Militant Journalism

Justice4Siham campaign: ‘One Year Too Long’ demonstration

On November 7, the Justice4Siham Campaign organized a demonstration to commemorate one year since Siham Byah was detained during
her annual ICE check-in and ripped apart from her son Naseem. The Campaign marched to demand the immediate reunification of Siham and Naseem and for the complete abolition of ICE. Fifteen organizations endorsed the action, including Cosecha Massachusetts, Jewish Voices for Peace Boston, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, the Boston chapter of Jericho Movement, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

History of Byah’s struggle

Siham Byah, Moroccan-born activist, single mother and asylum seeker, was detained on November 7, 2017, at which time her then 8-year-old son, Naseem, was taken into Department of Children and Families custody. She was held for two months and later deported in 2017 with nothing but the clothes on her back and no word if she would ever see her child again.

Throughout the past year, Byah advocated tirelessly to get Naseem back, going above and beyond to complete a home study coordinated through International Social Services and provide DCF with all required documents more than once. November 7 marked a full year since Naseem was able to hug his mother, to crawl into bed with her, to retain any sense of normalcy.

After a year of fighting every single day to get her son back, Byah and the Justice4Siham Campaign were devastated to find out that DCF met and gave their final recommendation to place Naseem with his biological father until his 18th birthday. This recommendation is based on
unsubstantiated claims, and it is now clear that DCF had no intention of returning Naseem to his mother.

Community members march to demand Justice For Siham, Naseem and all immigrants

The demonstration began near Villa Victoria in Boston’s South End, a location chosen specifically for its relationship to the Puerto Rican community struggle against colonialism and gentrification. Marta Rodriguez, a long time activist and organizer connected the struggle against colonialism in Puerto Rico to Byah’s struggle, stating that “Puerto Ricans and Moroccans have something in common, and that is U.S. dominance over our countries.”

After Rodriguez’s speech, Siham Byah spoke through a voice call direct from Morocco, asserting that: “what bothered [the State] was not so much the color of my skin, but the way I used my voice. I have used my voice for the 20 years I’ve been in the United States. I went out there and spoke about every marginalized section of my community and they prey on those of us with the loudest voices.”

Reflecting on the day that she was detained, she stated that “it was supposed to be a normal day for me and my child. But the cowards entrapped me, ambushed me, shackled me, and took me away without letting me even say goodbye to my child.”

However, Byah’s fight remained steadfast; in her final words she exclaimed “I am not going to sit here and wait for anyone to give me the opportunity to be with my child. I am going to take that opportunity. I am not going to sit here and feel helpless. No one has ever been handed over their rights just because they are nice. You only get your rights back when you fight for them and that’s exactly what I intend to do!”

From Villa Victoria, the group took to the streets. Participants chanted, “Up, up with liberation; down, down with deportations!” and “El Pueblo Unido, jamas sera vencido!” Demonstrators also held signs that read “DCF Reverse Your Decision Reunite Siham and Naseem.”

The energy of the group was palpable. Passerbys were met with organizers handing out flyers, and a few people even joined the march. Once the group reached Peter’s Park, Anaís Azul—a Peruvian-born Boston-based musician—blessed the crowd with songs about resistance and perseverance in the face of adversity. Organizers chose Peter’s Park because it is located right around the corner from where Terrence Coleman was gunned down by Boston Police in 2016 and the Campaign wanted to highlight different ways the state takes children away from their mothers.

Several more organizers and community leaders spoke at Peter’s Park. All of them made connections between Siham and Naseem’s struggle to the broader struggle for immigrants rights and against imperialism. Doris Reina-Landaverde, a custodian at Harvard University and organizer with the Harvard TPS Coalition spoke to why she organizes to save TPS. She made it clear that the reason she was speaking out is because she knows that there are so many TPS recipients who live in fear: “I know it’s hard but I know that I have the community on my side…and it’s hard when I get up at 6:30 to go to work, come here, and don’t get a chance to see my kids all day. But I do that because I want to be with my kids all my life.”

The MC of the demonstration, JD, ended the evening by inviting everyone to the Justice4Siham Campaign’s next meeting on Wednesday, November 14 at the Jobs with Justice office in Jamaica Plain. He also re-read the Campaign’s updated demands which reflect DCF’s recommendation to keep Siham and Naseem separated. These include the demand that DCF release a statement providing reasons for their recommendation and the evidence behind their claims; that DCF reverse their recommendation to place Naseem with his biological
father until his eighteenth birthday; that DCF get Naseem a passport for immediate reunification with his mother and that DCF provide consistent therapy/support for Naseem and follow up with him at least once a week.

After the demonstration Liberation News talked with Al Disher, an organizer with the Justice4Siham Campaign to ask what the Campaign is planning to do next. Disher said: “Now we need to take the fight to DCF. For a while, we weren’t putting pressure on them because we thought they were on Siham’s side. Their recent recommendation shows their real intentions and now we need to put everything we have into pressuring DCF to reverse their decision and reunite Siham and Naseem immediately.

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