Category Archives: Human Rights

Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in the film The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in the film The Great Dictator, with a splash of modern imagery. Song: Window by The Album Leaf.

20150126mo-The_Great_Dictator-316529814-large

Advertisements

Google Promotes “The Interview” Movie and Tobacco to Under-Age Viewers While Offending Billions of People — Gets Kicked Out of China

The article below is being reposted here as it relates to geopolitical relations and the proper role of self-censorship when it comes to freedom of speech. Did the movie “The Interview” go to far in its portrayal of the assassination of a foreign leader? Read the article and post a response below.

* * *

20141230tu-the-interview-poster-header

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rates movies based on a variety of criteria and determines an acceptable viewing audience. According to FilmRatings.com (the MPAA rating site), The Interview, by featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is rated as ‘R’ due to “pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.” Colombia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment were in the news due to conflicts with North Korea over the movie.

This article isn’t intended to be a review of the movie, but instead an assessment of how it has been promoted, and what the impact has been.

Since its release, and up to the time of this writing, Google has been promoting The Interview in the Google Play store side-by-side with children’s games as shown below.

20141230tu-google-promotes-the-interview-to-general-audiences

The Interview seems out of place with game titles like Club Penguin, Gummy Drop!, My Emma, and Pop Bugs. It’s like advertising cigarettes to children. In this case, it’s literally true since the film shows people smoking. There’s a legal disclaimer at the end of the film stating that the use of tobacco in the film wasn’t a paid endorsement (just a free one).

A Popular Genre of Cinema

There’s unarguably a popular genre of vulgar and gross teen comedy films like The Interview that have a cult following — even among adults. Just as comedian Sarah Silverman draws crowds of people to be entertained and offended by her shocking and often ‘inappropriate’ style of vulgar humor, films like The Interview are praised for their shock value and intentional offensiveness.

Such content seems to be increasingly in demand. Just as people pay to go on a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, people are equally willing to pay to be shocked by entertainment that is offensive. They want to be offended. This explains the popularity of films like American PieThe Hangover, JackassSuperbad, and others.

Problematic Promotion

However, the promotion of The Interview is problematic. First, the movie received world-wide attention by the news media. Capitalizing on this, Google is promoting the movie in a way intended to reach a wider general audience than these films are generally intended for. Of course, the original news stories weren’t part of the formal promotion of the movie (unless the news media was manipulated by the entertainment industry for promotional reasons).

Unlike a movie theatre where people can be easily ID’d prior to entering, or accompanied by an adult, streamed movies on the Internet are delivered to millions of homes with little or no restriction to who might viewing.

When you watch the movie, there is no clear rating declaration at the beginning. So, many viewers, young and old alike, who might otherwise avoid such content, will be lured into viewing the movie based on the trailer and numerous fluff reviews.

The Ramping Up Effect

The movie ramps up the levels of bloody violence, vulgarity, and nudity toward the middle and end, so that parents watching the beginning of the film to preview it will conclude that it’s typical teen humor.

Similarly, the average viewer will be drawn in as far as they are willing to go, and like the frog in the kettle, will find toward the end they are taking in images and content they might otherwise have avoided.

It may seem a little nit-picky to bring up such points. To those who are immersed in the violent visuals of today’s ‘first person’ video games and fully acclimated to vulgarity on television, in the movies, in music, and in comedy, The Interview probably seems fairly normal. To those who aren’t regularly exposed to that kind of content, the film probably seems inappropriate and culturally insensitive.

Lack of Targeted Promotion is a Disservice

Ultimately, Sony and Google do a disservice to the film and the genre by not limiting its promotion and release to a warm market. When this happens, reviews are skewed. Rather than having a film watched by and rated by the people who might most enjoy it and appreciate it, the film is released to people who aren’t acclimated to that particular brand of humor — and possibly never will embrace it.

The film is now being pushed to a world market, that’s already primed with interest, yet perhaps unaware that the movie contains crude humor and graphic bloody violence.

