I just spoke to a Syrian brother who was in Guantanamo for 13 years. I last saw him in Bagram in 2002 when US soldiers had beaten him and dragged him into a cell. In all this time he was never charged with a crime and was cleared for release or transfer in 2006. Seeing his face after all these years I expected a completely different man, unrecognisable. After all, he has spent several years suffering torture and abuse while on hunger-strikes which were broken by repetitive force-feeding. His wife was imprisoned for a year by the Asad regime, before the revolution, simply for calling for his freedom. In Guantanamo he learned of the death of his 15 year old son in Syria by regime bombs. The last time he saw him he was three years old. Before being kidnapped by the Americans I met them and remember how much he loved him.
So you'd expect bitterness, sorrow and a face withered with time, struggle and torture? In fact, although this brother has aged and greyed and he is still suffering the effects of long-term hunger strikes, there is a light (nur) on his face that transcends the computer screen. His smile is infectious, his care for the remaining prisoners of Guantanamo, determined. We spoke about #ShakerAamer and several other prisoners who have yet to be released and he wants to dedicate his efforts towards freeing them. He speaks of the immensely warm welcome given by the people of #Uruguay and the genuine hospitality shown towards him and five others resettled there. He wants to know about the media and telling his story. He asks about other Guantanamo prisoners released and what is happening in the world. I refer him to twitter, facebook, youtube etc - things he's never used or heard of. I should have been more thoughtful. The world he knew has changed forever. We laugh it off and say that such modern subjects have yet to be taught in the University of Yusuf (prison).
As for his son, he is sad but he is happy too. For he is a shaheed (martyr) inshaAllah. I want to cry at his response but I hold back my tears and change the subject.
He is preparing to be reunited with the rest of his family in the next few days. His other children have grown up and the years apart will be impossible to recover. I struggled after only three years, how does one do so after thirteen? May Allah make his reunion a blessed one, filled with joy, love, patience and understanding.
History has borne witness to what these men have endured in the name of democracy and freedom. Let us ensure that future generations never forget.
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