A Bitter Valentine’s Day
By Shaker Aamer
It’s 14 February. In Britain it will be Valentine’s Day. In 2002, it was the day I arrived in Guantánamo Bay, and the day my youngest child was born – Faris, whom I have never been allowed to touch.
Yesterday, my fellow detainee Emad Hassan did not take his legal call, for the same reason every time he misses a phone call or a meeting. They intimidate him by telling him before he goes, “we’ll do a full body search” – the “scrotum groping search” as they call it. So Emad goes with them to the Camp 5 exit where they plan to do the search, and when he sees them ready to carry out a full body search, he tells them that he refuses the humiliation, and demands to go back to his cell.
Indeed, the authorities don’t want someone like Emad to let the world know what has happened to him. Recently, he encountered the worst doctor here in Guantánamo – the “Doctor of the Dark Side”. I told him to write as much as he can about it and send it out, but it takes time for him to write in English, and it takes time for the letters to get through the censors.
I am on my hunger strike. Last night, I took one cup of coffee and added two creamers. That is why I am writing now. I can’t go to sleep, plus it is nice to write something about this place on the first day of my New Year.
There are 35 hunger strikers now. Eighteen of them are being tube-fed. These brothers go and return from feedings by the FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team. They even are weighed by the FCE team, but it’s impossible to take someone’s weight whilst he is shaking so hard on the digital scale and tied to a board. But this means there are 11 or 12 soldiers required every time they have to be moved, as many as five or six times a day.
It is exactly 8:00AM and the National Anthem is playing so loudly. There are big rumours going around, and we hope they are true. It is said that the Government dropped the charges against 12 Yemenis and that only two Yemenis will be prosecuted (Bin Attash and Nashiri). The eligible ones will go to Yemen in three groups: only those who have conditions will be kept in the planned rehabilitation centre; those who have no conditions will be free; and the third group will be those who are to be prosecuted in Yemen, serving their jail sentence in Yemen.
What else… How do I feel with another year of my life gone unjustly and another year started? Truly, I feel numb. I can’t even think about it. Years are passing like months and months like weeks. Weeks pass like days and days like hours. Hours feel like minutes, minutes seconds, and seconds pass like years. And it goes around in a strange circle that makes no sense. It all takes an age, and yet an age of my life seems to pass too fast. On and on and on.
I live in the dark, knowing nothing. Here I am, cleared for release for seven years, more than half my time here. What, why, when, how, where? These questions have no answers, only total darkness.
I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die. I am confused about everything and everyone. It is not enough for them to leave us alone with all this pain we are suffering. It is not enough for us to live only with our memories, which bring more pain. Dead people are better off than us. They are living a new way of life, knowing that they are dead and facing the consequences of their past actions.
But our suffering is endless – and with it, our loved ones’ suffering is endless. We are not dead but they forget us after awhile, because they cannot see us or feel us and know how we truly are.
Yet still they do more harm to us: humiliating and insulting us, degrading us, anything to make us more miserable. Welcome to the Hell on Earth, welcome to Guantánamo. Welcome to the year 1984, the year 2014.
I have no doubt justice will prevail and the light of the truth will shine all over the world. What is happening to us and others is a small price for justice, peace, and happiness which will cover the whole world soon. Always, after total darkness, the sun rises again. I hope to see the sun of justice, peace, and happiness with my own eyes. It will be a great day.
If I don’t get to see that sun, please remember that I have endured all this in the name of Justice.
Alone in Guantánamo
Shaker relayed this blog post to his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith in an unclassified letter.
Shaker Aamer was taken, hooded and shackled, to the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on the same day his youngest child was born – a child he had never met, touched, or even seen.
Reprieve began representing him, and Shaker was cleared for release in 2007. This process required no fewer than six US government agencies to agree that he posed no threat to the US or its allies and could be released.
On 25 September 2015, it was announced that Shaker would be freed. On Friday 30th October 2015, he was finally returned home to the UK. He is now recovering from his ordeal, and rebuilding his life.
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