One year on from the US withdrawal and defeat in Afghanistan, the USA continues to hold innocent Afghan men in the infamous prison camp, Guantanamo Bay. CAGE visited Afghanistan earlier this year to investigate American war crimes and connect with survivors of US imprisonment and torture. We were privileged to meet with Ismail, the son of Muhammad Rahim Al-Afghani, one of only two Afghan’s still held in Guantanamo bay. He exclusively shared his thoughts and reflections with us in a moving appeal to be reunited with his father.
My name is Ismail, I am the son of Muhammad Rahim. I am one of five brothers, and I have two sisters. We grew up in Pakistan. My father was kidnapped in 2007, in Lahore, on Mall Road. We were young when our father was taken.
When my father was arrested my mother, elder sister, and elder brother, Hafiz Mohammed Ibrahim, were with him. My father was on the bus when he was arrested, authorities came in and used a device to check everyone to see if they were my father. They tied his hands, covered his mouth with a black cloth and put him inside a car.
They then stopped the cars and came out and asked ‘who is with this man?’ My brother told them that he and our mother were with him, so they arrested them too. They tied their hands and taped their mouths. They even picked up my youngest brother from my mother’s lap and covered his mouth!
I feel the absence of my father every day. Even though we are his children, we barely know him because he was taken from us when we were so young.
A father is like your teacher. He is key to your growth and development. A father teaches you manners and proper behaviour. He guides you through life. No one can replace a father!
This is why when my father was taken, it was very difficult for me.
Sometimes, people ask us: “where is your father?” There’s not much to say, so we just tell the truth. We say our father has been taken to Guantanamo. If they ask if he will return or not, we respond: “Insha’Allah, he is coming soon” but we have been waiting for 15 years now.
I have only been able to communicate very little with him. For roughly three years, we did not hear anything from him. We actually had no knowledge of where he was. After three years, a letter came from him saying that he was in Guantanamo and that he was well. After a few years, the US allowed us to have contact with him on skype for half an hour. He would speak for two minutes, and after that we would have to wait fifteen minutes for them to translate, and vet his message. That’s how we would have one or two minute conversations at a time. Now, alhamdulillah, we can speak with him a bit more regularly.
When we talk to him, we ask about when he will return, because the father’s support is very important for a child’s upbringing and generally throughout life. We talk about studies, he advises us on how to study, what to study, to memorise the Quran, or study something that will benefit us in the future.
As for us, we just pray that Allah the Most High brings our father back, and releases him. We pray that we live the rest of our lives together, because our childhood has already passed without our father. It has been approximately fifteen years without him. We want him to come and live his life with us and for whatever remaining life Allah has written this for us.
My request to President Joe Biden is that my father is granted release. This is our only request, that my father be released. Half our life has passed, we wish for our father to come home.
Sign the petition to release Muhammad Rahim here.
Read the full story of Muhammad Rahim here.
Image: Muhammad Rahim in Guantanamo Bay courtesy of CAGE
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)