Cup Poem 1

What kind of spring is this,
Where there are no flowers and
The air is filled with a miserable smell?

— Shaik Abdurraheem Muslim Dost

Religious scholar, poet and, essayist Shaik Abdurraheem Muslim Dost spent three years in Guantánamo prison with his brother, Ustad Badruzzaman Badr. While in prison, Dost composed thousands of lines of poetry in Pashto. Most of his poetry was seized by the U.S. military when he was released from prison in April 2005. During the first year of his incarceration, he wasn’t allowed pen and paper, so he scratched short poems on Styrofoam cups with pebbles or wrote them with toothpaste. The cups were passed from cell to cell and thrown away at the end of the day.

[Research note: this poem comes from Poems from Guantánamo: The Prisoners Speak (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2007), p. 35]

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Even if the Pain

Even if the pain of the wound increases,
There must be a remedy to treat it.

Even if the days in prison endure,
There must be a day when we will get out.

— Siddiq Turkestani
(Trans. by Marc Falkoff)

In 1997, Saudi Arabian Siddiq Turkestani was traveling in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped by al-Qaeda. He was imprisoned and tortured until 2001, when U.S. intelligence found him in a jail in Kandahar. The U.S. sent him from Kandahar to Guantánmo, where he was subsequently imprisoned, accused of being a member of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In January 2005, the U.S. military decided Turkestani was not an enemy combatant. They waited six more months before releasing him from prison.

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.