Yassin Aref

Yassin Aref is a Kurd from Iraq. He was a resident of Albany, New York. He was unfairly accused of supporting terrorists and sent to a special prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. The purpose of this site is to tell you who Yassin Aref really is and his interesting story; his struggle as a Kurd in Iraq, how he survived the Anfal genocide, his struggle for freedom, his journey to America with his family; and above all, how he ended up in prison. To learn of his story and about the Kurdish struggle for rights and liberty, Yassin wrote for you his life’s story, Son of Mountains.

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Read more about unjustly prosecuted Muslims at Project SALAM
Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims

Rounded Up Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11A new book about the Aref-Hossain “sting” case in Albany, New York has just been published.

Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11, by Dr. Shamshad Ahmad, president of the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany and the 2007 recipient of the Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award from Citizen Action of the Capital District, is now available nationwide. Rounded Up is the only comprehensive account of the Albany case available, and there is only one other book on the market about a domestic terrorism case itself. Rounded Up is an important contribution to the new body of literature about the government’s preemptive prosecution of Muslims in America. To order and to read more about the book, clickhere.


For information go to: www.yassinaref.com 

Below are some of Yassin’s Writings-

Pain and Me

The first time I met pain
it was in the womb of my mother
since then we are like twins
who have come to life together.

It’s a mystery
why pain enjoys my company
despite what may I say or do
pain has patience and will not leave me!

Continue reading Pain and Me05/19/2013

Turn Your Face

Look at me
I am not surprised at all
I know why
you are avoiding me,
not writing any letters,
not even answering my calls––
because you don’t want me
to stop writing poetry!
you don’t ever like to see
your love’s fire in my chest
cool off, ending my energy.

I know why you are silent––
because there is no way,
there are no words
to explain
your feeling and
your heart’s pain.

Continue reading Turn Your Face05/13/2013


As they say,
when someone dies
you must open a window
to allow his soul to get out
and fly back to the sky

I’m wondering:
if I die in this prison cell
where there is no window,
what will happen to my soul,
how it will fly,
where it will go?

Continue reading Soul03/01/2013

Where Am I From?

Where am I from?

To a vagabond and
stateless person like me
nothing is as hurtful,
nothing is as hard
as the question
“Where are you from?”

Continue reading Where Am I From?01/27/2013

He Is His Father’s Son

I read in the history
what Hulagu* did in Baghdad
I saw the pictures of Belgrade
I know of Hiroshima, Nagasaki
I am aware of Rwanda
I remember Sarajevo
In my beloved country
I saw Anfal and Halabja
I experienced tyranny

But what I see in Syria
is the real hysteria
Here the brutal ruler
(president of the republic!)
who claims to be a reformer
is moving his entire army
from one city to another
to slaughter women and children
genociding his own citizens
blood flooding the floor
smoke covering the sky
the world closing its eye
leaving more innocents to die
women and children crying
where is the superpower?
where is the United Nations?

Continue reading He Is His Father’s Son11/14/2012

My Life’s Tree (with Kurdish translation)

I am like an old tree
every day
some of my leaves fall
every year
more of my branches dry
all of what remains
is my trunk
inclined, unsound
today or tomorrow
when another wind blows
it will be uprooted
from the ground.

Translation into Kurdish by Yassin:

Continue reading My Life’s Tree (with Kurdish translation),11/13/2012

Random Selection

“The food is ready,” she said.

Continue reading Random Selection07/17/2012

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Real Freedom

Never claim you are free
as long as a bit of fear
remains in your heart

Never claim you are free
as long as you remember your enemy
and what he has done in the past

Continue reading Real Freedom06/15/2012

Open Letter to Sazan Mandalawi

NOTE: Sazan Mandalawi was a columnist for the English-language Kurdish Globe newspaper (based in Erbil, Iraq). In April she announced that she was leaving her job as columnist to study at a university in the UK for an advanced degree. In Kurdistan, she discovered Yassin’s book, Son of Mountains, and began to send back issues of Kurdish Globe to one of his supporters, to send to him. This letter responds to the news of Sazan saying goodbye to her readers in her last column.

