art of resistance, Guantanamo

Happy Birthday, GTMO: Guantánamo Diary.

This year I still didn’t write anything about GTMO and it’s birthday (January 11th), so this is my version of congratulations card. The book Guantánamo Diary is written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, still imprisoned Guantánamo detainee. It is the first ever public account written by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo detainee. Slahi has been in Guantánamo for twelve years, although United States has never charged him with a crime. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010, but he remains in custody.

tumblr_mm2p9g7CcA1qedj2ho1_1280/Guantánamo Diary, photo via The FJP/

Three years into his captivity Slahi began a diary, recounting his life before he disappeared into U.S. custody, “his endless world tour” of imprisonment and interrogation, and his daily life as a Guantánamo prisoner. The following is an excerpt from Slahi’s diary.

Jordan–Afghanistan–GITMO
July 2002– February 2003

The American Team Takes Over … Arrival at Bagram … Bagram to GTMOGTMO, the New Home … One Day in Paradise, the Next in Hell

July __, 2002, 10 p.m.

The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied. I felt alone in the hearse truck. The waiting didn’t last: I felt the presence of new people, a silent team. I don’t remember a single word during the whole rendition to follow.

A person was undoing the chains on my wrists. He undid the first hand, and another guy grabbed that hand and bent it while a third person was putting on the new, firmer and heavier shackles. Now my hands were shackled in front of me.

Somebody started to rip my clothes with something like a scissors. I was like, What the heck is going on? I started to worry about the trip I neither wanted nor initiated. Somebody else was deciding everything for me; I had all the worries in the world but making a decision. Many thoughts went quickly through my head. The optimistic thoughts suggested, ‘Maybe you’re in the hands of Americans, but don’t worry, they just want to take you home, and to make sure that everything goes in secrecy.’ The pessimistic ones went, ‘You screwed up! The Americans managed to pin some shit on you, and they’re taking you to U.S. prisons for the rest of your life.’

I was stripped naked. It was humiliating, but the blindfold helped me miss the nasty look of my naked body. During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum! and I was mumbling it all the time. Whenever I came to be in a similar situation, I would forget all my prayers except the crisis prayer, which I learned from life of our Prophet, Peace be upon him.

One of the team wrapped a diaper around my private parts. Only then was I dead sure that the plane was heading to the U.S. Now I started to convince myself that “every thing’s gonna be alright.” My only worry was about my family seeing me on TV in such a degrading situation. I was so skinny. I’ve been always, but never that skinny: my street clothes had become so loose that I looked like a small cat in a big bag.

When the U.S. team finished putting me in the clothes they tailored for me, a guy removed my blindfold for a moment. I couldn’t see much because he directed the flashlight into my eyes. He was wrapped from hair to toe in a black uniform. He opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out, gesturing for me to do the same, a kind of AHH test which I took without resistance. I saw part of his very pale, blond-haired arm, which cemented my theory of being in Uncle Sam’s hands.

The blindfold was pushed down. The whole time I was listening to loud plane engines; I very much believe that some planes were landing and others taking off. I felt my “special” plane approaching, or the truck approaching the plane, I don’t recall anymore. But I do recall that when the escort grabbed me from the truck, there was no space between the truck and the airplane stairs. I was so exhausted, sick, and tired that I couldn’t walk, which compelled the escort to pull me up the steps like a dead body.

Inside the plane it was very cold. I was laid on a sofa and the guards shackled me, mostly likely to the floor. I felt a blanket put over me; though very thin, it comforted me.

I relaxed and gave myself to my dreams. I was thinking about different members of my family I would never see again. How sad would they be! I was crying silently and without tears; for some reason, I gave all my tears at the beginning of the expedition, which was like the boundary between death and life. I wished I were better to people. I wished I were better to my family. I regretted every mistake I made in my life, toward God, toward my family, toward anybody!

I was thinking about life in an American prison. I was thinking about documentaries I had seen about their prisons, and the harshness with which they treat their prisoners. I wished I were blind or had some kind of handicap, so they would put me in isolation and give me some kind of humane treatment and protection. I was thinking, What will the first hearing with the judge be like? Do I have a chance to get due process in a country so full of hatred against Muslims? Am I really already convicted, even before I get the chance to defend myself ?

I drowned in these painful dreams in the warmth of the blanket. Every once in a while the pain of the urine urge pinched me. The diaper didn’t work with me: I could not convince my brain to give the signal to my bladder. The harder I tried, the firmer my brain became. The guard beside me kept pouring water bottle caps in my mouth, which worsened my situation. There was no refusing it, either you swallow or you choke. Lying on one side was killing me beyond belief, but every attempt to change my position ended in failure, for a strong hand pushed me back to the same position.

I could tell that the plane was a big jet, which led me to believe that flight was direct to the U.S. But after about five hours, the plane started to lose altitude and smoothly hit the runway. I realized the U.S. is a little bit farther than that. Where are we? In Ramstein, Germany? Yes! Ramstein it is: in Ramstein there’s a U.S. military airport for transiting planes from the Middle East; we’re going to stop here for fuel. But as soon as the plane landed, the guards started to change my metal chains for plastic ones that cut my ankles painfully on the short walk to a helicopter. One of the guards, while pulling me out of the plane, tapped me on the shoulder as if to say, “you’re gonna be alright.” As in agony as I was, that gesture gave me hope that there were still some human beings among the people who were dealing with me.