What’s unfortunate is that the film could have just as easily been produced in a way to meet PG-13 standards and been much more successful, and more widely appreciated.

Cultural Sensitivity and Global Response

At the time of this writing, the film has earned nearly $18M and is Sony’s top online film ever. (Source: NPR). So, American’s have spoken, and they’ve said, “We like this kind of humor, and indeed this kind of movie, more than anything else presently available.”

The film is perceived in the U.S. to be an act of demonstrating free speech, a criticism of North Korea, and in this case, a victory over those who would threaten to censor the film.

To foreigners watching the film, it is perceived as an example of American humor and the content produced by the U.S. film industry. It’s become our ambassador to world community (at least during its 15 minutes of fame).

Because of its content, the film serves to embolden those who advocate censorship of content from “the West.” In this regard, it provides an abundance of examples showing why anti-American jihadists should continue their struggle through war and censorship, concluding “If this is what America has to offer, we don’t want it.” The film is a Christmas gift to those who want to portray Americans as vulgar.

Google Blocked in China Days After Film Launch

While The Interview intends to be about North Korea, the potentially offensive jokes could just as easily be poorly received by people in other countries such as China, for example.

Drawing from bigoted caricatures, the movie pokes fun at portraying how Asians sound when speaking English. This is an outdated trope that is viewed by some as funny, but perceived by others as borderline offensive. At one point in the movie, someone holding a cute puppy proclaims, “Guess who’s going back to America where they don’t eat doggies?” Making fun of people with Asian accents, and making derogatory references to the animals eaten in Asian countries, might make some people laugh, but other people could very well take offense at these jokes.

It’s not surprising that only a few days after the heavy promotion of this film by Google on their search page, in the Play Store, and through a direct email campaigns. China has now blocked Google Gmail and Google’s search page.

The Search Page Campaign

Below is Google’s home search page as of Christmas morning. With the power of reaching approximately 210 million people every month (about 7 million people per day), Google chose to promote The Interview on Christmas day with a direct link to the streaming movie in their Play store. Click the image for a larger view.

Google promoting The Interview on their search page with a direct link to the streaming movie in their Play store.

The Email Campaign

The screen snip below shows an example of the direct email campaign launched by Google to promote the movie on Christmas day.

20141230tu-the-interview-email-promotion-by-google

Disingenuous Disclaimer

At the end of The Interview, during the final moments of the credits, a legal disclaimer from Sony and the film’s affiliates states:

“The characters, incidents, and locations portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to or identification with the location, name, character or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. So, it’s entirely coincidental that there’s a country called North Korea and political leader called Kim Jong-un. Did the producers really say, “Oh, really? Wow, we had no idea when making the film that these places and people actually exist! What a coincidence!”

That’s like someone slapping you in the face, and then saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I just slapped you in the face. (slap again) Was that your face? Oh, I’m sorry. (slap again).”

It would have been more sincere to say something like, “We intentionally spent millions of dollars making fun of another country’s leader, and joking about his assassination, and we knew full well we were doing it.” At least that would be honest. So, now we’re offensive and misleading. Great. This should generate lots of support and goodwill.

Movie Review of The Interview

This is likely a film that is destined to win the “Worst Movie Ever” and “Best Movie Ever” awards in the same year. For further reading, you can click here for a thoughtful movie review of The Interview.

Movie Poster

Below is the movie poster for The Interview.

20141230tu-the-interview-movie-theatrical-poster-2025x3000

North Korean Reaction

For those unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding the film, here is a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia page about the movie and North Korea’s response to it — which suggests they didn’t find the humor in the movie.

