London Guantánamo Campaign Asks Supporters to Write to Released Prisoners in Europe During Ramadan

24.8.10

The following article was published by the London Guantánamo Campaign on their new website, and I’m cross-posting it here in the hope of reaching new readers who may not have come across it, as its message is particularly strong during Ramadan. Readers may also want to consider writing to prisoners still held in Guantánamo, whose names and contact details can be found here, as part of a letter-writing project initiated in June.

Write to released Guantánamo Prisoners in Europe in Ramadan

Former prisoners speak

“Ramadan was more spiritual in Guantánamo. It was our time to be with our brothers — especially the more educated ones. They would talk in low voices from cage to cage. All brothers gave each other Salam. Being in prison we studied the Koran well and many learnt Arabic. Through all our suffering we were being tested by Allah. So we became strong. Physically, too: doing press-ups and star-jumps. Who’d have guessed it? Guantánamo became our school. A madrassa. The place which made us grow up, become closer to Habib; where, in the single voice calling for prayer every day as the sun was rising, we created beauty out of ugliness. And in that we gained victory over the disbelievers who stood guard on us.” (Based on statements by Moazzam Begg, Bisher Al-Rawi and the Tipton Three, and compiled by David Harrold).

Former prisoners in need of support

As part of his pledge in January 2009 to close Guantánamo Bay, Barack Obama’s government has been making arrangements to resettle prisoners in third countries when they cannot be safely returned to their country of origin. Many European countries including Ireland, Hungary, Belgium, France, Slovakia and Albania [as well as Bulgaria, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland] have agreed to settle ex-prisoners. However, life after Guantánamo can prove to be extremely challenging and difficult. Many men find themselves alone, attempting to rebuild their lives in countries where they are isolated and cannot speak the language, where they have difficulties making friends and accessing services.

In some cases their new living conditions are as bad as those they encountered in Guantánamo Bay. In January, three men were released to Slovakia. Upon entry into the country, they were interned at an asylum detention centre where they were only allowed to leave their room, consisting of a bed and a sink, for one hour a day. They were not permitted to speak to anyone other than their lawyer or staff at the centre. In June, in protest at their living conditions, the men went on hunger strike. The ensuing publicity finally resulted in them being released last month.

Over a dozen prisoners have been released in the last year [63 prisoners have been released from Guantánamo by President Obama, and 36 have been released in third countries, which also include Bermuda, Cape Verde, Georgia, Latvia and Palau]. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on 11 August, can be a particularly lonely time for men who, while at Guantánamo Bay, at least had the companionship of fellow prisoners. Ramadan is a time for togetherness and social activity, as well as for abstinence. This is the first time in over eight years that they will experience Ramadan alone.

Please consider writing to these ex-prisoners. A letter or card congratulating them on their release, wishing them well in their new life, asking them how they are, a short note, would all be greatly appreciated.

The three men released in Slovakia are:

Adel Al Gazzar [aka El-Gazzar], a 40-year old Egyptian accountant who speaks fluent English. He has a wife and three children in Egypt whom he has not seen for over nine years. He was captured while working for the Red Crescent in Afghanistan and was one of the first men to be cleared for release.

Rafiq Bin Al Hami, a 41-year old Tunisian who speaks English and Arabic, and who had previously worked in several European countries.

Polad Sirajov [aka Poolad Tsiradzho], a 35-year old economist from Azerbaijan who likes football, and who speaks English, Arabic and Russian.

You can send cards and letters:

FAO Chloe Davies
Reprieve
PO Box 52742
London, EC4P 4WS

You can also write to other former prisoners whom Reprieve is working with. Details can be found on their website.

Cageprisoners is also in touch with various former prisoners. Contact them for details.

Two Tunisians, who were transferred from Guantánamo Bay to Italy at the end of last year, are of particular concern. Although cleared for release by the US, the Italians sought their transfer in order to put them on trial on terrorism charges. Their trial is scheduled to take place next month. They are currently being held in prison at Macomer in Sardinia, under notoriously harsh and discriminatory conditions. Please write to them if you can:

Adil Bin Mabrouk and Riyad Bin Nasseri
Casa Circondriale Macomer Nuoro
Zona Industriale Bonu Trau
08015 Nuoro
Italy

Details of the stories of all these prisoners and others can be found on Andy Worthington’s website.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. 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 July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Zara Rehman wrote:

    Fantastic reminder — thank you.The prisoners in Sardinia are of great concern and I only pray and hope we can continue raising awareness and give them a voice for the suffering and injustice they endure.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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