Held for 12 years on an island, but I never saw the ocean

The following is a letter from one of our clients who was released from Guantánamo after 12 years of detention and abuse.

Dear friends,

I was released from the most notorious prison on earth – Guantánamo Bay. Now I am back to being just an ordinary man, and not a prisoner number.

I have to admit in the first months of freedom I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t used to everyday things like cars and one day not long after my release I got hit by one. I was not badly injured but the traffic here is chaotic and I had forgotten how to negotiate all the hustle and bustle.

Perhaps you can’t imagine how good it feels to be ordinary, to begin to do the things I had dreamt of for many years. There was so much I wanted to do and at first I did not know where to start. But I have been lucky. I live in a centre run by a small charity alongside other young people who have had a tough start in life. Thanks to them I began studying.

I completed a course in office skills and even came top of my class in one of the modules. I love working on computers. The teachers also helped me prepare for interviews. Of course I was nervous but I must have managed not to show it too badly as I got offered an apprenticeship. I like the work, I like learning all these new things and I like dressing up smart to go to the office. I’m trying to get back my ‘classic’ style!

I haven’t given up on my dream to become an interpreter one day. I am trying to make sure that all the English I taught myself when I was in Guantánamo does not get rusty.

Sometimes at the weekends I walk along the beach. I love the sea. It’s very strange to think I was held for twelve years on an island but I never saw the ocean.

I try not to think about all the pain I suffered and all the things I missed out on and to concentrate on the future. I know that soon I will have to leave the centre where I live and become more independent. It worries me but I know that it will be an important step as well.

I am grateful that just as when I was in Guantánamo, I have so many people supporting me and helping me to rebuild my life.

Thank you,