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Beyond Manzanar

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History and
project origins

virtual reality

In the wake
of Sept. 11




We are still in shock at the horror of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. We send our sympathy to those who have lost family, friends, loved ones. And we pray that the people who helped carry out this terrible massacre will be swiftly brought to justice.

We started Beyond Manzanar in 1995 in response to blind attacks on people of Middle Eastern extraction after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when the media erroneously linked the bombing to the Middle East. In a disturbing sort of deja vu, there is now a wave of attacks and death threats against people who look Muslim or of Middle Eastern extraction - even though many came to the west as refugees from the regimes they are accused of representing. It goes far beyond damage to property: A Sikh has been murdered in Mesa, Arizona, because he wore a turban. A Pakistani-American was murdered in Dallas. A British-Afgani in England was paralyzed from the neck down.

Beyond Manzanar focuses on our own ethnic groups - Iranian American and Japanese American - but its message is universal. We depict attacks on Iranian Americans and calls for their internment during the 1979-'80 Iranian Hostage Crisis, putting them in the context of the media hysteria that led to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  The US military claimed there was "military necessity" to intern over 120,000 men, women and children without due process and for no crime other than the fact of their Japanese ancestry. In 1985, Norman Mineta, then a Congressman and currently Secretary of Transportation, introduced H.R. 442, The Civil Liberties Act with the statement that "... documents recently discovered under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that government attorneys suppressed key evidence and authoritative reports from the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission, and Army Intelligence which flatly contradicted the government claim that Japanese Americans were a threat to security."

Then as now, the crisis was real - America was under attack. Now as then, we fear that new laws being passed by our leaders today, made in the name of anti-terrorism, could repeat the errors of World War II and severely imperil civil liberties in our country. Times such as these are the most stringent tests of a democracy. We have always prided ourselves in being a country "with liberty and justice for all." Is it possible for us to protect ourselves without sacrificing the civil liberties that form the true and fundamental greatness of America?

- September 24, 2001. Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand

Please see "Web Links" for news articles on the Web relating to this topic.

1998-2002 Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand