After being flown to the FBI headquarters and forced to give a DNA sample against her will, Marzieh was then taken to the city jail and saw first-hand how atrocious the “deplorable” conditions of the jail were.
Speaking to myself and Haseeb over the phone after finally being released from prison, American journalist Marzieh Hashemi talked through her ordeal of being arrested and shackled at St. Louis airport and taken to the FBI Headquarters, and how she survived the numerous challenges and struggles while in the city jail. Not only does this arrest raise questions about certain illegality issues and human rights violations, but it also inadvertently brought to light the power of Muslim and social justice activism.
Listen to the full conversation here:
Initially in St. Louis with her son to fly to Denver, Marzieh Hashemi, a journalist who works for Press TV in Iran, was suddenly arrested and shacked in the airport only minutes before she was to board her flight, and without an explanation was immediately flown to Washington D.C., then later toFBI Headquarters, where she was told she was being held as a “material witness”.
The “material witness” law has been leveraged heavily in the aftermath of 9/11, where American citizens can be arrested and detained until the police or FBI has further evidence to detain the citizen for even longer periods of time. They can be kept in solitary confinement, interrogated, and forced to address a grand jury. The most victims of the “material witness” law are Muslim.
They can arrest [you] but not charge [you] with a crime and then hold [you]…what is this? It is completely mind boggling.”
After being flown to the FBI headquarters and forced to give a DNA sample against her will, Marzieh was then taken to the city jail and saw first-hand how atrocious the “deplorable” conditions of the jail were. While in jail, she was also forced to take off her hijab for a mugshot, only given T-shirts for clothing without consideration for her hijab, and denied halal food until almost five days later. Without any concept of time as well, Marzieh had to guess what time of day it was for her daily prayers, and due to lack of support from her jailers was also deprived of knowing which way the qibla (direction to Mecca) was for prayer. Surprising both Haseeb and I, who listened in shock while on the phone with her, Marzieh explains that throughout this ordeal she was never actually scared and that instead, she believed firmly that Allah would help her in the end.
First and foremost I remembered that everything is in the hands of Allah… We must fear no one. I wasn’t scared, but was still thinking that anything can happen.”
The global response to her sudden arrest has been phenomenal, however, and has greatly inspired her. Thanks to both her family speaking out to the press and human rights activists as well as the social media campaign under the hashtag #freemarziehhashemi, Marzieh has had the global eye turned on her in the aftermath of her release from prison. Still reeling from how amazed she has felt from the positive global response, Marzieh stresses the importance of coming together for issues of social justice and fighting against oppression. Through collaborative efforts as well, she believes more work can be done and calls for the Muslim community to put aside differences and come together to fight common oppressors. She explains that thanks to social media, there is an amazing opportunity for entire communities to come together in the hopes that they can collectively help restore justice and fight against oppression.
It’s important that we coordinate our efforts. Are we responsible for each other, or do we just close our eyes?”
It is up to us whether we choose to help people like Marzieh in the fight against oppression, and she reminds us all that as a community we can collectively get so much more done when campaigning for social justice issues. Urging everyone to remember how important it is to remain connected and collective, Marzieh remains steadfast in her conviction that the fight is far from over, and that justice will always be served in the end with faith in Allah.
If you don’t stand infront of oppression, the oppression is just going to spread. So we have to stand up and try to stop it. And we can, we absolutely can and must!