A Letter from Omar Khadr in Guantánamo


The Washington Post has just made available a letter from Guantánamo (PDF), written by Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan in July 2002. The letter, to one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney, was written on May 26, and touches on aspects of Khadr’s impending trial by Military Commission — including his constant desire to fire his lawyers, which surfaced in recent pre-trial hearings, and which I discussed in two articles, Defiance in Isolation: The Last Stand of Omar Khadr and Omar Khadr Accepts US Military Lawyer for Forthcoming Trial by Military Commission.

The Washington Post described the letter as “providing a glimpse into the thinking of one of the most high-profile inmates there in advance of his August military commission trial on murder and war crimes charges,” and, in a press release that accompanied the release of the letter, one of Khadr’s supporters explained that, in it, “we see both the boy and the man; the boy in his awkward phrasing and grammar — the man in his sophisticated assessment of his predicament and the role he appears destined to play in the Guantánamo Bay story.”

What is also readily apparent is how Edney has come to be regarded by Khadr as a father figure, a substitute for his own father, killed in Pakistan in 2003, and, presumably, one of the very few people that Khadr has been able to trust during the long years of his incarceration. I think a measure of hard-heartedness can be gleaned from readers’ responses to Khadr’s description of himself as “Your truly son [sic],” and his encouragement to Edney to “Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life,” if he were to fire Edney and not see him again.

The press release also stated, “Omar’s supporters would also like to announce their intent to embark on a renewed campaign of appeals to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and American President Barack Obama to re-establish the once solid international reputation of their countries as just enforcers of the rule of law. To do so, we hold that they must take immediate action to insure that Mr. Khadr receive a fair trial, either in an American federal court or in a Canadian court which recognizes his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

The letter is cross-posted below.

Omar Khadr’s letter from Guantánamo

Dear Dennis:

I’m writing to you because sometimes there are things you can’t say, but rather write on paper, and even if I were to tell you you won’t understand. So anyway here are the things:

First: About this whole MC thing we all don’t believe in and know it’s unfair and know Dennis that there must be somebody to sacrifice to really show the world the unfairness, and really it seems that it’s me. Know Dennis that I don’t want that, I want my freedom and life, but I really don’t see it coming from this way. Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. Dennis justice and freedom have a very high cost and value, and history is a good witness to it, not too far ago or far away how many people sacrificed for the civil right law to take affect. Dennis I hate being the head of the spear, but life has put me, and as life have put me in the past in hard position and still is, I just have to deal with it and hope for the best results.

Second: The thought of firing everybody as you know is always on my mind so if one day I stop coming or fire you please respect it and forget about me, I know it is hard for you. Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life. Of course I am not saying that will or willn’t happen but its on my mind all the time.

Dennis. I’m so sorry to cause you this pain, but consider it one of your sons hard decisions that you don’t like, but you have to deal with, and always know what you mean to me and know that I will always be the same person you’ve known me and will never change, and please don’t be sad and be hopeful and know that there is a very merciful and compassionate creator watching us and looking out for us and taking care of us all, you might not understand these thing, but know by experience they have kept me how and who I am.

With love and my best wishes to you, and the family, and everybody who loves me, and I love them back in Canada, and I leave you with HOPE and I am living on it, so take care.

Your truly son,


26 May 2010 at 11:37am

P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate.

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.

Cross-posted on Eurasia Review, Cageprisoners, Progressive Democrats of America, Uruknet and New Left Project.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Predictable Chaos As Guantánamo Trials Resume (July 2009), David Frakt: Military Commissions “A Catastrophic Failure” (August 2009), 9/11 Trial At Guantánamo Delayed Again: Can We Have Federal Court Trials Now, Please? (September 2009), Torture And Futility: Is This The End Of The Military Commissions At Guantánamo? (September 2009), Resisting Injustice In Guantánamo: The Story Of Fayiz Al-Kandari (October 2009), Military Commissions Revived: Don’t Do It, Mr. President! (November 2009), The Logic of the 9/11 Trials, The Madness of the Military Commissions (November 2009), Rep. Jerrold Nadler and David Frakt on Obama’s Three-Tier Justice System For Guantánamo (November 2009), Guantánamo: Idealists Leave Obama’s Sinking Ship (November 2009), Chaos and Confusion: The Return of the Military Commissions (December 2009), Afghan Nobody Faces Trial by Military Commission (January 2010), Lawyers Appeal Guantánamo Trial Convictions (February 2010), When Rhetoric Trumps Good Sense: The GOP’s Counter-Productive Call for Military Commissions (March 2010), David Frakt’s Damning Verdict on the New Military Commissions Manual (May 2010), Prosecuting a Tortured Child: Obama’s Guantánamo Legacy (May 2010), The Torture of Omar Khadr, a Child in Bagram and Guantánamo (May 2010), Bin Laden Cook Accepts Plea Deal at Guantánamo Trial (July 2010).

19 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention A Letter from Omar Khadr in Guantánamo | Andy Worthington -- Topsy.com says...

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dominique Rodier and Andy Worthington, TenPercent. TenPercent said: RT @GuantanamoAndy: A Letter from Omar Khadr in Guantanamo – A touching letter, released by Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney: http://bit.ly/bPVgca […]

  2. arcticredriver says...


    Andy, in a recent article you encouraged your readers to write to the Guantanamo captives. Can you update us if any of your readers report back that they got through to a captive?

    About 2 years ago I earned an Amazon gift certificate, and decided to use it to send Omar some books. I figured that books shipped directly from Amazon would not be delayed by military censors. My book shipment did not get through. I used the address from cageprisoners. Amazon’s tracking system gave me an account of the shipment bounding around Washington for about ten days, until someone finally returned it to Amazon as undeliverable.

    There is something fishy about the discrepancies between what the DoD has claimed about mail to the Guantanamo captives, and what they testified in their transcripts.

    In your excellent article about Abdul Razaq Hekmati I think you pointed out that he testified in 2004, 2005, 2006, that none of the letters the Red Cross mailed on his behalf netted an answer. But the DoD claimed that the captives’ ability to send and receive mail were never suspended for disciplinary reasons, and that the captives sent and received thousands of items per month.

    I wonder if it would be more reliable to send mail to the captives through the Red Cross?


  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi arcticredriver,
    Good to hear from you, and very interesting questions and observations.
    In response, I have to say that, first of all, I believe that you’re right to be suspicious of official claims that indicate the unimpeded passage of correspondence from members of the public to prisoners — and, presumably, vice versa — as your experience with Omar shows.
    I’ll let you know if I hear anything from my friends on Facebook who organized the letter-writing campaign, but fear that we’ll hear very little, even if the letters get through, because to do so would require the prisoners to write back — and my feeling is that letters from prisoners to anyone other then family are a rare occurrence, either by accident or design.
    I’ll ask some of the lawyers what they think about letters, as that would appear to be a more reliable route, but is probably one that throws up all sorts of other problems regarding clearance for the lawyers, who, as you know, are permanently regarded with suspicion by the authorities.
    And if anyone wants further information about any of the points raised by arcticredriver, the letter-writing campaign is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/06/23/write-to-the-forgotten-prisoners-in-guantanamo/
    And the sad story of Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, who died in Guantanamo on December 26, 2007, without ever having been able to clear his name, is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/world/asia/05gitmo.html?_r=1

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Here are some comments from Facebook:

    TeresaLynn Zimmermann wrote:

    Andy thanks for sharing this… would have missed this were it not for you. Going to re-post. Beautifully written and heart-felt letter!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Fiona Branson noted:

    ‘P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate’

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner wrote:

    I was wondering about that too, but since the Post is publishing it I guess the cat is out of the bag now…

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    TeresaLynn Zimmerman wrote:

    If it was not to be shared why was it released to be published by the Post and now by Andy? Once the Post had it I am sure it is completely ‘viral’ by now, right? As Andy said this is a touching, beautiful heart-felt letter.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    This was my reply:

    For what it’s worth, I think the ultimate responsibility lies with Dennis Edney, and he obviously felt that it was appropriate to release it, and that Omar would understand.
    And given how difficult it is for many Canadians to see Omar as a human being — even with his vile and inappropriate war crimes trial looming — I tend to think he’s right.
    Also, as TeresaLynn points out, it’ll soon be all over the ‘net. Michelle Shephard has just written about it for the Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/840790–omar-khadr-seeks-public-support?bn=1

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilburt wrote:

    Very touching…

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Parker wrote:

    Omar Khadr has had a very raw deal indeed. Thanks to you that we know about it.

  11. mohd radza says...

    Assalamualaikum Brother Omar Khadr, I’m against war, especially a war that was created merely for business as promoted by the US. and “Zeitgeist” file proved it. These are all the work of the transgressors and associate with Satan. I hope you will be patient and always pray to Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful. I believe and pray that Allah will protect you and others from harm and bless you with His Love and grant you heaven.

  12. Carta de Omar Khadr desde Guantánamo - Quilombo says...

    […] de Omar Khadr desde Guantánamo A través de la web del periodista británico Andy Worthington, me entero de la existencia de una carta publicada en […]

  13. Frances Madeson says...

    “I hate being the head of the spear…”

    Did this evoke The Lord of the Flies for anyone else?

  14. Samuel says...

    Thank you Andy for your work.
    I translated the letter into Spanish (comment #12). In the last months it is difficult to find information about Guantánamo in the Spanish speaking newspapers, despite Spain’s implication in the Afghan occupation and in the CIA flights to that military base.

  15. Omer Sultan says...

    May Peace be on you brother. By Allah, I am sadden to see you behind the bars and my blood boils when I see any brother or sister suffering. Brother, I can’t console you expect by my Duas and prayers. Brother Omar, remember this life is short and the Hereafter is the actual place. Those who are harassing our brothers and sister, Allah will surely humiliate them in the world and in Akhira.

    Be patient and always remember Almighty Allah. May Almighty Allah keep you firm on Islam.

    Omer Sultan
    Occupied Indian Kashmir

  16. lamri rachid says...

    do not be sad … Allah is with us

  17. Federal Court sets Khadr deadline says...

    […] […]

  18. Letter to Dennis Edney, from Omar Khadr | THE WORLD DEMANDS OMAR'S FREEDOM says...

    […] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/OmarKhadrletter_word.pdf http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/07/27/a-letter-from-omar-khadr-in-guantanamo/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

  19. To Dennis, from Omar | THE WORLD DEMANDS OMAR'S FREEDOM says...

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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