I'm Still Here | Center for Victims of Torture

I'm Still Here

Freedom from torture is among the most fundamental human rights. It is categorically prohibited under both domestic and international law. There is no exception – ever.

And yet, every year thousands of people come to the Center for Victims of Torture for care after fleeing their homes to escape torture and persecution. Many have crossed borders into other countries, escaping across rivers, seas and oceans. Survivors often tell us the journey to find safety was as perilous as the danger and violence they experienced back home.

Torture takes many forms and can be both physical and psychological. Survivors come from many countries and have diverse backgrounds and stories. Survivors are activists, doctors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and many others. All ages and all genders are impacted. It surprises some people to learn that 69 percent of CVT’s international clients are women and girls.

Haben had to cross a flooded river, where a shoot-to-kill order was in place to keep people from escaping Eritrea to the refugee camps in Ethiopia. She knew she would not be able to bring all her children with her on such a dangerous journey and had to leave some behind.

Dina was only 16 when she and another girl fled the militia that abducted and held them, both girls pregnant. Dina’s friend died in childbirth before they could make it to Kenya.

Jana was a 10-year old Syrian girl when she was abducted and thrown into prison to get her father to turn himself in.

Our work includes promoting understanding about the impacts of torture. How it breaks a person’s spirit. How it works to control and silence communities. At the same time, we want to show that healing, and change, are possible.

Clients tell us their stories. They tell us about their feelings and their fears, but also about the hope they have for themselves and their families. The hope they have for their countries. The short film “Still Here” depicts the journey from trauma toward healing – the struggle to recover from the unimaginable and begin to rebuild a life.

While torture is a difficult subject, healing is possible. Justice is possible.

CVT has extended multidisciplinary rehabilitative care to tens of thousands of survivors of torture, and to many thousands more whom their torture impacts, such as family members, friends and community members. As a community, healing and peace only become possible when we connect, listen and support one another.

CVT also works to end torture. That work includes addressing torture committed by the United States, in particular torture perpetrated by the CIA and U.S. military following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Men who remain detained at the Guantánamo detention facility, among others, have made extensive reports of torture – including waterboarding and other forms of water torture – at the hands of the CIA. Detainees still behind bars in Guantánamo have been held without charge or fair trial, perpetuating the harm and trauma they endured at the hands of U.S. government personnel. We are at the forefront of efforts to close Guantánamo, to combat secrecy around U.S. torture, and to secure proper care and rehabilitation for its victims.

Our work also includes advocating for lawful, just and humane protection systems for refugees and those seeking asylum in the United States – populations among which, according to CVT’s research, the torture prevalence rate is as high as 44 percent. Relatedly, we seek to end immigration detention in the United States; a system that systematically exposes non-citizens to violations of the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

What can you do to help?


Read more from partner organizations and the CVT Policy team:

  • Download a one-page summary of the film here.
  • Yumna Rizvi, policy analyst, traveled to Guantánamo prison to observe a hearing and wrote about her experience for Inkstick Media.
  • Scott Roehm, Washington director, wrote this op ed article for Law Fare Blog about the United States’ failure to condemn the use of torture-derived evidence in connection with detainees.
  • Scott Roehm observed a hearing at Guantánamo prison and wrote this op ed article for Just Security.
  • On September 11, 2021, Yumna Rizvi wrote this article for Inkstick Media about the experiences of Muslim Americans after the attacks of 9/11.
  • CVT published this backgrounder illustrating how the dehumanizing and cruel policies and practices in the U.S. immigration detention system lead to violations of the Convention against Torture.
  • CVT published this report on creating a trauma-informed asylum system in the United States.
  • CVT worked with Physicians for Human Rights and published this report, "Deprivation and Despair: The Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo."
  • Read about the individuals held in Guanatánamo: Faces of Guantánamo (2022), from Center for Constitutional Rights.
  • Read this Issue Page: “Immigration Detention and Alternatives to Detention” from American Immigration Lawyers Association.
  • Read about the toll detention takes: deaths in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at Adult Detention Centers are tracked by American Immigration Lawyers Association.
  • Read this report from Freedom for Immigrants and partners on the system abuse of Black migrants in immigration detention.
  • Read Quarterly Detention Snapshots from Freedom for Immigrants, surfacing abuses in immigration detention.

Making "Still Here."

“Still Here” is a short film that depicts the journey from trauma toward healing. It is inspired by CVT clients – refugee and asylum-seeking survivors of torture from across the globe – and our many years of work seeking accountability for U.S. torture and to close the Guantánamo Bay prison. The film was commissioned by the Center for Victims of Torture in partnership with award-winning filmmaker, Anya Raza, to depict a composite of survivor stories. The common theme: water.

Water is a basic necessity for all human beings. But for many clients who have escaped torture and persecution, it’s a reminder of their trauma. Survivors often tell of the perilous journey crossing rivers, seas and oceans with the hopes of finding safety. Detainees of Guantánamo Bay, a detention camp surrounded by water, have shared stories of its use as a tool of torture, most notoriously in cases of waterboarding. 

While water has a common association with trauma, it also carries the connotation of healing, refreshment and life. For the man in the film, water is a ubiquitous reminder that he is still here. He survived. He even uses water to find healing in his own artistic expression.
Still Here is a creative depiction of the journey from trauma toward healing. This journey is difficult and complex. It often includes overlapping sensations of grief and joy. Ultimately, there is hope. Hope that healing is possible. That survivors can experience rehabilitation. And that we can all work together towards justice.

“Still Here” Credits

Omar: Juan Marcos Montero
Writer: Anya Raza
Director: Anya Raza
Producer: Anya Raza
Co-Producer: Yumna Rizvi 
Line Producer: Elena Kritter 
Dir. of Photography: Fernando Rocha
Editor: Ahmad Samara
Assistant Director: Courtland Sutton
Assistant Camera: David Lotfi
Artist: Nawal Wajed
Gaffer: Bria Granville
Sound: Steve Fixel
Sound Consultant: Denzel Averhart 
Grip: Gaby Sosa
Lifeguards: Jamie Banaticla, Megan Dower




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