Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disappeared in Pakistan

The New York Times has an article today about women’s struggles in Pakistan to find their disappeared husbands and sons and to make the Pakistani government answer questions about why their loved ones have been detained and if they are still alive. One sentence in the article particularly struck me, “…human rights groups here assert that Pakistan’s security services have been sweeping up civilians and holding them incommunicado without charges since 9/11, when the government forged an alliance with the United States to fight terrorists.” There was a time when I would not have believed any implicit claim that our government had encouraged another country to disappear citizens for any reason. There was a time when the phrase “to disappear” someone did not make since in English, existed only as an awkward translation from Spanish. Tragically, that time has passed. With the establishment of the ‘detention center’ at Guantanamo bay and the surfacing of the infamous ‘torture memo,’ my belief that my country was a leader in promoting human rights has dimmed. I am nostalgic for a time when to call someone a disappeared person made no sense in my culture – it is a term that should be diminishing in relevance, not growing in usage.

We must do something. Women’s groups and peace groups and all citizens who still believe that the United States could be the country we once imagined it to be, we must find a way to pressure our governments into once again behaving in humane ways, even in uncertain times.

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