I, the ISN 3148, am sitting in Guantánamo, as I hear about the Afghan government’s promise to release a hundred more prisoners. The news report said they would be released very soon, over the next few days. The idea is that releasing prisoners helps bring peace in the country, as both the Afghan government and the Taliban sit together to determine a political settlement in the country.

It is a fair judgment that visions to bring peace and solidarity in the country despite the odds, where Afghan could follow their dreams with complete peace of mind. But, this move leaves me with thoughts in my head, as I have been languishing behind the bars with no charges for 13 years.

It was Dwight D. Eisenhower, overall Allied commander in the battle against the Nazis and later the Republican U.S. president, who said: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”  If a Republican American military man could see this more than half a century ago, then surely so can the rest of us. Perhaps even the current Republican American president can see it, though he dodged the Vietnam War and said that people who got killed fighting Hitler were “losers”.

We desperately need peace in Afghanistan, after all these years of war. But in the end, there can be no peace without justice. It is worth remembering that President Eisenhower also said: “The world no longer has a choice between force and law; if civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law.” So I strongly support the release of prisoners, as it is required by international law – the Geneva Conventions, agreed by almost every country in the world in the wake of World War II, dictate that prisoners should be released at the earliest opportunity.

But it does make me feel lonely as I sit in my cell, wondering why the U.S. does not apply the rule to me? I am a nobody, one of 220 Afghan detainees held here in Guantánamo who even the U.S. says were insignificant. These men have gone home, but I remain here alone. It makes no sense when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells President Ashraf Ghani he must release hundreds of Taliban and tells the Taliban they must release their government prisoners if the U.S. is unwilling to release a little person like me.

It may be the sunny Caribbean, yet justice is in a deep freeze here in Guantánamo. I am allowed to challenge my detention in an American court, yet not a single person has been ordered released by the American courts since this place opened in February 2002. I am allowed a “Periodic Review Board” which decides whether the mightiest nation on earth should feel threatened by me. It is meaningless, as President Trump decreed on Twitter that there should be no more releases from this prison.

In truth, I am no threat to the U.S. – I have no room in my heart for hatred, no matter how badly I have been treated, and I feel nothing but gratitude for the American lawyers who represent me for nothing. However, my very presence here is a threat to peace, because it is an injustice.

If we are to have peace in Afghanistan, it must be a peace that is real. It must be peace for Afghans, and between all Afghans. In the end, it means that the foreigners must leave, though if the U.S. wants to reach a lasting peace, they are welcome to give money for reconstruction. But they should not devote their money to military weapons.

This is what I want most for my country and for my daughter. She is now thirteen years old – celebrating her birthday without me every year I have been held without trial in this awful place. What I want most for her is an education, an opportunity. She wants to be a doctor, so she can help the unfortunate people of Afghanistan who have suffered all these years.

This is where we should spend our money. After all, President Eisenhower also said: “If the money spent on armaments was spent on education, there would be no more wars.”

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Author

  • Haroon Asadullah of Jalalabad, who has never been charged with any crime by the US military, continues to be wrongfully detained for over 13 years. He leaves behind a daughter, Maryam, who was an infant when he was arrested.