Monday, August 23, 2010

Write to released Guantánamo Prisoners in Europe in Ramadan

Former prisoners speak. Ramadan was more spiritual in Guantanamo. 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? Guantanamo 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, Italy, Slovakia and Albania 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. 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 8 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,
a 40-year Egyptian accountant who speaks fluent English, he has a wife and 3 children in Egypt whom he has not seen for over 9 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, 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
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

Details of the stories of all these prisoners and others can be found on Andy Worthington’s website:
London Guantánamo Campaign

1 comment:

  1. The LGC has been informed by Reprieve that the address given for sending letters to the prisoners in Italy is incorrect. We will provide the correct address as soon as we have it. The address and details for the prisoners released in Slovakia are correct.