Friday, March 11, 2011

Sami El-Haj (seven and a half years in US prisons - six in Gitmo) M. Begg Interview

Former Guantanamo prisoners meeting in Paris, January 2011. From left: Khaled ben Mustafa (France, released 2005), Moazzam Begg (UK, released 2005), Saber Lahmar (Bosnia/Algeria, released 2010), Sami El Haj (Sudan, released 2007), Redouane Khalid (France, released 2005).

Sami El-Haj is a cameraman of Sudanese origin who was working for Al Jazeera in late 2001 when he was captured and handed over to the American Forces. He spent nearly seven and a half years in American prisons, six of which were in Guantanamo.

Read the Moazzam Begg Interview at Cage Prisoners dot com as well as other interviews by Begg and see the article he wrote on the Raymond Davis affair.

Since his return he has become a well-known face on the Arabic Al-Jazeera television channel as a result of his tireless efforts - particualry in the Arab world - in trying to draw attention to the plight of the remaining prisoners in Guantanamo and helping in resettlement efforts for those released.

Cageprisoners Director Moazzam Begg met up with him in Paris to mark the ninth anniversary since the opening of the Guantanamo prison and conducted the following interview:


1 comment:

  1. Here's the moving end of the long interview above to highlight the same:

    MB: Among all the things that you saw from the brothers who returned from Guantanamo, what is the most difficult thing for them in their lives?

    SH: As I mentioned to you, the most difficult thing in their lives is when they find themselves feeling paralysed, incapable of offering anything to his family, whether it be his wife, children, mother, father, or siblings; or even incapable of offering himself anything! Say I am a young man, or say someone who is married, when I see that my son and my wife have been deprived from me for years and they need much... they are in need of tenderness; my son needs me to help him with his studies; he needs from me some basics - he may not have purchased clothes for more than a year; he has not gone out with me for an outing, and other things he needs which I am unable to provide for many different reasons, the first of which is my psychological unpreparedness. No doubt, we spent years in a jail cell, and these cells may be in isolated places, where you rarely have the chance to speak to anyone. Your wife wants you to talk to her, whereas you have grown to love solitude. This is a psychological problem. Your son wants to joke around and shout, and you dislike shouting as you have grown accustomed to a certain situation in prison, so something like that now gets to you and gets you worked up. These are all psychological problems. My son wants me to buy him a bicycle; wants me to drive him to school, and I am financially incapable of providing these things for him. My wife wants a yearly holiday to go and visit her parents and family, and I do not have the money to provide that for her. I cannot travel with them because I do not possess a passport, or, if I do, no one is willing to issue me a visa, because I am described as a terrorist. This is a real problem.

    And the person who does not have a wife or children cannot work so that he may get married: ...He has become dependent on his family and both his mother and father are incapable of helping him.

    MB: In 2009, you participated with the brothers in the UK in opening the Guantanamo Justice Centre. What was the main goal of founding this establishment?

    SH: It had three goals. The first goal is to release the prisoners who still remain in Guantanamo. The second goal is to release those who have returned from Guantanamo but have been re-incarcerated, and at the same time rehabilitating the former prisoners and facilitating their integration into society by helping them; so that whoever of them wants to learn can learn, whoever wants to work can work, whoever requires treatment can be treated, and to generally rehabilitate them psychologically and materially. The third goal is to achieve legal justice for the prisoners and to compensate them accordingly, because they were wronged...

    MB: However, whoever is listening to or reading this interview now and wants to help the brothers who were in Guantanamo, they can help through Cageprisoners or through the Guantanamo Justice Centre.

    SH: No doubt.

    MB: A final word with which you would like to address our readers.

    SH: My final word is this: I say that everyone passes through circumstances. These circumstances may be joyous or they may be sad. Every human needs help from his brother in humanity, regardless of their religion, their country of origin or their language. No one can live on their own; every person needs one another. The same way I find someone to help me when I am in a tight spot, I must help those who are now in difficulty. I call upon every human who carries within them any trace of humanity to stand with our imprisoned brothers, whether those who are currently in Guantanamo, or those who have been released and are now in need of help.

    MB: Sami El-Haj, may Allah bless you and grant you all that is good.