January 09, 2020
It was a trip Heidi must have taken over a hundred times. 
Iranians, Iranian Americans Detained At US-Canada Border Fear Crackdown On Civil Rights
At least once a month for the last 10 years, Heidi, an Iranian with a US green card, has driven through Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington, to visit her mother in Vancouver, Canada, before returning home.
When Heidi and her girlfriend — both Nexus cardholders who are qualified for expedited processing — crossed back into the U.S. that Saturday afternoon, they received an ominous orange slip that told them to exit their vehicle for additional screening. US officials took their passports and Heidi’s green card away and questioned them for hours.
Heidi, who is using a pseudonym in this story for fear of retaliation, was questioned about her place of birth, her current occupation, whether she had ever touched a gun, where she studied, and her political views on the latest escalation between the United States and Iran, she told HuffPost. 
Mere days before Heidi and her girlfriend’s detention, General Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian commander and one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East, had been killed in an airstrike on the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq at the direction of President Donald Trump, heightening tensions between the two nations and the wider Middle Eastern region. 
Before the news broke, Heidi had no idea who Soleimani even was.
Heidi and her girlfriend were two of more than 100 people of Iranian descent who say they were held without explanation at the Blaine border crossing — in some cases for at least 11 hours.
Customs and Border Protection has since denied those accusations, telling HuffPost inan emailed statement that the “social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false.” 
A CBP official told HuffPost that the federal agency was currently “operating with an enhanced posture at its ports of entry” due to the “current threat environment.” The official also attributed the long wait times at Blaine — which CBP said averaged two hours and extended up to four hours — to increased volume and reduced staff.
Lawmakers and other political leaders have since condemned the reported detentions. Former presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted that “CBP’s denial of these reports are simply not credible.” Rep. Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.) also noted that the detentions were “a result of some sort of directive,” which CBP has denied. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, demanded that CBP clarify its policies and explain why those individuals were stopped at the border.What happened was real. They can’t say I wasn’t there for 11 hours on the hard concrete floor. That was real. It happened.Crystal, 24-year-old Iranian AmericanThe reports from the US-Canada border have raised red flags for civil rights advocates, who say the detentions set a dangerous precedent for the targeting of Iranians in the US, as well as other Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim minority communities.
The pattern is familiar. Each time the U.S. has entered into a military conflict in the region ― whether in Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan ― those marginalised communities in the U.S. suffer the consequences, including a crackdown on their civil rights.  
“If we can’t count even on our local leadership to protect us as Americans, we are barrelling down a very dangerous path and our civil liberties really are threatened right now. This is not a joke,” said Mana Mostatabi, the communications director at the National Iranian American Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, that advocates for Iranian Americans. 
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has since opened an investigation into the treatment of Iranian Americans at U.S. ports of entry in response to a complaint from NIAC. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is also exploring legal action to find whether the federal government sent any national directive to local authorities in Blaine.
“We want to send a strong message to the Trump administration that behaviour like this won’t be tolerated,” said Masih Fouladi, the executive director of CAIR Washington.Just days prior to the reports from the US-Canada border, law enforcement across the U.S., including in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Iranian population outside of Iran, called on residents to report suspicious activity ― a message that critics said only promotes discriminatory profiling and surveillance of already vulnerable communities.
“What that does do is [scare] Iranian-Americans. It’s sowing fears and really opening up an already vulnerable community to additional abuse,” Mostatabi added. 
Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, warned of increased harassment and discriminatory policies by federal agencies, pointing to the precedent set by past US administrations.
In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter ordered the deportation of undocumented Iranian students during the diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran at the time. President George W. Bush created the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which targeted foreign nationals from 25 countries in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War. More recently, Trump signed the 2017 executive order that prevents individuals from several Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States.
“I do anticipate that this will get worse because of history,” said Ayoub, who added that concerns now are very similar to those in the past, when Iranians, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians were also targeted by discriminatory policies and practices. Ayoub’s organisation has been receiving calls from members of the Shia Muslim community who are spending their winter breaks on a religious pilgrimage in Iraq and Iran and are concerned about the possibility of harassment and detention upon their return to the United States. 
“When you begin to explicitly target based on national origin and profile based on religion, it is bad precedent and will lead to more harsh programs put in place,” Ayoub told HuffPost. “Nothing about profiling and nothing about these practices makes our country safer.”I do anticipate that this will get worse because of history.Abed Ayoub, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination CommitteeCrystal, a 24-year-old Iranian American medical student, was traveling back to the United States with her brother and her parents after a family vacation in Vancouver when she and her family were detained for more than 11 hours. Like Heidi, the family was forced to hand over passports and asked the same series of intrusive questions about their occupations, political views and travel. 
“What happened was real. They can’t say I wasn’t there for 11 hours on the hard concrete floor. That was real. It happened,” Crystal said on a call to reporters. HuffPost is withholding her last name out of concern for retaliation from the US government. 
While detained, Crystal’s father pleaded for the release of his children, who are American-born citizens, but an official refused. Crystal also missed a connecting flight while sitting in a room with at least 60 other Iranians. 
“I feel betrayed because honestly, I’ve always considered myself an American. In fact, I consider myself more American than Iranian. But I never felt less American than I did [that day],” Crystal said. 
“Even though I was born here, I’m a citizen here, I pay taxes here, I work here, I go to school here, in the end, it didn’t mean anything to them. They neglected my rights,” said Crystal. “It doesn’t even matter if you’re a citizen or not, if you have associations with being Iranian, apparently that’s suspicious.” 
It wasn’t until 1:30 a.m. that Crystal and her family were permitted to reenter the United States, without any formal explanation for their detention. 
Meanwhile, Heidi and her girlfriend were not released until 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. When she received notice that she was free to leave, she could not stop crying ― overwhelmed with exhaustion, relief and anger. She immediately called her mother back in Vancouver and explained what had occurred. 
“I wish you guys had given birth to us any other place other than Iran,” she told her. 
In the aftermath of it all, Heidi could not help but reflect on a Persian proverb: “When there is a fire, wet and dry wood all burn together.” She’s worried about what will come next.
“We left Iran because we couldn’t be free and speak our mind. But now I am afraid to give you my name because of the consequence,” said Heidi. “After this, anything can be expected [from this administration]. Once they take away the rights of one group, the rest of us are not going to be safe.”Related... Ukrainian Plane Was On Fire And Trying To Turn Back When It Crashed, Investigators Say Donald Trump Urges UK To Abandon Iran Nuclear Deal In Aftermath Of Missile Strikes US And Iran Relations Have Been Tense For Decades. Here’s Why
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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