Let me out of Guantánamo

by Ahmed Rabbani

I have a deep fear that I have disappeared into a parallel universe, one where I have been forgotten forever. Here I am in Guantánamo Bay, coming up on 16 years in captivity, never charged with a crime.

On July 11, my lawyers will be in court in Washington to argue that I and 10 other men here should be granted at least the chance to prove our innocence. When we began the case in January, on the anniversary of this horrible place opening, President Trump’s lawyers replied with what they must have thought were clever words. My detention is not indefinite, they say, but “indeterminate.” English is not my first language, but even I can see that is nonsense.

I still have faith, even after all this time, that a judge will see through this stupidity and understand what is really going on: This President has no plan for us. When he has a problem, he tries to ignore it until it goes away. The better solution would be to save the American taxpayer the $11 million per year it costs to keep me here. I may be nobody to him, but I am a very expensive nobody.

They had the wrong person: I was just a taxi driver from Karachi

I was first seized on Sept. 10, 2002. Originally, the U.S. thought I was very valuable. They believed me to be a member of Al Qaeda by the name of Hassan Ghul. But I wasn’t. As I immediately told them, they had the wrong person: I was just a taxi driver from Karachi.

It took the U.S. almost two years to take me to Guantánamo Bay, because they took me to one of their darkest torture chambers first: Indeed, they called it the “dark prison.” I told them I was just a taxi driver. They tortured me to try to make me say I was a terrorist. For 540 days, I was trapped in an endless cycle of abuse, humiliation and violence. For 540 days, my constant companions were fear and agonizing pain. To this day, I don’t know what my torturers hoped to achieve.

When the U.S. Senate published its report on torture, they wrote that, from the beginning, I told the CIA agents that I was not Hassan Ghul. The real Ghul was brought to the “dark prison” in January 2004, when I was still there. The Senate report says he “opened up right away and was cooperative from the outset.” They do not report whether these CIA officers thought to ask him if he was me, or I was him.

The Americans let Ghul go back to Pakistan, where he was released. I, who never took up arms against anyone, got sent to Guantánamo: Rather than set me free, they tried to cover up their crimes.

Recently, I learned that a rather young CIA agent was in charge of the “dark prison,” where, according to the Senate’s report, a “detainee died and numerous CIA detainees were subjected to unapproved coercive interrogation techniques.” I was one of those detainees. CIA leaders themselves, according to the report, felt this young agent should “not have continued access to classified information due to a ‘lack of honesty, judgment and maturity.’”

The agent got to go home to America where, far from being disciplined, he received a “bonus” because the CIA “director strongly believes that mistakes should be expected….”

I could try to forgive him, but I cannot do that without understanding why he tortured me

I could try to forgive him, but I cannot do that without understanding why he tortured me. He had me hung up by the wrists — what the Spanish Inquisition called strappado. The CIA rules said it could be done for three days, but he did it for a week. The report says “one detainee tried to cut his hand off” to stop the pain. That was me. They had me in a diaper, so I would urinate and defecate on myself.

Rather than receiving therapy for the trauma I have suffered, here I am, years later, still being mistreated by the same people. I have protested peacefully by going on hunger strike, but if a tree falls in a dark forest, who is to know? I am down to 99 pounds, yet I might evaporate for all the world seems to care.

I write this in despair from my prison cell. My attorneys with the nonprofit organization Reprieve have given it to the press.

I hope the judge in Washington D.C. will see my situation for what it truly is. Under this President, I am indefinitely detained with no charge, no trial and no chance of release. I know this cannot be something the U.S. Constitution allows.


Ahmed’s words originally appeared on 11 July 2018 in the New York Daily News. Click here to read. 


Who is Ahmed Rabbani?

Pakistani taxi driver endured 545 days of torture in CIA custody before Guantánamo. No charge or trial.

Ahmed was a taxi driver in Pakistan mistaken by intelligence services for a known extremist. He endured 545 days of torture in CIA custody before being rendered to Guantánamo.

Ahmed has been held in Guantánamo since 2004. He has never been charged with a crime, and never had a trial. Since 2013, he has been on hunger strike in a peaceful protest at his indefinite detention.

At the beginning of his ordeal, Ahmed was 32 years old and living in Karachi. He is Pakistani, and grew up with his family as migrants in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed was married and his wife had recently given birth to their son. He had built up a life that included a taxi business.

On 10th September 2002, the Pakistani intelligence service came to his house to arrest him. As revealed in the US Senate Torture Report, they thought he was a well-known extremist named Hassan Ghul.

Ahmed had been misidentified, but they tortured him until he told them what they wanted to hear. He has described how his torture began with threats of rape against his wife. The Pakistani forces threw the family out of their home, and detained his wife and child.

Ahmed was soon sold for a bounty of $5,000 to the US authorities, and his torture continued. As confirmed by the Senate’s report, Ahmed went on to be subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ He has described being tortured constantly during his 545 days in CIA secret prisons, including the ‘Dark Prison’, a site that takes its name from the complete blackness in which the prisoners were held. The techniques used on Ahmed included strappado, which is designed gradually and painfully to dislocate the shoulders.

In January 2013, a wide-spread hunger strike started at Guantánamo. The prisoners were peacefully protesting their indefinite detention in the only way they could – by refusing food. Ahmed joined, because he believed that neither he nor others should be detained without charges or a trial. He has described being violently force-fed twice daily.

He says this process is neither being allowed to live, nor being allowed to die.