Thanks to “Waiting for Fahd: One Family’s Hope for Life beyond Guantánamo,” you know something about CCR client Fahd Ghazy, detained at Guantánamo since he was 17, never charged, twice cleared for release, waiting to be reunited with his teenage daughter whom he last saw as a baby. But today we want to tell you about some of the other men held illegally and unjustly in Guantánamo. Omar Farah and Aliya Hussain spent last week at the detention facility and, in addition to Fahd, met with our clients Tariq Ba Odah, Mohammed Al Hamiri and Ghaleb Al Bihani. Like Fahd, they are all from Yemen, all cleared for release – and yet still not free. Aliya and Omar gave a live report back on their visits from Guantánamo on Thursday.
Tariq has protested his unjust detention with the only means available, his very body. He has been on a hunger strike for eight years. Tariq has not eaten since President Obama was Senator Obama, and the question for the president is, Will he finally exercise his power and release this extraordinary man before he is former President Obama? The strength of Tariq’s spirit is almost incomprehensible, and the damage to his body and the cruelty he must endure every day is equally unimaginable. He has been on an unbroken hunger strike for eight years, longer than President Obama has been in office. Each day, he is forcibly extracted from his cell, strapped to a chair, and force fed through his nose, but as Omar and Aliya saw in their meeting, he continues to have a sense of humor, compassion and gratitude to all those who have shown him solidarity. Mohammed is a poetic thinker and writer, defiantly good-spirited. We’ve long been inspired by his words from a few years ago – “We keep walking through the tunnel in search of a shred of light hoping it would appear at the end of that tunnel… and for every couple of steps we make, this strong air pushes us one step backward, as if it is stealing one step from us. Yet we keep walking forward” – and last month we shared his agony when he said, simply, “I want to be released. I want to see my mom.” Ghaleb, despite his own harsh confinement, thinks of others; he identifies with the disenfranchised and downtrodden in the U.S., expressing compassion at their suffering, and he has a keen awareness of the hypocrisy of U.S. human rights ideals. That these men are locked in cages while politicians play games with their lives, feeding fear and prejudice for their own cheap political game, is an utter outrage. Last week, President Obama publicly expressed his regret at not closing Guantánamo on his first day of office. No one regrets that misstep more than our clients, but Obama still has the power to right that wrong and end the suffering of these men and others today.