Seventeen-year-old Libyan-Canadian Marwa Salim Alaradi is leading an online crusade to rescue her father from prison. It has been almost one year since Libyan-born Canadian Salim Alaradi was detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for unknown reasons, with no charges or access to a lawyer. He was arrested on August 28 of last year.
The 46-year-old man immigrated with his family to Canada from the UAE in 1998. He lived in Vancouver until 2007, when he decided to return to the Middle East to run a home appliance business with his brother in the UAE.
He was vacationing with his family in the UAE last August when he was called to go down to the hotel reception where he was staying for a quick questioning by security services, and hasn't returned since.
On July 28, Alaradi's detention has been extended for 30 more days for the 11th time since he was arrested on August 28 of last year, according to the website freesalialaradi.com.
On August 7, a coalition of national organizations, including Amnesty International, CODEPINK and Libyan Canadian Community Organization, have called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene.
— Free Salim Alaradi (@freesalimaradi) August 9, 2015
Alaradi is the father of five children. Marwa is the oldest. She is followed by Nur, 15; Mohamed, 13; Rayhana, seven; and Yasmin, four.
His daughter Marwa took the lead in fighting for her father's case and made it her mission to work for his release. She created pages and accounts on all social media platforms to advocate and shed light on Alaradi's story. Marwa tells the story in her own words:
What Happened to Salim?
During their vacation, Alaradi received a call from the hotel reception where he was staying, asking him to go down to the lobby to be questioned regarding a matter. Alaradi did as he was told and was then abruptly taken from the hotel. For two months and 11 days, the family knew nothing about his whereabouts, charges against him, or if he was even alive. They finally received a phone call from him, and then a few other phone calls. In his first phone call Marwa says he just kept saying
“I am OK there is nothing wrong”. Like all calls from prison, it was monitored and Alaradi could not talk much about himself.
“He thought my grandmother had passed away and was very emotional. Somehow he was given that impression,” says Marwa.
About five months later his wife was allowed to visit him, and that is when she noticed a burn mark on his hand. That visit has triggered family concerns that he has been tortured at an Abu Dhabi prison where he's being held with no charges.
Daughter Marwa told Global Voices Online:
Our understanding is that in these illegal detentions the UAE State Security releases people when the marks of torture heal. We know that my father was tortured, however, this leaves us with a very difficult situation as it could mean either he was extremely tortured or they continue to torture him.
Alaradi was among 10 Libyan businessmen who were arrested around the same time, including his brother Mohammed Alaradi, and his business partner. Both his brother and business partner were released in December after having spent four months in prison. The family stayed in the UAE hoping that Alaradi would soon be released, and the case would be resolved. Seven months later with no progress, the family moved in with relatives in Windsor city in Ontario, Canada, where they continue to work for his release from there.
Political Involvement and Link to the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood
According to the official website dedicated to Alaradi, he has no political affiliations and isn't currently active. His political activism did not exceed support for the Libyan revolution against Muammar Al Gaddafi, like millions of others, including the Emirati Royal family, says the website:
The UAE fully supported the revolution and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Abu Dhabi Khairia Charity both supplied medical treatment and humanitarian aid to Libya.
However, his brother Abdelrazag Alaradi has been more involved, and according to Marwa was a member of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, contrary to her father who she says was never involved in politics.
In 2014, the UAE listed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization, and that included al-Islah local group for its alleged link to the MB. It is unclear, however, whether the arrest of Alaradi has anything to do with his brother's affiliation and activity.
Who Is Salim Alaradi?
Kenneth Aquan-Assee puts it simply on Twitter:
— Kenneth Aquan-Assee (@3kenken3) August 11, 2015
Alaradi completed his elementary and secondary school in Libya where he was born. He then continued his undergraduate studies in business and earned a masters degree in business administration. He always had interest in entrepreneurship and started a small business in Vancouver that expanded globally. On the website created by his daughter, Alaradi's ambition is to “develop a Canadian brand while penetrating international markets.”
What's Going on Now?
A father of five gone for about a year has had its toll on his family. Marwa says her mother has been going through difficult times trying to normalize their life as much as she can.
We've told my younger siblings that my father is on a business trip. My brother knew about my father's case recently and he was heart broken he couldn't believe it. My brother Mohammed and my sister Nur are both trying to help me.
Yet his case remains on hold. The Canadian foreign affairs officials told Alaradi's family they are concerned about him and doing everything possible to get him out without really explaining what exactly has been done.
I have no doubt that the UAE State Security are not cooperating. They have kidnapped my father, interrogated and tortured him. They have denied him his basic human rights.
However, Marwa says she has faith in the Emirati royal family, and is sure they would have resolved this had they known about her father's case.
I am sure that if the UAE rulers knew what the State Security is doing they would bring this to an end. Our family lived their many years and we loved the UAE and we could not imagine something like this would happen to us or anyone.
Marwa urges the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene and make a call to the highest levels in the UAE Government and arrange for her father's release. She says she is surprised Canada would allow this to happen when over 40,000 Canadians live in the UAE.
Alaradi was held in a secret prison from August until December of last year. He was then moved in January to a special wing at Whatba Prison in Abu Dhabi.
His family has tried to get lawyers but none have accepted to take on the case mainly because they can't defend him until he is charged, but also because many don't want to risk of getting involved with the national state security.
As for Marwa, she had to learn the tricks of the trade quickly to keep her father's case alive online. She explains:
I wasn’t very active online before this. I have had to learn so much. I am getting help from my relatives. At the beginning, I did some research of other campaigns that were on the internet. I have tried to figure out how they did it and copy them. I also got some tips from the family of another campaign.
I have come a long way in knowing how to write good tweets and making time every day to do it. The same goes for Facebook and the website.