Guantánamo Prisoner Asks “Why am I Still Here?”

Saturday, June 27, 2015
Moath al-Alwi

Moath al-Alwi was one of the first prisoners brought to Guantánamo, arriving in January 2002, and he has remained there despite no charges being filed against him. Al-Alwi, in an essay published by Al Jazeera, notes that since the war in Afghanistan has been declared over, he is unclear why is he still being detained without trial.


“I hear the war in Afghanistan is over.” al-Alwi wrote. “This war was supposedly the reason I remained trapped, rotting in this endless horror at Guantanamo Bay. I write this letter today to ask, if this war has ended, why am I still here?”


“I wonder now if the U.S. follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution,” al-Alwi added. “Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?”


U.S. officials, according to documents archived by The New York Times, say al-Alwi, who is a citizen of Yemen who was raised in Saudi Arabia, should remain in custody because he has been linked to al-Qaeda, was a bodyguard of Osama bin Ladin and attended military training courses. They also claim that he is a “HIGH RISK…veteran jihadist” who engaged in “armed hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces on the front lines and in UBL’s [bin Laden’s] Tora Bora Mountain complex in Afghanistan.” The documents additionally note that al-Alwi has made threats to kill U.S. personnel during his detention at Guantánamo and that he promised to do so following his release.


However, there have been no efforts on the part of the U.S. government to prove any of those charges in a court of law and al-Alwi denies having fought against the United States.


His petition to be tried in a civilian court has been denied, with federal judges determining that “it is more probable than not that petitioner was supporting the Taliban and al Qaeda.”


As al-Alwi remains in prison, he protests his detention the only way he can—by refusing to eat. Because of that, he’s force-fed twice daily.


“I remain on lockdown alone in my cell 22 hours a day,” he wrote. “Despite my condition, prison authorities unleash an entire riot squad of six giant guards to forcibly extract me from my cell, restrain me onto a chair and brutally force-feed me daily. They push a thick tube down my nose until I bleed, after which I vomit.


“This gruesome procedure may not be written about so much any more, but it remains my everyday reality. It is painful. And it is bewildering. How can I possibly resist anyone, let alone these men? Hunger striking is a form of peaceful and civil disobedience. It is not a crime. So why am I being punished? Why not humanely tube-feed me instead?”


Al-Alwi also claims to have been shot by guards without provocation. Since U.S. officials release few details of what goes on at Guantánamo and won’t air any evidence against al-Alwi in open court, it’s difficult to assess what might really have happened.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

If The War Is Over, Why Am I Still Here? (by Moath al-Alwi, Al Jazeera)

My Life at Guantánamo (by Moath al-Alwi, Al Jazeera)

Moath Hamza Ahmed al Alwi—The Guantánamo Docket (New York Times)


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