arar to Syria, subjecting him to tortures and brutality.

The story does not end here. Last week, before Mr. Arar decided to hold his press conference, someone in the Canadian Federal government had leaked the official Syrian interrogation transcripts that were not supposed to be disclosed to the public in such a conspiratorial way. A preemptive strike perhaps?

While the Syrian government’s “fair trial” had released Mr. Maher Arar from any wrongdoings or from any involvements with any terrorist groups, the reason for this timely leak of Syrian transcripts has raised a few eyebrows in Canadian Parliament.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Graham was furious regarding these leaks, he said, “I think we have to totally condemn leaks or unsubstantiated statements by people. I totally, utterly, absolutely condemn all forms of these speculative statements about a person's life because it's not fair to them, it's not fair to the process.”

These leaks, perhaps were getting circulated by the Canadian neo-conservatives hidden behind chaotic shadows, to malign Mr. Maher Arar’s innocence, or to divert the issue of Government agency’s abuses to a more comfortable Halloween scare of our time, the Al Qaeda boogey men. The North has learned from the South. Steering public attention from the real pressing issues, just stoke the fear, name that unutterable Al Qaeda connections with anyone, proven or not proven does not matter, what matter is creating an effective smokescreen.

Perhaps, September 11 has maddened the entire world, East and the West. Subjecting anyone under brutal tortures, who would not say anything the torturer wants to hear, so that his or her body would not be sliced or punched no more?

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? If justice is discarded in favor of injustice, if the Government who is suppose to uphold the rules of law, be fair to every citizens regardless one’s race or religion, shows the sign of unfairness, and aberration of laws, what an innocent family man can do to protect him and his family? Are we going back to the old days of gun toting cowboys or sword brandishing nomads?


Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: