Towfiq Bihani has been held at Guantánamo Bay since early 2003. He has never been charged with a crime. Towfiq has been ‘prepared for release’ twice – coming – coming agonizingly close to leaving the prison , and seeing his beloved family again.
Towfiq grew up in Saudi Arabia in a big family and has 11 brothers and sisters. A keen poet and fan of European football, Towfiq has made it his mission in Guantanamo to learn English and Spanish. He’s a prolific writer of poetry in English and Arabic. You can read two of his poems here.
Towfiq has been through an ordeal that most of us can’t imagine. Like many others, he was captured in Pakistan by bounty hunters in late 2001, and sold to US forces in Afghanistan. He was held in solitary confinement for five months before being transferred to CIA custody around October 2002. Years later, the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture confirmed that he was subjected to appalling torture. He was one of only 39 people subjected to the CIA’s notorious “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including in ways that were not authorized by CIA headquarters.
“I was handcuffed behind and they put a hood on my head so that I could not see anything. When I entered the interrogation room, the American guards pushed me down to the ground… They started to cut my clothing with scissors. They undressed me completely and I was nude. I was afraid and because the guards were aiming their weapons towards me. The interrogator put his personal gun on my forehead threatening to kill me.”
“It was a very dark prison. They put me into a cell and kept me…tied to the wall for almost ten days. I had no idea whether it was day or night.”
After months of torture, US authorities transferred Towfiq to Guantánamo in early 2003.
Towfiq is officially cleared for release, meaning that the US authorities have conducted a review and determined that he poses no threat. He’s been told at least twice to prepare his things to leave; once, he was even led out to the plane .. Each time, he was told there was a mistake. He is still held in indefinite detention.