A January 2018 article in the Toronto Star titled, “A broken system is harming those with mental illness,” detailed Soleiman Faqiri’s last moments in a Lindsay, Ontario prison before he died. Faqiri died in a solitary confinement cell, before which officers were involved in handling him and holding him down with leg irons, according to the coroner’s report. Soleiman Faqiri died on December 15th, 2017 in Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. The coroner’s report stated that he had 50 bruises on his body, a lot of them a result of blunt impact trauma.
With 20-30 guards involved in his death, both of Faqiri’s hands and legs were tied, he was pepper sprayed twice, and had a spit hood on his body. Soleiman Faqiri was also diagnosed with schizophrenia 11 years before his death and was waiting to be transferred to the Ontario Short Centre for Mental health but he “never made it there,” said Yusuf Faqiri, his brother. His family tried visiting him four times in the eleven days Soli was in custody.
As part of this year’s Islam Awareness Week theme, Virtues of Justice, the UTM Muslim Students’ Association in collaboration with the Afghan Students’ Association at UTM hosted Yusuf Faqiri, who is behind the #JusticeForSoli campaign, along with community leaders Ibrahim Hindi and Rabia Khedr to discuss the intersections of race, Islamophobia, and mental health.
After the event, The Medium sat down with Yusuf Faqiri to learn more about the campaign and where it is headed. “It has been nearly 15 months since Soli’s death yet the answers remain just as obscure as they did the days after he died,” said Faqiri. His family’s search for closure seems to be nowhere in sight. The Kawartha Lakes Police Service [KLPS] determined that “No grounds exist to process criminal charges against anyone who was involved with Mr. Faqiri prior to his death.” They still haven’t been given a rationale for the decision.
During the event, Faqiri talked about “The lack of accountability and are seeking answers as to why charges haven’t been pressed against the guards who took Soli’s life.” Accountability has been the focus of the #JusticeForSoli campaign. “Anyone who lives in this province and is following this story, needs to be concerned,” He emphasized. “He needed a bed and a doctor, instead he got fists and handcuffs.”
As Yusuf Faqiri emphasized, this happened to Faqiri’s family and if those who committed the crime are not held accountable, it’s hard to say it won’t happen again, “We need to build awareness because this can’t happen again.” When asked about what the campaign aims to achieve in the long-term, Faqiri said, “We want change in the prison system when it comes to treatment of mental illness—we don’t want another Soleiman.” According to the Speaking Tour’s discussion, people with mental illnesses require to be in facilities that cater to their illness and offer therapy and support, which did not happen in Soleiman’s case.
“The police, by not pressing chargers, are effectively saying that it’s okay to do this to someone,” Faqiri commented. The internal investigation is still ongoing, but there seems to be no progress or updates given to the family.
Faqiri and his family, as he said, will not stop fighting for accountability and will continue to speak out about this. He stated: “Thankfully, more people are talking about this and we’re going to continue the pursuit. Real change happens from the ground up.”
More information can be found on the campaign’s facebook page.