Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, Pages 36-37

Northern California Chronicle

Marchers Bring Message for Global Peace, Nonviolence to Northern California

By Elaine Pasquini

In San Francisco City Hall, World March for Peace members, including (front row, l-r) Bhairavi Sagar (holding book), Janet Shirley and Hiroshima survivor Takashi Tanemori, pose with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. (Staff photo P. Pasquini)

MEMBERS OF the World March for Peace and Nonviolence brought their message of peace, environmental protection, and the elimination of nuclear weapons to Northern California Dec. 2. Following a talk by march participant and Hiroshima survivor Takashi Tanemori at San Rafael’s Marin Academy, the group traveled by motorized cable car to San Francisco. World Without Wars, an offshoot of the Humanist movement, initiated the march, which will visit 100 countries.

Yuki, companion of Hiroshima survivor Takashi Tanemori, rests during the World Peace March reception at San Francisco’s City Hall. (Staff photo P. Pasquini)

In San Francisco, the group held a ceremony in United Nations Plaza before proceeding to City Hall for a reception with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who, along with his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, voted for a resolution in support of the World March.

“I hope my words have resonance considering the message yesterday from Washington that we are on the cusp of a widening war in Afghanistan,” the supervisor said. “I know that you all are incredibly committed in making sure the president and Congress hear your demand for peace so that they understand this is the wrong direction and we expected a better direction from this administration. California’s sizable community of Persians and Afghans are concerned about the way the U.S. is broadening its interests without considering the people on the ground,” said Mirkarimi, the first Iranian American elected to public office in San Francisco. “This is not just a question about war, but the degradation of natural resources. Next to oil, the greatest motivation for war is now about water. That’s why your peace movement couldn’t be more right on. What you are doing on this march is what peace means.”

CAIR-SV Seventh Annual Banquet

CAIR-SV president Najme Minhaj (c) addresses the banquet audience as Javed Iqbal (l), recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, and executive director Basim Elkarra, listen. (Staff photo E. Pasquini)

“A New Era of Hope: Our Role—Our Future” was the theme of the seventh annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV) held Nov. 21. “This year’s theme is best reflected by the work of our youth in the community,” CAIR-SV president Najme Minhaj told some 600 guests at Sacramento’s Doubletree Hotel. “They not only represent the hope and promise of the future, but a commitment to the principles of justice, freedom, and liberty.”

CAIR-LA deputy executive director Ameena Mirza Qazi and CAIR-SV executive director Basim Elkarra shared master of ceremonies duties and kicked off the awards ceremony.

University of California at Davis chancellor emeritus Larry Vanderhoef received a standing ovation after being presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award. Other honorees included Javed Iqbal (Distinguished Service Award) Sarah Moussa (Outstanding Youth Service Award), and the Asian Law Caucus (Courage and Inspiration Award).

Following a video message from Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Sheikh Alauddin El-Bakri’s inspiring speech and fund-raising appeal, American Civil Liberties Union Northern California executive director Abdi Soltani addressed civil rights issues. “The First Amendment—which guarantees freedom of religion, speech and assembly—is the backbone of our democratic society and is the cornerstone of the work that CAIR does today,” the civil rights defender said.

Soltani went on to discuss the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees privacy rights and probable cause, and the Fifth Amendment, which provides due process under the law. Holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay violates the Fifth Amendment, he argued. The Fourteenth Amendment was important, he explained, because it gives equal protection and due process “to any person” in the U.S., not just citizens.

The ACLU director urged parents in the audience to encourage their children to go into civil rights. “It’s an awfully good profession,” he enthused.

Justice Department Still Asserting State Secrets Privilege in Extraordinary Rendition Suit

A human rights activist dressed as a prisoner protests torture and extraordinary rendition outside the James R. Browning United States Courthouse in San Francisco Dec. 15 as, inside, ACLU attorneys seek justice for victims of extraordinary rendition in a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. (Staff photo P. Pasquini)

In the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 15, U.S. Justice Department attorneys appealed a lower court ruling that the government could invoke the “state secrets” privilege only when citing specific evidence. The government reiterated its argument that because a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. by plaintiffs Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah and Bisher al-Rawi involved unspecified state secrets, the entire lawsuit should be thrown out.

The five men have been seeking justice since May 2007, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on their behalf against Jeppesen, a San Jose flight-planning company and subsidiary of Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, for assisting in the CIA’s rendition program, which included the plaintiffs’ forced disappearance and secret transfer to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas, where they were interrogated under torture. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen provided critical flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crews used by the CIA to carry out their extraordinary rendition (see April 2008 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 50).

“To this day, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture policies has had his day in court,” said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, the plaintiffs’ lawyer. “Across the board, the administration is taking positions that deny torture victims any chance for justice.”

Countering Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter’s contention that the case cannot proceed without getting into state secrets, Wizner reminded the 11-judge panel that most of the information has already been made public, and that therefore the state secrets privilege did not apply.

“It is no longer credible to claim that extraordinary rendition is a state secret,” Wizner argued. “This case should be allowed to move forward without further delay.”

Grand Egyptian Museum

Mohamed Ghoneim, general coordinator of the Grand Egyptian Museum project. (Staff photo E. Pasquini)

In three years, Egypt looks forward to the opening of “the world’s largest museum for the world’s oldest civilization,” Mohamed Ghoneim, general coordinator of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) project in Giza, told visitors at San Francisco’s deYoung Museum Nov. 28.

The $550 million project will feature an archaeological and cultural complex on more than 100 acres located in the western desert near Egypt’s trio of ancient pyramids on the Giza plateau. The façade will be constructed of translucent alabaster, and a grand staircase will lead through the various collections—arranged both thematically and chronologically—culminating with a spectacular view of the pyramids from the top floor. Piazzas, bridges, gardens and a main courtyard will link together the museum's many sections.

Downtown Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is able to display only 80,000 of some 500,000 treasures, Ghoneim said. The GEM will exhibit more than 100,000 artifacts, including nearly 5,000 from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Ancient Egypt, Hi-Tech Converge in “Very Postmortem” Exhibit

For the next eight months, visitors to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum will have the opportunity to “fly through” a 2,500 year-old mummy. Using state-of-the-art high-definition technology, Stanford Medical School’s Department of Radiology conducted three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) scans of Irethorrou, who is one of four human mummies and one crocodile mummy in the Fine Arts Museum’s permanent collection. Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium used the scans to reconstruct a forensic portrait of the Egyptian priest who lived in Akhmim, Egypt, around 500 BCE, which is also on display, along with the CT scan video and the mummy in his coffin.

“What’s exciting about this is that it represents cutting edge, state-of-the-art examination of Irethorrou, and sheds light on his physical attributes and cause of death,” said Renée Dreyfus, curator of “Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine.” 

Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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