"O Father, this is a prison of injustice.
Its iniquity makes the mountains weep.
I have committed no crime and am guilty of no offense.
Curved claws have I,
But I have been sold like a fattened sheep."
These words were written as part of a poem by Abdulla Thani Faris al Anazi in Guantánamo Bay - read the full poem.
Al Anazi, a Saudi Arabian citizen, was arrested in Afghanistan on his recovery bed, following the amputation of his leg, and turned over to US forces by bounty hunters. He was held in Guantánamo from 2002 to 2007, not knowing when or if he would ever be released and with no prospect of a fair trial. Like many of his fellow detainees, al Anazi turned to poetry in order to express his anguish at the injustice of his situation.
The US authorities have long sought to suppress the voices of the individuals they are holding in illegal detention. In the first year of their detention, many of the men in Guantánamo did not have access to pens and paper, so some wrote fragments of poetry on styrofoam cups, passing them from cell to cell.
From 2002, writing materials have been granted to some of the detainees. However, much of the writing is likely to never see the light of day because the US military refuse to declassify it for circulation outside the camp. They have argued that poetry “presents a special risk” to national security because of its “content and format”.
A number of the poems that have been cleared for release have been compiled in a book by the defence lawyer, Marc Falkoff, who has represented 17 Guantánamo detainees. These poems allow the thoughts and feelings of Guantánamo detainees, many of whom remain in the detention camp, to finally be told in their own words.