Forgotten and Isolated: Please Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners


Twelve of the 40 prisoners still held at Guantánamo. Top row, from L to R: Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, Moath al-Alwi, Khalid Qasim, Abdul Latif Nasir. Middle row: Sufyian Barhoumi, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Saifullah Paracha, Hassan Bin Attash. Bottom row: Ahmad Rabbani, Abd al-Salam al-Hilah, Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, Haroon al-Afghani.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

With Muslims around the world marking the end of Ramadan, and with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, still raging globally, and particularly endangering those confined in cells, now is a good time, we hope, to encourage you to write to the 40 prisoners still held at Guantánamo, to try to ensure that they are not forgotten.

Since the spread of the coronavirus began, the prisoners at Guantánamo have been even more isolated than they usually are, which is quite an achievement, as they are not allowed, and have never been allowed family visits, even if their relatives could find a way to get to Guantánamo, and their only contact with anyone outside of the US military or other arms of the US government has been via their attorneys, or via representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Now, however, the Red Cross has suspended its visits until it is safe to return, and, although attorneys are allowed to visit, onerous quarantine requirements are in place. As NPR reported last week — looking primarily at the suspension of pre-trial proceedings in the broken military commission trial system — there is “a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving on the island, which has basically halted court travel because Guantánamo lawyers must also quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the US, turning even a short trip into a month-long commitment.”

Furthermore, with regard to the virus, there have also been cases of US personnel contracting it. Back in March, the authorities acknowledged that a sailor at the naval base had been isolated after contracting the virus, and NPR reported that there had been a second case “in the guard force that oversees its prisoners,” adding that the Department of Defense “said that for security reasons it will not say whether there have been additional positive diagnoses at Guantánamo, but because of the pandemic all court hearings have been canceled since mid-March and are not scheduled to restart until late July.”

Please write to the Guantánamo prisoners

It’s ten years since two Muslim activist friends in the UK initiated a project to get people to write to the prisoners still held at that time — 186 in total — and I adopted it, and have been running it once or twice a year ever since.

Nothing fundamental has changed since my last call for support last January, when, as I noted then, “40 men are still held, just one less than when Trump took office. The only man he has released is a Saudi who agreed to a plea deal in his military commission trial in 2014, which authorized his repatriation to ongoing imprisonment in his homeland in February 2018. The rest of the prisoners, however, are effectively Trump’s personal prisoners, all fundamentally deprived of anything resembling justice and held, if Trump gets his way, forever.”

These 40 men consist of five men approved for release, but not freed before President Obama left office, nine men facing or having faced trials in the military commission system, which is fundamentally incapable of delivering justice, and 26 others who are officially held indefinitely without charge or trial, subject to a parole-like review process, the Periodic Review Boards, that was set up by Barack Obama, and that led to 36 men being released before he left office. Under Trump, however, the PRBs have failed to deliver a single recommendation for a prisoner’s release, and the 26 “forever prisoners” are now boycotting the process, having correctly concluded that it is now a sham.

In the list below, I have divided the remaining 40 prisoners into those approved for release, those whose ongoing imprisonment has been approved by Periodic Review Boards, and those charged or tried in the military commissions system.

Please note that I have largely kept the spelling used by the US authorities in the “Final Dispositions” of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, which was released through FOIA legislation in June 2013. Even though these names are often inaccurate, they are the names by which the men are officially known in Guantánamo — although, primarily, it should be noted, those held are not referred to by any name at all, but are instead identified solely by their prisoner numbers (ISNs, which stands for “internment serial numbers”).

Writing to the 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.

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).

Please address all letters to:

Detainee Name
Detainee ISN
U.S. Naval Station
Guantánamo Bay
Washington, D.C. 20355
United States of America

Please also include a return address on the envelope.

The 5 prisoners approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama

ISN 038 Ridah Bin Saleh al Yazidi (Tunisia)
ISN 244 Abdul Latif Nasir (Morocco)
ISN 309 Muieen A Deen Jamal A Deen Abd al Fusal Abd al Sattar (UAE)
ISN 694 Sufyian Barhoumi (Algeria)
ISN 893 Tawfiq Nasir Awad Al-Bihani (Yemen)

The 26 prisoners whose ongoing imprisonment was approved by Periodic Review Boards

ISN 027 Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman (Yemen)
ISN 028 Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi (Yemen)
ISN 063 Mohamed Mani Ahmad al Kahtani (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 242 Khalid Ahmed Qasim (Yemen)
ISN 569 Suhayl Abdul Anam al Sharabi (Yemen)
ISN 682 Abdullah Al Sharbi (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 685 Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush (Algeria) aka Abdelrazak Ali
ISN 708 Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush (Libya)
ISN 841 Said Salih Said Nashir (Yemen)
ISN 1017 Omar Mohammed Ali al-Rammah (Yemen)
ISN 1094 Saifullah Paracha (Pakistan)
ISN 1453 Sanad Al Kazimi (Yemen)
ISN 1456 Hassan Bin Attash (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 1457 Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj (Yemen)
ISN 1460 Abdul Rabbani (Pakistan)
ISN 1461 Mohammed Rabbani (Pakistan) aka Ahmad Rabbani
ISN 1463 Abd al-Salam al-Hilah (Yemen)
ISN 10016 Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn aka Abu Zubaydah
ISN 10017 Mustafa Faraj Muhammed Masud al-Jadid al-Usaybi (Libya) aka Abu Faraj al-Libi
ISN 10019 Encep Nurjaman (Hambali) (Indonesia)
ISN 10021 Mohd Farik bin Amin (Malaysia)
ISN 10022 Bashir bin Lap (Malaysia)
ISN 10023 Guleed Hassan Ahmed (Somalia)
ISN 10025 Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu (Kenya)
ISN 3148 Haroon al-Afghani (Afghanistan)
ISN 10029 Muhammad Rahim (Afghanistan)

The 9 prisoners charged or tried

ISN 039 Ali Hamza al-Bahlul (Yemen)
ISN 10011 Mustafa Ahmad al Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 10013 Ramzi Bin Al Shibh (Yemen)
ISN 10014 Walid Mohammed Bin Attash (Yemen)
ISN 10015 Mohammed al Nashiri (Saudi Arabia) aka Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri
ISN 10018 Ali abd al Aziz Ali (Pakistan)
ISN 10020 Majid Khan (Pakistan)
ISN 10024 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Kuwait)
ISN 10026 Nashwan abd al-Razzaq abd al-Baqi (Hadi) (Iraq)

Note: For further information about the prisoners, see my six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six).

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

21 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, encouraging you to break through the extraordinary isolation currently faced by the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and to write to them.

    Since the coronavirus crisis started, attorneys are not currently able to visit their clients, and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross have suspended their visits for the first time since the prison opened.

    A letter might let them know that they haven’t been forgotten!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Shahela Begum wrote:

    Thank you for sharing inmate info, Andy, will get started and circulate with other supporters.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    It’s so important.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Asiya Muhammad wrote:

    Shared, thank you 😔 so heartbreaking

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Lakhdar Boumediene wrote:

    Thank you dear Andy !

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Shahela, Natalia, Asiya and Lakhdar for your supportive responses!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Andy you know I write to Ridah Bin Saleh al Yazidi for years know.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    I know, Natalia. How I wish we heard something about him!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Andy I called the Red Cross a few years ago … they said they couldn’t give me information because I’m not family but they told me he was ok. They were very nice to me, I remember crying on the phone.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    You’ve told me the outline of that story before, Natalia, but I didn’t recall that the ICRC had at least been able to tell you that he was OK – or that you’d been crying. That’s a very moving anecdote. The psychopaths and sociopaths and warmongers in charge don’t have any idea of what empathy might mean. This morning I had a rare piece of hate mail from a member of the US military who served twice at Guantanamo, and gave me the whole “they’re all terrorists” and “you’re a gullible idiot” nonsense. I didn’t reply. What can I say to someone who’s been so efficiently brainwashed?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Cortney Busch wrote:

    Thank you for this encouragement, Andy! It is such a vital lifeline to the men.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Cortney. I hope you’re coping OK in these strange times.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Geraldine Grunow wrote:

    Thank you for working so hard for these forgotten men.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    And thank you as ever for caring, Geraldine!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    I am going to have a go at sending letters; thank you for this information, and all your help.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Malcolm. That’s good to hear.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Sara Birch wrote:

    Will forward to our Lewes Amnesty group members and ask members to write. Thanks Andy for never forgetting those in Guantanamo.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    How could I move on when the injustice is as vile as it was when I first started work on Guantanamo 14 years ago, Sara. Thanks for sharing with your local Amnesty members.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Kai Sanburn wrote:

    Andy, Sometime ago, I wrote over 200 letters to the men imprisoned in Guantanamo, based on your urging. There were 166 prisoners held then. I looked up each person, using your information, and personalized each letter as I could.

    I used bright orange envelopes, thinking that might draw some attention as they traveled from my mailbox to wherever they ended up.

    I don’t know if any were ever delivered to the men they were intended for or if they made a difference at all. For me, it was a small push back against erasure and indifference.

    I respect and appreciate the depth of your commitment.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Kai, for the wonderful supportive words, and for your gesture. I very much hope some of those letters got through, but even if they didn’t your “push back against erasure and indifference” is hugely commendable. If people understood how life-sapping doing nothing is, they might understand, but as it stands I’m sure far too many people no longer even comprehend the notion of making an effort – even if it appears futile – because of something ethical.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    The Spanish translation of this article can be found here, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website – ‘Olvidados y aislados: por favor escríbeles a los prisioneros de Guantánamo’:

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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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