From Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq 1997-98

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing “Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir at Terre Haute Prison’s New Communication Management Unit” by Katherine Hughes in your May/June issue. The article addresses two issues: the questionable establishment of a separate prison for Arab and/or Muslim inmates in the Federal System, and the continued persecution of Dr Dhafir, an Iraqi born US citizen of some 30 years from Syracuse, New York.

Many Americans generously assisted directly and indirectly the people, and particularly the children of Iraq, who were being killed daily due to the impact of UN sanctions imposed and maintained for 12 years by the Security Council member states led by Washington and London after the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait in early 1991. Dr Dhafir was one of those Americans, who through great generosity conspicuously gave of himself and of his financial resources. He founded “Help the Needy” for that very purpose and sent over one million dollars in food aid and medical assistance to the Iraqi people.

Other US citizens who sent humanitarian aid to Iraqi children and adults in defiance of UN sanctions had civil fines imposed by Washington, but none were imprisoned. In contrast, Dr Dhafir is serving 22 years for his humanitarian outreach in defiance of these UN sanctions that I among others consider to have been genocidal. Does this mean that a different standard is being applied to US citizens who are Muslim? The establishment of the special prison to isolate Arab and Muslim inmates seems to underline that the correct answer is yes.

It appears that Dr Dhafir has become a victim of American injustice that applies double standards. He seems to have been swept up in anti-Islamic anti-Arab madness that has corrupted the American justice system. It is past time that all humanitarian-minded, decent Americans ask themselves, could I possibly be next? And then begin to understand better and take action in keeping with the responsibilities of citizenship, particularly now when American values together with American democracy are endangered, before it is too late.

Denis J. Halliday
UN Assistant Secretary-General and
Head of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq 1997-98.
New York, New York.