Vienna, 11 October 2012
Dear Supporters of the “Copy-Shop Project”!
With this letter we would like to inform you about the recent developments of our copy-shop project in support of Mustafa Ait Idir and Hadj Bouldella and to express again our sincere gratitude for your generous support.
During a recent trip to Sarajevo, Wolfgang Petritsch and Roland Schmidt (Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights) had the opportunity to visit the copy-shop and obtained a first hand impression of the project’s progress.
Together with Mustafa and Hadj we are as delighted as excited about the recent opening of the copy-shop. In recognition of your courage to support the project, Mustafa and Hadj have named their shop ‘Respekt’. In close vicinity to the same Bosnian court which cleared both men in 2002 from allegations of terrorism, only for them to be captured in violation of basic human rights standards by US troops a few hours later, Mustafa and Hadj now open their doors every day from 08:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs. Inside, the shop is equipped with copy-machines, pen-plotters, computers and other devices which have been bought thanks to your contributions.
During our visit we got a promising impression of how students with their course materials, architects with their plans, and even participants of a demonstration for the rights of persons displaced during the war with their flyers came to the ‘Respekt’ copy-shop in order to get their documents copied. But the shop’s offer is not limited to merely producing copies: business cards, leaflets, T-Shirts and even cups are printed by Mustafa and Hadj. In cooperation with another copy-shop stamps are made to order.
While the first entrepreneurial steps have been positive and encouraging, Mustafa and Hadj are well aware of the challenges which the successful management of a business entails. Both work hard in order to expand their range of customers and to ensure that their start-up not only covers its costs but also generates a profit as soon as possible.
At the same time, during our visit it became once again obvious that the copy-shop is more than just a mere business enterprise to Mustafa and Hadj. The shop is also a symbolic as well as public acknowledgement of the suffering and injustice they had to endure while being arbitrarily detained in Guantanamo for seven years. To this day, the US Government has refused to extend such an acknowledgement. President Obama’s first term in office draws to an end and despite all early announcements to close the detention camp more than 160 persons are still detained today.
Among those detainees is also Besayah Belkacem who was arrested together with Mustafa and Hadj in Sarajevo in 2001. For many years now, Wolfgang Petritsch has been trying, together with those American lawyers who successfully litigated the release of Mustafa and Hadj in front of the US Supreme Court, to find a solution also for his case. Unfortunately, these efforts have been so far in vain. What would be needed to bring an end to Besayah’s detention after 10 years is a state which is willing to facilitate his resettlement and offers him a new home. Despite some laudable forerunners (e.g. France) who have received former Guantanamo detainees in similar circumstance, to this day no Government demonstrated this courage and put humanitarian values above short-term political tactics. Unfortunately, also in Austria related requests received nothing but rejection.
From the initiation of the ‘Copy-Shop project’, the first related conversations between Mustafa Ait Idir and Wolfgang Petritsch, via the project elaboration by Manfred Nowak and the Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights, the fundraising through the crowd-sourcing platform Respekt.net, to the recent opening of the copy-shop, it has been a long way. The fact that Mustafa and Hadj have today their own copy-shop is the result of a joint effort, which required optimism and resilience by everybody involved. Particularly we would like to emphasize the kind support we received by the World University Service (WUS) under the leadership of Wolfgang Benedek and Adi Kovacevic. It was WUS’s office in Sarajevo which allowed for a local supervision and constituted a crucial link in the project’s overall implementation.
Above all, however, the copy shop would not have been possible without your believe and trust in this project and the generous donations provided by you. For this, we would like to express our sincere gratitude – also on behalf of Mustafa Ait Idir, Hadj Boudella and their families.
Please find below a few photos from the copy-shop as well as audio-clips which the Austrian radio station ORF/FM4 has produced on the occasion of our visit to Sarajevo.
With kind regards,
Wolfgang Petritsch Manfred Nowak Roland Schmidt