Who is prisoner 345? And why should you and I care about him?
Prisoner 345 is Sami Al-Haj. Sami Al-Haj is prisoner 345 at the United States Detainment Camp in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Sami has been on hunger strike since 7th January, 2007.
Sami was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 while travelling with a legitimate visa to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera. But he is being held as an ‘enemy combatant’. Al Jazeera, its offices, and its reporters have regularly come under attack (political as well as physical) by the Bush administration. Its crime is not becoming a cheer leader (like many other media outlets that we shall not mention) for the Bush administration's numerous endless wars.
The Bush administration and the Pentagon have not charged Sami with any crime. Who gives us the right to take the freedom of people and separate them from their families without charging them with crimes? How would we feel if an American is subjected to such immoral and illegal practice?
Mr. Al-Haj must be freed and compensated for all the harm we have caused to him and his family. Mr. Al-Haj deserves an apology. But again, we owe this apology to the millions of innocent Iraqis and Afghans that we have ruined their livelihoods for the terrorist crime of 9/11 which they had no responsibility for.
I never met Sami Al-Haj. I never worked for Al-Jazeera. So why do I care? This position is basically for three groups of people. The first, it is for me personally. I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that one who sees injustice and remains silent about it is a mute devil, ie a silent partner in that injustice. I do not want to be an accomplice in this major injustice.
The second group is my children. I have always stressed to my children the Qur'anic teaching of speaking against injustice, especially when it is committed by one's own. Presently, my country is engaging in unjust practices. Remaining silent is not an option. My children need to know that when I had the chance to speak out, I did not cower. The Guantanamo Bay Gulag must be shut down. Those responsible for any crimes should have their day in an independent court and if not found guilty, they should be freed. The indefinite detention without charges is in itself a form of terrorism (called kidnapping), let alone the torture our government (sanctioned by our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) has applied in the process. This is not what America stands for. As Americans, we have a duty to oppose those whose actions taint our country's history, image, and credibility. Of course, our first duty is to defend the dignity and humanity of every human being.
The third group is Sami’s family: his parents, his wife, and his son Mohammad who was born after Sami was illegally detained by our forces. They need to know that many Americans are ashamed and appalled by the actions of our government. We feel your pain. We pray for the day Sami will be free and will finally get to meet his son for the first time. As a father, I know that there is nothing that we can do to make up for the days Sami was deprived from seeing his son grow or the days Mohammad needed his father’s love, hugs, and comfort.
For more information on Sami Al-Haj, please read:
Shutdown the Gitmo Gulag
The Road to Guantanamo
Sami must be freed.
This poem below is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the leading British newspaper The Independent on June 21, 2007.
Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html