When the sun hit me, the question popped up again: Where am I? Yes, Germany it is: it was July and the sun rises early. But why Germany? I had done no crimes in Germany! What shit did they pull on me? And yet the German legal system was by far a better choice for me; I know the procedures and speak the language. Moreover, the German system is somewhat transparent, and there are no two and three hundred years sentences. I had little to worry about: a German judge will face me and show me whatever the government has brought against me, and then I’m going to be sent to a temporary jail until my case is decided. I won’t be subject to torture, and I won’t have to see the evil faces of interrogators.

After about ten minutes the helicopter landed and I was taken into a truck, with a guard on either side. The chauffeur and his neighbor were talking in a language I had never heard before. I thought, What the heck are they speaking, maybe Filipino? I thought of the Philippines because I’m aware of the huge U.S. military presence there. Oh, yes, Philippines it is: they conspired with the U.S. and pulled some shit on me. What would the questions of their judge be? By now, though, I just wanted to arrive and take a pee, and after that they can do whatever they please. Please let me arrive! I thought; After that you may kill me!

The guards pulled me out of the truck after a five-minute drive, and it felt as if they put me in a hall. They forced me to kneel and bend my head down: I should remain in that position until they grabbed me. They yelled, “Do not move.” Before worrying about anything else, I took my most remarkable urine since I was born. It was such a relief; I felt I was released and sent back home. All of a sudden my worries faded away, and I smiled inside. Nobody noticed what I did.

Read the book Guantánamo Diary, for it is a rare window into the turture, pain, anxiety, and enormous injustice that shapes the lives of the detainees. Like Slahi, most of them spent numerous years of their lives in prison, with no charges against them. With that reality pressing him, Slahi still remains an optimist, a remarkable spirit caught in dreadful circumstances. Still, he survives, he lives, he writes. It’s upon us to atleast read what he has to say. The book is dedicated to his mother Maryem Mint El Wadia, who died while he was imprisoned.

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Guantanamo, Yemen

Waiting for Guantanamo (Yemen).

Alex Potter is a photographer from the Midwest living in the Middle East. She began her career in Minnesota, and is currently based in Yemen. After growing restless with her nursing job, she picked up to document post-revolution Yemen.

One of her projects, Waiting for Guantanamo, first caught my attention.

Artist statement:

On January 11, 2002, the first detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay Prison. 

In eleven years since Guantanamo opened, the prison and detention camp has risen in infamy as a fighting point between politicians and an obvious human rights violation to the general public. Seven hundred and seventy-nine prisoners have passed through its doors in Guantanamo’s eleven year history; 572 have thus far been released.

However, out of all the prisoners released, the most overlooked have been the Yemenis. Of the 164 men remaining in Guantanamo, 88 are Yemenis. Thirty-six have been cleared for release by President Obamas Guantanamo Task Force and many by the Bush administration as far back as 2004. Dozens more are waiting in “conditional detention” limbo.
Though closure of the prison may be on the horizon, no one is looking forward to it more than the families of the Yemenis themselves. Mothers and fathers have little to no communications with their sons, who have transformed from teenagers to men who could have families of their own. 

Besides the occasional monitored phone call or edited letter, most families have no communication with their sons, much less authorities, the government, or an advocate.
While Washington drags it’s feet, families are waiting. Not to see a smaller number on the list of Guantanamo prisoners, but to see their sons to return home once again. These are their stories.

11Auwda, daughter of Abdurahman al Shubati. Only twelve years old and born during his detention in Guantanamo, her name in Arabic means “come back.” Sana’a, Yemen

12A Guantanamo-issued photo of Suleiman Othman Bin Al Nahdi, held in the hands of his sister. Mukalla, Yemen

14Salem Said al Asani, father of Fahmi Salem Said Al Asani. Fahmi Salem Said Al Asani has been held in Guantanamo since 2002 without a trial. He has been cleared for release by former President Bush in 2006 and 2007, as well as President Obama’s Guantanamo Task Force in 2009. Fahmi had his Habeus Corpus petition denied in 2010. Mukalla, Yemen

15A letter from Fahmi Salem Said al Asani to his family. The letter was sent from Guantanamo on 9 August, 2011, and brought to the family by the ICRC. The letter reads ” In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful. To my father, my mother, and my loved ones. Peace be upon you, and God’s mercy and blessings. Blessed Ramadan and happy Eid. Best wishes for each new year. May God accept from me and you our prayer and work. From you son who misses his mother. Mukalla, Yemen

16Father of Samir Naji Hassan Muqbil. Samir has been held in Guantanamo since 2002 without a trial. He is still held in conditional detention, meaning he is cleared for release as long as the situation in Yemen is considered stable. Taiz, Yemen

18A photo of Samir Naji Hassan Muqbil before his detention in Guantanamo, held in the hands of his mother. Taiz, Yemen

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/all photos © Alex Potter/

For more on Potter and her work, visit her official website.

