A Look Back at Torture Awareness Month

As June ushered in rising temperatures, the month also brought about focus to a unique and controversial topic: torture. June was Torture Awareness Month and in light of this, Chicagoland held major events to advocate and encourage an end to its use in any form and on any governmental level. Amnesty International, the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, hosted a rally on Friday, June 26 at Federal Plaza, which brought together individuals to celebrate recent victories in the fight against torture’s use and created an open space to highlight different narratives of torture, both international and domestic. Here at CAIR-Chicago, we attended the event to show our support for the cause.

Though the United States, as a signatory to the UN’s charter, has committed to abiding by international conventions regarding torture, controversy still exists. The definition calls into question the coercive interrogation methods used by the CIA under the Bush administration and the program’s continuation by President Obama. The issue’s history draws debate largely upon partisan lines with national security often used as justification. However, after the publishing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture earlier this year, the debate has shifted away from political allegiances and forced individuals to reexamine the issue, specifically in our own backyard.

As Fourth of July weekend passed, celebrations invariably forced us to contemplate what it means to be an American, the freedoms which we enjoy, and the collection of truths which we hold to be self-evident. When reflecting on the U.S. narrative, history echoes both tremendous achievements and misguided shortcomings. As President Obama suggested in his recent eulogy for the slain South Carolina State Senator Reverend Clementa Pinckney: “History can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past—how to break the cycle.” Recent Supreme Court rulings remind us that progress is still to be made and often only realized after years of struggle. In light of our country’s celebration, we must remind ourselves that the fight against torture continues and necessitates this struggle if America is to live up to the aspirations set forth for in its founding.