On June 20, 2014, Kim Myong-chol, an unofficial spokesman for the North Korean government, said The Interview “shows the desperation of the US government and American society … a film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the US has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.”[16]

On June 25, 2014, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state-run news agency of North Korea, reported that the government promised “stern” and “merciless” retaliation if the film were released, stating that “making and releasing a film that portrays an attack on our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated.”[17][18] The Guardian wrote that the film premise “touched a nerve inside the regime, which takes a dim view of satirical treatment of its leaders and is notoriously paranoid about perceived threats to their safety”[19] and that North Korea had a “long history of sabre-rattling and of issuing harsh threats that it does not act upon.”[20]

On July 11, 2014, North Korea’s United Nations ambassador Ja Song-nam condemned The Interview, saying that “the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.”[21] The Guardian remarked that his comments were “all perfect publicity for the movie.”[21] On July 17, 2014, the KCNA wrote to U.S. president Barack Obama, asking to have the film pulled.[22]

In August 2014, shortly after The Interview ’​s release was delayed to December 25, it was reported that Sony had made post-production alterations to the film to reduce its insensitivity to North Korea. These changes included modifying the designs of buttons worn by characters, originally modelled after real North Korean military buttons praising the country’s leaders, and plans to cut a portion of Kim Jong-un’s death scene.[23]

Rogen predicted that the film would make its way to North Korea, stating that “we were told one of the reasons they’re so against the movie is that they’re afraid it’ll actually get into North Korea. They do have bootlegs and stuff. Maybe the tapes will make their way to North Korea and cause a revolution.”[11] Business Insider reported via Free North Korea Radio that there was high demand for bootleg copies of the film in North Korea.[24] The human rights organizations Fighters for a Free North Korea and Human Rights Foundation, which previously air-dropped offline copies of the Korean Wikipedia into North Korea on a bootable USB memory device,[25] plan to distribute DVD copies of The Interview via balloon drops.[26]

Update: 31 December 2014

As of 12:30 AM on 31 December 2014, Google has modified their promotion of The Interview in the Google Play store so that it is no longer listed adjacent to video games for kids. We applaud Google for their prompt corrective action in this matter.

Zhao Ziyang Public Speech at the Tiananmen Square Protest of 1989

20131112tu-zhao-ziyang-tiananmen-square-speech-1989-640x360

Zhao Ziyang was general secretary for little more than a year before the death of Hu Yaobang on 15 April 1989, coupled with a growing sense of public outrage caused by high inflation, provided the backdrop for the large-scale protest of 1989 by students, intellectuals, and other parts of a disaffected urban population. The Tiananmen protests initially began as a spontaneous public mourning for Hu, but evolved into nation-wide protests supporting political reform and demanding an end to Party corruption.

Student demonstrators, taking advantage of the loosening political atmosphere, reacted to a variety of causes of discontent. The diverse demands of protesters included greater economic liberalization, political democracy, media freedom, freedom of speech and association, rule of law, and to have the legitimacy of the movement recognized. Some protest leaders spoke against official corruption and speculation, price stability, social security, and the democratic means to supervise the reform process. Ironically, some of the original invective was also directed against Zhao. Party hardliners increasingly came to the conclusion that the demonstrations were due to Zhao’s rapid pace of reform, which they believed caused a sense of confusion and frustration among college students. Protests also spread through many other cities, notably including Shanghai and Guangzhou. The protesters may have been encouraged by the imminent collapse of other Communist government in Eastern Europe.

The tragic events of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 sealed Zhao’s fate and rendered impossible any further democratic movement. While he was paying an official visit to Pyongyang, the party hard-liners exploited the opportunity to declare the ongoing protests “counter-revolutionary.” Upon returning from Pyongyang, Zhao made several attempts to steer the course toward what he called “a track based upon democracy and the rule of law”. He opened up channels for direct dialogues between students and the government at multiple levels. He also ordered the news media to cover the student demonstrations with unprecedented openness. A number of legislative initiatives aimed at the reform of press, news media and education were also under way. However, Zhao’s initiatives, along with his conciliatory attitude toward the students, were seen by the elders and other party hard-liners as hastened steps toward breaking free the party control. The evening of 16 May marked the point of no return of Zhao’s political career. At the onset of his meeting with the visiting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Zhao made a stunning announcement declaring that Deng Xiaoping, though officially no longer a member of the party central committee, was still having final say in major decision-making. Zhao’s move was interpreted by Party elders as an unmistakable sign of parting company with the aging paramount leader, his long-time political patron and mentor. The leadership would not purge Zhao while Gorbachev was still in Beijing. But on the night of 18 May, just after the Soviet leader left, Zhao was summoned to Deng’s residence and a hastily called Politburo Standing Committee was called to endorse martial law with Zhao casting the lone dissenting vote.

