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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Hasnain Javed

'They were punching me and kicking me.... Then they started calling me names, names like terrorist.'

September 11, 2002

Afraid to fly, Hasnain Javed was taking the bus from Houston to New York when he was arrested at the station in Mobile, Ala., on the morning of Sept. 19. His student visa had expired, and he became one of more than 1,200 foreign nationals rounded up as Sept. 11 detainees. In April, he was deported to Pakistan. Now 21, he lives in Karachi.

*

"I was living in New York. Brooklyn. Man, I love that town. I still miss Coney Island and Brighton Beach, still miss the city, hanging out and going out and having fun.

But I was at the bus station and it was about to leave and I was stopped with these other guys. I had overstayed. I had been in the U.S. three years but only supposed to stay six months. I did high school in New York and then started college. I always thought there was a way to settle down and fix my status. And who knew this tragedy was going to happen?

They took me to the immigration office there. I called my aunt [in Houston] and she told me, 'OK.' She was on her way and she had a lawyer and she had my bond money of $5,000, and we could have a hearing and decide what to do. She said, 'Don't worry about it.'

Then suddenly they changed their mind. The officers said they were going to take me to a Mississippi jail and I would stay there. They had a bunch of Mexicans with us, and they took us the next morning. Now I was worried. They locked us up in there. We were registered and we were told the INS would be there the next morning to pick us up.

They divided us into groups to go to different dormitories. I was the only Pakistani out of everybody. Then we were put in the dorm, and as soon as I got in there, I was given strange looks by the guys already in there. They were white and black people both. They were hard-core people, not detainees.

They started looking at me in a strange manner. I had to make a phone call, a collect call, and I did to my aunt's house to tell her what was going on. As soon as I got off the phone, a guy walked up to me and said, 'You better get your ass out of here.' I was scared, very scared. Everybody in there were huge people. I only weigh 150 pounds. I'm 5-8 and those people were over 220 pounds.

They started saying stuff. They were going to tell the authorities that I was saying things about the U.S. That's why they were beating me up. They slammed me in the face and chipped off my tooth. I started crying and later on another guy came in and two people started beating me up.

The dormitory was huge. They were punching me and kicking me and punching me in the face. My left ear, I can't even hear completely now. I had bruises all over my head and face.

Then they started calling me names, names like terrorist or something like that. And I told them, 'Why why why? I had nothing to do with this.' They said, 'You're Pakistani.' They called me different terrorist names. They said, 'This is the first round. There will be 10 rounds.'

Later in bed, I was pulled off the bed and they tried to take my clothes off and they told me to run and I was stripped naked. There were three guys now, and they pinned my head to the ground and they slapped me on the back. They were beating me and I was crying and shouting.

Then I looked and I found four officers standing right there. The guys beating me stopped and I ran to the officers. I told them, 'They were going to kill me! Get me out of here!'

My aunt brought me home. She's the best. She took me back to Pakistan too, and we had to stop in New York. I was scared being there. Man, it scared the hell out of me. I've never been scared so much. I was nervous that they might do something else to me.

My life now, I'm like bored here. There's nothing to do in Pakistan. I can apply for a U.S. visa, but I know they won't give it to me. Life's been screwed up for me.

I've been planning to go to college, maybe in Cyprus or somewhere. I still want to study computer information systems.

But, of course, it was something bad that happened to me, a very bad experience to go through. Now I read in the papers there's been other people that have been mistreated even worse than me. I thank God I'm out of it.

The injuries are fine, but the emotional injuries are going to last for the rest of my life. Are things better now? Or are people still being arrested by the FBI and the INS? Are people still leaving?

I still miss the U.S. I really do. I miss the whole place. The whole year went by so fast, it's unimaginable. How's the weather in L.A.?"

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As told to Richard A. Serrano

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