First Poem of My Life

Move it cautiously in the land of those who speak no Arabic!
Even if they gave you oaths bound by oaths.

Their aim is to worship petty cash,
And for it they break all vows.

I came to their land to pursue an education,
And saw such malice among them.

They surrounded the mosque, weapons drawn,
As if they were in a field of war.

They said to us, “Come out peacefully,
And don’t utter a single word.”

Into a transport truck they lifted us,
And in shackles of injustice they bound us.

For sixteen hours we walked;
For the entire time we remained in shackles.

All of us wanted to evacuate our bowels,
But they insisted on denying us.

The soldier struck with his boot;
He said we were all equally subjects.

In the prison’s darkness they spread us out;
In the cold’s bitterness we sat.

— Mohammed el Gharani

Mohammed el Gharani, a citizen of Chad, traveled to Pakistan as a teenager to study English and Information Technology. In 2001, when he was fourteen years old, he was arrested, beaten, and tortured by the Pakistani police. Gharani was then transferred to U.S. custody in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was kept naked and beaten for two months. In 2002, he was moved to Guantánamo Bay, where he was tortured so severely that he twice attempted suicide. A paucity of evidence supporting U.S. claims that Gharani was an al-Qaeda affiliate led to his release after seven years of imprisonment.