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Tag Archives: GTMO

Shaker Aamer: August 2013 (It Feels So Strange to Feel My Name Slipping Away from Me)

My name is Shaker. I am also known as Sawad Al-Madany because I was born in the Holy City of Medina. Please can you remember these names for me, because I hardly can anymore.

Here, they call me 239. In fact, I call myself 239. It feels so strange to witness my name slipping away from me. I can’t do anything about it.

I wonder how long it is going to take for all of us here in Guantánamo to slip away from the world’s memory?

I have not lost hope. No, I have not! Or have I? I am not sure. But I am still writing: is this not a sign of hope?

Yes, we have lost years of our lives here – and some (three times as many as have been convicted) have actually died.

We have lost our sanity, our health, our humanity and our dignity. Yes, we seem to have lost everything.

But I believe we are gradually rediscovering hope and, with hope, we will relocate our lives and everything else that is meaningful.

Meanwhile our tormentors are losing everything and, the more they lose, the more they torment us. I can’t describe what they are doing. The world must hasten to compel the US government to solve this dilemma before it is too late. Candles cannot burn forever.

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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Letters from Shaker Aamer, Risala

 

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Moath al-Alwi: July 2013 (The Only Way I Have Left to Cry Out for Life, Freedom & Dignity)

A month ago, the guards here at Guantanamo Bay gave me an orange jumpsuit. After years in white and brown, the colours of compliant prisoners, I am very proud to wear my new clothes. The colour orange is Guantanamo’s banner. Anyone who knows the truth about this place knows that orange is its only true colour.

My name is Moath al-Alwi. I have been a prisoner of the United States at Guantanamo since 2002. I was never charged with any crime and I have not received a fair trial in US courts. To protest this injustice, I began a hunger strike in February. Now, twice a day, the US military straps me down to a chair and pushes a thick tube down my nose to force-feed me.

When I choose to remain in my cell in an act of peaceful protest against the force-feeding, the prison authorities send in a Forced Cell Extraction team: six guards in full riot gear. Those guards are deliberately brutal to punish me for my protest. They pile up on top of me to the point that I feel like my back is about to break. They then carry me out and strap me into the restraint chair, which we hunger strikers call the torture chair.

A new twist to this routine involves the guards restraining me to the chair with my arms cuffed behind my back. The chest strap is then tightened, trapping my arms between my torso and the chair’s backrest. This is done despite the fact that the torture chair features built-in arm restraints. It is extremely painful to remain in this position.

Even after I am tied to the chair, a guard digs his thumbs under my jaw, gripping me at the pressure points and choking me as the tube is inserted down my nose and into my stomach. They always use my right nostril now because my left one is swollen shut after countless feeding sessions. Sometimes, the nurses get it wrong, snaking the tube into my lung instead, and I begin to choke.

The US military medical staff conducting the force-feeding at Guantanamo is basically stuffing us prisoners to bring up our weight – mine had dropped from 168 pounds to 108 pounds, before they began force-feeding me. They even use constipation as a weapon, refusing to give hunger strikers laxatives despite the fact that the feeding solutions inevitably cause severe bloating.

If a prisoner vomits after this ordeal, the guards immediately return him to the restraint chair for another round of force-feeding. I’ve seen this inflicted on people up to three times in a row.

Even vital medications for prisoners have been stopped by military medical personnel as additional pressure to break the hunger strike.

Those military doctors and nurses tell us that they are simply obeying orders from the colonel in charge of detention operations, as though that officer were a doctor or as if doctors had to follow his orders rather than their medical ethics or the law.

But they must know that what they are doing is wrong, else they would not have removed the nametags with their pseudonyms or numbers. They don’t want to be identifiable in any way, for fear of being held accountable someday by their profession or the world.

I spend the rest of my time in my solitary confinement cell, on 22-hour lockdown. The authorities have deprived us of the most basic necessities. No toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, soap or towels are allowed in our cells. If you ask to go to the shower, the guards refuse. They bang on our doors at night, depriving us of sleep.

They have also instituted a humiliating genital search policy. I asked a guard why. He answered:

“So you don’t come out to your meetings and calls with your lawyers and give them information to use against us.”

But the prisoners’ weights are as low as their spirits are high. Every man I know here is determined to remain on hunger strike until the US government begins releasing prisoners.