Shortly before 5 am on the morning of 19 May, Zhao appeared in Tiananmen Square and wandered among the crowd of protesters. Using a bullhorn, he delivered a now-famous speech to the students gathered at the square. It was first broadcast through China Central Television nationwide. Here is a translated version:

Students, we came too late. We are sorry. You talk about us, criticize us, it is all necessary. The reason that I came here is not to ask for your forgiveness. What I want to say is that you are all getting weak, it has been seven days since you went on a hunger strike, you can’t continue like this. As time goes on, your body will be damaged beyond repair, it could be very life-threatening. Now the most important thing is to end this strike. I know, your hunger strike is to hope that the Party and the government will give you a satisfying answer. I feel that our communication is open. Some of these problems can only be solved through certain procedures. For example, you have mentioned about the nature of the incident, the question of responsibility; I feel that those problems can be resolved eventually, we can reach a mutual agreement in the end. However, you should also know that the situation is very complicated, it is going to be a long process. You can’t continue the hunger strike longer than seven days, and still insist on receiving a satisfying answer before ending the hunger strike.

You are still young, there are still many days yet to come, you must live healthy, and see the day when China accomplishes the four modernizations. You are not like us, we are already old, so we do not matter. It is not easy for this nation and your parents to support your college studies. Now you are all about 20, and about to sacrifice your lives so easily, students, couldn’t you think rationally? Now the situation is very serious, you all know, the Party and the nation is very antsy, our society is very worried. Besides, Beijing is the capital, the situation is getting worse and worse everywhere, this cannot continue. Students, you all have good will, and are for the good of our nation, but if this situation continues, loses control, it will have serious consequences elsewhere.

In conclusion, I have only one wish. If you stop hunger strike, the government won’t close the door for dialogue, never! The questions that you have raised, we can continue to discuss. Although it is a little slow, but we are reaching some agreement on some problems. Today I just want to see the students, and express our feelings. I hope students could think about this issues calmly. This thing can not be sorted out clearly under illogical situations. You all have that strength, you are young after all. We were also young before, we protested, laid our bodies on the rail tracks, we never thought about what will happen in the future at that time. Finally, I beg the students once again, think about the future calmly. There are many things that can be solved. I hope that you will all end the hunger strike soon, thank you.

The protesters did not disperse. A day after Zhao’s 19 May visit to Tiananmen Square, Premier Li Peng publicly declared martial law. In the power struggle that ensued, Zhao was stripped of all his positions. Following Zhao’s dismissal, Jiang Zemin replaced Zhao as general secretary and successor of Deng Xiaoping. Jiang was notable for suppressing similar protests in Shanghai without any bloodshed.

What motivated Zhao remains, even today, a topic of debate by many. Some say he went into the square hoping a conciliatory gesture would gain him leverage against hard-liners like Premier Li Peng. Others believe he supported the protesters and did not want to see them hurt when the military was called in. After the incident, Zhao was placed under indefinite house arrest.

Zhao’s rival, Li Peng, later accused Zhao of fomenting the Tiananmen Protests exclusively for political gain. According to Li, “Zhao liaised with Bao Tong immediately after his arrival in Beijing (from Pyongyang). Bao gathered some other of Zhao’s supporters to hash out the situation. They feared that Zhao’s political future was at stake: Zhao did not succeed in [managing] the economy, was not stellar politically, does not have a power base of his own, and his son was suspected of illegal business dealings. As such, it was likely that Zhao would become the ‘scapegoat’ of the student movement. These advisors suggested to Zhao that he maintain distance with Deng Xiaoping [and] attempt to win the people’s hearts in order to save himself; there were no other options.” Because Zhao was never formally charged with any wrongdoing, it cannot be known what evidence Li had to support his claims. Zhao himself addressed Li’s claims as “slander”.

