A Guantanamo Returnee is Reunified with his Family
Akhir Lahza (Sudan)
by Amima Abdul-Wahab
October 16, 2008
Mustafa’s mother runs about a kilometer to welcome back her son. His son does not recognize him. His father and his sisters lose their consciousness when they see him.
The Tragedy Starts Here
Mustafa Ibrahim Mustafa went to Pakistan in 2001. Seeking better life conditions for his family, he dropped out of the University, left his small village, Auum-Thikra, and his wife, Ehsan Alameen, and his family. He has four children. Khula, who was five years old, is now twelve, and is in the seventh grade. Atiqa, just three years old when her father left the family, is now in the fifth grade. His son, Safwan, is in the third grade. Finally, Taha, who missed his father when he was an infant, is now in the second grade.
After leaving his parents for seven years, Mustafa has recently come back, but his parents have already gotten very old. His mother, al-Haja Batwl, and his father, al-Haj Ibrahim, have been struggling painfully and sleeplessly; they have suffered and felt alone during the detention of their son in Guantanamo. Mustafa’s detention has affected both his big and his small family. The big one is his parents’ family, including his sister and brother, while the small one is his wife and his children. Both of them have suffered for a long time. His brother, al-Tachani, did everything to provide for the financial needs for the families. Dr. Wasila has told us that Mustafa’s parents have suffered more than anyone else; they were crying all the time; they have not slept well since Mustafa’s left in 2001. His wife and children have also waited for Mustafa for the past seven years; they had hope despite the disappointment and fear that filled their minds.
Nasraddin, a member of the municipal counsel, has pointed out that Musstafa’s family has been a good and respectful family in the village. He also said that the Governor has helped Mustafa’s family, and will continue to help Mustafa.
Mustafa’s personality and habits were the major topics of our questions. We wanted to know weather the U.S was right in taking Mustafa as terrorist or it was just an examination from Allah to test Mustafa’s character.
Mustafa said repeatedly that he did not go to pakastan for jihad, but he was unfortunate because the Afghanistan’s war had already started. The people in his village said that Mustafa has been a gentleman, has always wanted good things for others, and has been a helpful person. Ali San and Ahmad al-Ariki told us that Mustafa started to establish the only mosque in the village. He started establishing it seven years ago, but after he got arrested, the project was stopped. So the mosque is still incomplete. At the same time he set up a water-well to supply water for the village. Unfortunately he couldn’t get it done either because his arrest by U.S. Therefore, the people in that village resented the U.S.
Dr. Alwasila also mentioned that Mustafa was his schoolmate until University level, but he was not able to pursue his study because he needed to help his family. Also, he was famous for his kindness.
The Painful Journey
Now we know the life-story of Mustafa. We asked him about his painful experience in prison. He said: “I headed towards Pakistan for trade in 2001. I stayed in Peshawar, a city on the border of Pakistan about three months. Then I got arrested by the U.S. forces. They actually bought me from the Intelligence Agency of Pakistan. From that moment my painful journey started. I got jailed in the Bagram Air Force Base. Other detainees and I experienced different kinds of torture and insults. But, this was only the beginning. The second suffering journey started when we were taken from Afghanistan to Cuba. Each hour passed like a month. Then they put us in a hell in which we were insulted and our religion, which we keep in our hearts, was affronted. I always thank Allah that this suffering journey gave us an opportunity to get close with the brothers; what gathered and connected us was a connection that was far more from normal. We had a time of real brotherhood together.”
Dr. Wasila pointed out that it was seven difficult years of torture and insult for Mustafa. He was arrested without reason and released without apology. Mustafa himself said: “We didn’t have any connection with the world, and did not get any news from our families for a long time. Nearly a year. Likewise, we delivered news to our families through the Red Cross, but the Americans’ will determined when and whether our news got out.”
I asked Mustafa after his dreams started to shatter at Pakistan’s gate, and ended in Cuba, whether this dream-damaging journey left him with any ambitions or not. He said: “If it wasn’t for patience, I would never have gotten back here. Without patience, I would have never been able to meet my family and my relatives. Without faith, I could have never passed the test that came from Allah. However, I think I can still help others.”
I also asked Mustafa’s children about their life without their father for the past years. They said that their grandfather and mother were helping them to continue with their studies. They also said that their uncle and relatives also did their best for the family; they provided them with food and clothes, and supported them through their studies. Khawla said she hopes to become a doctor in the future; Atiqa expressed she hopes to become an engineer.
Also, I asked Mustafa how will he restart his life. He has been disconnected from his family for seven years, and his children have already established their personalities in his absence. Then, with deep sorrow, he tried to get around the question and avoid answering it. However, he said: “I really do not know how, when and where from I should start my life. Only Allah knows that. I am sure that Allah will undoubtedly help me because he supported me as I dealt with the bad situation in Guantanamo. So I will continue with my children and complete my mission.”
Then I tried to set aside my uncomfortable question and Mustafa’s sad answer. So I asked the family how they knew about the Mustafa’s release and his return home. They said: “We found out at the last moment. We received the news from the Civic Cooperation Organization. In addition to that, Mutasim Amin, Mustafa’s brother-in-law, said he used every possible way to get Mustafa released because in the past Mustafa looked after his own children and helped them. But thanks to Allah, the situation of Mustafa’s children did not affect us much--although psychologically it had a big impact on all of us.
Feelings and Difficulty at the Meeting
We reach most difficult part in our interview with Mustafa’s family. It is impossible to describe and write the family members’ feelings and the scenes of the moment in which Mustafa meets his family. His children ran towards their father and hugged him; Mustafa was crying as if he wants to make up for his seven-year absence from his children.
The most difficult moment was asking Talaha whether how he recognized his father among those who were there. He answered innocently: “I would not recognize him, but people told me that is my father.” I was not surprised when I saw all attendees were crying and shouting: “Bush you are a coward. Mustafa is here!"
I also asked Mustafa about his son, Talah, and how he knew that he was his son. He told me that his heart was his guide; I knew immediately that Talah is my son. Another touching scene was Mustafa’s mother’s reaction and reception. She had walked barefoot about a kilometer out of the village to meet his son again. She did not care about the hot weather, other difficulties, and even her health. His father had come to meet Mustafa in a similar way. That showed the actual desperation of his mother for Mustafa. Then, she cried and hugged his son once again. I told Mustafa’s mother I wanted to talk to her; she immediately responded: “I am happy! I am happy! After seven years, my eyes can rest and sleep again.” After that, she was walking around the area among her relatives as a small child that does not know how to express her feelings. The final scene was Mustafa’s sister. She was overwhelmed by emotion and was crying intensely.