Friday was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and it seems to me that, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, there is no better time to send a message of support to the remaining 168 prisoners in America’s reviled prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
This is a campaign initiated two years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and repeated every six months (see here, here, here and here), but it is depressing to note that just eleven prisoners have left Guantánamo alive in the last two years, and two others left in coffins.
The men still held at Guantánamo have been failed by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year of taking office in January 2009, and then resoundingly failed to do so. Compounding this failure, President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, comprising career officials, lawyers and experts from all the relevant government departments and from the intelligence agencies, who analyzed the prisoners’ cases throughout 2009, concluded that 87 of the remaining 168 prisoners should be released, although they are still held.
The prisoners have also been abandoned by the Supreme Court, which granted them habeas corpus rights in June 2008, but then refused to get involved, in June this year, when several prisoners appealed for their intervention to rescue habeas corpus from the appeals court judges in the D.C Circuit Court, who, for their own narrow, ideological reasons — essentially supporting the paranoia and injustice of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” — have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning, preventing any prisoner at Guantánamo from securing his release through legal means.
The prisoners have also been failed by the US Congress, where lawmakers — through cynicism or political cowardice, or the same paranoia that infects the D.C. Circuit Court — have repeatedly restricted the President’s ability to release prisoners. This has contributed enormously to the ongoing detention of the 87 prisoners cleared for release, but it has also been compounded by President Obama’s refusal to release any Yemenis because of bogus security concerns following the arrest, in December 2009, of a Nigerian would-be plane bomber– Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — who was recruited in Yemen.
Last year, while the cleared Yemenis (58 of the 87 cleared prisoners) continued to be held on the basis of “guilt by nationality,” lawmakers sank to new depths when they approved passages in the National Defense Authorization Act, making it mandatory for terror suspects in future to be held in military custody without charge or trial, possibly for the rest of their lives.
One hope for the prisoners is that the NDAA also contains a waiver allowing the President to bypass Congress to authorize the release of prisoners, and this needs publicizing as widely as possible, so that people who remain appalled by the continued existence of Guantánamo can begin to apply pressure on the Obama administration to bring this stain on Barack Obama’s Presidency to an end, and to free the 87 prisoners cleared for release.
In the meantime, please go ahead and write to any or all of the remaining 168 prisoners. If you are an Arabic speaker, or speak any other languages spoken by the prisoners besides English, feel free to write in those languages. Do please note that any messages that can be construed as political should be avoided, as they may lead to the letters not making it past the Pentagon’s censors, but be aware that your messages may not get through anyway — although please don’t let that put you off (see the note at the bottom of this article to explain why letters might be returned without explanation).
If you want any more encouragement about the significance for prisoners of receiving letters, then please watch the short film below — part of Amnesty International’s ongoing letter-writing campaign– featuring my friend, the former prisoner Omar Deghayes, showing letters he received in Guantánamo and explaining how much they meant to him — and to his fellow prisoners. This was filmed as part of an interview with Omar that is featured in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself), and available on DVD here — or here for the US.
When writing to the prisoners please ensure you include their full name and ISN (internment serial number) below (these are the numbers before their names, i.e. Shaker Aamer ISN 239)
Please address all letters to:
P.O. Box 160
Washington, D.C. 20053
United States of America
Please also include a return address on the envelope.
1. 004 Wasiq, Abdul-Haq (Afghanistan)
2. 006 Noori, Mullah Norullah (Afghanistan)
3. 007 Fazil, Mullah Mohammed (Afghanistan)
4. 026 Ghazi, Fahed (Yemen)
5. 027 Uthman, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed (Yemen)
6. 028 Al Alawi, Muaz (Yemen)
7. 029 Al Ansi, Mohammed (Yemen)
8. 030 Al Hakimi, Ahmed (Yemen)
9. 031 Al Mujahid, Mahmoud (Yemen)
10. 033 Al Adahi, Mohammed (Yemen)
11. 034 Al Yafi, Abdullah (Yemen)
12. 035 Qader Idris, Idris (Yemen)
13. 036 Idris, Ibrahim (Sudan)
14. 037 Al Rahabi, Abdul Malik (Yemen)
15. 038 Al Yazidi, Ridah (Tunisia)
16. 039 Al Bahlul, Ali Hamza (Yemen)
17. 040 Al Mudafari, Abdel Qadir (Yemen)
18. 041 Ahmad, Majid (Yemen)
19. 042 Shalabi, Abdul Rahman (Saudi Arabia)
20. 043 Moqbel, Samir (Yemen)
21. 044 Ghanim, Mohammed (Yemen)
22. 045 Al Rezehi, Ali Ahmad (Yemen)
23. 063 Al Qahtani, Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
24. 088 Awad, Adham Ali (Yemen)
25. 091 Al Saleh, Abdul (Yemen)
26. 115 Naser, Abdul Rahman (Yemen)
27. 117 Al Warafi, Muktar (Yemen)
28. 128 Al Bihani, Ghaleb (Yemen)
29. 131 Ben Kend, Salem (Yemen)
30. 152 Al Khalaqi, Asim (Yemen)
31. 153 Suleiman, Fayiz (Yemen)
32. 156 Latif, Adnan Farhan Abdul (Yemen)
33. 163 Al Qadasi, Khalid (Yemen)
34. 165 Al Busayss, Said (Yemen)
35. 167 Al Raimi, Ali Yahya (Yemen)
36. 168 Hakimi, Adel (Hakeemy) (Tunisia)
37. 170 Masud, Sharaf (Yemen)
38. 171 Alahdal, Abu Bakr (Yemen)
39. 174 Sliti, Hisham (Tunisia)
40. 178 Baada, Tareq (Yemen)
41. 189 Gherebi, Salem (Libya)
42. 195 Al Shumrani, Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
43. 197 Chekhouri, Younis (Morocco)
44. 200 Al Qahtani, Said (Saudi Arabia)
45. 202 Bin Atef, Mahmoud (Yemen)
46. 223 Sulayman, Abdul Rahman (Yemen)
47. 224 Muhammad, Abdul Rahman (Yemen)
48. 232 Al Odah, Fawzi (Kuwait)
49. 233 Salih, Abdul (Yemen)
50. 235 Jarabh, Saeed (Yemen)
51. 238 Hadjarab, Nabil (Algeria-France)
52. 239 Aamer, Shaker (UK-Saudi Arabia)
53. 240 Al Shabli, Abdullah (Saudi Arabia)
54. 242 Qasim, Khaled (Yemen)
55. 244 Nassir, Abdul Latif (Morocco)
56. 249 Al Hamiri, Mohammed (Yemen)
57. 251 Bin Salem, Mohammed (Yemen)
58. 254 Khenaina, Mohammed (Yemen)
59. 255 Hatim, Said (Yemen)
60. 257 Abdulayev, Umar (Tajikistan)
61. 259 Hintif, Fadil (Yemen)
62. 275 Abbas, Yusef (Abdusabar) (China)
63. 280 Khalik, Saidullah (Khalid) (China)
64. 282 Abdulghupur, Hajiakbar (China)
65. 288 Saib, Motai (Algeria)
66. 290 Belbacha, Ahmed (Algeria)
67. 309 Abdal Sattar, Muieen (UAE)
68. 310 Ameziane, Djamel (Algeria)
69. 321 Kuman, Ahmed Yaslam Said (Yemen)
70. 324 Al Sabri, Mashur (Yemen)
71. 326 Ajam, Ahmed (Syria)
72. 327 Shaaban, Ali Hussein (Syria)
73. 329 Al Hamawe, Abu Omar (Syria)
74. 434 Al Shamyri, Mustafa (Yemen)
75. 440 Bawazir, Mohammed (Yemen)
76. 441 Al Zahri, Abdul Rahman (Yemen)
77. 461 Al Qyati, Abdul Rahman (Yemen)
78. 498 Haidel, Mohammed (Yemen)
79. 502 Ourgy, Abdul (Tunisia)
80. 506 Al Dhuby, Khalid (Yemen)
81. 508 Al Rabie, Salman (Yemen)
82. 509 Khusruf, Mohammed (Yemen)
83. 511 Al Nahdi, Sulaiman (Yemen)
84. 522 Ismail, Yasin (Yemen)
85. 535 El Sawah, Tariq (Egypt)
86. 549 Al Dayi, Omar (Yemen)
87. 550 Zaid, Walid (Yemen)
88. 552 Al Kandari, Fayiz (Kuwait)
89. 553 Al Baidhani, Abdul Khaliq (Saudi Arabia)
90. 554 Al Assani, Fehmi (Yemen)
91. 560 Mohammed, Haji Wali (Afghanistan)
92. 564 Bin Amer, Jalal (Yemen)
93. 566 Qattaa, Mansoor (Saudi Arabia)
94. 569 Al Shorabi, Zohair (Yemen)
95. 570 Al Qurashi, Sabri (Yemen)
96. 572 Al Zabe, Salah (Saudi Arabia)
97. 574 Al Wady, Hamoud (Yemen)
98. 575 Al Azani, Saad (Yemen)
99. 576 Bin Hamdoun, Zahir (Yemen)
100. 578 Al Suadi, Abdul Aziz (Yemen)
101. 579 Khairkhwa, Khairullah (Afghanistan)
102. 680 Hassan, Emad (Yemen)
103. 682 Al Sharbi, Ghassan (Saudi Arabia)
104. 684 Tahamuttan, Mohammed (Palestine)
105. 685 Ali, Abdelrazak (Algeria)
106. 686 Hakim, Abdel (Yemen)
107. 688 Ahmed, Fahmi (Yemen)
108. 689 Salam, Mohamed (Yemen)
109. 690 Qader, Ahmed Abdul (Yemen)
110. 691 Al Zarnuki, Mohammed (Yemen)
111. 694 Barhoumi, Sufyian (Algeria)
112. 695 Abu Bakr, Omar (Omar Mohammed Khalifh) (Libya)
113. 696 Al Qahtani, Jabran (Saudi Arabia)
114. 702 Mingazov, Ravil (Russia)
115. 707 Muhammed, Noor Uthman (Sudan)
116. 708 Al Bakush, Ismael (Libya)
117. 713 Al Zahrani, Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
118. 722 Diyab, Jihad (Syria)
119. 728 Nassir, Jamil (Yemen)
120. 753 Zahir, Abdul (Afghanistan)
121. 757 Abdul Aziz, Ahmed Ould (Mauritania)
122. 760 Slahi, Mohamedou Ould (Salahi) (Mauritania)
123. 762 Obaidullah (Afghanistan)
124. 766 Khadr, Omar (Canada)
125. 768 Al Darbi, Ahmed Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
126. 832 Omari, Mohammed Nabi (Afghanistan)
127. 836 Saleh, Ayoub Murshid Ali (Yemen)
128. 837 Al Marwalah, Bashir (Yemen)
129. 838 Balzuhair, Shawki Awad (Yemen)
130. 839 Al Mudwani, Musab (Musa’ab Al Madhwani) (Yemen)
131. 840 Al Maythali, Hail Aziz Ahmed (Yemen)
132. 841 Nashir, Said Salih Said (Yemen)
133. 893 Al Bihani, Tawfiq (Saudi Arabia)
134. 894 Abdul Rahman, Mohammed (Tunisia)
135. 899 Khan, Shawali (Afghanistan)
136. 928 Gul, Khi Ali (Afghanistan)
137. 934 Ghani, Abdul (Afghanistan)
138. 975 Karim, Bostan (Afghanistan)
139. 1015 Almerfedi, Hussein (Yemen)
140. 1017 Al Rammah, Omar (Zakaria al-Baidany) (Yemen)
141. 1045 Kamin, Mohammed (Afghanistan)
142. 1094 Paracha, Saifullah (Pakistan)
143. 1103 Zahir, Mohammed (Afghanistan)
144. 1119 Hamidullah, Haji (Afghanistan)
145. 1453 Al Kazimi, Sanad (Yemen)
146. 1456 Bin Attash, Hassan (Saudi Arabia)
147. 1457 Sharqawi, Abdu Ali (Yemen)
148. 1460 Rabbani, Abdul Rahim Ghulam (Pakistan)
149. 1461 Rabbani, Mohammed Ghulam (Pakistan)
150. 1463 Al Hela, Abdulsalam (Yemen)
151. 10001 Bensayah, Belkacem (Bosnia-Algeria)
152. 10011 Al Hawsawi, Mustafa (Saudi Arabia)
153. 10013 Bin Al Shibh, Ramzi (Yemen)
154. 10014 Bin Attash, Waleed (Saudi Arabia)
155. 10015 Al Nashiri, Abd Al Rahim (Saudi Arabia)
156. 10016 Zubaydah, Abu (Palestine-Saudi Arabia)
157. 10017 Al Libi, Abu Faraj (Libya)
158. 10018 Al Baluchi, Ammar (Ali Abd Al Aziz Ali) (Pakistan-Kuwait)
159. 10019 Isamuddin, Riduan (Hamlili) (Indonesia)
160. 10020 Khan, Majid (Pakistan)
161. 10021 Bin Amin, Modh Farik (Zubair) (Malaysia)
162. 10022 Bin Lep, Mohammed (Lillie) (Malaysia)
163. 10023 Dourad, Gouled Hassan (Somalia)
164. 10024 Mohammed, Khalid Sheikh (Pakistan-Kuwait)
165. 10025 Malik, Mohammed Abdul (Kenya)
166. 10026 Al Iraqi, Abd Al Hadi (Iraq)
167. 3148 Al Afghani, Haroon (Afghanistan)
168. 10029 Rahim, Muhammad (Afghanistan)
Please also note that an additional prisoner, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (ISN 10012, Tanzania) was transferred to the US mainland from Guantánamo in May 2009 and received a life sentence after a federal court trial in January 2011. He is being held in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. To send a letter, the address is as follows (the number following his name is his unique prison number):
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (02476-748)
USP Florence Admax
P.O. Box 8500
Florence, Co. 81226
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, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Soraya wrote:
Dear Andy, I can’t write to them. I am an Iranian-American and if I write, they can shoot me for collaborating with terrorists! (
Zilma Nunes wrote:
Some of us christians signed your petition… what about persecuted christians in islamic countries ?? Do you know that we are the most persecuted religion in the world?
I understand your concerns, Soraya. Unfortunately, the hysteria about Guantanamo puts a lot of people off. As for persecution, Zilma, I am sorry to hear of anyone being persecuted whatever their religion or background, but primarily these are issues of human rights, which should apply equally to all of us. Not everyone recognizes the importance of this, sadly – not just the US, but all manner of regimes and individuals around the world. It’s why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is such an important, aspirational, idealistic, utopian document, always worth struggling for.
What is wrong with you? You want to give comfort to terrorists? In my opinion, you are bordering on treason. Rotting in hell for eternity would not be sufficient punishment for them. People like you disgust me.
[...] Additional reporting available from Andy Worthington. [...]
Wow, what a succinct demonstration of the problem. A few dozen of these men have allegations against them that they were involved in terrorism. In this, my opinion is the same as that of US intelligence officials. The rest of the men either had nothing to do with any form of militarism, or were in Afghanistan as part of the Taliban’s military conflict with the Northern Alliance, pre-9/11.
I will write to the Pakistani detainees because I can write in Urdu, but what should I write about?
That’s good to hear, Seher. You don’t have to say very much, and anything that could be regarded as political should be avoided, but the main point is just to let them know they haven’t been forgotten.
Thank you for this list. Too many of these men were gathered up for the wrong reasons and with out cause, and anyone who thinks they are terrorist simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time should go spend some time down there themselves.
Time and time again these men aren’t released because of political interest that don’t want to show mistakes, just like the administrations that went to war on claims of WMD’s. There is no accountability in the US government, the top ranks watch out for themselves and election years only.
Again thank you for this list
You are most welcome, Bill. I am very happy that you understand the cynical political maneuverings that have led us to this dreadful situation.
[...] You are scared for me. You think I could get harmed by involving myself in projects such as For Ramadan, Write to the Forgotten Prisoners in Guantánamo. You are scared, I know. I [...]
Andy, I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate you and your constant hard work and activism in matters related to Guantanamo. You really are a gem; I’m so glad that there are people like you in this world. You’re an inspiration!
Here’s Makola’s post. Very powerful!
There are 168 people who have been away from their homes for 11 Ramadhans.
There is a young man who was taken away from his home when he was 15. Just 15.
I know how I was when I was 15. I had fallen in love with life at 15, I had snapped myself out of it at 15, I found peace, truth and love at 15.
As I write this my hands are shaking. I do not know how I can manage writing 168 letters to the 168 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, but I will try. That is promise.
Do you know how heartbeats get lost in the sound of these screams? Do you wonder what it is like to not be allowed to see your mother’s face?
You don’t. You haven’t been where they are. You haven’t been in captivity for as long as they have. You have a bed you can plop onto and fall asleep in within minutes. You have a table where you can sit and turn around with the comfort of knowing that you will find your father reading a newspaper. You have a school which as much as you miss you know you will return to. And soon. You have friends you can visit by hopping onto the next rickshaw. They don’t. Not now, not there.
I know you wonder why I think of these things. You are scared for me. You think I could get harmed by involving myself in projects such as For Ramadan, Write to the Forgotten Prisoners in Guantánamo. You are scared, I know. I understand.
If there was some way to rip my heart from my sleeve and hand it to you so that you may hold it up to the light and see the truth in these words, I would have done it by now. I am years from where I was at 15. Finding a home in a ruin has been embedded since a long time ago, but the knowledge that there are those who die and live in cold, unfriendly and toxic atmospheres is what stings. The old wounds which I had tied up so gently are all reawakening. The need to write has returned. That you had been avoiding it is nothing short of pointless.
They call it “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty” – but we’d rather have that than this sickening level of double standards.
I want to sometimes scream across a rooftop that I am done here, that I have had enough. That this world can hurt so bad, and that there is nothing left for me to express hope over.
But that would be wrong.
As long as there is a new dawn, you can hope. Yes it may seem ridiculous and stupid and outrageously naive but you can hope.
Thank you, Abeer. Your supportive words are very much appreciated!
I recently reached a sort of odd milestone that i wanted to share.
II began nearly 2 years ago and have continued to send a couple letters or so a week. Recently I turned to the next name on the list and discovered I had already written to everyone there. I was shocked, so much time and they are still there.
I suppose I will need to begin another round, but how sad, so much time, and they all still need to be written to.
Thank you for your dedication, Richard. I am sure that the men appreciate your efforts, and those of everyone else who has been writing to them for all these long years.
[...] J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here and [...]
I can only write to them in English… Is that a problem?
No, I don’t think that’s a problem, Lisa. All of them now speak English, if they didn’t on arrival at the prison so many long years ago.
I really want to write a letter to the detainees but unfortunately i do not speak any of the languages apart from urdu and english.
Is there any way of having my letter translated?
I would write to them in English – or Urdu, if you can identify any Urdu speakers amongst the remaining prisoners. Many of the men didn’t speak English when they arrived, but I’m pretty sure they all do now.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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