Zhao remained under tight supervision and was allowed to leave his courtyard compound or receive visitors only with permission from the highest echelons of the Party. There were occasional reports of him attending the funeral of a dead comrade, visiting other parts of China or playing golf at Beijing courses, but the government rather successfully kept him hidden from news reports and history books. Over that period, only a few snapshots of a gray-haired Zhao leaked out to the media. On at least two occasions Zhao wrote letters, addressed to the Chinese government, in which he put forward the case for a reassessment of the Tiananmen Massacre. One of those letters appeared on the eve of the Communist Party’s 15th National Congress. The other came during a 1998 visit to China by U.S. PresidentBill Clinton. Neither was ever published in mainland China.

After 1989, Zhao remained ideologically estranged from the Chinese government. He remained popular among those who believed that the government was wrong in ordering the “Tiananmen Massacre”, and that the Party should reassess its position on the student protests. He continued to hold China’s top leadership responsible for the assault, and refused to accept the official Party line that the demonstrations had been a part of a “counter-revolutionary rebellion”. After his arrest, Zhao eventually came to hold a number of beliefs that were much more radical than any positions he had ever expressed while in power. Zhao came to believe that China should adopt a free press, freedom to organize, an independent judiciary, and a multiparty parliamentary democracy.

Zhao lived for fifteen years under house arrest, accompanied by his wife. Thehutong in which Zhao lived had once belonged to a hairdresser of the Qing DynastyEmpress Dowager, Cixi, and was located in central Beijing, close toZhongnanhai. Despite Zhao’s house arrest, no formal charges were ever laid against him, and he was never expelled from the Communist Party. After his arrest, Deng and his successors continued to believe that Zhao and his subordinates had worked secretly to organize the nation-wide protests, and worried that his death might trigger protests similar to the protests sparked by the death of Hu Yaobang.

Death and muted response

In February 2004, Zhao had a pneumonia attack that led to a pulmonary failure and was hospitalized for three weeks. Zhao was hospitalized again with pneumonia on 5 December 2004. Reports of his death were officially denied in early January 2005. Later, on 15 January, he was reported to be in a coma after multiple strokes. According to Xinhua, Vice President Zeng Qinghong represented the party’s central leadership to visit Zhao at the hospital. Zhao died on 17 January in a Beijing hospital at 07:01, at the age of 85. He was survived by his second wife, Liang Boqi, and five children (a daughter and four sons).

After Zhao’s death, China’s leaders feared an episode of civil disturbance similar to that which followed the death of Hu Yaobang. In order to manage the news of Zhao’s death, the Chinese government created an “Emergency Response Leadership Small Group”, which declared “a period of extreme sensitivity”, and placed the People’s Armed Police on special alert. In order to prevent any mass demonstrations in the capital, the Emergency Group directed the Ministry of Railways to screen travellers headed to Beijing. Chinese newspapers carried a brief obituary, but Xinhua successfully directed China’s domestic TV and radio stations not to broadcast the news. In order to prevent any public commemoration of Zhao, Chinese authorities increased security in Tiananmen Square and at Zhao’s house.

Under the headline “Comrade Zhao Ziyang has Passed Away”, Zhao’s obituary stated, “Comrade Zhao had long suffered from multiple diseases affecting his respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and had been hospitalized for medical treatment several times. His conditions worsened recently, and he passed away Monday after failing to respond to all emergency treatment.” All Chinese newspapers carried exactly the same 59-word obituary on the day following his death, leaving the main means of mass dissemination through the Internet. Chinese Internet forums, including the Strong Nation Forum and forums hosted bySINA.com, Xinhua, and the People’s Daily, were flooded with messages expressing condolences for Zhao: “Time will vindicate him”, wrote one commenter; “We will miss you forever” wrote another. These messages were promptly deleted by moderators, leading to more postings attacking the moderators for deleting the postings.

