Truthdigger of the Week: Pardiss Kebriaei, a Lawyer Shedding Light on ‘Gitmo’ Prison and Prisoners
Posted on Mar 26, 2016
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When a United States detention center is hundreds of miles off the coast, it can be difficult for Americans to imagine the plight of the people who have been held there for the past 15 years. The harrowing accounts that we have all heard about torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, blur together, creating an unshakeable malaise, partly because we hear more often about the methods of torture than about the suffering of the human beings who experience the terror tactics.
Perhaps this is why the articles of Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, can unexpectedly move us to tears. In a 2015 Harper’s Magazine article, Kebriaei told the story of Muhammed and Abdul Nasser Khantumani, a young Syrian man and his father, who were both detained at Gitmo for years without a reasonable explanation and who were separated when authorities realized that they provided comfort to one another.
The two men, who have now been relocated, are still separated. Muhammed has gone to Portugal, and Abdul Nasser to Cape Verde, approximately 3,000 miles away. Abdul Nasser can see his family only through Skype and photographs, but his hardship is still a far cry from the isolation and torture of eight years at Guantanamo. Below is an excerpt from Kebriaei’s simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming piece about the father and son:
In 2013, Kebriaei reported the specifics of a hunger strike that Guantanamo Bay detainees had held after their Qurans were searched, and in their eyes, desecrated.
Kebriaei relates these stories with compassion and moving eloquence, just as she does the horror story of Fahad Hashmi, a U.S. citizen who has been held under dubious charges at the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Colorado for allegedly providing material support to al-Qaida, a federal prison akin to Gitmo on American soil. Hashmi says he has been decaying there in a small, concrete cell, a torture that Kebriaei described in The Nation as “silently mind-crushing.”
Word by word, Kebriaei brings to life the cruelties these prisoners have endured and the injustices that have marked them, and she humanizes the men with details of their lives, before, during and after their detention. She reminds us that they are people with mothers and sisters and brothers and wives and children, people whom our government has condemned to an inhumane existence filled with unending physical and psychological pain, pain inflicted in the name of the United States, in the name of its citizens under the guise of a “war on terror,” waged in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks with the bloody tragedy as its justification.
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