Those of you on the outside might find that difficult to comprehend. My family certainly does. If I’m lucky, I’m allowed four calls with them each year. My mother spent most of my most recent call pleading with me to stop my hunger strike. I had only this to say in response: “Mom, I have no choice.” It is the only way I have left to cry out for life, freedom and dignity.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Letters from Moath al-Alwi, Risala

 

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Abdelhadi Faraj: July 2013 (This is My Call from Behind these Rusty Bars)

This is my call to the outside world from behind these rusty bars, in this monstrous cell. Does the world know what is happening in this prison?

Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place from 2002 to 2013, the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem.

I once lived communally with the other prisoners in Camp Six. Now we are all in solitary confinement here, with only two hours of recreation a day. Some prisoners are too weak and sick to ever leave their cells as a result of the hunger strike and the U.S. military’s reaction to it.

The military here has used brute force against the hunger strikers. They have beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, from toothbrushes to blankets and books. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells, beyond the reach of the sun’s rays or a fresh breeze. Sometimes, we don’t even know if it’s day or night out.

It isn’t unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners’ genital parts and their rectum ten times in a single day.

Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes.

Recently, a nurse brutally yanked out the force-feeding tube, threw it on my shoulder, and left the cell, leaving me tied down to the chair. Later, the nurse returned to the cell, took the tube off my shoulder and began to reinsert it into my nose. I asked him to cleanse and purify the tube first but he refused.

When I later tried to complain to another nurse about the incident, the other nurse threatened to force the feeding tube up my rear, not down my nose, if I didn’t suspend my hunger strike.

And when I tried taking the matter to a senior medical officer, he told me that they would strap me to a bed and make me urinate through a catheter forced into my penis if I kept up my peaceful protest.

I used to think I was the only one coping with severe joint pain, a weakened memory, having a hard time concentrating, and feeling constantly distracted as a result of all this. But I’ve since discovered that many hunger strikers struggle with the same symptoms. Without realizing it, some of the hunger strikers even speak to themselves out loud when they’re alone.

But we also know that there are peaceful protests in solidarity with our plight in many countries. Even in America itself, there are protests demanding that the U.S. government close this prison that has hurt America’s reputation. And international criticism mounts daily.

We the hunger strikers continue to demand our rights. President Obama can begin by releasing those of us who have been cleared for release years ago, followed by the prisoners who have not been charged with any crime after eleven years in captivity.

Despite the difficulties, the hard conditions, and the challenges created by the U.S. government, those of us on hunger strike will continue protesting until our demands for justice are met.

 
 

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Younous Chekkouri: May 12, 2013 (After This Heartbreak It’s Sadism & Sex Abuse)

Dear Cori,

Greetings to you and everyone at Reprieve. Today is Sunday, May 12. You have just left Guantanamo, and I’m afraid it’s made me feel rather depressed and alone again, so I decided to take up my pen as a way of sharing some time with you.

Things here are getting worse. The ‘searches’, as they like to call them, are spreading fear and shame throughout the blocks – I felt this way myself after they ‘searched’ me the last time, when I spoke to my wife on a video call. I worry daily that I will die in here and never see her again, and that she will have no support after I pass. The calls are agony for both of us, but they are all we have.

My mind keeps racing back what they insisted I go through to speak to her. (It is the same, now, for calls or visits to lawyers.) What the point of the ‘search’ was, I don’t understand. As you saw, I’ve lost a great deal of weight, and felt weak, dizzy and confused. I have virtually nothing in my cell I could hide (and what would be the point?), and I try my best to get along with everyone here. Yet not only was I shackled hands, legs, and stomach to go to the call, but eight guards with the watch commander surrounded me in a room, while two of them put their hands all over me – my thighs, my privates, everything. How one is meant to speak to one’s wife after this and pretend everything is fine, I don’t know.

As it happened, we could hardly understand one another because the line was so poor – the video crackled and she could not hear me. I could just hear her cry to the ICRC: “I want to see him – I haven’t seen him in three months and I can’t hear anything, can’t you help?” Perhaps if my voice raised it would reach her, I thought, so I started to shout greetings and calming words. Technical problems like this are not mere irritants; because Gitmo allows calls once every few months, if the call fails, it may be months more before I see my wife again.

After a time they resolved whatever it was, and she saw me for the first time since I have been striking. Truth is banned, and a lie unfair. So I just sat there, feeling every one of the miles between us. She wept. Of course I then did, too, wanting desperately to go somewhere peaceful, to hide from her, because I cannot bear to see her like this. But I could never hurt her by hanging up early. We tried a few more halting exchanges, the authorities ended the call.