The Chinese government was successful in keeping Zhao’s death fairly low key within mainland China. Open, public response was absent, though some online commenters stated that they planned to buy wreaths to mourn his death, or had stood in three minutes of silence to honour Zhao’s memory.

In Hong Kong, 10,000–15,000 people attended the candlelight vigil in remembrance of Zhao. Mainlanders such as Chen Juoyi said that it was illegal for Hong Kong legislators to join any farewell ceremony, stating “…under the ‘one country, two systems‘ a Hong Kong legislator cannot care anything about mainland China.” The statement caused a political storm in Hong Kong that continued for three days after his speech. Szeto Wah, the chairman of The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said that it was not right for the Communists to suppress the memorial ceremony. The twenty-four pan-democrat legislators went against the chairperson of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, who insisted that security be tightened at Tiananmen Square and at Zhao’s house, and that the authorities try to prevent any public displays of grief. Similar memorials were held around the world, notably in New York City and Washington, DC where American government officials and exiledpolitical dissidents attended. In the West, Zhao was editorialized as a martyr who died for democracy.

On 29 January 2005 the government held a funeral ceremony for him at theBabaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, a place reserved for revolutionary heroes and high government officials, that was attended by some 2,000 mourners, who were pre-approved to attend. Several dissidents, including Zhao’s secretary Bao Tongand Tiananmen Mothers leader Ding Zilin, were kept under house arrest and therefore could not attend. Xinhua reported that the most senior official to attend the funeral was Jia Qinglin, fourth in the party hierarchy, and other officials who attended included He GuoqiangWang Gang and Hua Jianmin. Mourners were forbidden to bring flowers or to inscribe their own messages on the government-issued flowers. There was no eulogy at the ceremony because the government and Zhao’s family could not agree on its content: while the government wanted to say he made mistakes, his family refused to accept he did anything wrong. On the day of his funeral, state television mentioned Zhao’s death for the first time. Xinhua issued a short article on the funerary arrangements, acknowledging Zhao’s “contributions to the party and to the people”, but said he made “serious mistakes” during the 1989 “political disturbance”. According to Du Daozheng, writing in the foreword to the Chinese edition of Zhao’s memoirs, the use of the term “serious mistakes” instead of the former verdict of “supporting turmoil and splitting the party” represented a backing down by the party. After the ceremony, Zhao wascremated. His ashes were taken to his Beijing home, since the government had denied him a place at Babaoshan.

Push for rehabilitation

After Zhao’s death, there were a number of calls in China and abroad urging China to reconsider Zhao’s role in history. Within China, these calls were largely led by Zhao’s former secretary, Bao Tong. Outside of China, Zhao’s death produced calls from the governments of Taiwan and Japan urging China to move toward granting the greater political freedoms that Zhao promoted. The Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said as part of a statement on Zhao’s death: “I want them to make efforts for democratization”. A representative of the Taiwanese cabinet, Chen Chi-mai, stated that Beijing should “face the truth about Tiananmen Square” and “push for democratic reforms”. The White House praised Zhao, saying that Zhao “was a man of moral courage who suffered great personal sacrifices for standing by his convictions during difficult times.”

Although some of his followers have occasionally attempted to push for Zhao’s formal rehabilitation since Zhao’s arrest, the Party has been largely successful in removing his name from most public records available in China. Government efforts to delete Zhao’s memory from public consciousness include airbrushing his picture from photographs released in China, deleting his name from textbooks, and forbidding the media from mentioning him in any way. In 2005, former NPC chairman Wan Li joined more than 20 retired Politburo members, including Tian Jiyun, former Vice Premier, in asking the Central Government to rehabilitate Zhao’s name and hold memorial services for him for his many important contributions to China. The Chinese government agreed to hold a ceremony to honor the late Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, but the response fell far short of satisfying the requests from both inside and outside the CPC.

