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HRW, Locked Up Alone (Ayman al Shurafa)

[Ayman] Al Shurafa is a 33-year-old Palestinian national born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Although Al Shurafa has been cleared to leave Guantanamo since at least February 2007, Saudi Arabia will not resettle him because he is not a Saudi citizen. While extended family members in Gaza are willing to take him in, the United States is not currently resettling anyone there.

Meanwhile, Al Shurafa remains in Camp 5, where he has been for almost three years. In February 2008 he told his lawyer that he had asked the Guantanamo Bay medical staff for medication to “let the days go by without feeling anything.” Although Al Shurafa has been given anti-depressants on and off, he was not receiving them in February.

Contributing to his emotional distress, Al Shurafa has suffered for many years from vitiligo, a skin disease that causes him to lose pigmentation in his skin, so that he looks as if he has been burned or bleached. Al Shurafa reports that several Guantanamo doctors have prescribed ointments or other treatments for the disease, but that he has never received any of the prescriptions.

Al Shurafa, who reportedly loves to do artwork, was given paper and colored pencils from his interrogators throughout most of 2007. But in February 2008 Al Shurafa reported that the guards no longer let him keep the paper and pencils in his cell, saying they were against the rules. Now he reportedly spends most of the day sitting and staring at the walls with nothing to do.

Al Shurafa told his lawyers: “Being away from my family is like a death sentence.” Yet he has never been allowed a phone call home, and has even stopped responding to letters from his mother, brothers, and sisters. “What can I say to them? Nothing happens to me that is good. Nothing happens that I can say anything about,” he explained to his lawyer.89


89. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Zachary Katznelson, attorney for Ayman Al Shurafa, May 19, 2008.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo, June 2008, pp. 35f