Guantánamo Public Memory Project

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Moazzam Begg

At GTMO: 2003 - 2005

Moazzam Begg recounts in vivid detail his detention at Guantánamo under the War on Terror.

I remember being spat at. I remember dogs being brought so close to me that I could almost feel the saliva dropping off the dog’s mouth. Took a knife and ripped off my clothes. I could feel the cold blade gliding across my skin and then being taken up naked, forcibly shaved. I was held for a total of three years. Three years without charge, without trial, without any explanation and I was released without charge, without trial, or without any explanation.

Most memorable times which included going to a Jewish primary school, a Christian primary school, and studying the Qur’an in the evenings, so getting the best of many different worlds, being someone of Asian Pakistani Muslim origin.

We moved and lived in the city of Kabul only for a few months up until September Eleventh happened. I was, I think playing a game on my computer in the middle of the night and just about to go to bed. The kids and the wife had already gone to sleep and as I was about to turn in for the night there was a knock on the door so I found that very strange and they stormed in, pushed their way in, and one of the guns raised towards my head. I was hooded and just before they carried me away I tried to say, please, leave my family alone.

Prisoner 421 and I remember his number because his back used to be towards me when his hands were tied up. He was slumped; his body had slumped. They had clearly put him there to break hum, started punching him and then unshackled him. Punching him to see if he was putting it on and then they dragged him away and then they beat him some more and eventually he was killed. It was important for my own mind – for my own sanity – to try to instill some sort of a program so that I could keep focused. I memorized some of the larger chapters of the Qur’an . Some of it had great meaning for me, understanding those words and contemplating them in a way that I had not before because of time so I found that a very, very important and very spiritually uplifting thing. And including in the stories of the prophets within the Qur’an. The story of Joseph who is in prison for a crime that he does not commit. Sometimes life has to put you through a test in order for you to come out of it and become the person that you will be. And that helped me to resign myself to that fate, no matter what they do to me, they really cannot take away what is in my heart.

I come back home almost instantly after getting off the plane from Guantanamo and found that the fire was not working – the gas fire was not working – and I began to try to fix it and asked if my tool box was still here. And so I began to readjust to normal life.

My experience in America prior to this was everything that I had seen in the films.  The concept of the good guys, the concept of people trying to do the right thing and that was shattered.

After my experience of Guantanamo I felt that there is a word that really encapsulates what I think of American justice: oxymoron. What is really important I think for the United States of America that if it wishes to reach a solution and end the type of arbitrary nature of detention and warmongering that we saw under the Bush era, if people really want to see an end to that, there needs to be a recognition that detention without trial is a fundamental principle that every developed, civilized nation should be against.

Creative: Picture Projects & Tronvig Group