In this op-ed, Aliya Hana Hussain, advocacy program manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains her work advocating for men detained in the Guantánamo Bay prison that opened in the wake of 9/11, and the ongoing need to call for its closure since.
On September 11, 2001, I was 17 years old and a high school senior in a northern New Jersey suburb, just outside of New York City. Many of my classmates and friends’ parents commuted to work in skyscrapers in the city every day. That day, we all sat for hours, eyes glued to the television. Much of that day was a blur, but there are a few things I remember clearly. I was able to get in touch with my mother at a friend’s house after school, and though I had no reason to think that they weren’t safe, being able to hear her voice was such a relief. My most vivid memory was going to the Catholic church in the evening. It was just around the corner from my school, in the center of town. I was scared, confused, and overwhelmed. Tears streamed down my face as I stood there with my friends during the service. I didn’t even question whether, as a Muslim, I should be standing there. In that moment, it was where I belonged, mourning with my friends and my community, as we prayed for peace and the safe return for all of the loved ones still missing.
Little could I have understood how much that day would drive the course of the next 17 years, and how much the question of whether one is Muslim would come to matter in the United States — to me and everyone else.
Read the full piece at teenvogue.com.