My Friend Is In Hiding and Needs Help

MY FRIEND IS IN HIDING AND NEEDS HELP

 For  a year and a half  I visited a young Bangladeshi man  at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, where he was an inmate waiting for a decision on his asylum claim.    He, like most asylum seekers, is at risk of persecution, torture or death in his native country.

 After being locked up for more than a year and a half Hassan (not his real name) lost his case and was denied on appeal.   With little warning, before his attorney could file a stay, he was handcuffed and put on a plane, deported to Bangladesh, the country he fled in fear. .

 Before coming to the U.S. Hassan was a pro-democracy student activist, opposing the authoritarian regime that governs through violence and corruption.   He was imprisoned for two years because of these activities in unspeakable conditions: there was never enough to eat, and he could hear the screams of men being tortured.     When he was released, he was prevented from going back to school or getting a job.  His family, afraid for his safety, pooled their limited resources and helped him escape to the United States to study.

  Currently Hassan is in hiding in Bangladesh, living in constant fear for himself and his family.  It is  dangerous for him to go outside;  if he must go out he has to have someone accompany him so that others will know what  became of him in case he is grabbed or “disappeared”.  The Human Rights Watch report on Bangladesh describes the police: “Security forces… have a long history of enjoying impunity for serious violations including arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.” 

  WHO IS HASSAN

 Hassan and I grew extremely close over those many months and he feels like family. His fate is constantly on my mind.  It’s too risky to use his real name or photograph, but I want  to introduce him  to you.   He is in his late twenties. He is shy but talkative.  He is kind, caring, idealistic,   intense and smart.  He believes that love and kindness can build a fairer world.   Despite his own situation he worried about other people’s welfare, asking us if we were eating well or sleeping enough.  He tried to remain positive during his ordeal in detention and keep up the spirits of other prisoners and visitors alike.  (Another woman, who visited him as well and grew to love him as I do, is involved in this Gofundme effort.)  

 He promised me a homecooked meal when he got out.  We planned long walks in the park , which had a particular appeal because the prisoners at Elizabeth are confined to a fluorescent-lit, uncomfortably cold, converted warehouse facility.   He kept busy by writing a book on computers, his field of study, and preparing for the exams that he was unable to complete when he was arrested at U.S. Customs on  his return from a trip to say goodbye to his grandmother before she died.

 We were shocked and unprepared for his deportation.  He is not a criminal, nor were the others held there, and he had a well-documented case.   He believed that in the end the system would do the right thing.  It became clear that  the U.S. authorities will use any pretext to deport asylum seekers, especially people of color. In the end his strong case did not matter.  

 WHAT WE CAN DO

  This brings me to the present moment.  Hassan is arranging for a student visa to another Western country that offers a chance of security and a future.  I am asking for your help so he can escape Bangladesh and start a new life.  The money will pay for tuition ($7,750) for his visa and school applications ($250), medical exams for visa ($800), and airfare ($1,200) and sponsorship expenses ($2,000).   The goal is to raise this in the next two months. 

  I know the innumerable stories of suffering, which have increased exponentially with Trump, are overwhelming.   I often feel helpless. Here, however, is the rare chance to make a concrete difference by saving a single life and act on the saying from both the Jewish and Muslim traditions: that “to save one life is to save the entire world.”  Many times, people who fight for immigrants are unable to help after someone is deported, no matter how unfairly. His family can’t give him any more financial help other than to make sure he has a secure hiding place and food to eat.  

 So it’s left to us to act.  His life depends on us now. Please give as much as you can and share it with your network of friends who might contribute as well.   You can assure them that this is a legitimate appeal and I cannot sit by and do nothing while he is in danger. 

 There’s an allegory that has given me strength during these awful times:

 a child is standing on the shore surrounded by thousands of stranded, dying starfish.  She  picks them up one by one and throws them back into the ocean.   An adult comes by, and calls her effort silly since she can’t possibly make a difference given the numbers that need rescue. She looks at him, picks up yet another starfish and as she throws it into the ocean she says, “but It will make a difference to this one.”

 

Thank you so much.   

Susan Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Organizer

Susan Meyer 
Organizer
New York, NY
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