PolySciFi Blog

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


My Neighbor's In A Military Detention Facility In Iraq

Today the New York Times has another great Tim Golden story on U.S. detainment facilities in Iraq. This time, it's not about torture. It's about a guy who lives about a block west of my screenwriting partner Adam, and maybe a half-mile from me; a documentary filmmaker named Cyrus Kar. Or lived, I should say; nobody knows where he is now, except our government, and they're not saying anything.

Kar is a 44-year-old naturalized American citizen who was shooting a documentary about Cyrus the Great. He'd already shot 50 hours of interview footage, and visited Afghanistan and Tajikstan. For his big finale, he was shooting in Babylon. Or that was the plan, anyway; he was in the wrong taxi at the wrong time and since May 17th, he's been held in various U.S.-run detainment facilities. It seems pretty clear that he has no ties to the insurgency (he served in the Navy in the 80s). He hasn't been given a lawyer or a hearing, although he is a U.S. citizen. It's worth noting that Kar's family learned he had been detained only after a Red Cross worker, who had visited him in prison, called them. And he hasn't done anything. Money quote:
Mr. Kar's relatives and their lawyers said they had been utterly stymied in trying to learn his fate despite repeated inquires at the Defense Department, the Justice Department, the State Department, the allied forces in Iraq and the offices of two United States senators.

The relatives said the only detailed information they had received came from one of the F.B.I. agents who searched Mr. Kar's apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles on May 23. They said that after analyzing his personal files, computer drives and other materials, the agent, John D. Wilson, returned the seized items on June 14 and assured them that that the F.B.I. had found no reason to suspect Mr. Kar.

"He's cleared," one of Mr. Kar's aunts, Parvin Modarress of Los Angeles, quoted Mr. Wilson as saying, "They were waiting for a lie-detector machine, but they finally got it. He passed the lie-detector test."

The New York Times mentioned his Silver Lake apartment, so I looked him up on Zabasearch. This guy lives a block west of Hillhurst Avenue, right in the middle of Silver Lake. We probably shop at the same grocery store. I'm sure I've walked by him on the street more than once (Silver Lake is one of the few neighborhoods in Los Angeles where people do a lot of walking). He's obsessed with making a movie, just like I am. He's done more for his country (re: the Navy) than I probably ever will. And although he was "cleared" on June 14, as of today, nobody knows where he is or how much longer we're planning on holding him. This is one of our own citizens; somebody like me, but better (hell, he's got somebody paying for post production on one of his projects!)

You can agree or disagree with me as to whether U.S. overseas detainment facilities are a gigantic, soul-destroying mess right now. You can agree or disagree that torture is systemic there (for what it's worth, Kar claimed to have been tortured in a brief phone call home). But I think we should agree to let Kar out of prison, let him finish his movie, and bring him back to Silver Lake. Perhaps we could pay for post-production on his movie, a digital transfer, and a few nice prints for the festival circuit. Although if I were Kar, I'd make a documentary about the last few months, instead.

Read the whole thing.

Update: SF posted in the comments a link to the ACLU's habeas brief on Cyrus's behalf; you can find it here. It's worth reading, especially for the declarations that follow the petition; they make it clear that Cyrus's worst offense was singlemindedly trying to finish his movie. They're also pretty visceral about what a miserable experience this has been for his family. From his cousin Shahrzad Folger's statement:
When I would protest about him going out of fear of his safety his response was that, because he looks Middle Eastern, Al Qaeda and other insurgents would not know that he is American. It never occurred to him that his country--his military--might detain him.
I have trouble sleeping because I don't know if Cy is sleeping comfortably. I don't enjoy meals because I feel guilty eating good food while I don't know what he is being served. I look around and see all these wonderful Americans around me that have no idea what is happening to one of their own at the hands of their government, in their names. I do, however, also feel hope that our judicial system will come to the rescue and, like many times in our history, right the injustices of our executive and legislative branches.
Here's hoping she's right on that last point.


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