Friday, September 16, 2016

URGENT ACTION: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner on Hunger Strike in Uruguay Demanding Family Reunion

Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, 45, spent 12 years at Guantánamo without charge or trial. Cleared for release in 2010, he was eventually released to Uruguay as a Syrian refugee with five others in December 2014.

In 2013, Dhiab (also known as Abu Wa’el Dhiab, or Diyab) took part in the mass hunger strike involving the majority of prisoners, and remained on hunger strike until his release. As a result, he was very weak and underweight when released and continues to walk on crutches.
He was beaten, placed in solitary confinement and subject to force feeding by nasal tube at Guantánamo while on hunger strike. He sued the US government to force them to stop force feeding him in a manner the UN has stated is tantamount to torture. A judge has ordered that videos showing the brutal way in which Dhiab was tortured are disclosed; the court case is ongoing and the US government is fighting tooth and nail to prevent their disclosure. In recent weeks it has claimed that such disclosure could aid terrorists; in truth, it would be hugely embarrassing to the US government. 

Adapting to life in Uruguay as refugees and survivors of torture has not been easy for Dhiab and the other former prisoners. As well as isolation, media demonisation, destitution and an inability to speak Spanish, a key issue for Dhiab has been reunification with his family, some of whom remain in war-torn Syria and others who are currently refugees in Turkey.

The Uruguayan government has promised on numerous occasions to bring them to Uruguay. This has not happened and Dhiab would not be able to host them on a meagre stipend he receives and which is due to run out at the end of the year. He has instead demanded he is sent to Turkey or any Middle Eastern country that will accept him and his family.

In June Dhiab briefly disappeared from Uruguay. The media deliberately and wrongly claimed he had travelled to Brazil and was planning to sabotage the Olympic Games in Rio. Instead, he reappeared at the Uruguayan Embassy in Venezuela in July and again demanded to be sent to Turkey to be with his wife and children. Upon leaving the embassy, he was arrested and held incommunicado by the Venezuelan authorities who denied him access to his lawyer, effectively holding him as he was held at Guantánamo. He was returned to Uruguay in late August.

Dhiab  has been on hunger strike since 12th August and has refused liquids since 1st September. He has been hospitalised twice and on 14th September was in a coma for over 9 hours. He is demanding to be sent to Turkey or any other Middle Eastern country which will accept them where he can live peacefully with his wife and children. The Uruguayan authorities are currently trying to find such a country but claim it is proving difficult. 

It is inevitable that the US is also involved; the pressure on Dhiab is clearly a dimension of the US’ efforts to force Dhiab to give up his lawsuit in the US. The right to family life is a human right.

More information:
Jihad Dhiab explains why he is on hunger strike in English, Arabic and Spanish


There are two things you can do to help support Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab:

1) Please sign and share the following petition to the President of Uruguay demanding that his government takes urgent action to reunite the Dhiab family:

2) Send an individualised letter (in English or Spanish) to the President of Uruguay demanding:
- the Uruguay government takes immediate steps to find a safe third country for Dhiab and his family to be resettled together
- the Uruguay government provides him with the resources to make this happen
A draft letter is provided below:

Your Excellency,
I am writing to you concerning Mr Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, a Syrian refugee in your country who was previously held without charge or trial by the United States at Guantánamo Bay for over 12 years. Mr Dhiab has been on hunger strike since August in protest at the fact that almost two years since his release he has not been reunited with his family in spite of repeat promises.
Since family reunification in Uruguay does not appear to be feasible, I urge you to take urgent measures to send Mr Dhiab to a Middle Eastern or Arab country where he can live peacefully together with his family, who are also refugees. Mr Dhiab has been in a coma and has been hospitalised several times. His situation is worsening. I therefore urge to look into and resolve this as a matter of urgency.

Send letters to:
His Excellency Dr Tabare Vazquez
President of the Oriental Republic of  Uruguay
Torre Ejecutiva, Plaza Independencia 710
11.000 Montevideo Uruguay

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