Continue reading Open Letter to Sazan Mandalawi05/09/2012

I Am Not That

Continue reading I Am Not That02/17/2012

Open Letter to Occupy4Prisoners

Dear Friends,
Maybe some people confused by the mainstream media do not understand what you are standing for and why you are here! A few billionaires who do not know what it means to be hungry because they’ve never missed a meal, or some millionaires who’ve never experienced a cold night, never faced any threat, or were never forced to leave their houses for not being able to pay their mortgages, may not understand what you are asking for and why you are here. But I would like to assure you that:

Continue reading Open Letter to Occupy4Prisoners,02/14/2012

Surviving by Faith

the sky was red
the earth was dark
we were surrounded by danger
we saw death
people living in fear

I survived by my faith.

Continue reading Surviving by Faith02/13/2012


What privileges are better than being human and born healthy? For parents, what joy is equal to the joy of having children? What feeling is stronger then the human feeling of having a successor who can inherit? Yet poverty and an unstable situation force many people to stay single and many couples to avoid having children. Kurds––as a nation, despite their horrible situation and uncertain future––have always liked children and want to have as many children as they can. When Kurds would learn that their sons were killed in an army attack or were disappeared by security forces, I heard from many people that their response was to proudly read the Kurdish proverb, BARKHI NER BO SARBRINA, which means, “The lamb is for sacrifice, to be slaughtered.” It was never a surprise that our youths died and disappeared; the amazing miracle for them was to survive.

Continue reading Birthday06/24/2011

I Don’t Wear a Mask

I am not a president
to revoke my words by action
to ignore my morality
for the sake of re-election
nor am I a king
to sell my entire nation
in palaces with a bondswoman
for the sake of a luxurious life

I am not a diplomat
to shake dictators’ hands
respectfully with a smile
or share wine with warlords
despite their heinous crimes

Continue reading I Don’t Wear a Mask03/16/2011

We Have Nothing To Lose

What is he scared of,
the one who has no life?

What is he scared of,
the one who grew up under an embargo,
the one who has just come back from combat,
the one who has spent years in prison,
the one who experienced exile?

Continue reading We Have Nothing To Lose02/08/2011

There Are Not Other People

Continue reading There Are Not Other People12/28/2010

New Year’s letter, 2010

Dear Friends,

Continue reading New Year’s letter, 201012/28/2010

Spitting Against the Wind (Tif ba rui bada aka)

Human life has developed for thousands of years. Many things have changed: the growth of societies, forms of government, ideologies, and science and technology provide experiences beyond the dreams of our ancestors. Yet our basic needs and main worries remain the same, because people across the globe have all shared similar experiences. Whoever studies cultures and the histories of nations will find many similarities, especially in philosophy, wisdom, and proverbs.

Continue reading Spitting Against the Wind (Tif ba rui bada aka)10/26/2010


I am never alone
You are in my heart and mind
Wherever I go
you are always with me.

Your picture
is engraved in my heart
Despite my situation, your face
never leaves my imagination.

Continue reading Habibakam10/06/2010

It’s Still a Goat Even if It Flies (BSHFRE HAR BZNA)

Aram is a famous businessman whose name is an example of success. His honesty and trustworthiness are on everybody’s tongue. People usually come to him for all sorts of assistance and advice, and he always makes himself available to them.

Continue reading It’s Still a Goat Even if It Flies (BSHFRE HAR BZNA) 10/06/2010

Welcome Democracy Now! Listeners

Read “Dead Life in a Political Prison” as mentioned in the broadcast

Read about Dr. Rafil Dhafir, the Muslim Solidarity
 and more information about theCMU-
“Little Guantanamo”
 on the Links page here

Read more about the CMU Prisons

“Little Guantanamo”–Secretive ‘CMU’ Prisons Designed to Restrict Communication of
Jailed Muslims and Activists With Outside World

Broadcast on Democracy Now! April 17, 2009

Photos sent by Arif Gull, a friend of Yassin’s of
Hashazini and Kurdistan.

by Yassin Aref

This is me
Wherever I am
I carry a pen in my pocket
and book in my hand
Tons of new ideas are in my mind
My heart full of love and caring
Looking forward hopefully
For justice, peace and a better life
For us all and the coming generation.
Searching for an answer to the question
“What exactly does it mean
that we are human beings?”

Quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller

In Germany they first came for the Communists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then the came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

from Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations


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