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Life, and death, in Guantanamo | Long

Last night I called my client Ahmed Rabbani, one of the 39 prisoners still in Guantanamo Bay. With about half of the men detained at a well-known US military base, Ahmed was released a few months ago, but is still at large. As one of his fellow inmates said, Guantanamo is like Hotel California described in the famous Eagles song, you can “search whenever you want, but you can’t leave”.

Still, I hoped that Ahmed would be back in Pakistan before the end of the vacation. Nothing came of it: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan set his seal on his return. But this did not happen. So I had to call him to tell me more urgent, and more informative stories.

I had to tell Ahmed that his mother-in-law was about to die in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. What doctors believe is only four or five days left. Four days, of course, is enough time for a jet plane to take Ahmed from Guantanamo to Karachi – but only if US forces allow him to leave. It is unlikely that he will act in his due time, and Ahmed is aware of this. So I gave Ahmed the sad news that he would never see his mother-in-law again.

On the other side of the line, there was silence after I finished speaking. “I have lost most of my relatives in my 20 years here,” Ahmed concluded. “Two of them, in fact, were very dear to me, and I was sad and depressed after their death. One was a relative who died five years ago, who considered me his son. Another was my father. It is a pity that my mother-in-law is now in office. If he dies, that will leave me as the eldest in the family, with full responsibility. But I still live here. “

“This is very difficult.” Ahmed continued, quietly. “When I hear this, I cry. My wife has been suffering alone for 20 years without me and this is the last bite for her. For me, my mother-in-law is more than my wife’s mother, she loves me and I love her too. At times, he seemed to love me more than his children. It would have been a privilege for me to be with him for the last days and do everything I could for him. “

“I wish I could kiss her feet before she dies,” she concluded.

I did not know how to respond. It seems that my country would reject the last honor.

Ahmed has been starving almost since 2013, and although he is fed twice a day, he has lost half of his weight, and is losing weight. During the 15 years that I represented him, he too nearly lost his temper and tried to take his own life several times. So I worried that what I was going to tell her would get her into trouble, and I asked her about her health.

“I was eating and feeling better when I heard I had been removed [for release], ”He said. But now I have a heart problem. Every time I take a deep breath, I feel a pain in my chest.

“It’s a matter of depression,” she continued. “There is a lot of stress when you are challenged but you can’t be released. Before I learned that I could go home, one day here was like 10 days of real life, continuous pull. Now every day is like a month. We are waiting. We know that one day we will be released, so there is hope. “We are waiting, and nothing is happening. Our country is ready to welcome us, the United States is going to leave, but here we are, when my mother-in-law dies. Waiting is worse than having no hope at all.”

On request, we briefly discussed January 11, 2022 – the 20th year of Guantanamo Bay.

“For us,” Ahmed said, “it was a day of remembrance of suffering. I wish it had been a day to commemorate my death, it would have been better. “There is nothing between me and death. Maybe we should kill ourselves before they realize it.”

Ahmed wonders if his case has been a political one between the US and Pakistan. “What does Biden want from me? Why is he keeping me here? I have no answer.

He says he sees only one way to solve his problem. “I have only one answer, the only thing I can do as I shape my future: I think I am going to strike for peace.”

“I am willing to do so until I die this time, to help others get out. I start immediately. As soon as I made that call, I went to prison on my own. I will deny anything until I die, and go home in a box. Until we die. It’s not difficult for me to die. ”

I believe, after almost two decades of suffering, it would not be difficult for Ahmed to die. But it would no longer be a problem for Biden’s supervisors to stop wasting time and letting him go home on time to see his beloved mother for the last time.

My country has stolen many years from this man’s life, the least that can be done is to have mercy on him at one time.

Shortly after the news broke, his father-in-law Ahmed Rabbani died. His lawyer couldn’t give him the message, so he doesn’t know.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.

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