Publication date: March 10, 2008

Son of Mountains is a memoir by Yassin Aref, a UN refugee who sought peace and freedom for himself and his family in America——and found just the opposite. It is the story of a Muslim entrapped in a fictional “sting” concocted by the FBI, accused of aiding terrorism, and sentenced in 2007 to fifteen years in federal prison. And it is the story of an Iraqi Kurd——a “son of mountains”——who has struggled all his life just to survive.

Yassin Aref was born to illiterate farming parents in a village in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1970. However, his was a famous family; his grandfather and uncle had been Muslim imams (religious leaders) loved and respected by thousands. Yassin grew up under the rule of Saddam Hussein, encountering tremendous poverty, brutality, and repression; as a teenager, Yassin sympathized with the Kurdish peshmerga (freedom fighters) and risked his life opposing the dictator’s genocide against the Kurds.

In 1995, Yassin married and made the wrenching decision to leave his beloved Kurdistan for Syria. Although he worked full-time to support his growing family, he managed to graduate from Abu Noor University in Damascus with a degree in Islamic studies. But Kurds had no freedom or rights in Syria, and in 1999 the stateless family was given refugee status by the UN and sent to Albany in upstate New York to begin a new life in America. An immigrant once more, Yassin worked at several low-paying, often temporary jobs until he was appointed imam of Masjid as-Salam (House of Peace), a small Albany mosque. The 2004 FBI raid on the mosque and Yassin’s arrest, which was nationally reported as a victory in the “war on terror,”and his trial and conviction in 2006, tore his family, the mosque, the community, and the city apart.

By the end of this extraordinary memoir, filled with the peaceful, practical morality of Islam as well as flashes of humor, the reader will understand why Yassin is no terrorist, and how grave an injustice has been done. The book ends with an outspoken essay by volunteer lawyer Stephen Downs that details how the government’s case against Yassin was not a “sting” but a simple frame-up——an elaborate fiction presented in court as fact——with lives, families, and Constitutional rights sacrificed to our post-9/11 climate of fear.

See these two websites for more on Yassin Aref’s case:

Justice for Yassin and
Muslim Solidarity Committee

Order “Son of Mountains”.

A review copy is available to media that can promise publication of a review or an article. Contact Kathy Manley, (518) 434-1493, e-mail: