Please Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners, Let Them Know They’ve Not Been Forgotten Under President Biden

23.2.22

Eight of the 39 men still held at Guantánamo. Top row from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Sufyian Barhoumi, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Moath al-Alwi. Bottom row from L to R: Saifullah Paracha, Abu Zubaydah, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Mohammed al-Qahtani. Of these eight, all but Khaled Qassim and Abu Zubaydah have been approved for release.

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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.

It’s 12 years since two Muslim activist friends in the UK initiated a project to get people to write to the Guantánamo prisoners still held at that time — 186 in total — and I adopted it, and have been running it ever since, generally once or twice a year, although this is the first time I’ve asked people to write to the prisoners since May 2020.

Under President Biden, there has been little progress in releasing prisoners — just one man has been freed since he took office over a year ago — but there has been significant progress in approving prisoners for release. 15 men have been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards (a parole-type review process established under President Obama) since Joe Biden became president, bringing to 20 the number of men still held who have been approved for release.

This is over half of the 39 men still held, but approving men for release means nothing unless the men are actually freed, and on that front we seem constantly to be awaiting news that these men have finally been granted their freedom. Moreover, although these men now have some sort of future beyond Guantánamo to imagine — after the last five years, in which just two of their fellow prisoners were released — life at Guantánamo is still extraordinarily isolated.

Unlike every other prisoner held elsewhere by the US, the men at Guantánamo are not allowed family visits (even if their family members could afford to get to Guantánamo). Their only contact with their families is via limited phone calls and Skype calls, and their only direct contact with the outside world is via visits from their attorneys — and those, of course, ground to halt with the arrival of Covid.

The approval of 15 men for release in the last year has, however, reduced to just seven the number of men held as “forever prisoners” — those who the PRBs have recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial — and it is anticipated that further releases will be recommended as the PRBs continue to review the cases of these men throughout 2022.

12 others have been charged in the military commissions, the broken trial system at Guantánamo that is fundamentally incapable of delivering justice. Ten are in seemingly endless pre-trial hearings, while one other is awaiting release, having fulfilled the terms of a plea deal agreed in 2012, and another man is serving a life sentence after a one-sided trial back in 2008, in which he refused to mount a defense.

In the list below, I have divided the remaining 39 prisoners into those approved for release, the “forever prisoners” whose ongoing imprisonment has been approved by Periodic Review Boards, and those charged or tried in the military commissions system. I have also included some additional information — their nationalities, and links to my reports on their cases.

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 20 prisoners approved for release by high-level government review processes under Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden

  • ISN 027 Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in May 2021
  • ISN 028 Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in December 2021
  • ISN 038 Ridah Bin Saleh Al Yazidi
    A Tunisian, he was approved for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force in January 2010
  • ISN 063 Mohamed Mani Ahmad al Kahtani
    A Saudi, better known as Mohammed al-Qahtani, he was approved for release by a PRB in February 2022
  • ISN 309 Muieen A Deen Jamal A Deen Abd al Fusal Abd al Sattar
    Listed as being from the UAE, although of unknown nationality, he was approved for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force in January 2010
  • ISN 569 Suhayl Abdul Anam al Sharabi
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in November 2021
  • ISN 682 Abdullah Al Sharbi
    A Saudi, also known as Ghassan al-Sharbi, he was approved for release by a PRB in February 2022
  • ISN 694 Sufyian Barhoumi
    An Algerian, he was approved for release by a PRB in August 2016
  • ISN 841 Said Salih Said Nashir
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in October 2020
  • ISN 893 Tawfiq Nasir Awad Al-Bihani
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force in January 2010
  • ISN 1017 Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in December 2021
  • ISN 1094 Saifullah Paracha
    A Pakistani, and Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner, he was approved for release by a PRB in May 2021
  • ISN 1453 Sanad Al Kazimi
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in October 2021
  • ISN 1457 Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in June 2021
  • ISN 1460 Abdul Rabbani
    A Pakistani, he was approved for release by a PRB in May 2021
  • ISN 1461 Mohammed Rabbani
    A Pakistani, better known as Ahmed Rabbani, he was approved for release by a PRB in October 2021
  • ISN 1463 Abd Al-Salam Al-Hilah
    A Yemeni, he was approved for release by a PRB in June 2021
  • ISN 10023 Guleed Hassan Ahmed
    A Somali, he was approved for release by a PRB in November 2021
  • ISN 10025 Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu
    A Kenyan, he was approved for release by a PRB in December 2021
  • ISN 3148 Haroon al-Afghani
    An Afghan, whose real name is Asadullah Haroon Gul, he was approved for release by a PRB in October 2021

The 7 remaining “forever prisoners” whose ongoing imprisonment has been approved by Periodic Review Boards

  • ISN 242 Khalid Ahmed Qasim
    A Yemeni, he last had his ongoing imprisonment approved by a PRB in December 2021, although his next PRB is scheduled for May 2022
  • ISN 685 Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush
    An Algerian, he is awaiting the decision of his latest PRB in January 2022
  • ISN 708 Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush
    A Libyan, his next PRB is scheduled for March 2022
  • ISN 1456 Hassan Bin Attash
    A Saudi, and Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner, he is awaiting the decision of his latest PRB in January 2022
  • ISN 10016 Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn
    A stateless Palestinian, better known as Abu Zubaydah, the first victim of the US’s post-9/11 torture program, he is awaiting the decision of his latest PRB in July 2021
  • ISN 10017 Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Usaybi
    A Libyan, his next PRB is scheduled for June 2022
  • ISN 10029 Muhammad Rahim
    An Afghan, he is awaiting the decision of his latest PRB in February 2022

The 10 prisoners facing trials

  • ISN 10011 Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi
    A Saudi, he is one of five men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks
  • ISN 10013 Ramzi Bin al-Shibh
    A Yemeni, he is one of five men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks
  • ISN 10014 Walid Muhammad Salih Bin Attash
    A Yemeni, he is one of five men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks
  • ISN 10015 Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammad Abdah al-Nashiri
    A Saudi, he is charged in connection with the attack on the USS Cole in 2000
  • ISN 10018 Ammar al-Baluchi
    A Pakistani, he is one of five men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks
  • ISN 10019 Riduan Isomuddin
    An Indonesian, better known as Hambali, he is charged in connection with terrorist attacks in south east Asia
  • ISN 10021 Mohd Farik Bin Amin
    A Malaysian, he is charged in connection with terrorist attacks in south east Asia
  • ISN 10022 Bashir Bin Lap
    A Malaysian, he is charged in connection with terrorist attacks in south east Asia
  • ISN 10024 Khalid Shaykh Muhammad
    A Pakistani, he is one of five men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks
  • ISN 10026 Nashwan abd al-Razzaq abd al-Baqi
    An Iraqi, he is charged with being an Al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan

The 1 prisoner approved for release after fulfilling the terms of a plea deal

  • ISN 10020 Majid Khan
    A Pakistani, he agreed to a plea deal in his military commission trial in 2012, was sentenced in October 2021, and is scheduled to be released soon

The 1 prisoner serving a life sentence after a trial by military commission

  • ISN 039 Ali Hamza al-Bahlul
    A Yemeni, he was convicted of involvement with Al-Qaeda after a one-sided trial in 2008, in which he refused to mount a defense, and was given a life sentence

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 (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

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 struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — 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.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, encouraging opponents of Guantanamo’s continued existence to write to the 39 men still held at the prison.

    Although 15 of these men have been approved for release under President Biden, bringing to 20 the number of men still held who have been approved for release, just two men have been freed in the last five years. And with Covid also increasing the remaining prisoners’ already unprecedented isolation over the last two years, it is to be hoped that they will be glad to hear that they haven’t been forgotten.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Andy!
    It’s because of your beautiful campaign that I do.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    🙂 Natalia. Thank you for your relentless support of my work – and, of course, of the men still held at Guantanamo!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Andy, I’m translating your article now 😉 and I’ll write some letters along with my letters for Julian and Daniel Hale

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Natalia. I do hope they get through!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version of this article, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Por favor escríbeles a los prisioneros en Guantánamo. Hazles saber que no han sido olvidados con Biden’: http://www.worldcantwait-la.com/worthington-por-favor-escribeles-prisoneros-gitmo-2022.htm

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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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