Ali Ahmad Al Rezehi

Several times during the course of this work of writing about all the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, I have started to write, and even have written, that no one could find fault with a person who teaches children.  Unfortunately, there are people in the US who find it a crime worthy of torture and death to teach the Qur’an to anybody.  And this, despite the constitutional protections to practice the religion of one’s choice in this country and a tradition, honored sometimes but never more than now in the breach, of religious tolerance.

I will proceed as though I am not the only person who can see the difference between a person who teaches  a major world religion to children in a foreign country and an armed aggressor against the US.

Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh, from Yemen, had followed the suggestion of the imam at his mosque at home to go to teach the Qur’an in Afghanistan, according to the report of Andy Worthington.  You can read the full report here.  The imam had said that “the Afghans were using magic and not following the teachings of Islam.”  This information, according to Worthington is in the records of the authorities at Guantanamo, the so called Unclassified Summary of Evidence.  Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh taught at the Abu Bakur al-Sadiq mosque in Shurandam, southwest of Kabul, working directly under the imam in charge of that mosque.

When the US invaded in 2001, the imam suggested that Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh return home.  Being not so far from the Pakistan border, al-Rezeh eventually joined other Arab nationals heading out of the country.  He was captured at the Pakistan border and sold into US custody.

How could a teacher of the Qur’an to children possibly be mistaken for a danger to the US?  Because US officials from Bush and especially Cheney down the line didn’t care who was rounded up.  Cheney had let the leaders of al Qaeda be airlifted out of Kunduz at the request of the president of Pakistan.  He needed to fill up Guantanamo which he had had built for the “bad guys.”  Having let them go, he was now obliged to find Arabs to put in their place. As a result, the US offered bounty to the groups of warlords in Afghanistan who had never been resigned to the Taliban government and to Pakistani border guards and police.  Anyone these people apprehended was taken off to Bagram to be tortured and then many of them were eventually flown to Guantanamo.

Low level US soldiers and even some of the CIA and military interrogators may not have known this.  Indeed, many of the interrogators were hastily trained and put into service.  They were told these were the “worst of the worst,” by Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defense.

When, many years later, military lawyer Colonel Yvonne Bradley was assigned to represent some of these men at Guantanamo, she says that she had never been so afraid in her life as she was on the plane flying down there.  She had been alone in their cells with serial murderers and rapists and never been afraid of her clients before in her life.  Rumsfeld had said these were the worst.  When she was introduced to her client Binyam Mohamed, she began a journey that led her to be very disaffected with the US government and its officials.  See a report on this blog about her speech in New York here.

Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh, like most of the 779 men and boys who ended up in Guantanamo, was never a danger to the US or to anyone.  He has been tortured; keep in secret for years away from his family, imprisoned for a decade without charge and with no hope of ever being released.  Along with the story he tells of himself, there are in US files about him a few wild, improbably, and unsubstantiated reports of his being a bodyguard of bin Laden, and trained at al Farouq military camp, the same stories probably from a fellow prisoner under torture who said that about so many of the other prisoners.  It is heinous of the US to torture people and try to extract information from them.

The crimes are those of the US.  Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh must be released and indemnified now.


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