There are currently around 80 detainees currently being held at Guantánamo Bay detention base in Cuba under US jurisdiction – a place of torture, isolation and humiliation for those held within its walls. Whilst, without a doubt, criminals should pay the price for their crimes, many detainees at Guantánamo protest their innocence and whether guilty or not; many are never tried and never charged. They are simply left to rot. Since 9/11, 779 people have been detained at this base, yet 674 of those were later released without charge (Human Rights Watch, 2016 – see chart below). “Innocent until proven guilty” we say. All the more in this case – present your charges, your evidence and take them to trial – do not let them just sit and wait. Men, separated from their families, protest their innocence and are simply left to wither away; tortured, starved, humiliated and denied their rights…
Those of you following the news may have heard about Shakeer Aamed, a Saudi national and British resident, who after 13 years of detention at Guantánamo (without charge) was finally released in 2015 – at which point he could finally meet his teenage son for the first time! Well there are others like him. Check out the small snapshot of figures below:
It’s in this light, that detainees sought means to express their anguish by any means possible. Cut off from the public, from their families and loved ones, they wrote on cups, using toothpaste – in any way possible and in secret. A remarkable collection of poems of the detainees was published in 2007. Here is a small sample of their words and their voices…
Death Poem (Jumah Al Dosari)
Jumah Al Dosari is of Bahraini nationality and was released in 2007 without charge after more than five years of detention. He was held without trial and was subjected to physical and psychological abuse. He was held in solitary confinement from 2013 onwards until his release (see here for more information).
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the ‘protectors of peace’.
Jumah al Dossari
Hunger Strike Poem (Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif)
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif is of Yemeni origin and was held from 2002 until his death in custody in 2012. The cause of death was declared as suicide.
Latif was involved in an accident in 1994 from which he received serious head injuries and required medical treatment, which he sought after in Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Post 9/11, he was held by Pakistani forces and handed over to the US for $5,000. When he was later taken to Guantánamo he was kept in an open-air kennel for some time, leading him to being exposed to the elements which had a detrimental affect on his health. Latif went on hunger strike like many other detainees.
Even If the Pain (Saddiq Turkestani)
Saddiq Turkestani is an Uyghur Muslim raised in Saudi Arabia. He was imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan and later sent to Guantánamo in 2002 where he stayed for four years. He was later released in 2006 after US authorities declared that he was not a military combatant.
Whilst President Obama declared he would close down Guantánamo, this is still yet to happen.
To get involved and call for its closure, here are some petitions to get you going:
– National Religious Campaign Against Torture (print out for collecting signatures in the US)
So there you have it! Salam!
Credits and further information:
Feature image: Open Democracy
Poems and background information taken from: Falkoff, M., Miller, F. and Dorfman, A. (2007) Poems from Guantánamo, University of Iowa Press
Amnesty International USA (2007) ‘Poems from Guantanamo‘, Amnesty International Magazine
Human Rights First (07/2016) GTMO By the Numbers
Human Rights Watch (18/04/2016) Guantanamo: Facts and Figures