In response to the hysteria regarding Amnesty International’s association with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners (which I reported in detail here), another former prisoner, Bisher al-Rawi, has written the following letter to the Times, which I found to be eloquent, understated and unerringly accurate about the role of Amnesty in providing hope to prisoners held outside the law in the “War on Terror”, and of Moazzam in articulating these dark experiences to the world, in an attempt to bring them to an end.
Torch of hope told me I was not forgotten at Guantánamo
Sir, It may be easy to criticise the work that was done by Moazzam Begg and Amnesty, as it might also be easy to criticise Amnesty’s involvement with the Closing Guantánamo campaign, yet this work — along with others — has had a marked influence on where we are today (“How Amnesty chose the wrong poster boy”, David Aaronovitch, Opinion, Feb 9). I know that my memory plays on me sometimes and I forget things, but can we all remember where we were a few years ago, when everyone in Guantánamo was branded a terrorist? I hope we haven’t forgotten; none of us wants to go back to those black days.
Amnesty, and what it stands for, is a torch of hope; that is how it was when I was in Guantánamo, when I received letters of support through Amnesty. In that lonely cell with nothing but emptiness to hold a photocopy of a letter or a card and read the words on it meant so much. They opened up the walls and gave me hope, and whispered to me: “You are not forgotten.”
Mr Begg, whom I hadn’t met in Guantánamo but got to know very well after my release, has from the outset represented the voice of every prisoner caged in Guantánamo and elsewhere. He has reflected to the world the shadows of the horrors of such places. He has, with his words, drawn the pictures that no one else could, the pictures which I, and the hundreds like me who were in Guantánamo, and the thousands who are in their cells today in the so-called black sites, are living with and having nightmares about.
If you want to know, then you must listen, and we must all work together if we want even a small change.
Former Guantánamo detainee, Internment Serial Number: 906
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[…] 2010 — RickB Bisher al-Rawi writs this letter to The Times, as Andy Worthington says ‘I found to be eloquent, understated and unerringly accurate about the role of Amnesty in providing h…‘ Torch of hope told me I was not forgotten at […]
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Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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