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Guantanamo, Syria

U.K.: Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Beg Remanded in Custody on Syria Terrorism Claims

Moazzam Beg, a former Guantánamo Bay prisoner who spent three years in U.S. custody without charge or trial has been ordered to remain in detention in Britain following his arrest on terrorism charges related to the conflict in Syria. Moazzam Begg appeared in a London court Saturday while hundreds of supporters rallied in his home city of Birmingham. Begg, who heads the prisoner advocacy group Cage, says he has been “harassed” by authorities for investigating British complicity in torture.

Over the past couple of years, Moazzam gave couple of interviews to Democracy Now. In one of them, he said:

 Because the direct threat that we hear about all of this war on terror is that we are fighting the ideology. We imprison people in a preemptive way to stop them from committing acts of terror. Then what about Timothy McVeigh’s associates and the people in America, through all of the militias and the armed groups and so forth, that continue to plague the United States of America by carrying weapons openly and indiscriminately shooting people? Surely that is an aspect of terrorism.

But because it’s homegrown, it was argued to me by many interrogators, this is something that we can deal with. What we can’t deal with is something that’s from outside of the state, and we have to deal with it in a military response and launch the war on terror.

But, of course, terrorism is a crime. You don’t launch wars on crime, you crack crime, you solve crime. And to say that somehow the military is going to be able to — is now a crime fighter, removes the ability or the understanding of people, what people have, of what crime is supposed to be about.

Watch the full interview here.

We’ll see how the story will continue, keep you updated.

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Guantanamo

12 years of Guantanamo: statements from ex-detainees and detainee families

Author: Cageprisoners

Former-detainees and detainee families issue statements 12 years after the camp was founded.

It is now 12 years since the blight on humanity that is Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established. Today 155 men continue to be detained within its barbed wire walls with 76 cleared for release. Among them is Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held there.

The camp’s creators still stake claim to the moral high ground and continue to spew forth empty rhetoric. The transfer last month of three ethnic Uyghur men from the camp was hailed as a ‘milestone’, while President Obama is not even close to fulfilling his election promise of closing down the camp.

But as the US continues to detain and torture innocent men, it is they who have suffered the most: they have taken their own values hostage and have mutilated their own laws beyond all recognition.

When we one day we look back at these bleak years it will be remembered how an empire lost its way because it failed to live up to its own standards, and how many of the men whose words are included below survived the full weight of an empire on their shoulders.

 

Colonel Talal al-Zahrani, father of Yassir al-Zahrani former Guantanamo prisoner from Saudi Arabia who died in Guantanamo in 2006:

“Twelve years on since the establishment of Guantanamo I say to the U.S. administration is not the pain sucked from the blood of the prisoners and from their sufferings enough, what kind of humans are you?”

Ali al-Darbi, brother of Ahmed al-Darbi, current Saudi Guantanamo prisoner:

“12 years gone but still my brother there. His children have grown up but did not have the chance to feel their father. His father passed away with the sorrow for his son. Our mother had a stroke but still has the hope to see her son one day before she dies and we hold her standing with the same hope.”

Murad Benchellali, French former Guantanamo prisoner (held 2002-2004):

“What went on in Abu Ghraib, and what was (and is) going on at Guantanamo, was no accident: it was a system. The goal of this system is to weaken the detainees, to bring them to the end of their mental and emotional tether, while keeping them alive at all costs. ―No blood, no foul, I read, was written on the walls of Abu Ghraib!”

Ahmed Errachidi, Moroccan former Guantanamo prisoner (held 2002-2007):

“There is no suitable expression to describe 12 years in Guantanamo but at least I can tell you that it has been 12 years of human rights violations and the dismantling of the rule of law by two US presidents who always claim that they are the true custodians and the promoters of human rights.”

Omar Deghayes, British Libyan former Guantanamo prisoner (held 2002-2007)

Another year makes twelve, one year after another and the world watches in silence as innocent souls suffer and fall one by one. They choose to turn a blind eye to their suffering and very few remember them once in a while.

We will never cease to call for justice and nothing will silence our voices. Having suffered for years myself in these infamous dungeons of torment, my heart pours out for the detainees and their families and unto them I pass my message, tomorrow will be better and with hardship comes ease.

Moazzam Begg, British former Guantanamo prisoner (2002-2005):

“Last year one of the prisoners learned about the death of his 16-year old son in a car accident. The last time he saw him was 12 years ago when he was three years old. How much more ‘justice’ is Guantanamo going to inflict before someone in power says, “enough!”

The men at Guantanamo have served the equivalent of a life sentence, though they haven’t even been charged or faced a jury of their peers. 155 men held by the world’s most powerful nation and largely forgotten by the rest. Fathers and mothers have died waiting for their sons locked in the limbo of Guantanamo, wives wait as living widows while sons and daughters have been orphaned in all but name.

CAGE has been campaigning against the unjust detention of Guantanamo detainees for over ten years and was the first organisation to compile a comprehensive and authoritative list of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. It is the only campaign group to have former detainees among its staff. CAGE continues to call for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and for the end of the global War on Terror.

 

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