Zeitoun is the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun who is a Syrian immigrant in the United States and a resident of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina strikes.
Zeitoun is a middle age man, who is married to an American Muslim convert and they have three children. Zeitoun has a successful building contracting business in New Orleans and some rental property in New Orleans. He had lived the majority of his life in New Orleans with his family.
Before Hurricane Katrina strikes he sends his family away from New Orleans to stay with family. He remains to look after the rental property and help any of his tenants that may have stayed behind. After the hurricane, he paddles around flooded New Orleans in an old canoe boat that he purchased second hand.
While he is going around New Orleans and helping people in need. He and some of friends are mistaken for looters. He returns to his home to find the National Guard there and they arrest them thinking them to be terrorists. He is shocked when one of the National Guard’s men calls him Al Qaeda.
He is then sent to Camp Greyhound which is a make shift prison and retention center that was constructed at the bus terminal in New Orleans. He describes how he was never allowed to make a phone call, given only meals that contained pork, could not get any rest, etc. He was then sent to the state prison system without being allowed a phone call.
At the same time his wife and his brother in Spain are calling numerous people to get information on Zeitoun’s where about. It is only when an unnamed missionary calls Mrs. Zeitoun that she discovers her husband had been arrested and is in the state prison system believed to be a terrorist.
After numerous interviews with investigators, the Department of Homeland security agrees to let Zeitoun go free. However, the money that was confiscated from him and his friends (thousands of dollars was never returned).
This story is about the chaos that happened during hurricane Katarina and the dangers of racial profiling. While some people might have read about the wrongness of building Camp Greyhound, think about the consequences if Camp Greyhound was not built and crime was not somehow in check? Granted not being allowed a phone call is wrong be any means, but there were many make shift positions in the justice department within the few days of Katrina, that people were unaware of their full responsibilities. For instance the National Guards man that called Zeitoun “Al Qaeda,” this guardsman is not a police officer. His fulltime employment may be that of a cook and he only does National Guard duties on weekends, nothing like the confusion of New Orleans and Katrina.
This is a very good book, which I recommend. It is a little dry at times. But it does display racial profiling and the human aspect and confusion of catastrophes like hurricane Katrina.