Majid Ahmad

Feelings of rage invariably accompany my task of writing the stories of the prisoners in Guantanamo, the relentless number of atrocities perpetrated by the US, on and on, the men and boys tortured and treated as sub human.  A friend of mine protested on September 11 this year in front of the World Can’t Wait Torture Tent, chanting “US lives are not more important than other people’s lives.”

Torture Tent, Sept 11, 2011 New York

There are millions of victims of 9/11, including to be sure the entire population of the US whose rights have been abrogated, often with their complicity and consent, but millions have been killed or displaced in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and in other countries, many still have their doors knocked in during night raids, thousands continue to die in drone attacks, unknown numbers have been and continue to be tortured in US black sites. Also victims are the US military personnel and those engaged in torture.

Two US presidents have lied in exactly the same words when they said “America does not torture.”  The United States, which is what I think they mean by “America,” does torture,  in Guantanamo, in black sites at Bagram and in other places not known, and in the prison systems of the states as well as in federal prisons in the US.  Torture is very prevalent in the US.  It has been honed and refined since the Middle Ages, though sometimes it is still very like what was done then.  At least one example I know of has been adduced of a drawing and quartering in Iraq.  A man’s legs were tied one to a tree and the other to the wheel of a vehicle, which drove forward and back to prolong the agony, finally pulling the man apart while still alive.

My commitment to writing the stories of the remaining and forgotten prisoners at the US torture camp in Guantanamo Bay has two motives.  One is to declare my refusal to be complicit with this atrocity, to raise my voice in dissent and resistance.  An even more important reason for me is to reclaim, at whatever remove, the humanity of these men.

As part of achieving the second goal, I am as careful as I can be to use their names.  This is challenging because they are in languages I don’t know.  Their transliteration into the Roman alphabet is not how they would write them.  I know that all my care to this is not going to be enough to name them as they are named in reality.  It is, however, an act done in good faith and with love.

Though their histories have been purposefully obscured, I seek to find out what I can about each one.

In doing this job, I seek to treat them as I would want to be treated, as I would want people I love to be treated.  It is grossly inadequate, but I cannot fail to do what I can because it is  not possible to do it well enough.

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Like most of the remaining prisoners from Yemen, Majid Ahmad is still in Guantanamo most likely due to the Obama administration’s desire not to look weak after the December 2009 underwear bomber fiasco. Though not from Yemen, the supposed “bomber” was alleged to have contacts there.  Andy Worthington spoke  in New York in January  of 2011 about the refusal of the US to release the remaining prisoners from Yemen, indistinguishable from those who had already been released before this incident, as “guilt by nationality.”

Twenty-one years old when captured, Majid Ahmad, is supposed to have said that he learned of jihad in Afghanistan while still in Yemen and was filled with a desire to die for the sake of his god.  He was given a “fatwa” or legal opinion by a sheikh that it is good for Muslims to do this.  Majid Ahmad went to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he fought for two years on the side of the Taliban, which was the government of the country at the time, against the factions of other local war lords who were disputing it.

It must be remembered that the government established by the Taliban was an Islamist one. The government of Yemen is secular, though the population of that country is largely Muslim. A number of foreigners rallied to the defense of the Taliban government from attack by secular warlords in Afghanistan.  The US failed to make any distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda, which not inconsequentially, the US had funded as an organization to defeat the Soviets who had imperial designs on Afghanistan as well.

According to Andy Worthington, whose account you can read here, Majid Ahmad is like many another low level Taliban foot soldier.  There is no evidence that he was a bodyguard of Bin Laden, that he even met the man or supported his cause.  Soldiers for the Taliban, the official government of Afghanistan, should have been given Geneva Convention protections, treated humanely, and released when the Taliban were defeated.

More telling yet, Majid Ahmad has repeatedly stated, as reported by Worthington, that “the attack on the World Trade Center was wrong because Islam did not permit people to kill innocent people.”

Majid Ahmad has not been humanely treated, but rather treated worse than many in the US would treat a wild animal: tortured, beaten, hooded, kept away from his family and the world for a decade.  All of these things are in violation of US and international law.  Majid Ahmad must be freed and indemnified.

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