9/11 racial profiling: Where civil rights met national security
Lives Changed: A decade-long series of stories on those most directly affected by the 9/11 attacks.
Cameran Sadeq lost the life he'd built in America when racial profiling landed him in months of detention. His civil rights were sacrificed for perceived national security.
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Sadeq's sense of principle and religious grounding – "Allah knows I'm not the one they were looking for" – was memorable and a little alarming to Mr. Vastine. Compared with some other detainees who took "the path of least resistance," says Vastine, Sadeq "kept insisting, 'Give me a lie detector test,' and ... had his wife call Al Jazeera."Skip to next paragraph
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They didn't listen, Sadeq says now with quiet intensity.
Eventually Sadeq was released and returned to Detroit to find he'd lost his apartment and all its contents, his car, and the savings he'd deposited for a truck-driving course. He asked for but received no compensation from the US, and few in the Iraqi community would help him because of fear that he would bring the attention of law enforcement on them, too.
So, with just $12, he fled to this small Manitoba city 60 miles above the US border, vowing he'd never go back. He joined Samira Moustafa, whom he'd met years before in the Syrian refugee camp and had married just before his arrest.
Here, where most of his immigrant friends and neighbors have their own stories of war, flight, and trauma, Sadeq's trials are like one more volume on the library shelf, rarely cracked. And Sadeq smiles when describing being absorbed into the local community without questions about his past, noting that he is a proud beneficiary of the provincial license plate motto: "Friendly Manitoba."
Ms. Moustafa is like her husband's Greek chorus nodding vigorously, frowning, rolling her eyes, or poking him with a teasing elbow throughout interviews. "We are one," he says when inviting a reporter to come to their home without even consulting her. The handsome couple's light-hearted rapport – and the comic industry of their five children, ages 9 months to 7 years – approximates the dream of family that Sadeq, now 40, always had.
Though unemployed for two years with a severe back injury he suffered as a construction crane operator in Vancouver, Sadeq – with public assistance and no small help from Moustafa's extended family here – struggles to provide what the family needs. They wheel around in a minivan, live tightly but comfortably in a two-bedroom apartment where the big-screen TV is constantly on Al Jazeera or Al Arabya, send the two school-age children to an Islamic elementary school, and drink liberal amounts of sweet tea. Sadeq has kicked a chain-smoking habit and has been accepted to a University of Manitoba program that will teach him to read and write English so he can later enter mechanic training. But at the heart of his existence, he says, is the constant tension between "my back home" in Iraq and his new roots in Canada.
"What's breaking me," he says, is that the kids will never "share the same 'back home' " with him. "I don't want to be a dictator and trade my kids' future for my [own] happiness," he says, noting that he's already instilling the expectation that they all attend college, which he thinks would be impossible in Iraq.
Lives Changed: A decade-long series of stories on the recovery of those most directly affected by the 9/11 attacks.