Released Guantanamo Child Detainee Praises Conditions–But Not Abduction

The Daily Telegraph's headline is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it suggests that if you are destitute, regular meals and a few English lessons make prison a lot less awful.

It is heartening to read that children in Camp Iguana, the lower-security camp for juveniles next to Camp Delta, are being treated well. (Here's hoping that this is an accurate report and not Stockholm Syndrome.) It is not heartening to read of kids scooped up off the street and held for a year or more before their parents know if they are dead or alive.

I had a good time at Guantanamo, says inmate: An Afghan boy whose 14-month detention by US authorities as a terrorist suspect in Cuba prompted an outcry from human rights campaigners said yesterday that he enjoyed his time in the camp.

Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English. …

In a first interview with any of the three juveniles held by the US at Guantanamo Bay base, Mohammed said: “They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons.”

Mohammed, an unemployed Afghan farmer, found the surroundings in Cuba at first baffling. After he settled in, however, he was left to enjoy stimulating school work, good food and prayer.

“At first I was unhappy … For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me. They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer,” he said yesterday in Naw Zad, a remote market town in southern Afghanistan close to his home village and 300 miles south-west of Kabul, the capital.

Mohammed said his detention began in November 2002 when he and a friend, both unemployed, left their farming community for Lashkar Gah, a nearby town. He said that as they stood outside a shop they were detained by a group of armed men who accused them of being members of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement formerly in power in Afghanistan.

“They were asking me if I was Taliban. I said, 'No, I am innocent'. I thought they were going to release me but instead they put me on a plane,” he said. “They asked me to wear a hood for part of the journey. When I got off the plane I was in Cuba.”

While Mohammed praised the American soldiers who watched over him, he criticised the US authorities for failing to contact his parents for 10 months to let them know that he was alive. “They stole 14 months of my life, and my family's life. I was entirely innocent: just a poor boy looking for work,” he said.

Human rights agencies such as Amnesty International have alleged that the detention of the boys contravened the Geneva Convention, saying the separation from their families amounted to a form of mental torture. One of the boys was just 11 when he was detained.

Another US government official contradicted Mohammed's claims that he was entirely innocent when detained. The official said last week that one of the three boys had told of being conscripted into an anti-American militia group.

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One Response to Released Guantanamo Child Detainee Praises Conditions–But Not Abduction

  1. Lilo Benya says:

    I am writing on behalf of my employer, who was very moved by Mohammed’s story and would like to find a way to support him directly. Do you have any suggestions on how we could go about tracking Mohammed down?

    thank you,
    Lilo Benya

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