I had a good time at Guantanamo, says inmate

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Lefty Wilbury, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Lefty Wilbury
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    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

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    http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/02/08/wguan08.xml

    I had a good time at Guantanamo, says inmate
    By Rajeev Syal
    (Filed: 08/02/2004)


    An Afghan boy whose 14-month detention by US authorities as a terrorist suspect in Cuba prompted an outcry from human rights campaigners said yesterday that he enjoyed his time in the camp.

    Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English. His words will disappoint critics of the US policy of detaining "illegal combatants" in south-east Cuba indefinitely and without trial.

    In a first interview with any of the three juveniles held by the US at Guantanamo Bay base, Mohammed said: "They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons."

    Mohammed, an unemployed Afghan farmer, found the surroundings in Cuba at first baffling. After he settled in, however, he was left to enjoy stimulating school work, good food and prayer.

    "At first I was unhappy . . . For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me. They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer," he said yesterday in Naw Zad, a remote market town in southern Afghanistan close to his home village and 300 miles south-west of Kabul, the capital.

    He said that the American soldiers taught him and his fellow child captives - aged 15 and 13 - to write and speak a little English. They supplied them with books in their native Pashto language. When the three boys left last week for Afghanistan, the soldiers looking after them gave them a send-off dinner and urged them to continue their studies.

    "They even took photographs of us all together before we left," he said. Mohammed, however, said he would have to disappoint his captors by not returning to his studies. "I am too poor for that. I will have to look for work," he said.

    Mohammed said his detention began in November 2002 when he and a friend, both unemployed, left their farming community for Lashkar Gah, a nearby town. He said that as they stood outside a shop they were detained by a group of armed men who accused them of being members of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement formerly in power in Afghanistan.

    They were then handed over to US soldiers, who took them to the southern city of Kandahar, he claimed. They were taken to Bagram air base, where Mohammed was held in solitary confinement.

    "They were asking me if I was Taliban. I said, 'No, I am innocent'. I thought they were going to release me but instead they put me on a plane," he said. "They asked me to wear a hood for part of the journey. When I got off the plane I was in Cuba."

    While Mohammed praised the American soldiers who watched over him, he criticised the US authorities for failing to contact his parents for 10 months to let them know that he was alive. "They stole 14 months of my life, and my family's life. I was entirely innocent: just a poor boy looking for work," he said.

    Mohammed and his fellow juvenile detainees returned to Afghanistan last week, after the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross. His words of praise for the American soldiers in Guantanamo Bay echo those of Faiz Mohammed, an elderly Afghan farmer who was detained at the base for eight months before being released in October 2002.

    "They treated us well. We had enough food. I didn't mind [being detained] because they took my old clothes and gave me new clothes," said the farmer, who was partially deaf.

    Camp Delta, which superseded the temporary Camp X-Ray, and Camp Iguana, a lower-security detention facility for juveniles, were established as part of President George W Bush's "war on terror".

    More than 600 suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects have been held without charge at the barbed-wire camps since December 2001. They include nine Britons and three British residents.

    Human rights agencies such as Amnesty International have alleged that the detention of the boys contravened the Geneva Convention, saying the separation from their families amounted to a form of mental torture. One of the boys was just 11 when he was detained.

    The US authorities insist that age plays no role in deciding who constitutes a threat. "Age is not a determining factor in detention. We detain enemy combatants who engaged in armed conflict against our forces or provided support to those fighting against us," said a Pentagon spokesman.

    Another US government official contradicted Mohammed's claims that he was entirely innocent when detained. The official said last week that one of the three boys had told of being conscripted into an anti-American militia group; a second said that he was abducted by the Taliban and forced to train and fight; while the third was studying in an extremist mosque and captured while preparing to obtain weapons.
     
  2. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    I don't need to go back and refer to the many arguments people made concerning the viewpoints and reports of a single individual not shedding light on the whole story, do I?
     
  3. Aquarian
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    Aquarian Member

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    while not the whole story as dk points out, i'm glad that at least one of the minors detained appears to have been treated well. The detention of the young folks was a major thorny point.
     
  4. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    I think the point of the article is that it isn't a big horror story over there as some would have you believe. Hearing it directly from someone who stayed there means more to me than hearing warped stories from politicians who just want to discredit other politicians.
     
  5. Bry
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    Bry Member

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    I think you're right about the point of the article, jim, or at least that is the point the writer seemed to want his readers to take from it. But the article corroberates all of the things that the international community has been protesting, up to and including the fact that this boy was held for ten months without contacting his family, and that he was released only after an intervention from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Furthermore, the article states clearly, that the conditions which this boy experienced were different from the norm, being that he was held in a special camp for juveniles. The writer says: "His words will disappoint critics of the US policy of detaining "illegal combatants" in south-east Cuba indefinitely and without trial." but I don't see the disappointment (if in fact, disappointment is an emotion that could be attributed to anyone upon the release after fourteen months of a twelve year old.) seeing as how the most consistent protest has been that they are being held indefinitely and without trial.

    This boy seems to have emerged from his experience mentally sound. If anything, it is a tribute to the resiliency of children. I doubt if I would have faired as well under the same circumstances, irrespective of how friendly his captors were.

    Bry
     
  6. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    Ok, I can agree with that, Bry. I'm also quite confident that certain prisoners have been treated differently than others. I'm sure those thought to have information that could help our troops or save lives were treated harsher in order to gain information from them.

    I think these prisoners should have contact with attorneys and have access to be released in a timely manner if no charges are to be brought forth.

    The orders to keep the prisoners there indefinitely comes from up above. I believe the soldiers on duty and in charge are treating the prisoners fairly and humanely. They're just following their orders.

    So yes, I agree that the isolation from the world and their indefinitely being detained should be fixed. But, I also don't think it's one big torture camp as some would have you believe.
     
  7. Bry
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    Bry Member

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    :beer:

    cheers!
     
  8. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    I'd much rather have a shot of vodka, but I can't seem to find the smiley for that!

    :wine:
     
  9. Johnney
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    Johnney Senior Member

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    im quite sure that no matter how they were treated in these camps, there will be some that will try to make it a point in saying it was the worse time in their life. always has to be a dick in the crowd
     

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