Empty Cereal Box

Views From Inside an Adoptee

June 04, 2006

Life in Death

As an adoptee, I have always related to others who are kept from their families and their freedom because of unjust laws. Last week I found this beautiful piece on reprieve.org.uk written in February, I thought I'd share here:

"It has been 4 years since the US military base at Guantánamo Bay was turned into a prison out of reach of the law for detainees seized in the “war on terror.” Some of the prisoners, those found to be innocent under the military’s tribunal system, live in a separate section of the facility, Camp Iguana. They have not been released as there is no-where they can be safely released to. These “NEC”s (Not Enemy Combatants) live in a pen that contains a small patch of ground. Here, they have been scratching out a garden in the Guantánamo soil, and some of the seeds are growing.

Their US lawyer, P. Sabin Willett, described the garden in an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post yesterday. He reported that he has been asking that these prisoners be allowed to have a garden, as gardens are typically allowed in prisoner-of-war camps and of course these individuals aren’t even classified as enemies any more.

The authorities have refused these requests, but the prisoners have striven to make a garden without their help. One, Saddiq Ahmad Turkistani, told his lawyer: "We planted a garden. We have some small plants -- watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe. No fruit yet. There's a lemon tree about two inches tall, though it's not doing well." They were forbidden tools so they dig with plastic spoons and mop handle. Of course Guantánamo gardeners face soil problems far more severe than those faced by British gardeners with a water shortage; the soil there is dry and hard. But Saddiq had a solution to that as well: "At night we poured water on the ground. In the morning, we pounded it with the mop handle and scratched it with the spoons. … The next day, we did it again. And so on until we had a bed for planting…We have lots of time, here."

Nor would the authorities provide seeds, but once again Saddiq had an answer, delivered with a smile. "Sometimes, with the meal, they give us a bit of watermelon or cantaloupe to eat. We save the seeds."

Saddiq is beginning his fifth year in Guantánamo.

Reprieve’s legal director, Clive Stafford Smith, represents 36 of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and has seen the conditions on the base, first hand. He said “This is a wonderful story and gives me great hope. The massive might of the US military is intent on holding prisoners in an environment that is stripped of comfort, humanity, beauty and even law. Yet the prisoners held there have overcome this with a plastic spoon and a lemon seed. It is the beginning of the end of Guantánamo Bay.”

To support Reprieve's work on behalf of prisoners in Guantánamo, click here.


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