Op-Ed: I’m stuck in Guantanamo. The world has forgotten me
The world has forgotten me.
Though I once had friends, now I have nobody. Though I once had a government, Pakistan has turned its back on me. Though I once was a human being, I have been reduced to a number (1461) and abandoned in a dark hole: the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
I am officially a prisoner of war, though the only battle I ever fought back home, as a taxi driver in Karachi, was the rush hour traffic. I was mistaken for an extremist, captured by Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government and sold to the CIA for a bounty in 2002. I’ve now been detained at Guantanamo, without trial, for nearly 14 years.
President Trump’s lawyers argued in court this month that I and other Guantanamo prisoners who have filed habeas corpus petitions could be held by the U.S. government for a hundred years, if that is how long the “conflict” lasts.
I have withstood a lot of torture.
We are said to be the most dangerous prisoners in the world. Yet in the years since this prison was opened, there have been no murders here, no escape attempts, no drugs. The only deaths have been those of the nine men who succumbed to health problems or took their own lives. The only alleged sexual abuse has been at the hands of American interrogators.
The Miami Herald reports that, to operate Guantanamo Bay prison, it costs $11 million per prisoner per year. That would be more than $30,000 a day just for me.
I have gone on hunger strikes many times to peacefully protest my imprisonment. I am back to not eating, but this time it’s not a strike. I have chronic stomach problems so acute that I cannot consume hard food without vomiting blood. I am slowly disappearing, dropping a pound a week. I currently weigh 95 pounds.
I have asked for papaya and figs, as well as lamb, the only meat soft enough for my stomach to digest. Although a previous commander said I could have what I needed, I am not getting it.
For a while we had a physician whom we called Dr. Unfortunately. “Unfortunately you can’t have this,” he would say. “Unfortunately you can’t have that.”
Now we have Dr. Surprise. “They have approved your food, except the lamb,” he said. “I am surprised you are not getting it.”
Instead of giving me papaya and figs and lamb, the guards force-feed me cans of nutritional formula. They used to let us receive liquid food while watching television. Now they strap my hands and legs down in a restraint chair. (We call it the “torture chair.”)
I have withstood a lot of torture. Before they brought me to Guantanamo, the Americans took me to a black site in Kabul known as the Dark Prison, where my hands were shackled overhead for days on end. Do you have any idea how painful that is, with your shoulders gradually dislocating? Maybe you read in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report about the prisoner who tried to cut off his own hand to end the pain. That was me.
Torture makes you go mad. Sometimes I catch myself going mad again now. Every time I am force-fed, every time I meet with my lawyer, every time I see a doctor, they use some kind of metal detector device to do a cavity search. They have never found anything in all these years. What I am meant to be hiding, I have no idea. It is pointless. But I have to wonder if the radiation it emits isn’t my own private Hiroshima or Nagasaki — four, six, eight times a day. Maybe I am paranoid, but I feel that something bad is happening to me, deep inside.
When someone says, “Good morning,” I do not respond anymore. There is no morning and no evening. There is only despair.
Ahmed Rabbani is a taxi driver from Karachi, Pakistan, who has been detained without trial at Guantanamo Bay for almost 14 years.
A cure for the common opinion
Get thought-provoking perspectives with our weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.