After this heartbreak, they make you run the gauntlet to get back to your cell. First comes the ‘search’ in the camp where the call is – another gratuitous ‘massage’ to the thighs and crotch. Then they bundle you into a van so short neither you or your guards can sit up.

Finally, in Camp 6, comes the worst. I found a band waiting for me. Their faces said everything. I was forced to put my face to a wall, with all of them behind me. I tried to reason with the watch commander, but he ordered me to shut my mouth. First one guard repeated the ‘search’, as before. Then a man put his finger in my behind. Then another guard started repeating the whole process, groping me, moving to assault me again, and I cried out: ‘This is not a search, this is humiliation!’ They laughed, saying it was ‘SOP’ (standard operating procedure).

This cannot be ‘SOP’. It is sadism and sex abuse, pure and simple. Some of the men who did this to me I liked and respected. I don’t dare look in their faces now.

The next day was a dark day. In the morning I refused to go to ‘rec’ or to shower because I feared another so-called ‘SOP’ abuse. But here is the dilemma: we have to be clean for prayer, but to ‘shower’ in the sink means exposing ourselves to the cameras. It’s also cold water, and they have been running the air conditioning very, very low since the strike started. But I decided to do it anyway. I shivered, but I prayed, and for a moment I felt some peace.

Later that morning I heard yelling, and found that guards had come to demand two detainees give up their long-sleeved thermal T-shirts. Again, the guards who come to confiscate a man’s T-shirt chant ‘SOP’, but the real reason is to make striking man suffer more than they already are. The camp administration are without mercy; they will do anything to try to break this strike.

The sex assault in the ‘search’ hasn’t just happened to me; I heard the man from Kenya, Abdulmalik, cry out as he came back to the block that the guards had searched his behind too. Why are they doing this? All of us want to know.

Things are like this daily. We had peace in the early years of Obama – a bitter peace without freedom, but still peace. All that is gone. The system is as it was under George Bush. Normally I try to look to the future, try to forget the dark days of Gitmo and imagine the moment I might touch earth, see trees, hold my wife. But today, after all this, I wished for a heart attack to end my pain.

Enough; it grows dark and I must try to rest. Thanks to all of you at Reprieve, and everyone else who is challenging this injustice and calling for freedom, fraternity in love. I hope to be able to thank you myself someday, if I survive this.

Younous Chekkouri

 

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What Have You Done in the Last 11 Years?


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For Johina Aamer, her brothers and her mother, the technical aspects of Shaker Aamer’s case come second to their daily worry: they have not been with Shaker for 11 years – soon to be 12 years. Everything else becomes peripheral to this. This family just wants their father home and a wife wants her husband back. It is easy to dismiss 11 years as another statistic to this case without really thinking about how long it is. So Johina wants to ask you: “What have you done in the last 11 years?”

Our upmost gratitude to all who featured in this video in support of Johina.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2013 in Collateral Damage, Videos

 

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Fayiz Mohamad Al Kandari: March 21, 2013 (For Those in the World Who Pray for Us)

al-Kandari Lantern

 

Fayiz Lantern Letter

Dear Mr. Warner,

I made this lantern with my brothers – it’s made with bits of paper and cardboard. We used a water bottle sanded on the floor as glass. We painted it with bits of paint and fruit juice. It’s held together by pressure only.

We made this lantern for those in the world who remember and pray for us during this time of suffering. Let it’s light fill you. Use it to bring peace to your heart.

Thank You.

Fayiz Mohamad Al Kandry
ISN: 552

 

 

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Abdulaziz: Je Ne Me Plaindrai Pas

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Je ne me plaindrai auprès de personne, ni
n’attendrai de pardon de quiconque à part Allah,
Alors aide-moi Seigneur.

Oh Seigneur, mon cœur est infecté de confusions.

Je ne me plaindrai auprès de personne à part Toi,
même si les mers se plaignaient de sècheresse.

Même si mon corps est soumis par les chaînes,
mon esprit flotte librement dans les cieux.

Prier Allah, Qui m’a doté de patience dans les
temps d’adversité, et de gratitude pour les
moments de joie.

Prier Allah, Qui a placé un jardin et un verger en
mon sein, afin qu’ils m’accompagnent toujours.

Prier Allah, Qui m’a doté de la foi, et fait de moi un
musulman.

Prier Allah, Seigneur de l’Univers.

Read this poem in English

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Habsiyya, Poems by Abdulaziz

 

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