Since 1989, one of the few publications that has dared to print a non-government-approved memorial praising Zhao’s legacy has been the magazine China Through the Ages (Yanhuang Chunqiu). The magazine released the pro-Zhao article in July 2010. The article was written by Zhao’s former aide, Yang Rudai.

__________

The above text is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page about Zhao Ziyan.

Captain James Yee – Guantanamo: Justice and Human Rights

20131105tu-captain-james-yee-speaking-on-guantanamo-and-human-rights-640x360

(Source: “Former Army chaplain speaks about his experiences, reads from book, Former Army chaplain speaks about his experiences, reads from book,” Iowa Now, 6 November 2013)

Capt. James Yee will speak on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, about his experiences as an Army chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at 7 p.m. in C20 Pomerantz Center on the University of Iowa campus. His talk, which is free and open to the public, is titled, “Guantanamo: Justice and Human Rights.”

Yee graduated from West Point in 1990 and converted from Lutheranism to Islam in 1991. A 14-year Army career man, he was assigned to minister to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay after 9/11.

In 2001, Yee was commissioned as one of the first Muslim chaplains in the United States Army. Upon his return to the U.S. in September of 2003, Yee was arrested by the FBI, blindfolded, manacled, and thrown into solitary confinement for 76 days. He was accused of being an operative in a supposed spy ring. Eight months later, all charges were dropped, but his life and career were left in shambles.

Subsequently, Yee wrote a book about his experiences titled For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire. Yee will read from his book and do a book signing Monday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books in downtown Iowa City. The reading is also free and open to the public.

His is an important message to hear for all Americans who want to protect and preserve individual constitutional rights and the rights of foreign prisoners, according to Adrien Wing, director of the UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) and Bessie Dutton Murray Professor in the UI College of Law.

“Americans need to hear firsthand from a former Army officer about the nature of the Guantanamo situation,” Wing says. ” There are people who have been incarcerated without charges for over a decade that many of us have forgotten about. Yee, a West Point grad, makes us remember.”

Sponsors include the following, the UICHR; Veterans for Peace in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids; Iowa City Mosque; Cedar Rapids Islamic Center; Amnesty International; Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; the Unitarian Universalists Society of Iowa City, and Prairie Lights.

Additional events with Captain Yee will be held throughout the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Monday, Nov. 11. More information on his schedule is available at the UI Center for Human Rights website under News and Events.

For more information, contact Joan Nashelsky in the UICHR at joan-nashelsky@uiowa.edu or at 319-335-3900.

The UI Center for Human Rights is part of the UI College of Law.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in these programs, contact the UICHR in advance at 319-335-3900. For accommodations to attend the Prairie Lights reading, call Jan Weissmiller at Prairie Lights in advance at 319-337-2681.

Contacts

Captain James Yee

20131105tu-captain-james-yee-640x360

James J. Yee (Chinese:  or 余优素福, also known by the Arabic name Yusuf Yee) (born c. 1968) is an American former United States Army chaplain with the rank of captain. He is best known for being subject to an intense investigation by the United States, but all charges were later dropped.

Yee, a Chinese American, was born in New Jersey and raised in Springfield Township, where he attended Jonathan Dayton High School. Yee graduated from West Point in 1990.

In his appointed role as chaplain, Yee ministered to Muslim detainees held at Guantánamo Bay detention camp and received commendation from his superiors for his work. When returning from duty at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, he was arrested on September 10, 2003, in Jacksonville, Florida, when a U.S. Customs agent found a list of Guantanamo detainees and interrogators among his belongings. He was charged with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spyingespionage, and failure to obey a general order. These charges were later reduced to mishandling classified information in addition to some minor charges. He was then transferred to a United States Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The government did not name the country or entity for whom it suspected Yee was spying.

All court-martial charges against Yee were dropped on March 19, 2004, with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller “citing national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence,” and he was released to resume his duties.

__________

(Source: Wikipedia – James Yee)