THE JUST-released "Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak" is a collection of 22 poems by 17 detainees at the US detention center at Guantánamo Bay. Edited by Marc Falkoff, each poem had to be cleared by the Pentagon. The result offers a rare glimpse into the lives of the prisoners. The following is an excerpt.
Jumah Al Dossari
Jumah al Dossari, a 33-year-old Bahraini national, is the father of a young daughter. He has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than five years. Detained without charge or trial, Dossari has been subjected to a range of physical and psychological abuses, some of which are detailed in "Inside the Wire," an account of the Guantánamo prison by former military intelligence soldier Erik Saar. He has been held in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the US military, has tried to kill himself 12 times while in the prison. On one occasion, he was found by his lawyer, hanging by his neck and bleeding from a gash to his arm.
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace."
Sami Al Haj
Sami al Haj, a Sudanese national, was a journalist covering the conflict in Afghanistan for the television station al-Jazeera when, in 2001, he was taken into custody and stripped of his passport and press card. Handed over to US forces in January 2002, he was tortured at both Bagram air base and Kandahar before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay in June 2002. The US military alleges that he worked as a financial courier for Chechen rebels and that he assisted Al Qaeda and extremist figures, but has offered the public no evidence in support of these allegations. Haj remains at Guantánamo.
HUMILIATED IN THE SHACKLES
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely about the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize my attention
Like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an evil snake,
Carry hypocrisy in its mouth like venom.
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.
Osama Abu Kabir
Osama Abu Kabir is a Jordanian water truck driver who worked for the municipality of Greater Amman. After joining an Islamic missionary organization called Jama'at al-Tablighi, he traveled to Afghanistan, where he was detained by anti-Taliban forces and handed over to the US military. One of the justifications offered for his continued detention is that he was captured wearing a Casio digital watch, a brand supposedly favored by members of Al Qaeda because some models may be used as bomb detonators. Kabir remains at Guantánamo.
IS IT TRUE?
Is it true that the grass grows up again after the rain?
Is it true that the flowers will rise up in the spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up their stream?
It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we'll leave Guantánamo Bay?
Is it true that one day we'll go back to our homes?
I sail in my dreams, I am dreaming of homes.
To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents, my world's tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.
But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we've committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!