Mourning the loss of Riad Hamad

IN AUSTIN, Texas, we are mourning the loss of our friend and ally in the struggle for Palestinian rights, Riad Hamad.

Hamad's body was found on April 16. It was pulled out of Lady Bird Lake on Austin's East Side. Immediately, the police ruled it a suicide. Reports stated that Riad had duct tape on his face, and his hands and legs were bound as well. But the police said in a statement that the method used could be consistent with Hamad having done this himself.

What you can do

Donations are being collected in memory of Riad Hamad by the Palestine Solidarity Committee in Austin, Texas. Please send checks to the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Student Services Building, 4.400 #294, 100 West Dean Keeton St., Austin, TX 78712-1534.

The situation is questionable. Hamad was the founder of the Palestinian Children's Welfare Fund (PCWF). The PCWF has been under investigation by the FBI and IRS for many years.

In late February, Hamad received a visit, before leaving for work, from federal agents. He sent the following description in an e-mail:

We had a very unpleasant visit from the FBI and IRS agents yesterday morning and they walked out with more than 40 boxes of tax returns, forms, documents, books, flags, CDs, etc. The special agent said that they have a probable cause for money laundering, wire fraud, bank fraud, etc., and I think that all of it stems from more than 35 years of watching me. When I applied for my citizenship in 1996, the attorney asked for my record under the [Freedom of Information Act] and got a file bigger than the New York City Yellow Pages, with a lot of black lines to mark the names of the informants.

Because of Bush's war on terrorism, many Muslim charity organizations have been investigated by federal agents for money laundering and "supporting terrorists."

In November, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was acquitted of nearly 200 charges filed against it. The government froze its assets in late 2001, using the September 11 attacks as an excuse to crack down on Muslim charities in general, and Palestinian charities in particular.

The PCWF worked with the Holy Land Foundation to provide relief for Palestinian children and families. All of the money raised by the PCWF has gone to provide Palestinians with jobs, food, medicine, books, hospital equipment and other humanitarian needs.

On April 6, Riad wrote an e-mail to friends and supporters:

[B]esides the government harassment, [there is a] hateful environment from some students at school because I am an Arab and a Muslim...I have been getting phone calls around Midnight by someone saying, "Where is your camel?" and...a car was vandalized about two years ago…[L]ast night, around 1:30 in the morning…someone rang the bell and ran away…and you could hear all the dogs in the neighborhood barking when the person who rang the bell ran away…and it makes [me] wonder…what have I done wrong?

The government's harassment of immigrants--and Arab and Muslim immigrants in particular--creates an environment in which hate crimes are legitimized. However Riad Hamad died, he was another victim of the "war on terror."
Karen Burke, Austin, Texas