Poems from Guantánamo, the detainees speak


Jumah al-Dossari’s poem is read here by Riz Ahmed, the actor who appeared in the film “Road to Guantánamo”. Jumah al-Dossari, who was released in 2007, was held in Guantánamo for more than five years and had been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003. He tried to kill himself more than a dozen times.

This poem was written as part of a suicide letter Jumah al-Dossari left for his lawyer when he had given up hope of ever seeing his family again. He is now in Saudi Arabia completing what the Saudi Arabian authorities refer to as a reform and rehabilitation programme for returned Guantánamo detainees.


  1. Abdullah Al-Ajmi was being held at Guantanamo. After he was released he drove an armored truck with an estimated 10,000 pounds of explosives into a compound and killed 13 Iraqis and seriously wounded 42 others. I wonder if the relatives of these 55 victims feel if Al-Ajmi should have been released. If (or should I say when) other detainees who are released commit similar acts everyone who clapped at this show and supports this cause will bear some of the responsibility. How proud you will be!

  2. I respect your view, but I would suggest that neither of us know for sure if we are holding hundreds of innocent detainees. I would concede it is likely that some of them were minor players in Iraq but I doubt that we decided just to round up the local ice cream salesman. It is also a bit of hyperbole to say that the next step would be to lock up an entire nation. No one who is sane suggests that. I do know this. In the case of Al-Ajmi we let go a detainee who went on to murder 13 people.

  3. You stated your point well and I am largely in agreement. My main concern is that the effort to "do this right" will be made impossible by those who read these poems and are not as discerning as you. It is a short leap from these poems to the hyperbole I spoke of and pretty soon you have people who think that everyone in Guantanamo is innocent. We probably also have some disagreement as to the constitutional rights of foreign combatants and this will make the process hard.

  4. If you are looking for evidence that many of the prisoners in Guantanamo are dangerous and need to be properly vetted, I don't think that anyone can supply that evidence to your satisfaction. If you are looking for evidence that Abdullah Al-Ajmi killed 13 Iraqis and wounded 42 others perhaps you can write to the relatives and ask to see the dismembered limbs of the victims.

  5. You are right, none of us know how we would react to a situation until we face it. We can only suppose. Your post seems to imply that the imprisonment (and supposed unfair treatment of ALL the detainees) justifies the actions of Abdullah Al-Ajmi. Would you be so detached if he killed one of your relatives? Your anger seems only to go one way and that is against those that are running the prison. I certainly would not, and could not defend ALL the actions of those that run Guantanamo

  6. When commenting about closing Guantanamo President Obama said 10 days ago on ABC "it is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize" and that "many" of the enemy combatants are "very dangerous". So I guess this situation is not as clear cut as you think. For example no country has agreed to contain KSM (the admitted planner of 9/11) while we figure out a legal process that satisfies the ACLU. Maybe he could live with you and read you his poems? FYI, I am not angry nor am I naive,

  7. FROM CNN ON 1/23/09. A Saudi national released from U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2007 is believed to be a key leader in al Qaeda's operations in Yemen, according to a U.S. counterterrorism official. I guess this is just another case of a poor innocent poet whose actions before and after his detention were exactly the same.

  8. The only thing worse then being put in a cell in Guantanamo is being forced to listed to Riz Ahmed's "music". Yeah that Post 9/11 Blues rap is real funny. Why doesn't this artist go back to the home of his ancestors (Pakistan) and see if he can help improve the civil liberty issues there. Oh I forgot there are no civil liberties in Pakistan. I guess that is why Riz lives in the UK where he is safe despite all his whining.

  9. Good point. Perhaps the case of another ex-detainee (Abdullah Al-Ajmi) is a little more concrete. After his release he drove an armored truck into a crowd killing 13 and injuring 42 others. For evidence please refer to the tape he left stating that he was going to commit the act. I don't think the tape was in iambic pentameter or any other fancy poetry form. The family members of the dead and injured are probably a little more saddened than you.

  10. We must stop those, to stand in front of, and say NO. We will not allow you to cause hell. It is for revenge? Does he "Deserve Worse"? Eye for an eye? Trump wants worse. He says, "Waterboarding is not enough." He would create hell. As did Himmler. As did Bush. When we ripped families apart during legal American slavery. We did rip. Purposefully. Death camps. WE watched as our species walks toward the flame, to an end much better than the ones that were considered healthy. "She can work." TORTURE. Have you met my friend? Introduction of a kind of desperation only felt by those that WE make suffer it. WE! A species that not only can feel its burn, but also cause it. We should know better. There is nothing in this life that JUSTIFIES the hell we place upon those we deem worthy of the kind of pain that can be felt BY NO OTHER! Once this hell is felt, it will never willingly be given to another. Should we just know through empathetic understanding that it is too harsh a punishment for any crime? torture. The word itself should never be typed without capitalization. TORTURE. We have grown. As a people and yet we still engage. No more. No more.

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