Fri, 13 Mar 2009


Issue 75 of Colors Magazine is out. I haven't seen it yet, but its website has been updated. The theme is Cease-Fear. Innocent individuals affected by counter-terrorism policies around the world have been interviewed for this issue. Last November, I was interviewed by journalist Elena Favilli and then visited by photographer Piero Martinello and video artist Heloisa Sartorato. Some more details on this issue:

Colors MagazineThe countdown for Guantanamo and its torture methods has begun, but the “dark skin + Muslim = terrorist” equation is likely to leave a long and lamentable legacy.

From the tragedy of the Twin Towers to the recent events in Mumbai, for many the threat of a new major act of terrorism necessitates relentless political, technological and day-to-day approaches to defense. But growing suspicion and fear of ‘the other’ has been the price of that defense.

Colors 75 examines this fear and its consequences: From traveling, daily life and the little frailties we can smile at, to the often-concealed violations of human rights committed in the name of security.

The case of Sami El-Haj, imprisoned in Guantanamo for six years without charge then released without an explanation, is one example featured in the magazine. David, arrested for failing to look at a policeman while taking the underground to his girlfriend’s place, is another.

Mark, Ardeth, Kevin and Hicham are just four among the thousands who can no longer fly without worrying about the color of their skin or the reputation of their religion. And as many line up jadedly at the airport check-in desk, Paul in Utah builds an anti-terrorism-attack bunker for €2500/m2, an elderly lady buys an electric pistol for €400, two Kentucky pensioners patrol their local river for terrorists, bees are trained to detect explosives and police in London cordon off a Thai restaurant after the smell of frying chili arose the suspicions of the neighbors.

Bruce Schneier and Loretta Napoleoni, a security expert and an economist, respectively, attempt to break down all this fear. “Terrorism,” says Schneier, “is a crime against the mind that uses violence as a totally casual weapon.” So casual that the “chances of being hit by lightning,” says Napoleoni, “are higher than those of dying in a terrorist attack.” If you don’t yet know whether you’re apocalyptic or integrated, find your path out of terror using the orange pages, Colors’ mini encyclopedia on terrorism and its diverse remedies.

Colors 75 / Cease-Fear: on sale from March 2009. In three bilingual editions – English plus Italian, French or Spanish.

Colors interview

Here's the final draft of my magazine interview:

Colors p.10 - enemies “They surround me and ask me to take off my backpack. They empty my pockets, loosen my belt and handcuff me. They evacuate the tube station. “Nice laptop!”, they tell me, checking my backpack. Then they arrest me and drive me to Walworth police station. They take my DNA, search my flat and seize my personal belongings.

I was on my way to meet my girfriend at Hanover Square and was just waiting for the train.

What was so suspicious about me? My jacket was allegedly too warm for the season, I entered the station without looking at the police officers, I was carrying a backpack, I looked at people coming on the platform, I played with my mobile phone and I took a piece of paper from inside my jacket. Is all this suspicious? I think it's just normal.

Do you know what they found particularly interesting in my pockets? A folded A4 page where I did some doodles in red ink, a small promotional pamphlet for the movie The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and the active part of an old work pass with its electronics visible.

This is not making people safer, it is treating normal people as criminals, and choosing to create a surveillance state. It's dangerous”.

UPDATE: Colors / Cease-Fear is now available in newsagents and specialised bookshops in London. (If you have difficulties finding a copy, it's distributed in the UK by COMAG Specialist - a very helpful company that called me back when they promised to do so to let me know of several places close by having it in stock.)

Hicham Yezza, also featured in this issue, has been jailed following a nine-month sentence. His profile, in this issue of Colors, ends with:

I was completely shocked by the surreal scenario. I was kept in custody for six days as officers went through every details of my life with intense scrutiny: my activism, my books, my writing, my love life, my photography, my work in theater and dance and my cartoons. When they failed to find anything they tried to quickly deport me for immigration charges. An obvious abuse of power, this sets dangerous precedent by stifling freedom of speech, needed now more than ever in the fight against extremism.

You can write to Hicham at:

Hicham Yezza XP9266
HMP Woodhill
Tattenhoe Street
Milton Keynes

(I've updated the XP number, as the one I originally published was unfortunately incorrect. You can also donate to Hicham's legal fund; see at the bottom of the IRR article: The case of Hicham Yezza for details.)

First published on 2009-03-05; last updated on 2009-03-19.

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