Lost Years in Guantanamo

by Ismail Kamal Kushkush
February 21, 2008

KHARTOUM — When Pakistani intelligence stormed Salim Mahmud Adam's Peshawar residence on May 27, 2002, the Sudanese teacher had no idea this would lead to six hellish years in America's notorious Guantanamo detention.

"When I opened the door, they immediately handcuffed me," Adam, 44, told IslamOnline.net from his home in Sudan, 70 days after his release.

Adam, 44, still vividly remembers the screams and tears of his wife and three children that dreadful night.

"At 1:00 AM they came to my house from all sides. My wife was pregnant at the time. They showed no mercy."

Adam, then principal of a Peshawar orphanage school run by a Kuwaiti NGO, was blindfolded and taken into custody.

He was interrogated for twelve fore being sent to Bagram, another notorious US detention camp and airbase in Afghanistan.

Adam's agonizing torture ordeal began early on in Bagram.

"We were all left nude in front of each other," he remembers an insulting practice for Muslims.

"Interrogations would sometimes last for three to four hours."

After two months, it was the time to move to another pit of hell thousands of miles away.

Adam painfully describes Guantanamo as a place "in contrast with humanity."

He recalls the harsh interrogations, beatings, the cries and screams of fellow detainees and loud music played at the time of prayer.

"Some (interrogators) would tell me we know you are innocent but this is a political game."

The Bush administration has been holding hundreds of detainees in Guantanamo since 2002.

The camp has for years been criticized by international watchdogs and rights icons for operating outside the law.

Many at the camp, where some 275 detainees are still being held, have committed suicide, attempted to and gone on extensive hunger strikes.

Secret Charges

Like Adam, compatriot Adel Hasan Hamad will always remember the day he was arrested in Pakistan on July 18, 2002.

Hamad was working as a hospital administrator in Peshawar.

"When the [US] war started in Afghanistan, all foreigners left to Pakistan," he remembers.

Hamad, married and the father of four girls, went on vacation to Sudan with his family in the summer of 2002.

Leaving the family back home, he returned to Pakistan on July 16, 2002.

"I only wanted to help refugees in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Two days after his arrival, he was arrested.

"I was woken up by Pakistani intelligence officers who told me not to move and asked for my papers."

Stunned Hamad watched as one officer approached an accompanying American official with the question that changed his life for ever.

"He told him my papers were OK, should we arrest him?" he remembers. "The American said ‘yes.’"

Hamad was taken to a Pakistani prison where he remained for six months and fifteen days, questioned by intelligence officers.

He and three others, who were all hand-cuffed and hooded, were then flown on an American military plane to Bagram, now known to have always been a stopover for most of the people shipped to Guantanamo no matter where they were first detained.

"There, they started beating us once we arrived."

US soldiers and officials there, Hamad explains, subjected him to constant interrogation, often associated with either beatings, cursing or threats.

"They would not let us sleep."

After two months of constant "interrogation and punishment", Hamad explains, he and others were shipped to Guantanamo.

"We were taken in a cargo plane, tied to the floor," he recalls.

"It took nearly twenty hours to get there."

In Guantanamo, Hamad again was interrogated daily; sometimes twice a day, but never officially charged.

"They 'accused' me of helping Taliban and al-Qaeda," he said.

"I asked how so? They said that was secret information.

"I was accused of being an enemy combatant but I never carried weapons."

Washington had declared all Guantanamo detainees as "unlawful enemy combatants" to deny them legal rights under American legal system.

Only three of some 750 people sent to Guantanamo since 2002 have faced formal charges.

Some 400 prisoners have been discharged over the past two years without explanation for years behind bars.

Lost Years

In 2004, Hamad appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal that cleared him of the charge of being an enemy combatant.

In September, 2007, he was finally cleared by a military court of posing a threat to the United States.

Three months later, he breathed a sigh of relief while being taken away from hellish Guantanamo.

Flying home together on December 13, Hamdan and Adam had no idea more agony was in store.

Heart-broken Hamad, 50, was told his youngest daughter, Fida, had passed away while he was languishing at Guantanamo.

The family, which lost its source of income by his detention, could not afford to treat Fida when the young angel was struck by illness.

Adam, meanwhile, is still trying to reunite with his Pakistani wife and three children, still living in Peshawar.

One daughter, 5-year-old Amina, was born after his detention and has never known a father.

With the help of human rights groups, the two men are planning to sue the US for an apology and compensations after long years behind Guantanamo's high-walls.

"Guantanamo is place where human rights are abused," said Adam, fighting back tears.

"It needs to be shut down immediately."

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