5 Guantánamo prisoners you should know about
1. Saifullah Paracha: permanent US resident held without charge or trial
Saifullah is a 71-year-old father of four. He studied at the New York Institute of Technology and lived in New York City for several years, eventually becoming a legal permanent resident of the US. He has been held in Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for over 14 years.
Saifullah moved to the US to study when he was 24. He met his wife, started a family, and worked as a businessman in New York City for 15 years.
Saifullah now suffers from a host of medical problems—some natural for an aging man, and others parting gifts of his abuse in US detention. These include diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, angina pectoris cardiac diastolic dysfunction, hyperlipidemia, diverticulosis, allergic rhinitis, gout, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Saifullah has survived all of that, and more; he has already suffered two heart attacks and awaits the third from his cell. Saifullah is on a panoply of daily medications to prevent the worst from happening. In August 2018, Saifullah marked his 71st birthday from his prison cell.
2. Towfiq Bihani: family man and poet cleared for release over eight years ago
Towfiq has been held at Guantánamo Bay since early 2003 after being sold for a bounty to US forces. The US has never charged him with a crime, and in 2010, the Obama administration officially cleared him for release through a rigorous process requiring the unanimous agreement of six US security and defence agencies. Towfiq got as far as being given his ‘release clothing’, yet remains detained to this day.
Towfiq grew up in Saudi Arabia in a big family of 12 brothers and sisters. As well as being a fan of European football, he is a prolific writer of poetry in English and Arabic.
“They started to hit me and strangle me, they would put a rope around my neck and say I was about to die. 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.”
Towfiq Bihani, who is featured in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report.
3. Ahmed Rabbani: taxi driver who was mistakenly arrested and detained
Ahmed was a taxi driver in Pakistan mistaken by intelligence services for a known extremist. He endured 545 days of torture in CIA custody before being taken to Guantánamo. He has never had a trial, and never been charged with a crime. He has been on hunger strike since 2013 in a peaceful protest against his indefinite detention.
In 2002 when Ahmed’s ordeal began, he was 33 and his wife had recently given birth to their son. He had built up a life that included running a taxi business.
As confirmed by the US Senate’s report, Ahmed went on to be subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, a euphemism for torture – including strappado, a form of torture designed to gradually and painfully dislocate the shoulders.
4. Abdullatif Nasser: missed out on release due to bureaucratic delay
Abdul Latif Nasser is a 51-year-old Moroccan national who was sold for a bounty to the US military in 2002. He was cleared for release in 2016, but remains in Guantánamo to this day due to bureaucratic delay.
Abdul Latif was unanimously approved by the Periodic Review Board for transfer home to Morocco on July 11th, 2016. But the Moroccan government’s official request for repatriation came just before Trump came into power and was not acted upon. Trump has since declared that no one else will be released from Guantánamo and Abdullatif’s freedom was snatched away.
Abdul Latif has taken every opportunity to study during his imprisonment. When he arrived at Guantánamo he spoke no English but after years of study he speaks fluently with his Reprieve attorney and the guards. He is famous across the prison base for drafting his own 2,000 word English-to-Arabic dictionary.
5. Haroon Gul: Afghan Refugee, father, poet and aspiring beekeeper
Far from holding extreme beliefs or engaging in violence, Haroon’s life has been marked by him fleeing war and by his ability to always thrive even in the most difficult circumstances.
Haroon has taken every opportunity to educate himself at Guantánamo, studying art and learning fluent English. His determination to support his daughter’s education has motivated him to keep learning and preparing for the day he is released.
He hopes to become a professional bee keeper and run his own honey bee farm. Haroon has a wife, a 10 year-old daughter and a large, supportive family.
“I am ready to go anywhere under any condition only just that I must have my wife and my daughter with me. I can live through not having them for a time, I have lived here that way, but I must have them with me. They are what makes me.
The people have to understand we are human, first. At the same time, people must understand the effect this has on our families. We are still humans in here and we need to get our freedom because our freedom will be helpful for everybody. The public always has the biggest power over the government… I always believe this… I believe in the power of the people and of culture to change government actions.
The public doesn’t know enough about our situation here, even after all these years… We are not one day, one story. We are here for life, this is our lives.”